Renee Sklarew, coauthor of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., tells us all about the many Yuletide offerings in our nation’s capital.
It’s that time of year again—when thoughts turn to shopping and sugar cookies. D.C. is a wonderful place to celebrate the holidays, and nothing is very crowded. The whole city is lit up, and there is so much to see and do. Here’s my list of top places around Washington, D.C., where the family can embrace the festive spirit.
Where to see the lights this year? It’s always a good idea to visit the National Christmas Tree and the White House’s inspiring display of Christmas trees decorated by each state at President’s Park. The display is free to visit and open from 10 a.m. till 10 p.m. The National Christmas Tree is lit each day beginning November 30th from 4:30 p.m. until 10 p.m. President’s Park is also home of the National Menorah, which begins its display on the first of the eight days of Hanukkah on December 12th at 3:30 p.m.
Every December, the White House is filled with holiday decorations: Christmas trees, wreaths, garlands, colorful lights, gingerbread houses, and more. A team of volunteers from across the country works diligently in late November to get the White House ready for the very popular public White House holiday tours. You can view the White House Christmas decorations in December by signing up in advance for a White House tour. These tours are popular, so the sooner you submit your request, the better chance you will have to tour the White House this holiday season.
Don’t miss the adorable ZooLights display, where you can walk through the National Zoo after dark to see more than 500,000 environmentally friendly LEDs and animated light installations. Also enjoy live music, food, and maybe a growl or two. ZooLights opens November 24th and ends January 1st, 2018. The zoo is closed December 24th, 25th, and 31st.
Brookside Gardens in Silver Spring, Maryland, hosts the annual Garden of Lights, an outdoor light exhibit that runs from November 25th through January 1st. The magical winter wonderland is illuminated with more than a million dazzling colored lights in the forms of flowers, animals, and snowflakes. Each garden has its own display. Brookside Gardens is open every night except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.
Visit the fabulous Downtown Holiday Market near the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery in Penn Quarter. The market is open daily, noon-8 p.m., from November 24th to December 23rd. The vendors sell a variety of crafts, gifts, and food.
Union Station, too, is decked out with holiday decor, including the majestic Norwegian Christmas Tree. The tree is a gift from Norway to Washington, D.C., for the support the United States provided during World War II. Union Station has a variety of shops with D.C.-centric gifts and a fabulous holiday model train display.
Go ice skating at Washington Harbour, and then head over to see Georgetown Glow. To visit this unique light show, walk along the C&O Canal and pass by illuminated works from acclaimed artists. The event begins December 8th and ends January 7th. The lights are a-GLOW from 5 p.m. till 10 p.m. nightly.
CityCenterDC is a favorite place for Washingtonians and visitors to shop for luxury goods and enjoy the giant, festive reindeer on display in the pedestrian walkways. Across from CityCenterDC is a park with gorgeous decorations and lights. A great place for a selfie!
For those of us who like our winters with a little Dr. Zhivago, visit Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens to enjoy their annual Russian traditional holiday activities on December 9th and 10th.
The United States Botanic Garden has an annual exhibit of iconic D.C. landmarks surrounded by floral displays. The exhibit is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. on November 23rd and runs through January 1st. The Garden is open every day, including Christmas Day.
Every year the National Harbor offers exciting holiday activities, especially ICE! This year, the wonderland at the Gaylord National Resort showcases Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, and you can learn how these incredible ice sculptures are carved. It’s a fun experience for the whole family.
ICE! is open daily from November 18th through January 1st, 2018. Tickets cost $32-$39, plus tax, for ages 12 and older and $24-$32, plus tax, for ages 4 to 11 (kids 3 and younger are free). Hours vary and can be found here. For more information and lots of pictures about all the many Yuletide happenings at Gaylord National Resort, read Renee’s post here.
If you’re visiting Washington, D.C., or just need a staycation, check out the special holiday deals at the Kimpton Hotels. They are serving seasonal spirits that are bound to make you feel festive.
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The National Christmas tree in front of the White house is courtesy of Renee Sklarew
Christmas tree in front of United States Capitol: USCapitol [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Christmas tree White House (Blue Room): By The White House [Public Domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Zoo Lights: By Ahbeall (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Christmas at CityCenterDC courtesy of Renee Sklarew
ICE! picture is courtesy of Gaylord National