Renee Sklarew, author of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., shares with us the 2020 holiday events happening in our nation’s capital.
This is a holiday like no other, but if you’re visiting Washington, D.C., there are still many holiday events during this festive season. The whole city is lit up, and there are many safe experiences to enjoy.
The National Mall memorials remain open, and nothing is crowded. Everyone is required to wear a face covering to protect each other on the street and in all buildings. To stay at a Washington, D.C., hotel for more than three days, you must show proof of a negative COVID test within the last 72 hours. For up-to-the-minute information about travel restrictions and more, check here.
While the Smithsonian Museums are closed, some museums remain open, including the International Spy Museum, the National Women in the Arts Museum, The Phillips Collection, the Museum of the Bible, ARTECHOUSE, the Tudor House Gardens, Hirshhorn Sculpture Garden, and Lincoln’s Cottage.
You can still see the beautiful National Christmas Tree all lit up and glowing. Located on the South Lawn of the White House at President’s Park, The National Christmas Tree lights turn on around sunset each evening and turn off at 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and at 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday. The Pathway of Peace site—the walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree—features 56 decorated state and territory trees. A visit to President’s Park is free and open to the public from December 1st through January 1st, 2021. Hours for the Pathway of Peace are 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 10 a.m. until 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday.
President’s Park is also home of the National Menorah, the world’s largest menorah, with the first candle illuminated on December 10, accompanied by music, dreidels, and latkes. A new candle will be added through the eight days of Hanukkah.
Visit the fabulous Downtown Holiday Market near the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery in Penn Quarter. The outdoor market is open evenings until Wednesday, December 23rd. An eclectic collection of local vendors sell a variety of crafts, gifts, clothes, leather goods, artwork, and food with live music and a giant JOY sign for your Instagram post. The market layout features a single entryway check-in that is located on the sidewalk of F Street in front of the National Portrait Gallery. The set-up allows shoppers to maintain a safe and proper distance while they hunt for that perfect gift.
Every year the National Zoo is lit up with adorable light displays, but Zoo Lights has been reimagined this year. Instead, a 24-foot ZooLights Express truck decorated with light displays and “Panda Claws” will hit the road from November 27th to December 19th, visiting different neighborhoods in Washington, D.C., on Friday and Saturday nights from 6 to 8 p.m. Check the website for the schedule.
Shoppers should visit Victura Park at The REACH. Located at the elegant Kennedy Center, the free outdoor holiday market features local artisans, crafters, and live music. You’ll be amazed at the beautiful view of the city from The REACH, warmed by space heaters. A menu of light snacks, grilled items, beer, wine, spiked cider, and hot chocolate bring added Yuletide joy.
Just about every charming D.C. neighborhood is dressed to impress. Take a stroll to enjoy the colorful lights, and visit the local shops offering holiday specials and promotions throughout the month of December. To find some of the best D.C.-centric gifts, check out Made In DC.
If you’re searching for a luxury gift, check out CityCenterDC, which is fully adorned in striking decor and features a wide array of designer shops including TESLA, Chanel, Christian Dior, Burberry, Louis Vuitton, Hermes, and more. Pose in front of the giant Reindeer or the 75-foot exquisitely decorated Christmas tree at the Park at City Center.
One place that captures everyone’s dreams of Christmas is George Washington’s Mount Vernon. The mansion and grounds remain open on weekends, and they’ll be fully decorated in a Winter Glow. The upper garden and greenhouse at Mount Vernon are lit up in blue and lavender lights, and lanterns guide the way through the Historic Area where you can chat with soldiers at a re-created 18th century winter encampment.
During the holidays the Willard InterContinental Washington is the place to celebrate, especially for afternoon tea in the elegant Peacock Alley. On December 13 and 20, a special Holiday Afternoon Tea will take place in the spacious Crystal Ballroom with seasonal decor, delicious sandwiches, and the dulcet sounds of a harp, while you sip on elegant teas in D.C.’s most historic hotel.
Expert tip: Book a room at another historic and lovely hotel, the Morrison Clark Historic Inn & Restaurant. This is my favorite place for a romantic getaway. It’s a great location from which to walk to all the highlights.