Tag Archives: Washington DC Christmas events

The 2016 KFDC Guide to the Best of the Holidays in DC

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Embrace the holiday spirit at these area events, many that have become family traditions for Washingtonians. Local stages come alive with holiday shows. Model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages. Light displays dazzle visitors as they walk or drive among them. Special markets offer unique gifts along with good time. And all kinds of events and extravaganzas, several at iconic locales, bring holiday cheer and activities that thrill and enchant kids — and the kid in all of us adults. This KFDC Guide to the Best of the Holidays in DC, categorized and listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all.

Holiday Shows

Tree Lightings

Model Trains

Special Events

Chanukah

Light Displays

Holiday Markets

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Holiday Shows

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A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 17 – December 31
Tickets: $22-92
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Performance is two hours (including a 15-minute intermission).

Disney’s Beauty and the Beast
Where: Imagination Stage
When: November 19 – January 15
Tickets: $10+

Celebrate the 25th anniversary of this beloved film by attending the live performance at Imagination Stage this holiday season! Packed with memorable tunes like “Be Our Guest”, “Human Again”, and “Beauty and the Beast”, this holiday musical has something for the entire family! Once upon a time, in a French provincial town, Belle is the bookish daughter of a hapless inventor. She narrowly avoids the amorous advances of the bully Gaston only to find herself imprisoned in the castle of a terrible Beast. While the servants Cogsworth, Lumiere, Mrs. Potts and Chip conspire to make Belle fall in love with their bewitched master, she gradually wins over his heart by virtue of her kindness and patience. Excitement builds as Gaston gathers a mob to rid the community of the ugly Beast and to claim Belle for himself alone. Needless to say, after much high drama, silly laughter, exuberant singing and dancing, love wins the day!

The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: December 2-31
Tickets: $19.50 (Enter to win a Family 4-Pack!)
Join Adventure Theatre for this snowy, holiday classic featuring just a two-person cast! Peter, Susan, Edmund, and Lucy are sent to live in the countryside home of professor Digory Kirke. As Lucy explores the house, she discovers a secret portal to a magical world called Narnia. With an evil White Witch ruling the kingdom, can Lucy, her new friend Mr. Tumnus, and her family band together to save Narnia?

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 25 – December 30
Tickets: $10 (look for discount tickets)

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat! The Nutcracker is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s favorite toy and their adventures together in the land of the Sugarplum Fairy. Music from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet blends with marionettes and costume characters to create this unique production. Don’t miss it! Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 25 – December 30
Tickets: $5


This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.

Virginia National Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: The Hylton Performing Arts Center
When: November 25
Tickets: $20-35

Virginia National Ballet/Gainesville Ballet are excited to announce two performances of The Nutcracker this season! The full-length ballet features Virginia National Ballet’s outstanding roster of American and international dancers, special guest Nurlan Abougaliev, and the students of Gainesville Ballet School. This Nutcracker is the first in the region, starting on the Friday after Thanksgiving, and is the perfect way to kick off the holiday season

The Washington Ballet presents: Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 26-27
Tickets: $30-50, $15/Ward 7 & 8 residents

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for antsy little theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This celebrated production has become a DC perennial holiday favorite, set in historic Georgetown with historical figures and whimsical touches. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historic characters including George Washington as the Nutcracker and King George III as the menacing Rat King! Join us again with family and friends or start a new holiday tradition with your loved ones.

The Second Shepherds’ Play
Where: Folger Shakespeare Library
When: November 27 – December 21
Tickets: $29-60

This magical retelling of the Nativity story combines beautiful music and a moving story for the holiday season. Revived by Folger Consort from its 2007 production, which the Washington Post called “a lovely seasonal surprise,” this engaging medieval mystery play and its festive English music of the period beautifully weaves together the stories of the shepherds, a sheep thief and his cunning wife, and the miracle in a humble manger in Bethlehem.

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: November 30 – December 20
Tickets: $3-8


Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 16th season, this signature Discovery Theater show celebrates the history and customs of Ramadan, Devali, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Los Posados, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice in an interactive event that bridges communities and cultures. This show sells out early, so don’t wait to get your tickets! Recommended for ages 5-10.

Adventures with Mr. Bear
Where: The Lab at Convergence & Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 1-17 & December 18-30
Tickets: $9, 12 months and under are free

Arts on the Horizon presents this winter show at two area theatres! The wonder and magic of a child’s imagination are brought to life in this charming world premiere. One cozy winter afternoon, a young girl and her favorite stuffed animal, Mr. Bear, play a game of hide and seek which evolves into a series of exciting adventures. Together, they embark on a journey of endless possibilities – all from the comfort of her playroom! Cuddle up with your favorite stuffed animal friend and join us for a delightful holiday production. Recommended for children ages 2-6.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 1-24
Tickets: $35-101 (look for discount tickets)


Set in 1882 Georgetown, this gorgeous production showcases the grandeur of The Washington Ballet’s international roster of dancers and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historical characters, including George Washington as the heroic nutcracker, TWB’s The Nutcracker has become a tradition for generations of family and friends to celebrate the holidays. Read a KFDC review of the production from a few years ago. (Note: Family Day is December 6, with an hour pre-performance activities before the 1pm show.)

A Christmas Carol Memory
Where: Creative Cauldron
When: December 1-20
Tickets: $15-30

A young orphan girl being raised by a warm but eccentric aunt is spending a tender first Christmas without her parents. While searching the attic for ornaments to decorate her aunt’s tree, she discovers a theatrical trunk once used by her puppeteer grandfather. When the extended family gathers on Christmas Eve, the contents in the trunk reawaken memories and spur the renewal of a long forgotten family tradition—the re-enactment of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. A production that breathes fresh new life into a timeless holiday classic.

A Fairy Tale Christmas Carol
Where: Gunston Arts Center
When: December 2-4
Tickets: $10

In Encore Stage & Studio’s remake of a Christmas classic, your favorite fairy tale characters bring to life the story of Ebeneezer Scrooge’s magical Christmas Eve. Mother Goose lends her talents to narrate the story as the Big Bad Wolf takes on the humbugging lead role. Cinderella, the Three Little Pigs, Old King Cole, and many more help create a new twist on the traditional Dickensian story told every December. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 3, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long is an annual musical celebration hosting a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area. Admission is free, and no tickets are required. Parking is free, but limited, so plan on arriving early. Bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots, a bell for a “Jing-A-Long” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and a candle to join the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.”

Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras of Strathmore: Enchanted Visions
Where: Strathmore
When: December 4, 4:00pm
Tickets: $15-$25

The region’s top young musicians perform classics and holiday music for all to enjoy, featuring the Philharmonic playing Prokofiev’s Cinderella & Tchaikovsky’s Sleeping Beauty. Revelers will also enjoy Dvořák plus holiday chorus music with the Symphony, the Chamber Ensemble with Britten’s Simple Symphony, and Young Artists with Gliere and more Tchaikovsky.

Into the Woods
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 6 – January 8
Tickets: $45-175 (look for discount tickets)

Venture back Into The Woods, a unanimously acclaimed, Tony Award(r)–winning musical classic by Stephen Sondheim and James Lapine . This witty and wildly theatrical re-invention is Into The Woods as you’ve never seen it before! Mind the wolf, heed the witch, and honor the giant in the sky in this extraordinary musical about the power of wishes–and what really happens after they come true. Recommended for ages 6 and up.

Strathmore Children’s Chorus: This Shining Night
Where: Strathmore
When: December 6, 7:30pm
Tickets: $16

Make this extraordinary annual event your family’s holiday tradition. Join the astonishingly talented Strathmore Children’s Chorus—the cream of the pre-professional musical crop—in concert with guests the Bethesda-Chevy Chase High School Choirs for a concert that celebrates the joys of the season in song.

Sleeping Beauty
Where: Synetic Theatre
When: December 7 – January 8
Tickets: $15-55

Synetic’s award-winning ensemble takes on the classic tale of a princess, an evil sorceress, and a centuries-long sleeping curse in this darkly elegant adaptation of one of the Grimm Brothers’ most beloved stories. Recommended for ages 7 and up.

The Second City’s Twist Your Dickens (KidFree Suggestion!))
Where: Kennedy Center
When: Dec 9-31
Tickets: $39-69 (look for a discount tickets)

The Second City parodies Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol for an interactive experience that Scrooge–and the audience!–will never forget. The legendary comedy troupe brings its improvisational skills and sketch comedy mastery to “the night before Christmas.” For ages 16 and up.

Christmas Revels: A Nordic Celebration of the Winter Solstice in Music, Dance & Drama
Where: Lisner Auditorium
When: December 10-18
Admission: $12-60

Join the Washington Revels on a journey into the wonders of Nordic winter traditions! As our families from Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and Sweden gather to celebrate the season, let the haunting melodies, breathtaking dance, epic folk legends, and joyful carols get you into the holiday spirit! Discover mythic drama from Finland’s epic Kalevala. As the moon lights the snow, watch the spirited Icelandic Vikivaki as a mysterious stag looks on. Celebrate the Swedish “bringing of the light” by Sankta Lucia with her crown of candles. Watch dancers twirl in the hypnotic Telespringar and thrill to the spectacular leaps of Norway’s Tom Løvli in the Halling dance. Be enchanted by the songs and dances of our children, and participate in their retelling of a beloved Norwegian fairy tale. Delight as the tree is decorated with traditional woven hearts and raise your voice in festive Danish toasts and carols. *December 16 is Family Friday — get 25% off youth tickets

The Gift of the Mad Guy
Where: Annapolis Friends Meeting House
When: December 10
Tickets: $8/online, $10/door, free for 2 and under

The Gift of the Mad Guy, the story of a gift-crazed child who believes that Christmas is about giving specifically to HIM until he is promised a REALLY big gift if he gives three of his gifts to others. Will Jack learn that the holidays are about more than getting? Join Building Better People Productions for a day of theater for the whole family and find out!

Virginia Ballet Company & School: Selections from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 10
Tickets: Free

Saturday Morning at the National presents its annual holiday show, the Virginia Ballet Company and School’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s glittering confection. Visions of snowflakes and sugarplums dance through the air and gingerbread soldiers triumph over the evil Rat King as you follow Clara into the land of sweets and holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Family Joy!
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 10
Admission: $25/adult, $15/child, $765/family 4-pack

Join the Cathedral Choral Society at the Washington National Cathedral,for a special Christmas Concert. This one-hour program has something for all ages, including a kids-only sing-along. Bring the whole family and get swept up in the sounds of the season. To receive the discount on a Family 4-pack (2 adults and 2 children), use code SAVE at check out.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 10-11
Tickets: $20/adults, $15/10 and under in advance | $20/at door


Maryland Youth Ballet’s Mini-Nut is a delightful abbreviated version of their classic, award-winning, The Nutcracker, designed to introduce children to the magic of this family favorite. This beloved holiday tradition with soaring music by Tchaikovsky promises to hold the attention of even the youngest theatergoer. Suitable for all ages, this version is less than an hour and performed by cast members from MYB’s full-length production. A perfect holiday mini-treat!

11th Annual Holiday Sing-Along
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11
Tickets: $8.50

Join in the H Street tradition! Enjoy holiday favorites at the Atlas performed by the Capital City Symphony and sung by the Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus. Join in the singing during an audience sing-along.

The Lion, the Witch, the Wardrobe
Where: Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge, VA
When: December 11, 12, 18, & 19
Tickets: $12/adult, $8/4-13, free for 3 and under

Homeschool Theatre Troupe presents this dramatization of C.S. Lewis’ classic. Set in the land of Narnia, the show recreates the magic and mystery of Aslan, his struggle with the White Witch, and the adventures of four children who inadvertently wander from an old wardrobe into the exciting, never-to-be-forgotten Narnia. The supporting characters are also here: Tumnus the faun, Mr. and Mrs. Beaver, the Unicorn, the Centaur and other forest animals, as well as Father Christmas. This is a story of love, faith, courage and a triumph of good over evil.

Candlelight Christmas
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 11-22 (family show December 17)
Tickets: $18-72

Each year, The Washington Chorus delights DC audiences with its Candlelight Christmas concerts — resplendent affairs comprisin (Family night December 17)g a candlelight processional, brass, organ, and audience sing-alongs. This year’s concerts will feature star tenor and DC native Carl Tanner as soloist. Also joining TWC are the Northwest High School Chamber Singers and the H-B Woodlawn Chamber Singers as part of the Side-by-Side program. *The December 17 concert will be a B.Y.O.Baby Night, with discounted tickets for families, designated seating and baby play areas, a pre-concert backstage tour, and other treats for the whole family.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical
Where: National Theatre
When: December 13-31
Tickets: $48-128 (look for discount tickets)

Discover the magic of Dr. Seuss’ classic holiday tale as it comes to life on stage. Featuring the hit songs “You’re A Mean One, Mr. Grinch” and “Welcome Christmas,” The Grinch discovers there’s more to Christmas than he bargained for in this heart-warming holiday classic. Max the Dog narrates as the mean and scheming Grinch, whose heart is “two sizes too small,” decides to steal Christmas away from the Whos, an endlessly cheerful bunch bursting with holiday spirit. Celebrate the holidays with the show The New York Times calls “100 times better than any bedside story!”

Wicked
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 15 – January 8
Tickets: $99-349

The Broadway sensation looks at what happened in the Land of Oz… but from a different angle. Long before Dorothy arrives, there is another young woman, born with emerald-green skin–smart, fiery, misunderstood, and possessing an extraordinary talent. When she meets a bubbly blonde who is exceptionally popular, their initial rivalry turns into the unlikeliest of friendships… until the world decides to call one “good,” and the other one “wicked.”

Holiday Singalong with Rocknoceros
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 15-16
Admission: $3-8

Who’s having a holiday party? Coach, Williebob, and Boogie Bennie, that’s who! The area’s favorite kid-rock band has a great big musical present for you. Join them as they lead audiences in seasonal songs and Rockno classics. It’s a bash you just can’t miss!

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 15-30
Tickets: $18-40

A new take on the holiday season! DC’s internationally-known percussive dance company invites you to celebrate the holidays with clapping, stomping, and all around fun for all ages featuring their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom, and a special dance party with DJ Frosty the Snowman! Taking the whole family to Step Afrika! Magical Musical Holiday Step Show? Get the Family Fun Pack: Four Tickets, Four FREE Snacks, Four FREE non-alcoholic drinks, all for $100!

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Where: Strathmore
When: December 16
Tickets: $29-54

A holiday mash-up for the whole family, The Hip Hop Nutcracker re-imagines Tchaikovsky’s classic score through explosive hip-hop choreography. A dozen all-star dancers, an on-stage DJ, and an electric violinist bring the traditional Nutcracker story to life in contemporary New York City.

Shine a Light: A Solstice Circus
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 17-18
Tickets: $25/adult, $15/ages 11 and under

In the darkest winter days, one young man discovers that he has the power to bring light and inspire joy in even the most surprising places. This holiday show is an uplifting, delightful spectacle that will amaze the whole family. Featuring acrobats, aerialists, jugglers, and other dazzling performances – the spirit is sure to be contagious! Start a new and unique holiday tradition by coming to the circus! Appropriate for all ages.

A Family Christmas Concert
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 17
Tickets: $20-45

Songs of Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer fill the Concert Hall with the joy of the season. This one-hour, highly participatory concert is a holiday treat for the whole family. Perfect for children age 5 and older… and don’t forget the grandparents!

Kwanzaa Celebration – Family Series
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: December 18, 4pm
Tickets: $25/adult in advance, $30/at door, kids free with adult

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to join Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. *During this Family Series, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 16-27
Tickets: $31/adults, $26/children in advance; $36/adults, $31/children at door


This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.

Annual Kwanzaa Day Celebration: Kujichagulia Live with Culture Queen!
Where: Fort Stanton Recreation Center
When: December 27-28
Admission: Free

Anacostia Community Museum invites you to join Culture Queen (Jessica Smith) as she brings to life the Kwanzaa principle Kujichagulia which means “self determination” through live music, interactive movement and storytelling the whole family will enjoy!



Tree Lightings

The National Tree from a Christmas past.

The National Tree from a Christmas past.

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Where: National Harbor
When: November 13, 12-7pm
Admission: Free

Join National Harbor for a full day of holiday fun, topped off by their annual tree lighting. They’ll have tons of holiday activities, including the opening of the holiday market, card-making for the Troops, a holiday movie on the Plaza, live entertainment, Santa at the carousel, fireworks, and more!

Light Up 2016
Where: Fairfax Corner
When: November 18
Admission: Free

Fairfax Corner is beginning the holiday season at the annual Light Up 2016 celebration. Festival goers will enjoy a Christmas tree lighting ceremony and holiday activities including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus, cookie decorating with Cupcakes Actually, a performance by The Oaktones, and store giveaways.

Merry & Bright Holiday Tree Lighting
Where: RIO Washingtonian
When: November 18
Admission: Free

Rio Washingtonian will begin the holiday season with their annual Merry & Bright Holiday Tree Lighting celebration. Festival goers will enjoy cheerful activities including a visit from Santa and Mrs. Claus (arriving at 6:0pm and leaving promptly at 8pm), strolling holiday entertainment, horse and carriage rides, carousel rides presented by Adventist Health Care Shady Grove Medical Center, and store giveaways.

Reston Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting, Sing Along
Where: Reston Town Center
When: November 25
Admission: Free

Kicks off the festive season at the 26th annual Reston Holiday Parade with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees, and much more. The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. The day also includes Gingerbread Man Mile races for kids, visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, mini-train rides, ice skating, and street entertainment. The tree lighting and sing-along is an evening highlight.

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: Union Station
When: November 30, 6pm
Admission: Free

One of the most popular and often first of the major DC tree lighting ceremonies. This year’s tree will be adorned with hundreds of custom made polar bear ornaments and will be lit by the ambassador of Norway. Santa will be on hand with presents for the kids and The Carolers of Greater Washington (CGW) will perform.

National Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: President’s Park, The Ellipse
When: December 1
Admission: Free, but you must win tickets via lottery

This is easily one of the holiday season’s hottest tickets in DC, but you had to have entered the lottery to win admission. If you do, you get to be part of the National Park Foundation and National Park Service’s 95th annual National Christmas Tree Lighting. Popular entertainers and a United States military band add to the celebratory evening when the President of the United States lights the National Christmas Tree and brings a message of peace to the nation and world.

Community Tree Lighting
Where: Monroe Street Market
When: December 2, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

Monroe Street Market will host its inaugural community Tree Lighting event, bringing a Winter Wonderland to Brookland with a flurry of activities sure to ripen your holiday spirit! As sounds of the season fill the air, mingle through a variety of family-friendly activities, including a performance from Only Make Believe at 6pm. Other festivities include performances by Catholic University’s acapella group “Take Note” and DC’s own “Word of Mouth” acapella group, free photos with Santa (pets are welcome, too!), face painting, crafts, and delicious holiday flavors you don’t want to miss. Event will take place on the Cornerstone Plaza, located in front of Busboys & Poets. The countdown to the tree lighting starts at 8pm.

Tree Lighting & Seasonal Fun
Where: Cathedral Commons
When: December 3
Admission: Free

Cathedral Commons, a mixed-use development located on Wisconsin Avenue, will kick off the holiday season with its second annual Holiday Tree Lighting Event. Join Santa along with festive holiday music performed by Lafayette Elementary School children and Thomas Circle Singers. There will be food from the fabulous array of Cathedral Commons restaurants. Santa will be available for free photos with families including the four legged family members (cats and dogs only), and children will receive a FREE festive giveaway. The event will culminate with the official lighting of the 24’ foot holiday tree at 7pm in front of Giant Food.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 6
Admission: Free

If you don’t win lottery tickets to see the National Christmas Tree Lighting, consider going to this one at the Capitol. You might not be able to sit close up, but you can view festivities from right across the street, and it’s just as lovely from the area by the Reflecting Pool. For now, follow the tree as it journeys from Idaho, where it was harvested, to DC. It’s expected to arrive in a couple of weeks, and the lighting will take place December 6. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.



Model Trains

Season's Greenings

Trains whiz through the always delightful Season’s Greenings display



Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 24 – January 2
Admission: Free

If my blog stats are any indication, this is easily DC’s most popular holiday attraction; the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit is always among the top searches that lead readers here. And I can’t say I’m surprised. Season’s Greenings is an annual delight for all ages. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year’s National Parks and Historic Sites theme will feature mini trains chugging through the Grand Canyon, Old Faithful Inn, the Gateway Arch, Mount Vernon, the Statue of Liberty, and many more. And for even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm. For more on the seasonal favorite, read this post and this one about some of our Season’s Greenings experiences.

Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: December 3-31 & January 2
Admission: $18/adults, $16/seniors (60+), $12/ages 2-12, free for B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. Trains are magical during the holidays, and the museum invites all aboard the B&O’s Magical Holiday Express, a spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse devoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, and a winter wonderland of family fun and activities. There is something to see and do every day at this annual holiday event! Be sure to look for special events like North Pole Adventures, Winter Royal Adventures, Frosty Fest, and WinterFest Wonderland on the website.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden
When: November 28 – January 3
Admission: Free

Brookside’s South Conservatory will come to life with a landscape in miniature, as trains and trollies wind their way through town and country scenes, past one-of-a kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park. Colorful plantings will complement it all — winter may rule the outside landscape, but the conservatories will be bright with color and active with sound and motion to match the festive feeling of the season.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 17 – December 23
Admission: $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, under 2 are free

During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station
When: TBD
Admission: Free
Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful Holiday Train Display, on view in the Main Hall. Featuring a Norwegian landscape, the displays are intricate and fun to stop by and see if you’re at the station during the holiday season.


Special Events

Last year's ICE! exhibit at Christmas on the Potomac

Last year’s ICE! exhibit at Christmas on the Potomac

 

Positivi-Tree Lighting and Street Fest
Where: Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 12, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The 5th Annual event is Downtown Silver Spring’s official Tree Lighting and Street Fest. And this year it will feature the lighting of Positivi-Tre, an impressive 35-foot-tall public art installation comprised of hundreds of illuminated and multi-colored umbrellas! Other fun festivities of the evening will include food tastings, live entertainment, ice sculpting, and more!

Santa HQ
Where: Tyson’s Corner
When: November 14 – December 24
Admission: Free, but portrait packages start at $30

Discover holiday wonderment in this immersive and innovative experience with visual elements that transport you straight to the North Pole. Enter the HQ to be scanned by the digital Naughty or Nice O’Meter, snap an “Elfie Selfie” in Santa’s workshop and star in your own holiday video. Then onto the North Pole Observatory to experience Elf-Ray Vision in a 3D environment…all before meeting Santa himself!

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 19 – January 1
Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra

National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s also plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings, the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 19 – January 1
Admission:
$28-35/adult, $20-28/child, 2 and under are free
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. We’ve been a couple of times, and I recommended reading my reviews here and here before you go. This year has a “Christmas Around the World” theme, and you can delight in the celebration of cultures through holiday scenes and travel to the North Pole to see Santa and his elves. Experience the magic of more than TWO MILLION pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures and slide down two-story ice slides — all kept at a chilly 9 degrees! Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and timed entries are every half-hour. Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade
Where: Silver Plaza, Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 19, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The line-up of over 100 parade units features an inflatable penguin and turkey, a massive dinosaur, a portable skating rink, and more colorful dancing groups than you have ever seen. Emcee ABC 7 Meteorologist Brian van de Graaff will introduce glittering floats, a wide variety of high school, college, and professional marching bands; beauty queens; clowns; fire engines; and performing dog and rescue animal groups. As always, the Parade will end with Santa’s float playing holiday music and showing the smiling, rosy cheeked man in a red suit who loves to hang out with elves and give out candy canes. Be sure to get a family photo: Right next to the ice rink, you can take a pic with a Frozen inflatable Elsa, a 10-foot tall turkey, or with Hanukkah or Christmas décor.

The Enchanted Forest
Where: Westin Tysons Corner
When: November 19-20
Admission: $15/kids, $10/adults (look for a ticket discount)

The Junior League of Northern Virginia’s annual Enchanted Forest returns! Stroll through the whimsical forest of theme decorated trees available for silent auction, while enjoying live entertainment, hands on cooking demonstrations, and Kids in the Holiday Kitchen activities, a visit from Santa, a model train display by Capital Trackers, kids crafts, gifts for purchase, premium events for adults and kids, and much more. Proceeds benefit the JLNV’s community initiatives through the Kids in the Kitchen programming. By supporting The Enchanted Forest you are helping the JLNV empower families to make healthy eating and active living a priority, and supporting the development of women who will build better communities for years to come.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 25 – January 6
Admission: Online – $17/adults, $9/ages 6-11, free 5 and under
 (look for discount tickets

The holidays are full of delight at George Washington’s estate. During the day, tour the Mansion, watch historic chocolate-making demonstrations, and meet Aladdin the Camel. Mount Vernon is open every day of the year, including Christmas Day and New Years. So bring the entire family to the home of George and Martha Washington this holiday season.

Festival of Trees
Where: Krieger Institute
When: November 25-27
Admission: $15, adult, $7/child, free for 4 and under

Kick off the holiday season by welcoming Santa Claus to a winter wonderland at the annual Kennedy Krieger Institute’s Festival of Trees! The East Coast’s largest holiday-themed festival will return to the Maryland State Fairgrounds with decorated trees, a gingerbread town, shopping, breakfast with Santa, endless holiday activities, and non-stop entertainment for children of all ages!

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: November 25 – January 2
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up

Go big on a treat for your family at this holiday celebration at the Williamsburg amusement park. Enjoy spectacular light shows, rides, live entertainment, the Mistletoe Marketplace,visits from Santa, live penguins, and more!

Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 1 – January 1
Admission: Free


This has a permanent spot on many a DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a brilliant holiday scene. Bonus: there will also be musical performances throughout the season this year. Unfortunately, the adorable Santa’s Workshop once again is not back this year (you might recall there was confusion about it in the past), but go enjoy everything else.

Christmas in Middleburg
Where: Middleburg, VA
When: December 2-4
Admission: Varies by activity

Christmas in Middleburg is a spectacular community event that includes a tree lighting, parade, Breakfast with Santa and Silent Auction, and the Middleburg Hunt Review creating a spectacular sight as 100 horses, riders in pink coats, and dozens of hounds come through the town. Throughout the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Christmas in Middleburg Craft Show, the Middleburg Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as well as shopping and dining in the town’s shops and restaurants. The Middleburg Christmas Parade begins is a highlight, with a unique assortment of floats, troops, and musical groups marching by. Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach.

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: December 3 & 4
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the National Museum of American History, National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, Sackler Gallery, National Museum of the American Indian, Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, National Museum of African American Art, and The Smithsonian Castle! They’ve got special events galore to help you get in the holiday spirit, including musical performances, book signings, trunk shows, activities for kids, and more!

Deck the Halls: A Family at Christmas
Where: Tudor House
When: December 3, 1-4pm
Admission: $10/child, $5/adult

Bring the family and celebrate the festive season at Tudor Place! Explore the historic mansion as a History Detective, finding decorations and clues to Christmas celebrations past. Nibble on cookies, write a letter to Santa, sing with carolers, make yuletide crafts, and enjoy refreshments throughout an afternoon of warm merriment.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 3, 11am
Admission: Free

For the 46th consecutive year, the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will showcase marching units filled with the magnificent tartans of Scottish Clans, the stirring sound of Scottish bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, reenactment groups, Scottie dogs, dignitaries, classic cars, Santa Claus, and more. The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wilkes Streets and concludes at Market Square with a massed band concert – rain or shine. There will also be other festive events throughout the weekend — see the website for details.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: December 3, 1-4pm
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland is back, turning Bethesda Row into an outdoor street bazaar. The celebration features holiday performances, a live ice sculpting presentation, and a visit from Santa Claus in Veterans Park.

Santa Fly-In
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 3
Admission: $5

This will be an experience to remember as you watch Santa fly into the historic College Park Airport (it’s the world’s oldest continuously operating airport!). Make some holiday arts and crafts, then have your picture taken with Santa Claus after his big flight.

Frost Fest
Where: Pentagon Row
When: December 3
Admission: Free

Join the holiday celebration featuring an on-ice firework display, live entertainment, music by the popular DJ Saucee, a shopping spree giveaway, food samples, and more. The grand finale fireworks show will take place on the ice at 7:30pm.

Family Gingerbread Workshop
Where: National Building Museum
When: December 3-4
Admission: $75/house

Get in the holiday spirit and construct your own gingerbread house with your family and friends! Turn gingerbread walls and royal icing into a delicious masterpiece. One house is appropriate for a group of 2-4 people. Members can register online beginning November 7 at 10am. General registration opens on November 14, and space is limited, so it may sell out.

Holly Trolley Fest
Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 3-18, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)

Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the rest of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Note: Santa will not be there the last weekend. Visit the website for directions to the museum.

Winternational
Where: Ronald Reagan Building
When: December 7, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Explore the world and do some holiday shopping — all during the lunch hour! This lively midday festival is a celebration of international culture, travel, tourism and trade. It has the atmosphere of an international bazaar with each country showcasing their culture and traditions via visual arts displays, foods, handcrafts, as well as travel and tourism information.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 10, 4-7pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the Park’s annual Winter’s Eve event. Enjoy free activities including holiday crafts, sing-alongs, story-telling, open studios, and a hot chocolate bar. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios.

Nationals Winterfest
Where: Washington Convention Center
When: December 10
Admission: $33/adult, $23/child, under 2 are free

The annual festival is full of interactive holiday and baseball activities for fans of all ages. Join clinics with Nationals players and coaches, watch a Homerun Derby featuring the Nationals mascots, make a snow fort, take batting practice, hear a winter or baseball themed story read by a Nationals player, ride down The Slider – a giant slide reminiscent of a sledding hill, and more. Guests can also meet and greet their favorite Nationals players and mascots, take a photo with Santa, strike a pose at the life-size snow globe photo station, and donate a toy to a child in need.

Italian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian American Art Museum
When: December 10, 11:30am – 3pm
Admission: Free

There’s no place like SAAM for the holidays. To celebrate the vibrant culture of Italy, Simona Rodano returns as The Italian Fairy to engage kids with the beauty of her native language. Along with Nutcracker ballet and winter-themed crafts, this festival will have all the music and Italian flair you’ll need to get in the spirit of this joyful season.

“Yes, Virginia” Family Day
Where: Newseum
When: Saturday, 1-4pm
Admission: FREE for kids (details below), $19.50/adult

Celebrate the season with the Newseum at its 18th annual “Yes, Virginia” Family Day. Join for a reading of the heart-warming editorial, Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus. Afterward, the One-and-Only Macy’s Santa Claus will make a special guest appearance to read “’Twas the Night Before Christmas” and pose for photos with good boys and girls as Figgy Puddings Holiday Carolers from the Washington National Opera provide entertainment. Kids 18 and younger will receive free admission that day if they bring a letter to put in Macy’s Believe Mailbox. (There will also be a table outside the Newseum where youth can fill out a letter on the spot). Macy’s will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish® for every letter collected. For more about the museum, see this KFDC post.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Discovery Elementary School in Arlington
When: December 10, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

Holiday Cookie Decorating
Where: The Watergate
When: December 10 & 17, 11am – 1pm
Admission: $20/child

Chef Celia from Kingbird will demonstrate cookie decorating with the kids and then help them decorate cookies of their own! Each child will also receive their own Toque Blanche or chef’s hat that they will decorate, too. Food and beverages will be offered along with a parent’s buffet. RSVP to dining@thewatergatehotel.com or 202-716-9308.

Winter Festival
Where: Ticonderoga Farm
When: December 11-13 & 18-20
Admission: $9.95

The annual festival includes hayrides to the white pine fields with access to all of the farm attractions — swings, forts, slides, tunnels, and more. Fire pits are inviting to keep you warm and make some s’mores or roast hot dogs. Cut down your Christmas tree while you’re there or buy one from the lot. Read more about the festival in this post about one of our experiences there.

Culinary Kids: Holiday Cookies & Treats
Where: Hill Center
When: December 17
Admission: $49 & $65

Sign the kids up for a cooking class to make some holiday goodies with Jake and Sara Addeo, professional chefs who have worked in renowned restaurants in DC, Hong Kong, New York, San Francisco and Italy. Along with having some holiday fun, they’ll learn some useful kitchen skills! Tho programs are being offered: Cookie Exchange is for ages 6-8, and Holiday Treats for 9-12.

Cookies & Cocoa with Santa
Where: Topgolf Alexandria
When: December 17, 9-11am
Admission: Free

Santa Claus is coming to town and this year he’s bringing Cookies & Cocoa! The free event for families with children 12 and under will feature cookies to snack on, a hot chocolate bar, a holiday-themed gift, and kids’ activities. Santa will be present for complimentary photos with the children, and all pictures taken will be available for download on the Topgolf Alexandria Facebook page after the event.

Christmas Eve Breakfast Tour
Where: The Mansion on O Street
When: December 24
Admission: $39

They deck the halls and fill the stockings with seasons greetings and holiday cheer that will create lasting memories for the entire family at the Mansion on O Street! Enjoy a delicious continental breakfast (sweet breads, yogurt, granola, fresh fruit hot coffee, hot tea, hot chocolate) then tour the wonderful themed rooms and search for secret doors. Be sure to bring your own shopping bags — everything is for sale! Read more about the Mansion on O in this KFDC post.

Christmas Eve Service
Where: Waterfront Church
When: December 24, 6-7:15pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Christmas and sing a few carols as you join with others on Christmas Eve for a candlelight service at 6pm. All are welcome and childcare will be provided for children 3 and under. Waterfront Church is located at 1000 New Jersey Ave. SE.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 31
Admission: $20 until 12/12, $30 after, kids 12 and under are free
The largest family-focused and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve event in the region. See more than 100 performances on indoor stages throughout Old Town Alexandria. Entertainers include blue grass musicians, honky-tonk bands, clowns, magicians and classical musicians. End the evening with a spectacular fireworks display on the Potomac River at the foot of King Street!


Chanukah

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 6

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 6



Sunday at the Studio: Make Your Own Menorah
Where: Gary Rosenthal Collection
When: November 13
Admission: $22.50/family

Get ready for Chanukah with glass artist Gary Rosenthal! Get a fascinating tour of Gary’s studio (he’ll show how the glass is made!); make your own dreidel, menorah, mezuzah, candlesticks or tzedakah box; learn a bit with PJ Library’s own Sarah Rabin Spira; and enjoy a tasty snack. Gary’s studio is located at 4218 Howard Avenue in Kensington.

Make Room for Latkes!
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC
When: December 4, 10:30am – 12pm
Admission: $10/family in advance, $15 at door

Chanukah is coming and with it, eight nights of family fun! Join PJ Library, the DCJCC, InterfaithFamily/DC, the Jewish Primary Day School, the Jewish Food Experience, the Jewish Social Service Agency, (JSSA) and the interfaith program, Love and Religion, for hands-on Chanukah activities including crafts, cooking, singing, candle lighting, latkes, a mitzvah (good deed) project and take-home goodies. It’s a perfect morning for Jewish and interfaith families with children ages 3 and older. Cost: $10 per family in advance; $15 at the door.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 25, 4pm
Admission: Free, but you must request tickets

This is the Jewish counterpart to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. Every Chanukah, the National Menorah is lit in a ceremony on the Ellipse. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment, plus menorah kits and dreidels to take home. And if you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, you can stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance through the website.

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 25, 5pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Chanukah a day early with a giant menorah lighting, free light stick for every child, latkes, donuts, a raffle, and music! The lighting will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Old Town Alexandria located at 901 N Fairfax Street. For more info, go to www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: December 21, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $13 at door

Celebrate Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately. Purchase advance tickets online at www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

Family Chanukah Party
Where: Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim
When: December 25
Admission: Free

Spin a dreidel, eat latkes and applesauce, have your children do arts and crafts, spend time with community and learn how to dance… Israeli style. Whether you are 2 or 92, be a part of this family Chanukah celebration! The Congregation is located at 1840 University Blvd. W. in Silver Spring.

Community Chanukah Candle Lighting
Where: Edlavitch DCJCC
When: December 28
Admission: Free

Come light the Menorah in the EDCJCC’s Jack and Ina Kay Community Hall! Join us as we light the candles, and then celebrate wtih latkes, donuts, dreidel games, music, crafts, and more! Celebrate with all ages, levels of religious observance, sexual orientations/gender identities, and abilities — part of the Inclusion & Disabilities programming at the Edlavitch DCJCC.


Light Displays

A stroll through Brookside's Garden of Lights

A stroll through Brookside’s Garden of Lights



Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 18 – January 8
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12

Imagine the beauty of Meadowlark’s renowned gardens as over 500,000 LED lights and displays bring the gardens to life and transform it into a winter wonderland. Marvel at the two-story animated fountain, stroll past the Gingerbread Village, and explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it!

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 23 – January 4, 6-10pm Weds-Mon
Admission: $20/car, $25 on Saturdays (look for discount tickets)

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 100 all new larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go. And the Symphony of Lights is the largest annual fundraising event benefiting Howard County General Hospital, the only hospital in Howard County. (Note that it’s closed on December 31.)

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 23 – January 8
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car (look for discount tickets)

For more than 14 years the Bull Run Festival of Lights has drawn thousands of visitors to the park to delight in its winter wonderland. Get a sneak preview of it on the website, where a video of Santa’s Enchanted Lights, with over 40,000 animated lights set to music, is merely a fraction of what you’ll find there.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 25 – January 1, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun
 (look for discount tickets)

This spectacular, festive light show is back after a break last year. Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open Sunday – Thursday 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, and Friday/Saturday 5:30-10:30pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. View scenes from one of our visits there.

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 25 – January 1, 5-9pm (Closed 12/24, 25, 31)
Admission: Free

Every year, thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland. The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, a dazzling light show set to music, and snow-less tubing. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and more “wild” holiday fun. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 25 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25


This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for over 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – bring a thermos of hot chocolate, pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park
When: November 25 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Sun-Thurs, $15/car Fri-Sat

The 19th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than 365 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Special prism glasses to are available for $2 to heighten the experience. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Festival of Lights
Where: Mormon Temple
When: December 3 – January 3
Admission: Free

It’s official name is the Washington DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most Washingtonians know it as the Mormon Temple that you can see driving on the outer loop of the Beltway near Bethesda. During the holiday season the grounds glow with more than 600,000 LED lights that visitors are welcome to enjoy. There are also free nightly performances in an indoor theater, Christmas trees decorated in international themes, an exhibit of crèches from around the world, and a life-sized outdoor nativity.

Georgetown GLOW
Where: Georgetown neighborhood
When: December 2 – January 1
Admission: Free

See Georgetown in a whole new light – literally. Every evening through January 1, the neighborhood will sparkle with modern light art installations on exhibit throughout the bustling community. Works of local, regional, and international artists will be on display in both public and privately-owned spaces, including M Street, along the C&O Canal, and more nearby places. Take the family dinner, then go for a stroll to check them all out.

Garden in Lights
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden
When: December 2 – January 1 (closed 12/5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 24, 25)
Admission: $6, free for ages 3 and under

This magical tour takes visitors on a beautiful trip through the glittering woods. As you stroll the protected path, you will be transported to a fantastical place of spectacular lights and amazing “light sculptures.” Guests will be surrounded by mythical beasts, wild animals, airplanes, pirates, princesses, circus performers, dinosaurs, and more. Because all the “light sculptures” are made at Annmarie, the designs are one-of-a-kind; nothing in this show is commercially available. It is all made just for visitors to Annmarie Garden In Lights! Enjoy the “Holiday I Spy Game,” nightly entertainment, special discount nights, sweet treats, and other fun activities.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 3
Admission: Free

Experience one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions! At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn. Before and after the parade, stop in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Holiday Open House between 4-9pm to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Choral Society plus gift shopping in open artist studios.


Holiday Markets

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter



Museum Shop Around
Where: Strathmore
When: November 10-13
Admission: $9

This annual market brings the best of the area’s finest museum gift shops all to one place. At Strathmore’s Museum Shop Around you’ll find toys, jewelry, one-of-a-kind gifts — some handmade, all art-inspired — for yourself and everyone on your holiday list.

Bethany House Holiday Bazaar
Where: First Baptist Church Alexandria
When: November 18-19
Admission: $5/suggested donation $10/family

Get an early start on your holiday shopping at this bazaar benefiting Bethany House, a domestic violence shelter in Northern VA that serves women and children survivors of domestic violence. The bazaar features regional artisans, crafters, and unique businesses. Browse international gift items, such as jewelry, paintings, essential oils, home décor, and more.

Merry & Bright Shopping Preview
Where: Mosaic District
When: November 12, 4-9pm
Admission: Free

Get your gift shopping started at the Northern Virginia center. Many stores and restaurants in the Fairfax community are offering discounts and other specials to help patrons ring in the the holiday shopping season.

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW
When: November 25 – December 23, 12-8pm
Admission: Free

This one, to me, is the holiday market in DC. It’s not even so much about the merchandise for sale (though there’s always a great variety of gift items – I never leave empty handed). There’s something about the usually bustling block in the middle of Penn Quarter transforming into an open air market for a few weeks that is so charming and kind of magical, making our big city feel like a small town. A bonus is the free live entertainment along with treats and coffee drinks available for purchase. And after you’ve done your shopping and enjoyed a snack and music, you can pop into the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum that are literally right next to the market.

Eastern Market
Where: 7th Street SE, between South Carolina & Penn Aves.
When: Year-round Saturdays & Sundays
Admission: Free

The outdoor flea market at the centerpiece of the Capitol Hill community is practically a year-round weekend institution for locals. And during the holiday season, it’s a go-to for shoppers seeking unique gifts along with a fun outing. Over 100 vendors are there, selling everything from original artwork to fun T-shirts, to handmade jewelry and accessories, to home décor to custom-made and used furniture – and much, much more. If you’re cooking up a holiday meal, you can get fresh produce from farmers’ stalls outside and butchered meats, fancy cheeses, baked goods, pasta, fresh produce, and more inside the actual Eastern Market. Even more, there is often live music courtesy of buskers around the area, and if the kids want some play time afterwards, you can hit one of several parks or playgrounds in the neighborhood (Lincoln Park, at 11th and East Capitol, is the largest and most popular among them).

Christkindlmarkt
Where: Heurich House Museum
When: December 2-4
Admission: $10/ages 13+ and $2/ages 2-12

Do some shopping at Christkindlmarkt, an annual holiday artisan market and festive house tou, honoring the Heurich family’s German heritage by recreating a traditional outdoor German Christmas market in its Castle Garden. Dupont Circle’s only holiday market will feature goods from over 40 local artisans, including jewelers, ceramicists, chocolatiers, and makers of housewares, clothing, and more. Visitors will also have the opportunity to explore the seasonally decorated historic mansion on a self-guided tour.

Alexandria’s Holiday Market
Where: Carlyle District in Alexandria
When: December 3-22 (but not everyday, see the website)
Admission: Free

This annual signature event transforms the Carlyle District into a lively European Festival similar to the infamous Christmas Markets taking place in Germany or France. Shop for unique art and craft items, and enjoy live entertainment, traditional European food and sweets, hot wine, and hot cocoa. Be sure to visit the children’s corner for kid’s activities to learn more about European traditions and culture. The Market is located at 300 John Carlyle Street in Alexandria.

Holiday Bazaar
Where: Children’s Weekday Program
When: December 3, 9am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Enjoy and shop a family-friendly bazaar featuring local craft and gift vendors, a chance for children to visit with Santa, a silent auction, children’s activities, a bake sale, cake walk, and much more. The event is on the second floor in the great hall. New packages of diapers will be collected for the D.C. Diaper Bank. Children’s Weekday Program is located at 716 S. Glebe Road in Arlington.

Holiday Festival & Art Market
Where: Torpedo Factory Art Center
When: December 3, 2 – 6 pm
Admission Free

The Torpedo Factory Artists invite shoppers into their studios to find original gifts of art. Handmade jewelry and ornaments, original ceramics, couture finds, objet d’art, and other fine works will be available to browse and buy. Special holiday promotions and discounts will be available from dozens of artists and galleries. The afternoon will also feature a children’s scavenger hunt, live music with the Alexandria Choral Society and Braddock Brass, and a visit from Santa.

Carpe Noctem
Where: St. Jerome Academy in Hyattsville, MD
When: December 3
Admission: $5/adult, free for kids

Seize the Night while you sip and shop, perusing the aisles for beautiful, unique gifts. The event supporting the students of St. Jerome Academy features two levels of shopping fun. In addition to many talented vendors and live music throughout the evening, Carpe Noctem has various dinner options, wine, beer, tasty desserts, and warm drinks for kids available for purchase. Children can enjoy face-painting, a photo op with St. Nicholas, and coloring activities. Customers will receive a complementary drink with their paid

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Discovery Elementary School, Arlington
When: December 10, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

Rosslyn Holiday Market
Where: Gateway Park
When: December 9-10
Admission: Free

Hosted by the Rosslyn Business Improvement District, the market will boast more than 25 local boutique vendors selling everything from handmade jewelry and clothing to pottery and chocolate. The Friday schedule is geared towards an adult crowd, and Saturday will feature activities kicking off with the Great Chocolate Race, a 5-mile scenic run through Rosslyn. There will also be storytelling, free pictures with Santa Claus, and gingerbread house workshops for the whole family.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center
When: December 9-11
Admission: $8/advance, $10/at door, free for 11 and under

This seasonal fair showcases works by more than 300 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale. The best part is that the award-winning festival is a family affair. Parents can shop, and children can enjoy an interactive puppet theater and watch live-demonstrations of iron forging, papermaking, stone sculpting, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. Not to mention, gourmet goodies hand-made by specialty food vendors always leave everyone wanting more. Tickets are good for all three days of the Festival.

How we do the holidays in our house

How we do the holidays in our house



Know of a great DC holiday event that you don’t see here? Let us know in the comments below!


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The KFDC 2015 Guide to the Best of the Holidays in DC

capitol_xmastime

The holiday season is hitting DC! Starting as soon as this weekend, you can embrace the spirit at area events, many that have become family traditions for Washingtonians. Local stages come alive with holiday shows. Model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages. Light displays dazzle visitors as they walk or drive among them. Special markets offer unique gifts along with good time. And all kinds of events and extravaganzas, several at iconic locales, bring holiday cheer and activities that thrill and enchant kids — and the kid in all of us adults. This KFDC Guide to the Best of the Holidays in DC, categorized and listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all.

Holiday Shows

Model Trains

Special Events

Chanukah

Light Displays

Holiday Markets

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Holiday Shows

nutcracker_warner

 
A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 19 – December 31
Tickets: $44-91
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Performance is two hours (including a 15-minute intermission).

A Lump of Coal
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: November 20 – December 31
Tickets: $19.50
It is Christmastime! The hilarious and heartburning, uh, heartwarming holiday adventure of a Lump of Coal who wants to be an artist. Traditionally the dreaded stocking stuffer for children on the Naughty List, this Lump turns one child’s worst nightmare into a dream come true. This stage adaptation by Norman Allen will delight audiences young and old with its story of unlikely friendships and holiday miracles.

A Year with Frog and Toad
Where: Imagination Stage
When: November 24 – January 10
Tickets: $10+

A Year with Frog and Toad: A Holiday Musical Escapade of Friendship Through the Seasons presents the story of two best friends with completely opposite personalities wake up from hibernation, and enjoy hilarious and heartwarming adventures through the seasons. When Frog learns that Toad doesn’t receive mail, he quickly writes him a letter and asks the Snail to deliver it. Several uproarious Vaudeville vignettes ensue in which the friends go swimming, fly a kite, bake cookies, tell scary stories, and go sledding down a steep hill. Will the Snail successfully complete his journey to deliver the letter and a smile to Toad? Recommended for ages 4 and up.

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 27 – December 30
Tickets: $10

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat! The Nutcracker is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s favorite toy and their adventures together in the land of the Sugarplum Fairy. Music from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet blends with marionettes and costume characters to create this unique production. Don’t miss it! Recommended for children ages 5 and up.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 27 – December 30
Tickets: $5


This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.

The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 28-29
Tickets: $30-50

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for antsy little theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This celebrated production has become a DC perennial holiday favorite, set in historic Georgetown with historical figures and whimsical touches. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historic characters including George Washington as the Nutcracker and King George III as the menacing Rat King! Join us again with family and friends or start a new holiday tradition with your loved ones.

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: November 30 – December 17
Tickets: $3-8


Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 16th season, this signature Discovery Theater show celebrates the history and customs of Ramadan, Devali, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Los Posados, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice in an interactive event that bridges communities and cultures. This show sells out early, so don’t wait to get your tickets! Recommended for ages 5-10.

Snow Day
Where: The Lab at Convergence & Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 3-8 & December 12-20
Tickets: $9, 12 months and under are free

Arts on the Horizon presents this winter show at two area theatres! One cold December morning, a young girl named Skip wakes up to find the entire neighborhood covered in a thick, dazzling blanket of white snow. A playful (if not a little mischievous) winter elf takes her on an adventure – showing her just how magical snow can be! Join Skip as she experiences all the excitement, joy, and wonder of her very first snow day. This nonverbal world premiere production features live music and lots of wintertime fun, just in time for the holiday season. Recommended for children ages 2-6.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 3-27
Tickets: $35-101 (look for a ticket discount)


Set in 1882 Georgetown, this gorgeous production showcases the grandeur of The Washington Ballet’s international roster of dancers and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historical characters, including George Washington as the heroic nutcracker, TWB’s The Nutcracker has become a tradition for generations of family and friends to celebrate the holidays. Read a KFDC review of the production from a few years ago. (Note: Family Day is December 6, with an hour pre-performance activities before the 1pm show.)

The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Where: Strathmore
When: December 3
Tickets: $29-54

A holiday mash-up for the whole family, The Hip Hop Nutcracker re-imagines Tchaikovsky’s classic score through explosive hip-hop choreography. A dozen all-star dancers, an on-stage DJ, and an electric violinist bring the traditional Nutcracker story to life in contemporary New York City.

Swing Machine Big Band Christmas Extravaganza
Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center at George Mason
When: December 3
Tickets: $15

Bring in the holiday season…Big Band style! Swing Machine is an 18-piece Big Band with members from the USAF Airmen of Note, Army Blues, Navy Commodores, the Glenn Miller Orchestra, and a Grammy-nominated vocalist. And back by popular demand: The Combined PWC High School Chorus, and Randolph Macon Academy Chorus will join the band for a few songs.

‘Tis the Circus: A Holiday Party on High
Where: Atlas Perfroming Arts Center
When: December 4-6
Tickets: $25/adult, $15/child

The holidays can be a circus – quite literally, at this holiday party! As the guests arrive, one couple’s living room is transformed as acrobats, aerialists, jugglers and other performers dazzle with spectacular routines celebrating the magic of the holiday season. Fun for the whole family – prepare to be delighted, amazed and inspired. A unique and new holiday tradition for all ages.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 5, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long is an annual musical celebration hosting a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area. Admission is free, and no tickets are required. Parking is free, but limited, so plan on arriving early. Bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots, a bell for a “Jing-A-Long” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and a candle to join the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.”

Virginia Ballet Company & School: Selections from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 5
Tickets: Free

Saturday Morning at the National presents its annual holiday show, the Virginia Ballet Company and School’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s glittering confection. Visions of snowflakes and sugarplums dance through the air and gingerbread soldiers triumph over the evil Rat King as you follow Clara into the land of sweets and holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Fancy Nancy Splendiferous Christmas
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts
Wen: December 6
Tickets: $15-21

This December celebrate the holiday season with Fancy Nancy in this hour-long musical based on the popular children’s book. In this piece Fancy Nancy learns despite all the presents, decorations, parties, and other fancy holiday things, family and especially her sister Jojo are more important than any fancy stuff that she could buy. Filled with catchy, charming songs, this energetic and colorful holiday indulgence is appropriate for children of all ages.

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 10-22
Tickets: $15-38

A new take on the holiday season! DC’s internationally-known percussive dance company invites you to celebrate the holidays with clapping, stomping, and all around fun for all ages featuring their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom, and a special dance party with DJ Frosty the Snowman! Taking the whole family to Step Afrika! Magical Musical Holiday Step Show? Get the Family Fun Pack: Four Tickets, Four FREE Snacks, Four FREE non-alcoholic drinks, all for $100!

It’s a Wonderful Life
Where: Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building in Woodbridge, VA
When: December 11, 12, 18, & 19
Tickets: $12/adult, $8/4-13, free for 3 and under

Homeschool Theatre Troupe presents It’s a Wonderful Life, the story of George Bailey, the Everyman from the small town of Bedford Falls, whose dreams of escape and adventure have been quashed by family obligation and civic duty. On Christmas Eve, George’s guardian angel, Clarence, shows him what the world would have been like had he never been born, and George is saved from despair by realizing that his has been, after all, a wonderful life.

Holiday Family Opera: Hansel and Gretel
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 12-20
Tickets: $59-75

Once upon a time, two children found themselves lost in a dark forest, until they happened upon a house made entirely of sweets. What happens next, well that’s the story of Hansel and Gretel! Complete with a cackling witch, enchanted fairies, dancing animals, and an oversized gingerbread oven, the timeless Grimm brothers’ fairy tale returns for the holidays in WNO’s whimsical and neon-colored production. REecommended for ages 9 and up.

A Family Christmas Concert
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 13
Tickets: $15-45

A holiday treat for even the littlest fan, this one-hour, highly participatory concert delights with songs of Santa, Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, filling every soul with joy. Perfect for children ages 5 and older … and don’t forget the grandparents!

Dicken’s Tale
Where: National Theatre
When: December 12
Tickets: Free

Saturday Morning at the National presents this free production from Bright Star Theatre. Gather ‘round as Bright Star Theatre recreates Victorian England in this beloved retelling of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol. Join Old Scrooge, bumbling Bob Cratchit, one hilarious beggar woman and all the delightful ghostly visitors in this heartwarming tale of friendship and generosity. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Family Joy!
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 12
Admission: $25

Join the Cathedral Choral Societyat the Washington National Cathedral,for a special Christmas Concert. This one-hour program has something for all ages, including a kids-only sing-along. Bring the whole family and get swept up in the sounds of the season.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 12-13
Tickets: $20/adults, $15/10 and under in advance | $20/at door


Maryland Youth Ballet’s Mini-Nut is a delightful abbreviated version of their classic, award-winning, The Nutcracker, designed to introduce children to the magic of this family favorite. This beloved holiday tradition with soaring music by Tchaikovsky promises to hold the attention of even the youngest theatergoer. Suitable for all ages, this version is less than an hour and performed by cast members from MYB’s full-length production. A perfect holiday mini-treat!

10th Annual Holiday Concert & Sing-Along
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 13, 4pm & 7pm
Tickets: $8.50

An H Street holiday tradition is back! Enjoy holiday favorites at the Atlas performed by the Capital City Symphony and sung by the Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus. Join in the singing during an audience sing-along. The celebration continues in the Kogod Lobby with complimentary cookies and good cheer following the performance.

Kwanzaa Celebration – Family Series
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: December 13, 4pm
Tickets: $25/adult in advance, $30/at door, $15/ages 17 and under

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to join Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. During this Family Series, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 18, 19, 20, 23, 26, 27
Tickets: $31/adults, $26/children in advance; $36/adults, $31/children at door


This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.

Winter Wonderland Puppet Show
Where: Frying Pan Farm Park
When: December 22
Tickets: $5/county resident, $7/non-resident

Bring your holiday guests and join master puppeteer Bob Brown in a holiday production of Winter Wonderland. Join the lively marionettes as they frolic in a magical winter wonderland of snow. After the show, stroll the Park and visit our animals or shop at the Country Store. Children must be accompanied by a paid, registered adult.

Bone Soup, a Kwanzaa Musical
Where: Anacostia Community Museum
When: December 26
Tickets: Free

Bring the entire family for Day One of the museum’s annual 3-day Kwanzaa celebration. This year, Culture Kingdom Kids presents the original play Bone Soup. This energetic and interactive introduction to Kwanzaa includes dancers, singers, music, colorful costumes, and lively characters.



Model Trains

Trains whiz around the delightful display  - made of plant materials! - at the US Botanic Garden

Trains whiz around the delightful display – made of plant materials! – at the US Botanic Garden



Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 21-22 & December 1 – January 3
Admission: $18/adults, $16/seniors (60+), $12/ages 2-12, free for B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. Trains are magical during the holidays, and the museum invites all aboard the B&O’s Magical Holiday Express, a spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse devoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, and a winter wonderland of family fun and activities. There is something to see and do every day at this annual holiday event! Be sue to look for special events like Santa’s Lego Party, Frosty Fest Weekend, and Breakfast with Santa on the website.

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 26 – January 3
Admission: Free

If my blog stats are any indication, this is easily DC’s most popular holiday attraction; the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit is always among the top searches that lead readers here. And I can’t say I’m surprised. Season’s Greenings is an annual delight for all ages. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year’s Pollination Station will feature oversized flowers, bees, and butterflies in a scenic wonderland. For even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm. For more on the seasonal favorite, read this post and this one about some of our Season’s Greenings experiences.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden
When: December 5 – January 3
Admission: Free

Brookside’s South Conservatory will come to life with a landscape in miniature, as trains and trollies wind their way through town and country scenes, past one-of-a kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park. Colorful plantings will complement it all — winter may rule the outside landscape, but the conservatories will be bright with color and active with sound and motion to match the festive feeling of the season.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 12 – December 19
Admission: $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, under 2 are free

During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station
When: TBD
Admission: Free
Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful Holiday Train Display, on view in the Main Hall. Featuring a Norwegian landscape, the displays are intricate and fun to stop by and see if you’re at the station during the holiday season.


Special Events

Holidays on the Ellipse

Holidays on the Ellipse

 

Holiday Tours & Shopping
Where: Mansion on O Street
When: November – January
Admission: Starts at $15

Mansion elves begin decking the halls in spectacular mansion style starting in November. Take a holiday tour of one of the most wonderfully outrageous places in DC to infuse you with holiday spirit. Explore themed rooms, search for secret doors, and shop for unique holiday gifts while you celebrate the season with family and friends. Read more about the Manon on O Street in this KFDC post.

Re-Imagining the Holidays
Where: Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 14, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The 4th Annual “Re-Imagining The Holidays” event is Downtown Silver Spring’s official Tree Lighting and Street Fest. And this year it will include Foodie Festivus, a 35’ holiday tree comprised of recycled glassware and welded food service items including spatula snowflakes, plate and saucer ornaments, takeout containers, utensil tinsel – “utinsel” – and an impressive star topper constructed from blue glass bottles. Other festivities of the evening will include food tastings, live music, ice skating, and more!

Tree Lighting Ceremony
Where: National Harbor
When: November 14, 12-7pm
Admission: Free

Join National Harbor for a full day of holiday fun, topped off by their annual tree lighting. They’ll have tons of holiday activities, including the opening of the holiday market, car-making for the Troops, a holiday movie on the Plaza, live entertainment, Santa at the carousel, fireworks, and more!

Santa HQ
Where: Tyson’s Corner
When: November 14 – December 24
Admission: Free, but portrait packages start at $30

Discover holiday wonderment in this immersive and innovative experience with visual elements that transport you straight to the North Pole. Enter HGTV’s Santa HQ and be scanned by the digital Naughty or Nice O’Meter, snap an “Elfie Selfie” in Santa’s workshop and star in your own holiday video. Then onto the North Pole Observatory to experience Elf-Ray Vision in a 3D environment…all before meeting the big man in red himself!

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 21 – January 3

Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s also plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings, the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 21 – January 3
Admission:
$28-35/adult, $20-28/child, 2 and under are free
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. We went a few years ago, and I recommend reading my review before you go. And since it features a new “Learn how Santa Claus started giving toys to good girls and boys in the retelling of the classic television special, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, celebrating its 45th anniversary this year. Our ice sculptures and ice slides are fun for the whole family and part of Christmas on the Potomac at our at our National Harbor resort.” Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and timed entries are every half-hour. Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.

Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade
Where: Silver Plaza, Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 21, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The line-up of over 100 parade units features an inflatable penguin and turkey, a massive dinosaur, a portable skating rink, and more colorful dancing groups than you have ever seen. Emcee ABC 7 Meteorologist Brian van de Graaff will introduce glittering floats, a wide variety of high school, college, and professional marching bands; beauty queens; clowns; fire engines; and performing dog and rescue animal groups. As always, the Parade will end with Santa’s float playing holiday music and showing the smiling, rosy cheeked man in a red suit who loves to hang out with elves and give out candy canes. And new this year is a place to take your family holiday photos. Right next to the ice rink, you can take your photo with a Frozen inflatable Elsa, a 10-foot tall turkey, or with Hanukkah or Christmas décor.

The Enchanted Forest
Where: Westin Tysons Corner
When: November 21-22
Admission: $15 (workshops are extra)

The Junior League of Northern Virginia’s annual Enchanted Forest will features a beautiful ‘forest’ of more than 100 theme-decorated holiday trees for silent auction, live entertainment by several of the area’s most celebrated children’s performers, a model train display, hands-on children’s activities, and a festival holiday marketplace. Proceeds from this event directly support the JLNV’s community initiatives, which are focused on empowering families to make healthy eating and active living a priority, and support the development of women who will build better communities for years to come.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 27 – January 6
Admission: $17/adults, $9/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under


The holidays are full of delight at George Washington’s estate. Join for candlelight tours of the Mansion, a dazzling display of fireworks set to Christmas music, dancing, fire-side caroling, Aladdin the Christmas camel, and so much more! See the website for all of the holiday happenings at the historic home.

Reston Holiday Parade, Tree Lighting, Sing Along
Where: Reston Town Center
When: November 27
Admission: Free

Kicks off the festive season at the 25th annual Reston Holiday Parade with Macy’s-style balloons, musicians, dancers, antique cars, characters, community groups, dignitaries, special guest emcees, and much more. The one-of-a-kind, one-hour, half-mile parade also welcomes the arrival of Santa and Mrs. Claus in a horse-drawn carriage. The day also includes Gingerbread Man Mile races for kids, visits and photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus, mini-train rides, ice skating, and street entertainment. The tree lighting and sing-along is an evening highlight.

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: November 27 – January 3
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up

Go big on a treat for your family at this holiday celebration at the Williamsburg amusement park. Enjoy spectacular light shows, rides, live entertainment, the Mistletoe Marketplace,visits from Santa, live penguins, and more!

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: Union Station
When: December 1, 6pm
Admission: Free

One of the most popular and often first of the major DC tree lighting ceremonies, the 2015 Annual Norwegian Christmas at Union Station will have a theme of music this year. The tree will be decorated with CD’s while streaming music will be featured in the area around the tree at the lighting ceremony.mAlaska Senator Lisa Murkowski will light the tree, and the Norwegian Embassy will provide beverages and light refreshments. Santa will be on hand with presents for the kids and The Carolers of Greater Washington (CGW) will perform.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 2, 5pm
Admission: Free

If don’t win lottery tickets to see the National Tree Lighting, consider going to this one at the Capitol. You might not be able to sit close up, but you can view festivities from right across the street, and it’s just as lovely from the area by the Reflecting Pool. For now, follow the tree as it journeys from Alaska, where it was harvested, to DC. It’s expected to arrive in a couple of weeks, and the lighting will take place during the first week of December (date still TBD). After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.

Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 4 – January 1
Admission: Free


This has a permanent spot on many a DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a brilliant holiday scene. Bonus: there will also be musical performances throughout the season this year. Unfortunately, the adorable Santa’s Workshop is not back this year (you might recall there was confusion about it last year), but go enjoy everything else.

Christmas in Middleburg
Where: Middleburg, VA
When: December 4-6
Admission:

Christmas in Middleburg is a spectacular community event that includes a Breakfast with Santa and a silent auction event and the Middleburg Hunt Review creating a spectacular sight as 100 horses, riders in pink coats, and dozens of hounds come through the town. Throughout the day there are hayrides, choir performances, the Christmas in Middleburg Craft Show, the Middleburg Garden Club’s Christmas Flower & Greens Show at Emmanuel Episcopal Church, as well as shopping and dining in the town’s shops and restaurants. The Middleburg Christmas Parade begins is a highlight, with a unique assortment of floats, troops, and musical groups marching by. Santa brings up the rear riding on a beautiful horse drawn coach.

Christmas on Wheels
Where: Around DC
When: December 4-20 (Friday – Sunday)
Admission: See details below

For the first year ever, Bike and Roll DC will be offering Washington’s first-ever Christmas tour by bike and Segway. Tour highlights will include the Botanical Gardens Holiday Showcase, a hot chocolate stop, the exquisite decorations at the Willard Hotel, and of course, the Capital and National Christmas Trees. Families and children of all ages are welcome on the bike tour — trailer tandems and burleys are available for younger children. Riders must be 16 for the Segway tour. Cost for the bike tour is $39/adults, $34/ages 12 and under and $64/person for the Segway tour.

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: December 5 & 6
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, and Freer-Sackler Gallery, Smithsonian American Art Museum, National Museum of the American Indian, National Museum of African American Art, National Postal Museum, the Hirshhorn, and Smithsonian Castle! Enjoy concerts by the U.S. Air Force’s Max Impact, Silver Wings, and Celtic Aire. The Festival will also include Mars Chocolate demonstrations, a Star Wars C-3PO costume exhibit, the world’s largest LEGO American Flag exhibit, family holiday photo opportunities, free film screenings, trunk shows featuring apparel, jewelry and art, book signings, festive food, and hours of additional family-friendly entertainment.

Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 5, 11am
Admission: Free

For the 45th consecutive year, the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade will showcase marching units filled with the magnificent tartans of Scottish Clans, the stirring sound of Scottish bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, reenactment groups, Scottie dogs, dignitaries, classic cars, Santa Claus, and more. The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wilkes Streets and concludes at Market Square with a massed band concert – rain or shine. There will also be other festive events throughout the weekend — see the website for details.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: December 5, 1-4pm
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland is back, turning Bethesda Row into an outdoor street bazaar. The celebration features holiday performances, a live ice sculpting presentation, and a visit from Santa Claus in Veterans Park.

Holidays Through History Open House
Where: Dumbarton House
When: December 5
Admission: $8-20 (details below)

Make your merry way among three historic houses featuring period installations from the Federal period to the 1960s. Dumbarton House, Anderson House, and Woodrow Wilson House all offer a festive evening of elegance, refreshments, and ornaments to make at each site.
Tickets: Museum Members: $8 in advance, $10 at the door; Children: $10; Adults: $16 in advance, $20 at the door.

Holly Trolley Fest
Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 5-26, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)

Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the rest of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Note: Santa will not be there the last weekend. Visit the website for directions to the museum.

Winternational
Where: Ronald Reagan Building
When: December 9, 11am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Explore the world and do some holiday shopping — all during the lunch hour! This lively midday festival is a celebration of international culture, travel, tourism and trade. It has the atmosphere of an international bazaar with each country showcasing their culture and traditions via visual arts displays, foods, handcrafts, as well as travel and tourism information.

Ugly Sweater Run
Where: National Harbor
When: December 12, 9 am
Admission: $50 (look for a deal here)

Rummage up the Ugliest Sweater you can find and celebrate the holidays in an active way by participating in the Merriest 5K of the year. Join thousands of runners, walkers, and prancers through National Harbor. The start line includes massive inflatables, photo stations, games, and cheerful holiday music. Once on course, you’ll find holiday themed stations at every mile.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 12, 4-7pm
Admission: Free

Get into the holiday spirit at Glen Echo Park’s annual Winter’s Eve celebration. It’s free, open to the public, and visitors of all ages can enjoy performances, arts & crafts open studios, hot chocolate, and a holiday sing-along. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios. Kids and adults can create gifts to share in the holiday-themed craft rooms.

Tea with Santa
Where: Dumbarton House
When: December 12
Admission: $25/adult member, $30/non-member, $20/child

Sit back, relax and let Santa’s helpers serve you during this magical holiday experience. Visit with Santa and hear a special holiday story. Families enjoy a delicious holiday tea complete with special holiday tea blends, hot apple cider, sandwiches and desserts. After taking tea, children decorate their own gingerbread cookies to take home.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Key School in Arlington
When: December 5, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair. The Key School is located at 2300 Key Blvd in Arlington.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 31
Admission: $15 until 12/17, $20 after, kids 12 and under are free
The largest family-focused and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve event in the region. See more than 100 performances on indoor stages throughout Old Town Alexandria. Entertainers include blue grass musicians, honky-tonk bands, clowns, magicians and classical musicians. End the evening with a spectacular fireworks display on the Potomac River at the foot of King Street!


Chanukah

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 6

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 6



National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 6, 4pm
Admission: Free, but you must request tickets

This is the Jewish counterpart to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. Every Chanukah, the National Menorah is lit in a ceremony on the Ellipse. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment, plus menorah kits and dreidels to take home. And if you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, you can stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance through the website.

Make Room for Latkes
Where Washington DCJCC
When: December 6, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Admission: $10/family in advance; $15/family at door

Chanukah is coming and with it, eight nights of family fun. Join PJ Library and partners for hands-on Chanukah activities including crafts, cooking, singing, candle lighting, latkes, a mitzvah (good deed) project, and take-home goodies. CityJews programs are designed with interfaith families in mind.

Family Celebration of Hanukkah
Where: Cathedral Commons
When: December 6, 1-3pm
Admission: Free

This Family Celebration of Hanukkah will feature community performances, festive crafts, and kosher food and drink options from the Kosher Pastry Oven. The event will take place at Newark Avenue NW at Cathedral Commons near the Giant Food.

Matisyahu in Concert
Where: Strathmore
When: December 6
Admission: Tickets are $28-48

Reggae, rap, hip-hop, and alt rock — Matisyahu does it all, blending beat-boxing techniques with artful jazz and the ancient traditions of Judaism. This show on the first night of Chanukah will highlight it all. (And I can tell you firsthand that he is amazing to see live!)

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 6, 5pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Chanukah a day early with a giant menorah lighting, free light stick for every child, latkes, donuts, a raffle, and music! The lighting will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Old Town Alexandria located at 901 N Fairfax Street. For more info, go to www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

Family Chanukah Party
Where: Congregation Har Tzeon-Agudath Achim
When: December 6
Admission:

Spin a dreidel, eat latkes and applesauce, have your children do arts and crafts, spend time with community and learn how to dance… Israeli style. Whether you are 2 or 92, be a part of this family Chanukah celebration! The Congregation is located at 1840 University Blvd. W. in Silver Spring.

Spin the Tale: Chanukah Story Hour
Where: Barnes & Noble, 12089 Rockville Pike
When: December 8, 4-5pm
Admission: Free

Warm up your winter with a Chanukah story time at Barnes & Noble. Hear a story, make a unique dreidel with creative materials, and then play dreidel with the staff!

Max’s Lotsa Latkes
Where: Max’s Kosher Café and Marketplace
When: December 9, 5:30-7:30pm
Admission: $15/adult, $7/ages 3-10, free for 2 and under

Join for all-you-can-eat latkes (three delicious kinds!) and sufganiyot (jelly doughnuts) at Max’s Kosher Café and Marketplace (2319 University Blvd. W. in Silver Spring). Enjoy the tasty Chanukah treats as well as children’s activities, dreidel games, recipes, and gelt galore. Regular menu and drinks available a la carte. Kosher dietary laws observed. Space is limited — purchase your ticket early before they sell out.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: December 8, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $13 at door

Celebrate Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately. Purchase advance tickets online at www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.


Light Displays

Brookside's spectacular Garden of Lights is back after a break last year

Brookside’s spectacular Garden of Lights is back after a break last year



Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 13 – January 3
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (look for a deal here)

Imagine the beauty of Meadowlark’s renowned gardens as over 500,000 LED lights and displays bring the gardens to life and transform it into a winter wonderland. Marvel at the two-story animated fountain, stroll past the Gingerbread Village, and explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it!

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 18 – January 3
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car (look for a deal here)

For more than 14 years the Bull Run Festival of Lights has drawn thousands of visitors to the park to delight in its winter wonderland. Get a sneak preview of it on the website, where a video of Santa’s Enchanted Lights, with over 40,000 animated lights set to music, is merely a fraction of what you’ll find there.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 27 – January 3, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun


This spectatcular, festive light show is back after a break last year. Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open Sunday – Thursday 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, and Friday/Saturday 5:30-10:30pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. View scenes from one of our visits there.

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 27 – January 2, 5-9pm (Closed 12/24, 25, 31)
Admission: Free

Every year, thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland. The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, a dazzling light show set to music, and “Zoo Tubing” on Lion/Tiger Hill (they should just call it Liger Hill) on two 150-foot snow tracks. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the Gin-Grrr-Bread Habitat Competition. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 27 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25


This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for over 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park
When: November 27 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Sun-Thurs, $15/car Fri-Sat (loof for a deal here)

The 19th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than 365 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Special prism glasses to are available for $2 to heighten the experience. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Festival of Lights
Where: Mormon Temple
When: December 3 – January 1
Admission: Free

It’s official name is the Washington DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most Washingtonians know it as the Mormon Temple that you can see driving on the outer loop of the Beltway near Bethesda. During the holiday season the ground glow with more than 600,000 LED lights that visitors are welcome to enjoy. There are also free nightly performances in an indoor theater, Christmas trees decorated in international themes, an exhibit of crèches from around the world, and a life-sized outdoor nativity.

Garden in Lights
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden
When: December 4 – January 2 (closed 12/7, 8, 9, 14, 15, 24, & 25)
Admission: $6, free for ages 3 and under

The award-winning holiday light show will run twenty-three nights this season. The show features hundreds of handmade light sculptures scattered along a glittering Wooded Path. As guests stroll the protected path, they’ll be surrounded by princesses, mythical beasts, wild animals, dinosaurs, outer space, sea creatures, and more. New this year, the show has been expanded into new areas of the sculpture garden. Explore the moonlit magic of the Council Ring, the Surveyor’s Map, and the Women’s Walk, each lit and decorated for the holidays.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 5, 5:30pm
Admission: Free

Experience one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions! At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn. Before and after the parade, stop in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Holiday Open House between 4-9pm to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Choral Society plus gift shopping in open artist studios.


Holiday Markets

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter



Museum Shop Around
Where: Strathmore
When: November 12-15
Admission: $9

This annual market brings the best of the area’s finest museum gift shops all to one place. At Strathmore’s Museum Shop Around you’ll find toys, jewelry, one-of-a-kind gifts — some handmade, all art-inspired — for yourself and everyone on your holiday list.

Bethany House Holiday Bazaar
Where: First Baptist Church Alexandria
When: November 14
Admission: $5/suggested donation $10/family

Get an early start on your holiday shopping at this bazaar benefiting Bethany House, a domestic violence shelter in Northern VA that serves women and children survivors of domestic violence. The bazaar features regional artisans, crafters, and unique businesses. Browse international gift items, such as jewelry, paintings, essential oils, home décor, and more.

Harbor Holiday Market
Where: National Harbor
When: Weekends November 14 – December 20
Admission: Free

National Harbor invites you to deck the halls with ideas from their Holiday Market, located on American Way, featuring live trees, handmade holiday ornaments and decorations, tasty holiday treats such as cookies and roasted chestnuts, and much more.

Merry & Bright Shopping Preview
Where: Mosaic District
When: November 14, 4-9pm
Admission: Free

Get your gift shopping started at the Northern Virginia center. Many stores and restaurants in the Fairfax community are offering discounts and other specials to help patrons ring in the the holiday shopping season.

Sugar Plum Bazaar
Where: The Washington Ballet Headquarters
When: November 20-22
Admission: Free

The Washington Ballet’s Women’s Committee is hosting a weekend of merriment, food, artisanal shopping, silent auction, and holiday activities. On Saturday, families can enjoy “Cookies and Cocoa,” featuring dancer meet & greets and special treats (tickets for this are $40). Proceeds will benefit The Washington Ballet.

Handmade Holiday Craft Fair
Where: TC Williams High School
When: November 21,10am – 4pm
Admission: Free

A local school fair with a great cause! TC Williams High School will be hosting their 6th Annual Handmade Holiday Craft Fair. Over 50 local vendors will sell items such as handmade soaps, jewelry, stationary, and much more. There will be food sales, baked goods, and live music from the TC jazz band. This free event raises money for Joining Hearts and Hands, an organization that promotes economic and social improvements in Kenya and Tanzania. Over the past five years, students have helped raise enough money to build a fourth grade classroom in Tanzania! You can view our list of vendors here. The high school is located at 3330 King St. in Alexandria.

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW
When: November 27 – December 23, 12-8pm
Admission: Free

This one, to me, is the holiday market in DC. It’s not even so much about the merchandise for sale (though there’s always a great variety of gift items – I never leave empty handed). There’s something about the usually bustling block in the middle of Penn Quarter transforming into an open air market for a few weeks that is so charming and kind of magical, making our big city feel like a small town. A bonus is the free live entertainment along with treats and coffee drinks available for purchase. And after you’ve done your shopping and enjoyed a snack and music, you can pop into the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum that are literally right next to the market.

Eastern Market
Where: 7th Street SE, between South Carolina & Penn Aves.
When: Year-round Saturdays & Sundays
Admission: Free

The outdoor flea market at the centerpiece of the Capitol Hill community is practically a year-round weekend institution for locals. And during the holiday season, it’s a go-to for shoppers seeking unique gifts along with a fun outing. Nearly 200 vendors are there, selling everything from original artwork to fun T-shirts, to handmade jewelry and accessories, to home décor to custom-made and used furniture – and much, much more. If you’re cooking up a holiday meal, you can get fresh produce from farmers’ stalls outside and butchered meats, fancy cheeses, baked goods, pasta, fresh produce, and more inside the actual Eastern Market. Even more, there is often live music courtesy of buskers around the area, and if the kids want some play time afterwards, you can hit one of several parks or playgrounds in the neighborhood (Lincoln Park, at 11th and East Capitol, is the largest and most popular among them).

Alexandria’s Holiday Market
Where: Carlyle District in Alexandria
When: December 4-23 (but not everyday, see the website)
Admission: Free

This annual signature event transforms the Carlyle District into a lively European Festival similar to the infamous Christmas Markets taking place in Germany or France. Shop for unique art and craft items, and enjoy live entertainment, traditional European food and sweets, hot wine, and hot cocoa. Be sure to visit the children’s corner for kid’s activities to learn more about European traditions and culture. The Market is located at 300 John Carlyle Street in Alexandria.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 5, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, enjoy festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. Shoppers of all ages are making GTGH an annual tradition, and young shoppers in particular come back each year to learn the true meaning of giving by participating in the Children’s Gift Fair.

PARCEL Market
Where: Canal Park
When: December 5-6
Admission: Free

PARCEL Market returns to Canal Park for its 2nd Year! Featuring the 1,000 square-foot Canal Park Ice Rink, the Market urbanizes the holiday market with three city blocks of hand-made modern styling, interactive art, musical talents, activities, and a showcase of emerging independent brands, chefs, and retailers.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center
When: December 11-13
Admission: $8/advance, $10/at door, free for 11 and under

This seasonal fair showcases works by more than 300 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale. The best part is that the award-winning festival is a family affair. Parents can shop, and children can enjoy an interactive puppet theater and watch live-demonstrations of iron forging, papermaking, stone sculpting, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. Not to mention, gourmet goodies hand-made by specialty food vendors always leave everyone wanting more. Tickets are good for all three days of the Festival.


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The 2014 KFDC Guide to the Best Holiday Events in DC

guide_capitol_xmas_tree

DC doesn’t disappoint when it comes to the holidays. There are options galore for celebrating the season here, many of them annual events that are cherished family traditions for both locals and visitors. See the holiday spirit come alive on stage, let model trains entrance as they wind through miniature Christmas villages, drive or walk through dazzling light displays, experience the holidays in extraordinary ways at special events, shop for unique gifts at seasonal markets, and so much more. The 2014 KFDC Guide to the Best Holiday Events in DC, organized by category with events listed by starting date, will help you plan for it all.

Holiday Shows

Model Trains

Special Events

Chanukah

Light Displays

Holiday Markets

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Holiday Shows

nutcracker_warner

 
Tiny Tim’s A Christmas Carol
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: November 14 – January 1
Tickets: $19 (look for a deal on select dates here)
Tiny Tim longs to have his father home on Christmas day, but mean old Mr. Scrooge won’t give Bob Crachit the day off! There must be a way to change Scrooge’s mind – perhaps a ghost or two will set Scrooge right. Can this clever boy and his best friend Charlotte save Christmas and change the heart of the meanest man in town? This exciting world premiere story of a father and son is adapted by Broadway’s Tony-winning Ken Ludwig (Twas the Night Before Christmas) and his very own son, Jack. Get ready for the wildest ride you’ve ever had at Christmas!

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 21 – January 1
Tickets: $32-87
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge. Recommended for ages 5 and up. Performance is two hours (including a 15-minute intermission).

The Nutcracker
Where: RoundHouse Theatre
When: November 26 – December 28
Tickets: $25-50 (look for a discount on tickets)

This captivating musical reinvents E.T.A. Hoffmann’s original tale, turning it into a brand new seasonal classic all ages can enjoy. After the loss of her Marine brother, young Clara’s crusade to save her grieving family (with the help of a remarkable nutcracker) comes alive with dazzling theatricality. It weaves together a delightful original score, riveting dialogue, and astonishing puppetry. Full of magic and hope, this contemporary retelling is a heartwarming yet hilarious story that shows the healing power of the imagination. It’s as tuneful and fun as it is poignant and touching. They provide a guide for parents to help you decide if it’s suitable for your child.

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: Kennedy Center
When: November 27 – December 1
Tickets: $34-155


The Joffrey’s “elegantly unified production” (The Washington Post) brings the magic of the season to life like no other Nutcracker, swirling with heroic toy soldiers, sword-fighting mice, the glittering Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, a giant Mother Ginger, and a journey to the Kingdom of Sweets. From start to finish, The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker is one to cherish with the entire family–for the joy of its fairy-tale comforts, and for the excitement in discovering something new, every time.

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 28 – December 30
Tickets: $10

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat! The Nutcracker is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s favorite toy and their adventures together in the land of the Sugarplum Fairy. Music from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet blends with marionettes and costume characters to create this unique production. Don’t miss it! Recommended for children and K and up.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 28 – December 30
Tickets: $5


This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.

Lightwire Theatre: A Very Electric Christmas
Where: Strathmore
When: November 29
Tickets: $25-42

Follow the story of a young bird named Max and his family, as they embark on their journey south for the winter. When Max gets blown off course and ends up at the North Pole… his adventure begins! Dancing toy soldiers, caroling worms and performing poinsettias, light up the stage in Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas. Audiences of all ages will treasure this magical and captivating tale of family, friendship and hope set to timeless holiday hits, including Nat King Cole, Mariah Carey, and Tchaikovsky. Lightwire Theater is internationally recognized for their electroluminescent artistry, poignant storytelling and performs in complete darkness. Brighten your holidays this season with Lightwire Theater’s A Very Electric Christmas.

Angelina Ballerina, The Very Merry Holiday Musical
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts
When: November 30, 1pm
Tickets: $14

Take a memorable and lively Thanksgiving weekend outing with family and friends! In this charming musical, Angelina and her friends plan an absolutely positively spectacular holiday dance pageant: the best in all of Mouseland! When plans go awry, they work together to save the show and discover the true spirit of the holidays. Recommended for ages 4 and up. Pre-show party before the show, with snacks and arts activities starting at noon. Meet Angelina and her friends after the show!

The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 29 – December 30
Tickets: $30-50

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for antsy little theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This version of The Nutcracker transports audiences back in time to historic Washington, DC, and stars George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker. Full of swirling snowflakes, magnificent sets and costumes and Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, the curtain rises and the stage bursts with waltzing cherry blossoms, dancing sugar plums and other enchanting adaptations that have made Webre’s Nutcracker a Washington tradition with raves from critics and sold-out crowds. Expect some special surprises during this 10th anniversary of Weber’s production!

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 1-19
Tickets: $3-8


Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 16th season, this signature Discovery Theater show celebrates the history and customs of Ramadan, Devali, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Los Posados, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice in an interactive event that bridges communities and cultures. This show sells out early, so don’t wait to get your tickets! Recommended for ages 5-10.

Snow Day
Where: Workhouse Arts Center & Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 3-14 & December 18-22
Tickets: $8, 12 months and under are free

Arts on the Horizon presents this winter show at two area theatres! One cold December morning, a young girl named Skip wakes up to find the entire neighborhood covered in a thick, dazzling blanket of white snow. A playful (if not a little mischievous) winter elf takes her on an adventure – showing her just how magical snow can be! Join Skip as she experiences all the excitement, joy, and wonder of her very first snow day. This nonverbal world premiere production features live music and lots of wintertime fun, just in time for the holiday season. Recommended for children ages 2-6.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 4-28
Tickets: $35-101


On the occasion of the 10th anniversary of his highly-acclaimed production, Septime Webre is planning some special surprises for his celebrated all-American Nutcracker. Set in 1882 Georgetown, this gorgeous production showcases the grandeur of The Washington Ballet’s international roster of dancers and majesty of Tchaikovsky’s music. Replete with swirling snowflakes, cherry blossoms and historical characters, including George Washington as the heroic nutcracker, TWB’s The Nutcracker has become a tradition for generations of family and friends to celebrate the holidays. Read a KFDC review of the production from a few years ago.

BSO: Music Box – Jingle Bells
Where: Strathmore
When: December 6
Tickets: $15

Join the holiday edition of the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra’s Music Box series at Strathmore! Celebrate the season with songs about winter, bells, and sleigh rides. Ideal for young audiences, the show runs 30 minutes and also includes musical and creative activities for little ones before the show.

It’s a Wonderful Life: Live From WVL Radio Theatre
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts
When: December 6
Tickets: $32

Inspired by the classic American film of the same name, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play is performed as a 1940s live radio broadcast in front of a studio audience. Five actors perform the dozens of characters in the radio play as well as produce the sound effects. A wonderful holiday tradition for all ages, It’s a Wonderful Life: A Live Radio Play premiered in 1996 at Stamford Center for the Arts in Stamford, Connecticut, and has since been produced around the country to critical acclaim.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 6, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long is an annual musical celebration hosting a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area. Admission is free, and no tickets are required. Parking is free, but limited, so plan on arriving early. Bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots, a bell for a “Jing-A-Long” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and a candle to join the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.”

Virginia Ballet Company & School: Selections from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 6
Tickets: Free

Saturday Morning at the National presents its annual holiday show, the Virginia Ballet Company and School’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s glittering confection. Visions of snowflakes and sugarplums dance through the air and gingerbread soldiers triumph over the evil Rat King as you follow Clara into the land of sweets and holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11-22
Tickets: $15-38 (look for a discount on tickets)

Step Afrika! is back to delight audiences young and old with their magical musical holiday step show. Audiences are invited to make music with DC’s internationally-known stepping company and their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom in this annual holiday tradition! Go ready to ring in the festive season with a bang, featuring the electrifying artists from Step Afrika! and special guest DJ Frosty the Snowman. Family Fun Pack are available for $88 and include 4 tickets, 1 snack and 1 drink each; minimum of 2 patrons must be between ages 2 and 16.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 13-14
Tickets: $20/adults, $15/10 and under in advance | $20/at door


Maryland Youth Ballet’s Mini-Nut is a delightful abbreviated version of their classic, award-winning, The Nutcracker, designed to introduce children to the magic of this family favorite. This beloved holiday tradition with soaring music by Tchaikovsky promises to hold the attention of even the youngest theatergoer. Suitable for all ages, this version is less than an hour and performed by cast members from MYB’s full-length production. A perfect holiday mini-treat!

Bright Star Theatre: Christmas with Santa
Where: National Theatre
When: December 13
Tickets: Free

Saturday Morning at the National presents this free production from Bright Star Theatre. Carols, Santa and musical comedy abound! Two hilarious elves have misplaced some of Santa’s presents and they go through many rollicking adventures to find them. When Santa arrives, he teaches the well-meaning elves that the family and friends we share the holiday with are the greatest gift of all. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

9th Annual Holiday Concert & Sing-Along
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 14, 4pm & 7pm
Tickets: Free, but must be reserved ($4 service fee)

An H Street holiday tradition is back! The Atlas Performing Arts Center is filled with holiday musical favorites performed by the full 50-member Capital City Symphony and sung by over 120 voices of the Congressional Chorus and American Youth Chorus. Not to be left out, audiences participate with a holiday favorites sing-along. The celebration continues with cookies and mingling in the Kogod Lobby following the performance. FYI: The 4pm show is a bit shorter, and geared more to families with younger kids. The 7pm show is a bit longer and includes a Hallelujah Chorus sing-along. Some guy in a red suit comes to both shows!

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 20, 21, 23, 26, 27, 28
Tickets: $30/adults, $25/children in advance; $35/adults, $30/children at door


This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.

Family Joy!
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 13
Admission: $25

Get into the holiday spirit with the Cathedral Choral Society (CCS), as they present The Joy of Christmas at the Washington National Cathedral, a grand tradition of the Choral Society spanning nearly four decades. This special matinee performance is designed for families with children. The 60-minute program includes the procession of the advent wreath, Christmas favorites and a kids-only sing-along.

Kwanzaa Celebration – Family Series
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: December 14, 8pm
Tickets: $25/adult in advance, $30/at door, $15/ages 17 and under

Welcome the holiday season with Dance Place’s annual Kwanzaa Celebration! Gather family and friends to watch Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Experience this community of dancers in an exhilarating and inspiring performance experience for all ages. During this Family Series, reserve 1 free ticket for a child 12 & under with paying adult!

Holiday Family Opera: The Little Prince
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 19-21
Tickets: $49-75

For its annual family-friendly opera over the winter holidays, WNO brings all the joy and wonder of Antoine de Saint-Exupéry’s classic illustrated storybook. On his tiny home planet, a young boy spends his days protecting his only friend, a rose, from miniature volcanoes and ravenous baobab trees. When loneliness sets in, he begins a mystical quest across the cosmos to find new companionship. During his journey, he encounters several other intergalactic inhabitants–among them a delusional king, a rich businessman, a dancing kazoo player, and a wearied lamplighter–before meeting a pilot on Earth who has crash-landed in the Sahara. The two become unlikely friends, learning lessons from the desert’s many creatures until the prince realizes just how special his rose really is. Recommended for ages 8 and up.


Trains

Brookside Garden's light display isn't on this year, but the trains are still a delight to see!

Brookside Garden’s light display isn’t on this year, but the trains are still a delight to see!



Magical Holiday Express
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 22 – January 4
Admission: $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+), $10/ages 2-12, free for B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. The spectacular celebration in the B&O Roundhouse isdevoted to trains of all sizes and shapes, holiday festivities, a winter wonderland of family fun and activities, and a way to help local charities who help those in need this season. There is something to see and do every day at this event with all-new holiday decorations, hands-on crafts and contests, live entertainment, train rides, model train layouts, appearances by Santa, Mrs. Claus, Frosty, and LEGO Man and much more!

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 27 – January 4
Admission: Free

If my blog stats are any indication, this is easily DC’s most popular holiday attraction; the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit is always among the top searches that lead readers here. And I can’t say I’m surprised. Season’s Greenings is an annual delight for all ages. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year’s theme “Exploration Along the Seas” will feature lighthouses to navigate the way through the scenic wonderland. For even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm. For more on the seasonal favorite, read this post from last year and this one from the year before about some of our Season’s Greenings experiences.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden
When: November 28 – January 11
Admission: Free

In Brookside’s 10th season of partnership with the Washington, Virginia & Maryland Garden Railway Society, the South Conservatory will come to life with a landscape in miniature, as trains and trollies wind their way through town and country scenes, past one-of-a kind models of the Brookside Gardens Conservatories, the Dentzel Carousel and the Chautauqua Tower of Glen Echo Park. Colorful plantings will complement it all — winter may rule the outside landscape, but the conservatories will be bright with color and active with sound and motion to match the festive feeling of the season.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 13 – December 20
Admission: $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, under 2 are free

During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station
When: TBD
Admission: Free
Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful Holiday Train Display, on view in the Main Hall. Featuring a Norwegian landscape, the display are intricate and fun to stop by and check out you’re at the station during the holiday season.

Special Events

Season's Greenings at the Botanic Garden is a must-visit during the holidays

Season’s Greenings at the Botanic Garden is a must-visit during the holidays

 

Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 4 – January 1
Admission: Free


This should have a permanent spot on everyone’s DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, Santa’s Workshop, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. Kids will especially love visiting Santa in his adorable little cottage for a peek at his operations and a photo op on his lap (read about one of our experiences there) which is open at select times, through Christmas Eve. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a brilliant holiday scene. (Note: The National Christmas Tree Lighting is on December 4, but Santa’s Workshop does not open until the December 9, and hours are limited.)

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 14 – January 5

Admission: Free, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s also plenty to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings, the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 14 – January 5
Admission:
$27-34/adult, $20-28/child, $22-30 military, 2 and under are free (look for a deal on admission here)
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. We went a couple of years ago, and I recommend reading my review before you go. And since it features a new “Frosty the Snowman” theme this year, here’s the description from the website: “The Region’s must-see holiday attraction ICE! is back with an exciting new theme featuring Frosty the Snowman. Everyone’s favorite snowman is brought to life in more than two million pounds of colorful ice. Walk thru this classic Christmas story, slide down ice slides over two stories high and watch our artisans as they create these frozen marvels in our special bonus area – The Frostbite Factory – a LIVE ice carving zone. It’s all part of Christmas on the Potomac!” Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and timed entries are every half-hour. Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.

Santa HQ
Where: Tysons Coner
When: November 14 – December 24
Admission: Free, but portrait packages start at $30

A modern twist on the traditional visit to see Santa Claus! Experience the unparalleled wonder of Santa’s world in the modern and digital age. Santa HQ is technology-driven and incorporates fun features that guests can access through apps on their mobile devices. (If visitors don’t have their own device, Tysons Corner Center will provide tablets for them to use through their visit.) GUests can take an ELFIE selfie and star in their own holiday video, explore Santa’s Observatory using ELF-RAY Vision, test out the ‘Naughty O’ Nice Meter,’ and enjoy a memorable photo with Santa. Plan ahead by booking a reservation online.

Re-Imagining the Holidays
Where: Downtown Silver Spring
When: November 15, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The 3nd Annual “Re-Imagining The Holidays” event is Downtown Silver Spring’s official Tree Lighting and Unveiling of Silver Symphony, an impressive 35-foot-tall public art installation comprised of chimes, bells, pinwheels and ribbons. Other festivities of the evening will include the a capella performances, and interactive music maker station with KID Museum, face painting, balloon artistry, strolling entertainment, giveaways, and more!

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 28 – January 6
Admission: $17/adults, $8/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under


The holidays are full of delight at George Washington’s estate. Join for candlelight tours of the Mansion, a dazzling display of fireworks set to Christmas music, dancing, fire-side caroling, Aladdin the Christmas camel, and so much more! See the website for all of the holiday happenings at the historic home.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 2, 5pm
Admission: Free

If don’t win lottery tickets to see the National Tree Lighting, consider going to this one at the Capitol. You might not be able to sit close up, but you can view festivities from right across the street, and it’s just as lovely from the area by the Reflecting Pool. For now, track the tree as it journeys from Minnesota, where it was harvested, to DC. It’s expected to arrive on November 21. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: December 6 & 7
Admission: Free

Celebrate the holiday season at the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, and Smithsonian Castle! The Holiday Festival will include concerts by the U.S. Air Force’s Max Impact, Silver Wings, and Celtic Aire; seasonal films, including The Muppet Christmas Carol; Mars Chocolate demonstrations; family holiday photo opportunities; trunk shows featuring apparel; jewelry and art; book signings; festive food; and hours of additional family-friendly entertainment.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 6, 6-9pm
Admission: Free

Get into the holiday spirit at Glen Echo Park’s annual Winter’s Eve celebration. It’s free, open to the public, and visitors of all ages can enjoy performances, arts & crafts open studios, and a hot chocolate bar before strolling through the Park or joining the swing dance in the Spanish Ballroom. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios. Kids and adults can create gifts to share in the holiday-themed craft rooms.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: December 6
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Celebrate the season in downtown Bethesda with a variety of performances, an ice sculpting presentation, a visit from Santa Claus, and more. See the website for the schedule of events during the festival.

Holly Trolley Fest

Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 6-28, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)
Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the rest of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Note: Santa will not be there the last weekend. Visit the website for directions to the museum.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 13, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope Arlington is holding their 4th annual Gift Fair, capturing the holiday spirit in a way that redefines the notion of meaningful, alternative gift giving. This year’s fair will feature 15 local and global nonprofit organizations, many of them based in Arlington. Shoppers will have the opportunity to peruse the tables hosted by each organization and purchase alternative gifts that will directly benefit the mission of those organizations. There will also be refreshments, face painting, and kids activities.

Holiday Open House
Where: Decatur House
When: December 14, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

The White House Historical Association opens its doors for a Holiday Open House celebrating the holiday traditions of the White House and President Harding. Hop on board to learn more about President Harding’s love of trains and their significance during the holiday season. The public is welcome to attend this free event that features family-friendly activities, including holiday crafts, story-telling, and self-guided tours of Decatur House.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 31
Admission: $15 until 12/17, $20 after, kids 12 and under are free
The largest family-focused and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve event in the region. See more than 100 performances on indoor stages throughout Old Town Alexandria. Entertainers include blue grass musicians, honky-tonk bands, clowns, magicians and classical musicians. End the evening with a spectacular fireworks display on the Potomac River at the foot of King Street!

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: November 22-31
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up (look for a deal on Certifikid)

Go big on a treat for your family at this holiday celebration at the Williamsburg amusement park. Enjoy spectacular light shows, rides, live entertainment, the Mistletoe Marketplace,visits from Santa, live penguins, and more!

Chanukah

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 16

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse December 16



Make Room for Latkes
Where: Washington DCJCC
When: December 7, 10:30am – 12:30pm
Admission: $10/family in advance, $15 at door

Chanukah is coming and with it, eight nights of family fun! Get ready with PJ Library and the DCJCC with a variety of hands-on activities, including arts and crafts to decorate, a delicious cooking project, stories and singing, learning or practicing the blessings over the menorah, and more. It’s a perfect morning for Jewish and interfaith families with children ages 3 and older. Of course, there will be latkes to eat, plus lots of take-home information and recipes to make your Chanukah even happier. Registration fee covers all food, supplies and activities.

Chanukah Lights and Legos!
Where: JCC of Northern Virginia
When: December 7, 1-4pm
Admission: $15/non-members, $10/members

Chanukah is here — it’s time to light up the night! Join the JCC of Northern Virginia to get ready for the holiday by building your very own Lego® menorah to take home and use. SPace is limited,, so register early by emailing or calling: Jennifer.DeAngelis@jccnv.org | 703-537-3045

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 16, 4pm
Admission: Free, but you must request tickets

This is the Jewish counterpart to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. Every Chanukah, the National Menorah is lit in a ceremony on the Ellipse. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment, plus menorah kits and dreidels to take home. And if you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, you can stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance through the website.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: December 18, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $13 at door

Celebrate Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately. Purchase advance tickets online at www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 1, 5pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate the third night of Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, free light stick for every child, latkes, donuts, a raffle, and music! The lighting will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Old Town Alexandria located at 901 N Fairfax Street. For more info, go to www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

 

Holiday Lights

Take a drive through the Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park

Take a drive through the Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park



Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 14 – January 5
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (look for a deal on Certifikid)

Imagine the beauty of Meadowlark’s renowned gardens as over 500,000 LED lights and displays bring the gardens to life and transform it into a winter wonderland. Marvel at the two-story animated fountain, stroll past the Gingerbread Village, and explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it!

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 17 – January 4, 6-10pm Weds-Mon
Admission: $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 70 larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go. (Note that it’s closed on December 31.)

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 19 – January 4
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

For more than 13 years the Bull Run Festival of Lights has drawn thousands of visitors to the park to delight in its winter wonderland. Get a sneak preview of it on the website, where a video of Santa’s Enchanted Lights, with over 40,000 animated lights set to music, is merely a fraction of what you’ll find there.

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 28 – January 1, 5-9pm (Closed 12/24, 25, 31)
Admission: Free

Every year, thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland. The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, a dazzling light show set to music, and “Zoo Tubing” on Lion/Tiger Hill (they should just call it Liger Hill) on two 150-foot snow tracks. Guests can also enjoy live entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel, special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the Gin-Grrr-Bread Habitat Competition. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 28 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25


This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the adorably festive illuminated scenes.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creek State Park
When: November 28 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Mon-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun

The 19th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than 365 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Special prism glasses to are available for $2 to heighten the experience. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Festival of Lights
Where: Mormon Temple
When: December 4 – January 1
Admission: Free

It’s official name is the Washington DC Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, but most Washingtonians know it as the Mormon Temple that you can see driving on the outer loop of the Beltway near Bethesda. During the holiday season the ground glow with more than 600,000 LED lights that visitors are welcome to enjoy. There are also free nightly performances in an indoor theater, Christmas trees decorated in international themes, an exhibit of crèches from around the world, and a life-sized outdoor nativity.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 6, 5:30pm
Admission: Free

Experience one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions! At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn. Before and after the parade, stop in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center’s Holiday Open House between 4 and 7 p.m. to enjoy performances by the Alexandria Choral Society plus gift shopping in open artist studios.

Parade of Lighted Boats
Where: Southwest Waterfront
When: December 6, 6-8pm
Admission: Free
On the other end of Alexandria’s boat parade, the Washington Waterfront Association and Old Dominion Boat Club will host the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Southwest Waterfront. (So, it’s actually the same parade, just different festivities on the DC side.) Family activities will include photo with Santa, cookie decorating, a tree lighting, s’mores and hot chocolate, and holiday lighting of the boats docked on the SW Waterfront.

Holiday Markets

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter

The Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter



Museum Shop Around
Where: Strathmore
When: November 13-16
Admission: $9

This annual market brings the best of the area’s finest museum gift shops all to one place. At Strathmore’s Museum Shop Around you’ll find toys, jewelry, one-of-a-kind gifts — some handmade, all art-inspired — for yourself and everyone on your holiday list.

Merry & Bright Shopping Night
Where: Mosaic District
When: November 15, 4-9pm
Admission: Free

Start the holidays off right with giveaways, treats, and other Mosaic surprises. Many stores and restaurants in the Fairfax community are offering discounts and other specials to help patrons ring in the the holiday shopping season.

Downtown Holiday Market
Where: 8th & F Streets NW
When: November 28 – December 23, 12-8pm

This one, to me, is the holiday market in DC. It’s not even so much about the merchandise for sale (though there’s always a great variety of gift items – I never leave empty handed). There’s something about the usually bustling block in the middle of Penn Quarter transforming into an open air market for a few weeks that is so charming and kind of magical, making our big city feel like a small town. A bonus is the free live entertainment along with treats and coffee drinks available for purchase. And after you’ve done your shopping and enjoyed a snack and music, you can pop into the National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum that are literally right next to the market.

Eastern Market
Where: 7th Street SE, between South Carolina & Penn Aves.
When: Year-round Saturdays & Sundays

The outdoor flea market at the centerpiece of the Capitol Hill community is practically a year-round weekend institution for locals. And during the holiday season, it’s a go-to for shoppers seeking unique gifts along with a fun outing. Nearly 200 vendors are there, selling everything from original artwork to fun T-shirts, to handmade jewelry and accessories, to home décor to custom-made and used furniture – and much, much more. If you’re cooking up a holiday meal, you can get fresh produce from farmers’ stalls outside and butchered meats, fancy cheeses, baked goods, pasta, fresh produce, and more inside the actual Eastern Market. Even more, there is often live music courtesy of buskers around the area, and if the kids want some play time afterwards, you can hit one of several parks or playgrounds in the neighborhood (Lincoln Park, at 11th and East Capitol, is the largest and most popular among them).

Harbor Holiday Market
Where: National Harbor
When: Weekends November 15 – December 21

National Harbor invites you to deck the halls with ideas from their Holiday Market, located on American Way, featuring handmade holiday ornaments and decorations, tasty holiday treats such as cookies and roasted chestnuts, and much more. Regional vendors will be offering holiday goods and specialty foods every weekend throughout the holiday season.

Smithsonian Holiday Festival
Where: Smithsonian Museums on the National Mall
When: December 6 & 7
Admission: Free

The Holiday Festival offering a weekend of family fun will include opportunities to shop for holiday gifts with trunk shows featuring apparel, jewelry, art, and more. The bonus is all of the fantastic activities for you and the kids can enjoy. The Festival is taking place at the National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Museum of American History, and Smithsonian Castle. See the events section of this guide or visit the website for more details.

Parcel Market
Where: Canal Park
When: December 12-14
Admission: Free

Canal Park in the Capitol Riverfront will be transformed into a festive winter wonderland with the best independent retailers, craftsmen, and cuisine in DC. Parcel Market will feature ice skating at the Canal Park Ice Rink and creative retail that showcases local small businesses, artists, and designers. Vendors will include Be Clean, DeNada, Matine, Mutiny, Native Danger, TCI Letter Press, Winthrop Clothing Co. for pets, and more! A dining lounge will feature DC foodie favorites and warm drinks in a relaxed atmosphere complete with fire pits. Live music from local DJS and performers will also fill the air.

Sugarloaf Craft Festival
Where: Dulles Expo Center
When: December 12-14

This seasonal fair showcases works by more than 300 top artisans. Pottery, sculpture, glass, jewelry, fashion, home and garden décor, furniture and home accessories, and photography will be on display — and for sale. The best part is that the award-winning festival is a family affair. Parents can shop, and children can enjoy an interactive puppet theater and watch live-demonstrations of iron forging, papermaking, stone sculpting, and other media by the master craftspeople themselves. Not to mention, gourmet goodies hand-made by specialty food vendors always leave everyone wanting more. Tickets are $10/adults at the door $8 in advance online (free for children under 12), and are good all three days of the Festival.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 13, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope Arlington is holding their 4th annual Gift Fair, capturing the holiday spirit in a way that redefines the notion of meaningful, alternative gift giving. This year’s fair will feature 15 local and global nonprofit organizations, many of them based in Arlington. Shoppers will have the opportunity to peruse the tables hosted by each organization and purchase alternative gifts that will directly benefit the mission of those organizations. There will also be refreshments, face painting, and kids activities.


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The 2013 KFDC Guide to the Holidays in DC

See the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 3

See the Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting on December 3


Ready or not, the holidays and all their hoopla are about to hit DC. Starting as soon as this weekend, you can embrace the spirit at area events that have become annual traditions for Washington families and there will be more to come as the season rolls on — children’s theatre, train displays, light shows, holiday extravaganzas, and more! Here’s the KFDC 2013 Guide to the Holidays in DC to help you find it all.

Holiday Shows
Special Events
Chanukah
Model Trains
Light Displays

Holiday Shows

nutcracker_warner

 
The Twelve Days of Christmas
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: November 15 – December 30
Tickets: $19 (look for a discount here)
Christmas celebrations are just around the corner and Shirley the Partridge has got some problems to solve! The French Hens are arguing, the six geese have flown to Florida for the winter and worst of all…someone has stolen the Five Golden Rings! What will happen to Christmas? Recommended for all ages.

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 21 – January 1
Tickets: $22-89
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge.

The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker
Where: Kennedy Center
When: November 27 – December 1
Tickets: $34-155


Boasting larger-than-life Victorian America scenery and costumes, entrancing storytelling, Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, and invigorating dancing that could only be found in a dream, The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker “could easily melt an old-fashioned snowstorm with its unique combination of warmth, charm, grandeur, and superb performances” (The Chicago Sun-Times). Fresh from celebrating its 25th anniversary, this awe-inspiring version of the perennial classic from Chicago’s world-renowned company returns to dazzle and delight Washington audiences over the Thanksgiving holiday. The Joffrey’s “elegantly unified production” (The Washington Post) brings the magic of the season to life like no other Nutcracker, swirling with heroic toy soldiers, sword-fighting mice, the glittering Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy, a giant Mother Ginger, and a journey to the Kingdom of Sweets. From start to finish, The Joffrey Ballet’s The Nutcracker is one to cherish with the entire family–for the joy of its fairy-tale comforts, and for the excitement in discovering something new, every time.

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 29 – December 29
Tickets: $10

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat! The Nutcracker is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s favorite toy and their adventures together in the land of the Sugarplum Fairy. Music from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet blends with marionettes and costume characters to create this unique production. Don’t miss it! Recommended for children and K and up.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 29 – December 29
Tickets: $5


This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.

The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 30 – December 1
Tickets: $30/35/40

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing for antsy little theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This version of The Nutcracker transports audiences back in time to historic Washington, DC, and stars George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker. Full of swirling snowflakes, magnificent sets and costumes and Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, the curtain rises and the stage bursts with waltzing cherry blossoms, dancing sugar plums and other enchanting adaptations that have made Webre’s Nutcracker a Washington tradition with raves from critics and sold-out crowds.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 1-24
Tickets: $35-101


The Washington Ballet once again brings Septime Webre’s, The Nutcracker, to the historic Warner Theater in Washington. This adaptation of the beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker at a Christmas Eve in her family’s 1882 Georgetown mansion. Later that evening she encounters a battle of Revolutionary War soldiers led by the frightful King Rat (King George III) and the Nutcracker (George Washington). After winning the battle, the Nutcracker, now a handsome prince leads her on a wondrous journey filled with the Snow Queen and King, Sugar Plum Fairy, cherry blossoms, Anacostia Indians, a frontiersman, cardinals and more. Read a KFDC review of the production from a couple of years ago.

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 2-20
Tickets: $3-8


Joy, warmth, and community illuminate seasonal holiday celebrations the world over. Back for its 15th season, this signature Discovery Theater show celebrates the history and customs of Ramadan, Devali, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Los Posados, Kwanzaa, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice in an interactive event that bridges communities and cultures. This show sells out early, so don’t wait to get your tickets! Recommended for ages 5-10.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 7, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Wolf Trap’s Holiday Sing-A-Long is an annual musical celebration hosting a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area. Admission is free, and no tickets are required. Parking is free, but limited, so please plan on arriving early. Bring along a new, unwrapped toy to donate to Toys for Tots, a bell for a “Jing-A-Long” during the singing of “Jingle Bells,” and a candle to join the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.”

Christmas Dreams from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 7
Tickets: FREE

Saturday Morning at the National presents its annual holiday show, the Virginia Ballet Company and School’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s glittering confection. Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Fairies fill the air in a dazzling presentation full of lovely costumes, lively dances and elegant holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 7-8
Tickets: $18/adults, $15/children 12 and under


Maryland Youth Ballet’s Mini-Nut is a delightful abbreviated version of their classic, award-winning, The Nutcracker, designed to introduce children to the magic of this family favorite. This beloved holiday tradition with soaring music by Tchaikovsky promises to hold the attention of even the youngest theatergoer. Watch the Nutcracker turn into a handsome Prince, the battle between the Nutcracker and the Seven Headed Mouse King, and the sparkling Snow Queen float through her kingdom. See the beautiful Sugar Plum Fairy and the magical residents of The Kingdom of Sweets! Suitable for all ages, this version is less than an hour and performed by cast members from MYB’s full-length production. A perfect holiday mini-treat!

Family Day at The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 8, 11:30am
Admission: $35-101

Ever wanted to get a peek behind the curtain into the magic of The Nutcracker? Now is your chance. On Sunday, December 8, the doors of the Warner Theatre will open at 11:30AM for all ticket holders for the 1PM performance of The Nutcracker. Everyone is invited to join Drosselmeyer and Clara for a reading of The Nutcracker, watch artistic director, Septime Webre, give the Revolutionary soldiers their marching orders, Company dancers pre-performance warm-ups, and the stage being set. Get a chance to meet costumed dancers, pose for photos, get autographs and more. This is a great opportunity to introduce children to the magic of theater and dance. Refreshments will be available as well as souvenirs from The Sugar Plum Shoppe including TWB’s NEW signature “George Washington” Nutcracker and The Nutcracker t-shirts. Tickets are limited. All patrons must have a ticket to enter.

Annual Carol Sing
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 8, 4pm & 7pm
Tickets: Free, but must be reserved ($2 service fee)

An H Street holiday tradition is back! Sing along to your favorite holiday classics at the annual, free concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, the American Youth Chorus, and the Atlas.

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11-22
Tickets: $35.50/adult, $22/seniors, military, $15/ages 17 and Under (look for a discount here)

“Who wants to sit still and be quiet for the holidays?” Can Step Afrika! teach a polar bear to step? What about a penguin? This December, come make music with Step Afrika! and their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom in this new holiday tradition! Come ready to bring in the festive season with a bang featuring the electrifying artists from Step Afrika! and special guest DJ Frosty the Snowman. They’ll get you in the mood for the festive season.

Drumming with Dishes: Holiday Edition
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11 – 15
Tickets: $8

Drumming with Dishes is back again for the holiday season! This gentle, playful adventure takes place in a special kitchen, where two friends cook up joyful music together. From a pasta-box Christmas tree to dreidels spinning on pots and pans, these friends (and their live guitar accompanist) bring many of your favorite holiday songs to life like you’ve never seen before! Recommended for ages up to 5.

Cathy & Marcy’s Blanket & Pillow Concert w/Justin Roberts
Where: Takoma Park Middle School
When: December 8
Tickets: $12 advance, $15 at door

Bring your blanket, pillow, stuffed animals and wear your PAJAMAS to Cathy & Marcy’s 28th Annual Winter Family Concert. The Grammy winners will share the stage with kids’ fave Justine Roberts. Justin has performed on The Today Show and he’s featured on Nick Jr. and Sprout TV. Justin has garnered kudos and raves from critics and fans alike.

The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 14-22
Tickets: $34-54

Washington National Opera presents the world premiere of a new holiday family opera: The Lion, The Unicorn, and Me, at the Kennedy Center Terrace Theater this season. Based on Jeanette Winterson’s award-winning children’s book which tells the story of the Nativity from a donkey’s point of view. As the world’s first Christmas nears, an Angel is conducting a most important interview: who among all the animals can lead Mary and Joseph to Bethlehem? Will it be Lion, fearful ruler of the jungle? Or might it be Unicorn, graceful steed to lovely maidens? It’s certainly not Donkey, whose only humble gift is a small but sturdy back. But with the birth of a very special king on the horizon, and one bright star blazing the way to a crowded inn, Donkey soon discovers that miracles can happen anywhere—even right in front of his nose.

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
Tickets: $28/adults, $23/children in advance; $33/adults, $28/children at the door


This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.

Joy of Christmas
Where: Washington National Cathedral
When: December 14-15
Admission: $25

Get into the holiday spirit with the Cathedral Choral Society (CCS), under Music Director J. Reilly Lewis as they present The Joy of Christmas at the Washington National Cathedral, a grand tradition of the Choral Society spanning nearly four decades. The December 14 noon performance is a family matinee and is designed for families with children.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre
When: December 14, 8pm
Tickets: $25/adult, $12/child in advance | $30/adult, $15/child at door

Kick off the holiday season with Dance Place at the Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre at George Washington University. Coyaba Dance Theater will host their annual Kwanzaa Celebration, displaying the excitement and vibrancy of the holiday with their work based around the seven principles of Kwanzaa. Experience this community of dancers in an exhilarating and inspiring performance experience for all ages.

Elf the Musical
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 17 – January 5
Tickets: $25-150 (look for a discount here)

One of the most beloved Hollywood holiday hits of the past decade is born again! Elf The Musical is the hilarious tale of Buddy, a young orphan child who mistakenly crawls into Santa’s bag of gifts and is transported back to the North Pole. Unaware that he’s actually human, Buddy’s enormous size and poor toy-making abilities cause him to face the truth. With Santa’s permission, Buddy embarks on a journey to New York City to find his birth father, discover his true identity, and help New York remember the true meaning of Christmas. This modern day holiday classic is sure to make everyone embrace their inner elf.

 

Trains

Model trains whiz through the garden railway at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Model trains whiz through the garden railway at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 28 – January 5
Admission: FREE

If my blog stats are any indication, this is easily DC’s most popular holiday attraction; the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit is always among the top searches that lead readers here. And I can’t say I’m surprised. Season’s Greenings is an annual delight for all ages. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year you can explore the “World’s Fair” and see many familiar creations that resulted from a long history of public exhibitions. For even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm. For more on the seasonal favorite, read this KFDC post about last year’s Season’s Greenings.

Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 29 – December 31
Admission: $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+), $10/ages 2-12, free for B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. So much so, it changes throughout its run featuring new displays from various Model Railroad Exhibitors every few days. The exhibit opens the day after Thanksgiving with the arrival of Civil War Santa & Mrs. Claus Santa in the Roundhouse at 10:30am. On weekends through December 22, guests can enjoy train rides with Santa and Frosty the Snowman along with crafts and choral performances. Train rides are $3/adult, $2/children on the one-mile express train or $5/adults, $4/children to Mount Clare Museum. Both are free for B&O Members.

Garden Railway Exhibit
Where: Brookside Garden
When: November 29 – January 5
Admission: Free from 10am -5pm, Open with paid admission to Garden of Lights 5:30-8:30pm

Don’t be left standing on the platform for this very popular holiday attraction. The Washington Virginia Maryland Garden Railway Society constructs the ‘G’ scale train exhibit inside Brookside’s South Conservatory every year. Trains and trollies roll along their tracks through evergreens, boxwoods, poinsettias and other ornamental plants as they travel by town and country scenes, including a custom made, one-of-a-kind scale model of the outdoor Wheaton Ice Rink, complete with moving skaters and music. The Garden Railway opens with Garden of Lights, and both are dazzling holiday displays.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 14 – December 21
Admission: $4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, under 2 are free

During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station
When: TBD
Admission: FREE
Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful model train display during the holidays. While this details of this season’s locomotive showcase have yet to be announced, in past years they have been on view in Main and West Halls, and they are always free for the public to see. Look for an update soon!

 

Events

Viewing holiday displays on the Ellipse

Viewing holiday displays on the Ellipse

 

Holidays on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 6 – January 1
Admission: FREE


This should have a permanent spot on everyone’s DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, Santa’s Workshop, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. Kids will especially love visiting Santa in his adorable little cottage for a peek at his operations and a photo op on his lap (read about one of our experiences there) which is open at select times, through Christmas Eve. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a brilliant holiday scene. (Note: The National Christmas Tree Lighting is on December 6, but Santa’s Workshop does not open until the December 9 — be sure to check the schedule here.)

Ice Palace
Where: Fair Oaks Mall
When: November 7 – December 24
Admission: Free
Be transported to a winter wonderland when you step inside the spectacular holiday Ice Palace, presented by Microsoft Windows. Marvel at the larger-than-life snow globes, leave an icy handprint, sit on the chilly Ice Throne — and of course, no trip would be complete without a visit to Santa.

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 15 – January 5

Admission: FREE, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s way more to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings , the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about a KFDC experience there during a Christmas season past.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 15 – January 5
Admission:
$27-34/adult, $19-27/child, $22-30 military, 2 and under are free
Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. We went a couple of years ago, and I recommend reading my review before you go. And since it features a new theme this year, here’s the description from the website: “See Ma in her kerchief, Pa in his cap, and Saint Nick with his eight reindeer. You’ll marvel at colorful, life-size ice sculptures depicting the classic holiday poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas, all brought to life in amazing detail and artistry. Be amazed by hand-carved ice sculptures standing more than 20-feet high, and take a ride down a two-story-tall ice slide. It’s all part of the fun as you stroll through ICE! presented by Pepsi – our award-winning holiday attraction.” Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and timed entries are every half-hour. Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.

Re-Imagining the Holidays
Where: Downtown Silver Spring
When: Saturday, 6-8pm
Admission: Free

The 2nd Annual “Re-Imagining The Holidays” event is Downtown Silver Spring’s official Tree Lighting and Unveiling of Playtime Jubilee, a holiday art installation created by Karl Unnasch. The work features a metal tree armature structure standing 30 feet tall adorned with hundreds of indoor and outdoor toys and youth sporting goods of all shapes, colors and sizes. Other festivities of the evening will include the National’s Racing Presidents, live music, entertainment, photo station, games, food tastings, a beer garden, merchant activities, and contests and prizes.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 29 – January 6
Admission: $17/adults, $8/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under


Mount Vernon decks the halls with themed Christmas trees on the estate and festive greenery in the Mansion. Tour the rarely-open third floor of the Mansion and get a glimpse of how the Washingtons might have decorated and entertained during the holiday season. Other special activities to enjoy: Watch chocolatiers produce chocolate using 18th-century techniques. Learn dances and hear stories about Christmas at Mount Vernon from costumed friends and family of the Washingtons. Meet Aladdin the Camel and see the National Thanksgiving Turkey after its official “presidential pardoning” at the White House.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 3
Admission: Free

If don’t win lottery tickets to see the National Tree Lighting, consider going to this one at the Capitol. You might not be able to sit close up, but you can view festivities from right across the street, and it’s just as lovely from the area by the Reflecting Pool. For now, track the tree as it journeys from Colorado, where it was cut down, to DC. It’s expected to arrive on November 25. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening for all to enjoy until January 1.

Christmas Spirit at Union Station
Where: Union Station
When: December 4
Admission: Free

The Royal Norwegian Embassy presents the 16th Norwegian Christmas at Union Station. Listen to The Children’s Chorus of Washington sing Christmas carols and let the whole family find the Christmas Spirit as Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work flicks the switch to the 20,000 lights on the Christmas tree at Union Station.Santa Claus will be on hand with treats for the children in attendance. Marines and representatives of the Embassy will also be present to accept donations to this year’s Toys for Tots campaign, which distributes toys to needy children throughout the region. Please consider donating a new, unwrapped toy. Checks made out to “Toys for Tots” are also welcome. The tree will be on display through December.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: December 6-7
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Celebrate the season in downtown Bethesda with a variety of performances, an ice sculpting presentation, a visit from Santa Claus, and more. See the website for the schedule of events over the two-day festival.

Holly Trolley Fest

Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 7-29, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)
Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the rest of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Note: Santa will not be there the last weekend. Visit the website for directions to the museum.

Gifts That Give Hope Gift Fair
Where: Calvary United Methodist Church
When: December 14, 10am – 2pm
Admission: Free

Instead of giving another tie or candle this year, how about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope Arlington is holding their 3rd annual Gift Fair, capturing the holiday spirit in a way that redefines the notion of meaningful, alternative gift giving. This year’s fair will feature 15 local and global nonprofit organizations, many of them based in Arlington. Shoppers will have the opportunity to peruse the tables hosted by each organization and purchase alternative gifts that will directly benefit the mission of those organizations. There will also be refreshments, face painting, and kids activities.

Winter’s Eve
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: December 14, 6-9pm
Admission: Free

Get into the holiday spirit at Glen Echo Park’s annual Winter’s Eve celebration. It’s free, open to the public, and visitors of all ages can enjoy performances, open studios, and a hot chocolate bar before strolling through the Park or joining the swing dance in the Spanish Ballroom. Browse and buy fine artworks at the Holiday Art Show and artist studios. Kids and adults can create gifts to share in our holiday-themed craft activities.

Breakfast with Santa
Where: Old Town Boutique District
When: December 23-24
Admission: $13.50/child (age 3-12),$22/adult

Santa and Mrs. Claus will be visiting Old Town before leaving for the big night! And you can have breakfast with them. Breakfast is table-service and the menu will include some all-time favorites like Eggs Benedict and Belgian Malted Waffles. There will be six seatings starting at 8:30am and every half-hour through 11am both days. Cost includes breakfast, milk, soda, coffee, tea, tax, gratuity, and, of course, a visit with Santa and the Missus.

First Night Alexandria
Where: Old Town Alexandria
When: December 31
Admission: $15 until 12/17, $20 after, kids 12 and under are free
The largest family-focused and alcohol-free New Year’s Eve event in the region. See more than 100 performances on indoor stages throughout Old Town Alexandria. Entertainers include blue grass musicians, honky-tonk bands, clowns, magicians and classical musicians. End the evening with a spectacular fireworks display on the Potomac River at the foot of King Street!

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: November 22-31
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up

Go big on a treat for your family at this holiday celebration at the Williamsburg amusement park. Enjoy spectacular light shows, rides, live entertainment, the Mistletoe Marketplace,visits from Santa, live penguins, and more!

Chanukah

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse November 27

Come light the Menorah on the Ellipse November 27

Create Your Own Chanukah Party
Where: Congregation Or Chadash
When: November 19, 6:30-8pm
Admission: Free

Join a hands-on PJ Library workshop where you can make decorations for your own Chanukah party. We’ll learn more about Chanukah and enjoy tasty treats! Contact and RSVP to orchadashadmin@gmail.com. Congregation Or Chadash is located at 24800 Kings Valley Road in Damascus.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: November 26, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Celebrate Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately. Purchase advance tickets online at www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: November 27, 4pm
Admission: Free, but you must request tickets

This is the Jewish counterpart to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. Every Chanukah, the National Menorah is lit in a ceremony on the Ellipse. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment, plus menorah kits and dreidels to take home. And if you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, you can stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance through the website.

Chanukah Night Lights
Where: Westfield Montgomery Mall
When: November 27 – December 4
Admission: Free

Join PJ Library and our community partners for a nightly candle lighting and activities at Westfield Montgomery Mall. This will run every night except for Thanksgiving. See details for each night online. All ages are welcome.

Light the Night
Where: Cabin John Shopping Center
When: December 1, 4-5:30pm
Admission: Free

The highlight of Chabad Shul of Potomac’s Chanukah celebration will be Eric Energy’s Chanukah Science Spectacular, a showcase of science experiments about the festival of lights. A Laser light show, vortex fog rings, and a voice changer are all part of the show. And a giant menorah lighting, magic tricks and balloons, music and dancing, latkes, and jelly doughnuts, will be part of the celebration.

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 1, 5pm
Admission: Free
Celebrate the third night of Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, free light stick for every child, latkes, donuts, a raffle, and music! The lighting will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Old Town Alexandria located at 901 N Fairfax Street. For more info, go to www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

 

Holiday Lights

One of many brilliant twinkling scenes at Brookside's Garden of Lights

One of many brilliant twinkling scenes at Brookside’s Garden of Lights

 

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 25 – January 4, 6-10pm nightly
Admission: $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 70 larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go. (Note that it’s closed on December 31.)

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 29 – January 1, 5-9pm
Admission: FREE

(Note: Be sure to visit the website for the schedule, as this is not open every day!) Every year, thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland. The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, and this year there will be “Zoo Tubing” on Lion/Tiger (hey, does that make it Liger?) Hill on two 150-foot snow tracks. Guests can also enjoy entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel (a new feature this year!), special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the gingerbread habitat contest entries on display in the auditorium. The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 29 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25


This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the illuminated scenes.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 29 – January 5, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun


It’s the 16th season of this festive light show, that is a popular family tradition in the DC area, attracting nearly 40,000 visitors each winter. Why? It is absolutely spectacular! Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open Sunday – Thursday 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, and Friday/Saturday 5:30-10pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm. View scenes from our visit there last year.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creeek State Park
When: November 29 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Mon-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun (look for a deal on Certifikid)

The 18th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than Winter Lights features more than 365 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities. Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 7, 5:30pm
Admission: FREE

Experience one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions! At sundown on the day of the Scottish Christmas Walk parade, Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront, led by Alexandria’s fireboat Vigilant and Washington, DC’s fireboat John Glenn, featuring a special appearance by Santa. Friends and families bundle up and come to the docks and waterfront parks of Alexandria to cheer on their favorites. The boats are dressed to impress a panel of judges who will award prizes in a dozen categories including Best in Show, Thinking Outside the Christmas Box, and Hardiest Souls. Come early for dockside festivities starting at 3pm.

Parade of Lighted Boats
Where: Southwest Waterfront
When: December 7, 5:30-8pm
Admission: Free
On the other end of Alexandria’s boat parade, the Washington Waterfront Association and Old Dominion Boat Club will host the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Southwest Waterfront. So, it’s actually the same parade, just different festivities on the DC side.

Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 15 – January 5
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (look for a deal on Certifikid)

Imagine the beauty of Meadowlark’s renowned gardens as over 500,000 LED lights and displays bring the gardens to life and transform it into a winter wonderland. Marvel at the two-story animated fountain, stroll past the Gingerbread Village, and explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it. This event is sure to be the highlight of your holiday season!

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 20 – January 5
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car (look for a deal on Certifikid)

For more than 12 years the Bull Run Festival of Lights has drawn thousands of visitors to the park to delight in its winter wonderland. Get a sneak preview of it on the website, where a video of Santa’s Enchanted Lights, with over 40,000 animated lights set to music, is merely a fraction of what you’ll find there. For a fun and active way to enjoy the lights, race through them in The Snowman Stampede: Light up the Night 5k taking place on December 7.

 

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The KFDC 2012 Guide to DC’s Best Holiday Events

The Capitol Christmas tree

 

Now that the election is over, we can redirect our focus — to the holidays! It might seem early, but the folks behind some of the area’s best seasonal celebrations don’t think so, with many of them commencing in the next couple of weeks, and the rest starting shortly after. But no matter when you’re ready to embrace the holiday spirit, you’re in the right place. There are options galore in DC to celebrate the season, many of them annual events that are family traditions for Washingtonians. Local stages come alive with holiday shows. Model trains wind through miniature Christmas villages. Light displays dazzle visitors as they walk or drive among them. And all kinds of events and extravaganzas, several at iconic locales,  present holiday cheer and activities that thrill kids (and the kid in all of us grown-ups). Here’s where you can find it all:

Holiday Shows
Model Trains
Events, etc.
Light Displays

Holiday Shows

Septime Webre's The Nutcracker. Photo: Courtesy Brianne Bland

 

A Christmas Carol
Where: Ford’s Theatre
When: November 16 – December 30
Tickets: $22-89
Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Originally conceived by Michael Baron, this music-infused production captures the magic and joy of Dickens’s Yuletide classic. Acclaimed Washington stage actor Edward Gero returns to play Scrooge.

A Little House Christmas
Where: Adventure Theatre
When: November 17 – December 31
Tickets: $19 (Look for a discount here)
The Ingalls are hosting some of their friends and relatives for a pre-Christmas dinner when a sudden storm threatens to cut off access to the town from which most of the guests have come. Come home for the holidays with this heartwarming adventure that shows that the simple things make living worthwhile as Mary and Laura learn the true meaning of Christmas. Recommended for ages 4 and up.

The Nutcracker
Where: The Puppet Co.
When: November 25 – December 31
Tickets: $10

The Puppet Co.’s annual holiday treat!  The Nutcracker is the festive story of Clara-Marie’s favorite toy and their adventures together in the land of the Sugarplum Fairy. Music from Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet blends with marionettes and costume characters to create this unique production.  This is the 25th Anniversary of this wildly popular show. Recommended for kindergarten age and older.

The Washington Ballet: The Nutcracker
Where: THEARC Theater
When: November 24-25
Tickets: $30/35/40

The Washington Ballet modifies Septime Webre’s critically acclaimed production a bit at the Anacostia theatre, making it more enticing to antsy little theatre-goers. The set is scaled-down, and performances are shorter. This version of The Nutcracker transports audiences back in time to historic Washington, DC, and stars George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker.  Full of swirling snowflakes, magnificent sets and costumes and Tchaikovsky’s beloved score, the curtain rises and the stage bursts with waltzing cherry blossoms, dancing sugar plums and other enchanting adaptations that have made Webre’s Nutcracker a Washington tradition with raves from critics and sold-out crowds.

Nutcracker Fantasy
Where: The Puppet Co. Tiny Tots
When: November 24 – December 30
Tickets: $5


This marionette version of the holiday classic is geared toward the smallest of audience members. Tiny Tots shows are designed for theater patrons ages 0-4. They are shorter, the lights stay on, the doors stay open, and the show is set up on the floor.

Holiday Sing-A-Long
Where: Wolf Trap
When: December 1, 4pm
Tickets: Free

Kick off the holiday season with family and friends at Wolf Trap’s 2012 Holiday Sing-A-Long! This annual musical celebration hosts a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area.

Septime Weber’s The Nutcracker
Where: Warner Theatre
When: December 1-24
Tickets: $34-101


The Washington Ballet celebrates the 120th anniversary of the first performance of The Nutcracker by bringing Septime Webre’s, The Nutcracker, to the historic Warner Theater in Washington. This adaptation of the beloved ballet tells the story of a little girl named Clara who is given a magical nutcracker at a Christmas Eve in her family’s 1882 Georgetown mansion. Later that evening she encounters a battle of Revolutionary War soldiers led by the frightful King Rat (King George III) and the Nutcracker (George Washington). After winning the battle, the Nutcracker, now a handsome prince leads her on a wondrous journey filled with the Snow Queen and King, Sugar Plum Fairy, cherry blossoms, Anacostia Indians, a frontiersman, cardinals and more.

Seasons of Light
Where: Discovery Theater
When: December 3-21
Tickets: $3-8


Discovery Theater’s seasonal favorite captures the warmth of many holidays filled with light, in this joyous interactive celebration. Explore the history and customs of Devali, Ramadan, Sankta Lucia, Chanukah, Kwanzaa, Las Posadas, Christmas, and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice. Recommended for ages 5-10.

Annual Carol Sing
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 9, 1pm & 4pm
Tickets: Free, but must be reserved ($2 service fee)

An H Street holiday tradition is back! Sing along to your favorite holiday classics at the annual, free concert at the Atlas Performing Arts Center, in collaboration with Capital City Symphony the Congressional Chorus, the American Youth Chorus, and the Atlas.

Drumming with Dishes: Holiday Edition
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 11 – 16
Tickets: $8

Drumming with Dishes is back, this time with a holiday twist!  A young girl introduces her imaginary friend to what makes the holiday season the most wonderful time of the year. This gentle, whimsical adventure celebrates friendship and turning the ordinary into the extraordinary. Recommended for ages up to 5.

Step Afrika!’s Magical, Musical Holiday Step Show
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: December 12 – 23
Tickets: $35/adult, $20/seniors, military, $12/ages 17 and Under

“Who wants to sit still and be quiet for the holidays?” Can Step Afrika! teach a polar bear to step?  What about a penguin? This December, come make music with Step Afrika! and their furry friends from the Animal Kingdom in this new holiday tradition! Come ready to bring in the festive season with a bang featuring the electrifying artists from Step Afrika! and special guest DJ Frosty the Snowman.  The interactive experience will get you in the mood for the festive season.

Ballet West: The Nutcracker
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 5-9
Tickets: $45-150


Ring in the holidays with America’s first full-length Nutcracker, when Utah’s Ballet West presents Willam Christensen’s beloved production. Hailed by New York Times dance critic Alastair Macaulay as “one of the best productions I’ve ever seen,” Ballet West’s The Nutcracker features Tchaikovsky’s timeless score, and a brilliant blend of costumes, sets, and choreography to create a magical storybook world. Performed with live orchestra, choir, and a host of young children from the area, this is the seasonal gift everyone deserves to receive.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
Where: BlackRock Center for the Arts
When: December 8
Tickets: $14

The classic television animated special will be shown on the big screen (without commercial interruption!), followed by a live performance of songs from Vince Guaraldi’s fabulous jazz score played by the Eric Byrd Trio. Think of it as the perfect opportunity to indulge in a little nostalgia while creating new family memories. Sure to be a highlight is Eric’s 9 year-old son, Jason Miles Byrd, singing the song “Christmas Time is Here.”

A Children’s Nutcracker
Where: Battlefield High School, Haymarket, VA
When: December 8
Tickets: $15-20

This production from the Gainesville Ballet School features local talent ranging from three years of age through adult professionals. The show presents the traditional dances, such as Snow Flake and Sugar Plum Fairy, plus some very special dances with the young ballerinas, such as Blue Bird and Angels.

The Mini-Nut
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 8-9
Tickets: $18/adults, $12/children 12 and under


The Maryland Youth Ballet presents a sweet treat with a delightful, 50- minute, abbreviated presentation of their classic production. Performances takes place at Montgomery College’s Takoma Park/Silver Spring Campus.

Christmas Dreams from The Nutcracker
Where: National Theatre
When: December 10
Tickets: FREE

Saturday Morning at the National presents its annual holiday show, the Virginia Ballet Company and School’s selections from Tchaikovsky’s glittering confection. Snowflakes and Sugar Plum Fairies fill the air in a dazzling presentation full of lovely costumes, lively dances and elegant holiday cheer. Performances take place at 9:30am and 11am, and tickets are required for admission. Free tickets are distributed half an hour prior to the start of shows on a first-come first-served basis. Seating is limited, so get there early.

Merry TubaChristmas!
Where: Kennedy Center
When: December 13, 6pm
Tickets: Free

One of the Millennium Stage’s free, holiday-themed performances will feature more than 100 tuba, sousaphone, and euphonium players putting a new spin on holiday classics.

The Nutcracker
Where: Montgomery College Cultural Arts Center
When: December 14, 15, 16, 21, 22, 23
Tickets: $28/adults, $23/children in advance; $33/adults, $28/children at the door


This is the 22nd season of the Maryland Youth Ballets beloved, full-length classic. Performances will tale place at the Robert E. Parilla Performing Arts Center of Montgomery College in Rockville.

 

Trains

Last year's train display at Union Station

 

Season’s Greenings

Where:U.S. Botanic Garden
When: November 22 – January 1
Admission: FREE

If my blog stats are any indication, this might be DC’s most popular holiday attraction; the Botanic Garden’s seasonal exhibit was among the most searched for topics last year. And I can’t say I’m surprised. Season’s Greenings is an annual delight for all ages. The conservatory exhibit features Washington landmarks constructed from plant materials and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees. But the highlight, hands-down, is the garden railway, which never fails to impress and enchant with intricate, imaginative designs. This year, trains will zip through an imaginative Enchanted Forest, with fanciful fairy dwellings along the rail line, all created with plant materials. For even more holiday magic at the garden, there are concerts most Tuesday and Thursday evenings in December, when the USBG stays open until 8pm.  For more on the seasonal favorite, read this KFDC review from a Season’s Greenings past.

Holiday Train Show
Where: Union Station
When: TBD
Admission: FREE
Every year, DC’s grand train station hosts a wonderful model train display during the holidays. While this details of this season’s locomotive showcase have yet to be announced, in past years they have been on view in Main and West Halls, and they are always free for the public to see.  Look for an update soon!

Holiday Festival of Trains & Toys
Where: B&O Railroad Museum
When: November 23 – December 31
Admission: $16/adults, $14/seniors (60+), $10/ages 2-12, free for B&O members


This is a venue dedicated to locomotives, so you know the holiday model train exhibit is going to be special. So much so, it changes throughout its run featuring new displays from various Model Railroad Exhibitors every few days. The exhibit opens the day after Thanksgiving with the arrival of Santa in the Roundhouse at 10:30am. On weekends through December 18, guests can enjoy train rides with Santa and Frosty the Snowman along with crafts and choral performances. Train rides are $3/adults, $2/children, free for B&O Members.

Holiday Trains and Planes
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: December 17 – December 23
Admission: 4/adults, $3/seniors, $2/ages 2-18, under 2 are free

During the holiday season the College Park Aviation Museum gets ready for the festivities as miniature trains, villages, tunnels, and depots spark the imagination and bring history to life. The National Capital Trackers bring a fascinating and constantly moving display of model railroads.

 

Events, etc.

A peek inside Santa's Workshop

 

Holiday on the Ellipse
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 8 – January 1
Admission: FREE


This should have a permanent spot on everyone’s DC holiday repertoire. The National Christmas Tree, the National Menorah, Santa’s Workshop, plus trains and displays representing all 50 states are a must-see during the season. Kids will especially love visiting Santa in his adorable little cottage for a peek at his operations and a photo op on his lap (read about our experience there a couple of years ago) which is open at select times, usually through Christmas Eve. And the rest of it lit up at night with the White House and Washington Monument glowing in the distance makes for a dazzling holiday scene. (Note: The National Christmas Tree Lighting is on December 6, but Santa’s Workshop does not open until the December 8 — be sure to check the schedule here.)

Ice Palace
Where: Fair Oaks Mall
When: November 8 – December 24
Admission: Free
Journey through the Ice Palace, a 30-foot ice dome with falling snow, a light show and, new this year, the beloved prehistoric herd from the family film Ice Age: Continental Drift. The adventure continues with a visit to Santa and photo ops on the Ice Throne.

Christmas on the Potomac
Where: National Harbor
When: November 18 – January 8

Admission: FREE, though some activities cost extra
National Harbor goes all out during the holidays. ICE! might be the big attraction, but there’s way more to do there to warrant a visit without the frozen entertainment. Most of it takes place in the Gaylord National Resort, which is transformed into a winter wonderland, complete with a spectacular glass Christmas tree, nightly tree lightings , the Potomac Express train offering rides for guests, photo ops with Santa, indoor snowfalls, fountain shows, and more. (Read about our experience there a couple of years ago.)

ICE!
Where: National Harbor
When: November 16 – January 6
Admission: $23-30/adult, $19-26/seniors, $16-23/kids, 3 and under are free (look for a LivingSocial deal here)

Technically, this is part of Christmas on the Potomac, but it’s such a huge spectacle in itself, that it deserves its own write-up. We went last year, and I recommend reading my review (and getting the LivingSocial deal) before you go. And since it features a new theme this year, here’s the description from the website: “Gaylord National’s popular ICE! winter holiday attraction returns with an all-NEW, hilarious theme: ICE! featuring DreamWorks’ Shrek the Halls… The animated holiday TV special will be brought to life in an interactive world of colorful ice sculptures and incredible 20-feet tall ice slides carved entirely from TWO MILLION pounds of ice. Relive the heartwarming story as you stroll through this amazing attraction featuring your favorite characters: Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Gingy and Puss in Boots as they celebrate Christmas in their own special way. When Shrek tries to plan the “perfect Christmas” for Fiona and the kids, his plans are disrupted by chaos and commotion. But, in the end, Shrek learns the true meaning of the holiday.” Tickets can be purchased in advance online, and there are timed entries are every half-hour.  Hours vary by day, so be sure to check the schedule when you plan to go.

Christmas at Mount Vernon

Where: Mount Vernon Estate, Museum, & Gardens
When: November 23 – January 6
Admission: $15/adults, $7/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under


The special daytime holiday program at George Washington’s homestead 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.

Harbor Holiday Festival
Where: National Harbor
When: November 30 – December 1
Admission: $15/adults, $29.99/Family Weekend Pass (see below)
The magic of the holidays will come alive at the National Harbor’s new seasonal festival.This fantastic, fun-filled, family fest offers something for everyone — handmade crafts, unique one-of-a kind gift items, great holiday décor, wonderful wines and foods, magical entertainment, costumed merri-makers, kids activities, and so much more. There is an admission charge for ages 15 and up.  A nice deal is the Family Weekend Pass, which includes admission for two adults and two children, a souvenir shopping bag, complimentary hot chocolate, and a tasting flight pass — look for a LivingSocial deal here.

Holiday Card Workshop
Where: National Postal Museum
When: December 1, 11am – 3:30pm
Admission: Free
Kids can get creative and into the holiday spirit at this special workshop hosted by the National Postal Museum every year. Artist Thalia Doukas provides stamp-centric inspiration and mailable ornaments that guests can use as they make two holiday cards – one to bring home and give away, and one to send to the troops. We went to this last year, and the kids had a blast designing cards for their friends and members of the military overseas for the holidays.

Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland
Where: Downtown Bethesda
When: December 1-2
Admission: Free, but concerts and events cost extra

Celebrate the season in downtown Bethesda with a variety of performances, an ice sculpting presentation,  a visit from Santa Claus, and more. See the website for the schedule of events over the two-day festival.

Christmas Town
Where: Busch Gardens
When: December 1-31
Admission: $27/ages 3 and up

Go big on a treat for your family at this holiday celebration at the Williamsburg amusement park. Enjoy spectacular light shows, rides, live entertainment, the Mistletoe Marketplace,visits from Santa, live penguins, and more! Be sure to look for the Certifikid deal on this holiday adventure here.

Holly Trolley Fest

Where: National Capitol Trolley Museum
When: December 1 – 23, Saturdays & Sundays only
Admission: $7/adults, $5/ages 2-17 (includes unlimited rides)
Guests can ride with Santa on the street cars and enjoy the model garden railway and holiday village inside the museum. Of course the rest of the museum, offering a glimpse into the history of street cars, including a Hall displaying different cars from around the region and Europe. Visit the website for directions museum.

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting
Where: West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol
When: December 4
Admission: Free

Another big tree lighting ceremony in DC takes place at the Capitol, and the public is invited to watch it. You can track the tree as it journeys from Colorado, where it was cut down to, DC. It’s expected to arrive on November 26. After the lighting, the tree will be lit every evening  for all to enjoy until December 26.

The Chanukah Experience
Where: TheSHUL
When: December 2-3
Admission: $9/person or $30/family

Get the Chanukah celebration started early with activities for all ages — themed arts and crafts, food, a Chanukah movie theater, an olive press exhibit, and a performance by comedian juggler Michael Rosman! TheSHUL is located at 2110 Leroy Place NW, 5 blocks north of Dupont Circle.

Christmas Spirit at Union Station
Where: Union Station
When: December 4
Admission: Free

The Royal Norwegian Embassy presents the 15th Norwegian Christmas at Union Station. Listen to The Children’s Chorus of Washington sing Christmas carols and let the whole family find the Christmas Spirit as Under Secretary of the Navy Robert O. Work flicks the switch to the 20,000 lights on the Christmas tree at Union Station.Santa Claus will be on hand with treats for the children in attendance. Marines and representatives of the Embassy will also be present to accept donations to this year’s Toys for Tots campaign, which distributes toys to needy children throughout the region. Please consider donating a new, unwrapped toy. Checks made out to “Toys for Tots” are also welcome. The tree will be on display through December.

National Menorah Lighting
Where: The National Ellipse
When: December 9, 4pm
Admission: Free, but you must request tickets

This is the Jewish counterpart to the National Christmas Tree Lighting. Every Chanukah, the National Menorah is lit in a ceremony on the Ellipse. Along with the lighting, there will be live entertainment, plus menorah kits and dreidels to take home. And if you don’t mind waiting in line afterward, you can stay for latkes and donuts. Tickets are free, but you need to request them in advance through the website.

Light the Night
Where: Cabin John Shopping Center
When: December 9, 4-5:30pm
Admission: Free

The highlight of Chabad Shul of Potomac’s Chanukah celebration will be Eric Energy’s Chanukah Science Spectacular, a showcase of science experiments about the festival of lights.  A Laser light show, vortex fog rings, and a voice changer are all part of the show.  And   a giant menorah lighting, magic tricks and balloons, music and dancing, latkes, and jelly doughnuts, will be part of the celebration.

Chanukah on Ice
Where: Pentagon Row Ice Rink
When: December 9, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $10 in advance, $12 at the door

Celebrate the second night of Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, holiday treats, raffles, and ice skating! Ice skate rentals are included, but food will be sold separately. Purchase advance tickets online at www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

Chanukah Festival
Where: Crowne Plaza Hotel in Alexandria
When: December 10, 6:30pm
Admission: Free
Celebrate the third night of Chanukah with a giant menorah lighting, free light stick for every child, latkes, donuts, a raffle, and music! The lighting will take place at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Old Town Alexandria located at 901 N Fairfax Street. For More info, go to www.chabadAA.org or call 703-370-2774.

 

Holiday Lights

Cruising through the Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park

 

Symphony of Lights
Where: Symphony Woods, Merriweather Post Pavilion
When: November 19 – January 6, 6-10pm nightly
Admission: $20/car (get a LivingSocial discount here)


Called a “woodland wonderland,” this beautiful display of more than 70 larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations is a local holiday tradition for many. Cruise along the 1.4-mile route through the Symphony Woods in downtown Columbia and enjoy the twinkling lights as you go. (Note that it’s closed on December 31.)

ZooLights
Where: National Zoo
When: November 23  –  January 1
Admission: FREE

(Note: Be sure to visit the website for the schedule, as this is not open every day!) Every year, thousands of environmentally-friendly light and animal exhibits transform the Zoo into a holiday wonderland.  The highlights are dozens of animal light displays, and this year there will be “Zoo Tubing” on Lion/Tiger (hey, does that make it Liger?) Hill on two 150-foot snow tracks. Guests can also enjoy entertainment, a special train ride for children, a whirl on the Conservation Carousel (a new feature this year!), special talks by animal keepers, Zoo-themed model trains displays, and the gingerbread habitat contest entries on display in the auditorium.  The Small Mammal House, Great Ape House, Reptile Discovery Center, Think Tank, and Kids’ Farm will be open every night. Rides and parking cost extra.

Festival of Lights
Where: Watkins Regional Park
When: November 23 – January 1, 5-9:30pm nightly
Admission: $5/car, FREE on December 25


This spectacular holiday drive-through event of more than one million twinkling lights has been dazzling holiday-goers for 25 years. This is great way to get into the holiday spirit from the comfort of your car – pop some holiday music into the CD player, turn on the seat warmers, and take in the illuminated scenes. New festival features include Santa flying a helicopter and driving a fire truck.

Garden of Lights
Where: Brookside Gardens
When: November 23 – January 6, with noted exceptions
Admission: $20/car Mon-Thurs, $25/car Fri-Sun


It’s the 15th season of this festive light show, that is a popular family tradition in the DC area, attracting nearly 40,000 visitors each winter. Why? Visualize close to one million twinkling colorful lights shaped in imaginative displays throughout the gardens. Enjoy the four seasons illuminated as giant summer sunflowers, autumn leaves, winter snowflakes, spring flowers, rain showers, and more. Walk along the easily accessible paths and you’ll see what sets this light show apart from others; it’s the hundreds of wrapped trees and shrubs, beautifully lighted gazebos, cascading fountains, and the individually formed displays in the shapes of blooming flowers and wild animals. Look for moving displays such as a flock of geese, or an 11-foot giraffe covered with 9,000 lights. Open Sunday – Thursday 5:30-9pm, with last car admitted at 8:30pm, and Friday/Saturday 5:30-10pm, with last car admitted at 9:30pm.

Winter Lights Festival

Where: Seneca Creeek State Park
When: November 23-24, then nightly November 30 – December 31
Admission: $12/car Tues-Thurs, $15/car Fri- Sun

The 17th Annual Winter Lights Festival will feature more than 380 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays in a 3.5 mile drive through beautiful Seneca Creek State Park. Theme areas include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Proceeds Benefit Local Charities.  Hours are Sunday – Thursday 6-9pm and Friday-Saturday 6-10pm.

Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights

Where: Alexandria City Marina
When: December 1
Admission: FREE

Alexandria’s harbor lights up when more than 50 illuminated boats cruise the Washington Channel to the historic waterfront. Pre-parade festivities at the Alexandria City Marina begin at 4pm with Santa arriving by fireboat at 4:15pm. The boat parade begins at 6pm. The Marina is located at Cameron Street in Old Town.

Parade of Lighted Boats
Where:Southwest Waterfront
When: December 1, 5:30-8pm
Admission: Free
On the other end of Alexandria’s boat parade, the Washington Waterfront Association and Old Dominion Boat Club will host the Parade of Lighted Boats along the Southwest Waterfront. So, it’s actually the same parade, just different festivities on the DC side. In addition to the magical display of decorated boats sailing from Alexandria to Washington, DC, the festival will include a surprise snow fall, lighting of the waterfront Christmas Tree, complimentary photos with Santa Claus, and live holiday music.

Winter Walk of Lights

Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
When: November 16 – January 6
Admission: $13/adult, $8/ages 3-12 (get a Certifikid deal here)

Experience  the beauty of Meadowlark’s renowned gardens as over 500,000 LED lights and displays bring the gardens to life and transform it into a winter wonderland. Be enchanted by a flowing stream of softly glowing lights, marvel at the two story animated fountain, stroll past the Gingerbread Village, and explore the beauty of nature like you’ve never seen it.

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Where: Bull Run Regional Park
When: November 21 – January 6
Admission: Monday- Thursday $15/car, Friday-Saturday $20/car

For more than 12 years the Bull Run Festival of Lights has drawn thousands of visitors to the park to delight in its winter wonderland. Get a sneak preview of it on the website, where a video of Santa’s Enchanted Lights, with over 40,000 animated lights set to music, is merely a fraction of what you’ll find there.

 

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