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The Weekend Round-Up: December 23-25

Happy holidays from our family to yours.


The Chinese food and movie combo on Christmas might sound like a cliché, but that was my reality when I was growing up.  Back then, nothing was open on Christmas…except for the theaters and Chinese food restaurants.  So, if you were Jewish and didn’t celebrate the holiday, that’s what you did.

Now that Christmas is part of my holiday repertoire thanks to my husband, I’m a little busier come Christmas Day. (What am I saying?  Christmas brings a whole new meaning to busy for weeks leading up to it, especially with kids in the mix.) But even with my adopted holiday traditions to enjoy every December 25, I still like to get out for some activity, because that’s what the child in me knows.

These days, the world doesn’t shut down for the holiday.  Along with movie theaters and Chinese food restaurants, plenty of other venues keep some hours on Christmas Day. In the vein of DC-area family fun, the Botanic Garden, Mount Vernon, parks hosting light displays, and the ice rink in Silver Spring (for a Chanukah event) will be welcoming visitors, though it’s the one day of the year that the Smithsonian is closed. And just about everything is open on Christmas Eve.

So, if your family is in town this weekend and looking for fun to complement your celebration or seeking activities instead of one, you’ve got some options. Including plenty of children’s movies in the theaters to precede or follow a good Chinese food meal.  Merry Weekend!  And a very happy holiday to all!

Santa Claus is Coming to Town… On Water SkisOn Saturday at National Harbor, you can catch Santa water skiing along the Potomac. And along for the ride will be knee boarding reindeer, the flying elves, the jet-skiing Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman in a dinghy! Now, that’s sure to be a spectacle that will get kids buzzing. While you’re at the Harbor, be sure to check out the rest of the Christmas on the Potomac holiday extravaganza.

Closing Up Shop for the SeasonSaturday is your last chance to get a glimpse of Santa’s operations at his workshop on the Ellipse.  The cute, little cottage where guests can pass through and view the charming facilities, then get a photo with St. Nick himself will be open for the last time this season on Christmas Eve from 11am – 3pm. It’s also open today and tonight, 12:30 – 4:30pm and 5:30-9:30pm.  All of the other exhibits on the Ellipse – the National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, and other holiday display – will be there to visit through the holidays.

Let There Be Light Shows – After a big holiday meal, take a drive  through one of the many light displays in the area. You can find details for all of them in this post about holiday events, but there are a few things to note this weekend:  ZooLights is closed all weekend, Watkins’ Festival of Lights is open and FREE on Christmas evening, Symphony of  Lights is open, Brookside Garden of Lights is closed on Christmas Eve and Christmas evenings, and the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek is closed on Christmas.

Chanukah WonderlandHead to the Civic Center in Downtown Silver Spring for a day full of activities that celebrate the eight crazy nights. There will be Chanukah jewelry, cookie decorating, a coloring station, dreidel making, and more from 10am – 5pm.  You can also enjoy Chanukah on Ice with skating, Jewish music, latkes from 3:30-5pm. Admission is $10.

Go NutsThe Warner Theatre curtains close on The Nutcracker after Saturday.  You can catch the final performances today at 2pm and 7pm or tomorrow at 11am and 3pm. Tickets range from $40-110, but you can check Goldstar for discount.  Read the KFDC review of the Washington Ballet’s version of the holiday classic.

Season’s GreeningsDespite its location next to all of the museums, the U.S. Botanic Garden is not part of the Smithsonian (the Architect of the Capitol serves as the Acting Director).  Hence, it’s not closed along with the rest of the galleries on the National Mall, and will welcome visitors all weekend. See the lovely, whimsical train display and replicas of DC landmarks constructed entirely of natural materials that make up the holiday exhibit, along with the permanent collections. Open 9am – 5pm, admission is free.

Portrait Story Days and Discovery KitsOn Saturday from 2-5pm, guests of all ages can drop at the National Portrait Gallery to hear a tale about Gertrude Stein and do an art project. For a fun DIY adventure at the Gallery, Portrait Discovery Kits are also available on Saturday from 1-4pm. They include “Seek and Find” cards, “Portrait Detective” and “Historian Guides,” and a “Compare and Contrast” activity using a doll. Visitors can check out kits at the education center, room E151, on the first floor.

Christmas at Mount VernonCelebrate the holiday at George Washington’s homestead, which will be open on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The special holiday exhibit includes 12 Christmas trees, a gingerbread Mount Vernon, historical chocolate-making demonstrations (and tastings!), and more.  Guests will also have the chance to tour the rarely opened third floor of the mansion to learn how the first First Family celebrated Christmas.  And outside, Alladin the camel will be on view to recall the camel ol’ George himself bought for 18 shillings in 1787 for his guests’ enjoyment at Christmas. Admission is $15/adults, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under.

The Great Outdoors – Dreams for a white Christmas may be dashed, but I, for one, won’t be complaining about the weather this weekend.  Lots of sunshine and relatively warm temps will give you some more options for things to do.  And this post about the DC area’s best places to spend a nice day outdoors with the kiddos has loads of ideas.

A Flick and Fried Rice – Whether you partake in the ol’ Chinese food and a movie on Christmas Day tradition or just seek an easy outing with the kids, here are several kids films playing this weekend (and note that the links are for 12/25, so be sure to change it if you plan to go on Saturday).
The Muppets
Adventures of Tin Tin
Arthur Christmas
Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked


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Filed under All ages, Annual, Christmas, DC, Free, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Movies, Museums, Seasonal, Theatre, Virginia, Weekend, Winter

Here Comes Chanukah!

Lighting the first candle on the menorah


As joyous and exciting as the holidays are, they can be a bit tricky in our household. As an interfaith family, we celebrate both Chanukah and Christmas, which is a thrill for the kids (more days to get presents!), but somewhat of a challenge for my husband and me as parents. It’s important to us that we expose Owen and Sasha to both of our religions and their associated holidays and traditions. The dicey part is balancing the two, especially during this time of year.

I know I’m stating the obvious when I say that Christmas is far more ubiquitous than Chanukah. Writing about holiday performances in the area a couple of weeks ago was a good indicator – out of 13 shows listed, only one, “Seasons of Light” at Discovery Theater, touches on the Festival of Lights.

But while Chanukah events may be fewer and farther between than Santa-focused activities, they are happening. And with the eight crazy nights (had to include props to Adam Sandler) starting in just over a week, I’ve compiled a list of where and when you can celebrate them.

Chanukah on the Elipse
Taking place on the first day of Chanukah, the National Menorah Lighting is sure to be a memorable start to the eight days of observance. Along with the illumination of the candles, guests will be treated to a special performance by reknowned violinist Itzhak Pearlman. The family celebration also includes music by Dreidelman and the Macabees, menorahs and dreidel kits, and latkes and donuts. The ceremony begins at 4pm on Wednesday, December 1. Tickets are free, but required – sign up on the website for a chance to receive them.

Chanukah on Ice
Celebrate the second night of Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! The ice rink at Pentagon Row will be the sight of the family fun happening from 6pm – 8:30pm. Admission is $10 in advance, $12/door. Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately. Purchase advance tickets online. Pentagon Row is located at 1201 South Joyce Street in Arlington.

Shalom Sesame Chanukah Celebration
The JCC of Greater Washington is celebrating Chanukah on Saturday, December 4, with lots of latkes, loads of fun, and the premiere screening of “Chanukah: The Missing Menorah,” a new series from the creators of Sesame Street (see description below). The fun includes a Sesame moon bounce, candle making, face painting, and relay races. The will end with a raffle for tickets to Sesame Place: Where Sesame Street Comes Alive! The event takes place from 6pm – 7:30pm. Tickets are $7 per person (or family maximum $20) and can be purchased at the door. The JCC of Greater Washington is located at 6125 Montrose Road in Rockville.

“Chanukah: The Missing Menorah” finds Grover in a tizzy when his special friend gets caught in a game of tag with a chicken and loses her special menorah… just as Chanukah is about to begin! Can her friends find the missing menorah in time?

Chanukah Wonderland
If you can’t make it to the Chanukah ice skating party at Pentagon Row or want to enjoy a little more holiday gliding, there will be more celebrating on ice in Silver Spring on Sunday, December 5. From 10am – 5:30pm, there will be all kinds of holiday activities – oil making, candle dipping, crafts, jewelry making, and more. Music and ice skating begins at 3:30 along with latkes, gelt and other treats. The early activities are free; the ice skating portion is $8. The event takes place at the new Silver Spring Civic Building at One Veteran’s Place.


Filed under All ages, Chanukah, DC, Festival, Holidays, Live Entertainment, Maryland, Outdoor, Seasonal