Tag Archives: Washington DC Family Activities

Wicked Fun Ways to Celebrate Halloween Around DC

Elsa, Frida, & Oliver ready to hit the Halloween scene last year

Elsa, Frida, & Oliver ready to hit the Halloween scene last year

Why wait until the actual day to celebrate one of the best holidays of the year? Besides the bonus of getting extra mileage out of costumes and having more excuses to indulge in sweets, Halloween festivities are a treat any day. And there are loads of ways to get into the spirit during the days leading up to the grand event. From no-fright fun to cool and creepy thrills, this annual KFDC round-up has all of the details on where and when you and the kids can have a wicked good time around DC and even a bit…beyond. Happy Halloween!

“Eye Spy” Halloween Train
Where: Cabin John Regional Park
When: October 8-9, 14-16, 21-23, & 28-30
Admission: $6 and a can of food

Hop on board the Halloween Train! Cabin John’s “Eye Spy” features just enough “boo” power for kids age 8 and under. Along the ride through the woods on the train, kids can try to find Halloween friends hiding along the way and mark them off their “Eye Spy” game cards that they receive with admission. Guests can also enjoy Halloween movies every night, face painting on Saturdays and Sundays, and light refreshments for sale. The “Eye Spy” train runs 1-6pm on Fridays and 11-6pm on weekends. Purchase tickets online starting October 1 here.

Haunted Train & Creepy Carousel
Where: Wheaton Regional Park
When: October 8-9, 14-16, 21-23, & 28-30
Admission: $6

Wheaton Regional Park’s Haunted Train and Creepy Carousel are back and scarier than ever! This annual Halloween attraction is best for guests ages 8 and up, because they “aim to scare” (and this is part of the website description, so take their word for it). Admission includes one ride each on the train and carousel, plus entrance to the Hall of Jack o’ Lanterns movie theater presenting scary films every night. The train and carousel run 6:30-9:30pm each night. Purchase tickets online starting October 1 here. Plan to bring canned food, too, to help neighbors in need.

Costume Drive to Help Families in Need
Where: Hilton McLean Tyson Corner
When: Through October 14
Admission: n/a

Steph Snaps Photos, Hilton McLean, and Harth have yet again joined forces for their 2nd annual costume drive, aiming to secure gently used or new costume donations for local families. The collected costumes and funds will benefit a diverse number of non-profit organizations in our community that will provide costumes for children and families. New or gently used costumes of any size can be dropped off at Hilton McLean Tysons Corner any day. Cash donations are also accepted at www.gofundme.com/costumedrive2016 — the money collected will help purchase additional costumes with size requirements that have not been fulfilled through the donation process.

Howl-o-Scream Package
Where: Kingsmill Resort in Williamsburg, VA
When: Weekends in October
Admission: Rates start at $339/night

Fiery foliage, Halloween-themed spooky events, and mild temperatures will greet you at Kingsmill Resort when you check in this fall. While there are those that believe the waterfront condo-style resort has its share of paranormal activity, there is plenty of room for lively, younger spirits of all ages. (The old spirits are behind the bar.) For those looking to elevate the fear factor, the resort offers the Howl-O-Scream Package, which includes accommodations for two nights, daily breakfast, complimentary parking, Wi-Fi, and shuttle service to Busch Gardens and Colonial Williamsburg. Guests also get access to Busch Gardens with two Fun Cards.

Where: Frying Pan Farm Park
When: October 13, 6-7pm & 7-8pm
Admission: $10/child

Children ages 3-8 are invited to come to the Indoor Arena Barn dressed in their favorite costumes anytime between from 6-8pm. Enjoy fun, games, and a wagon ride. Finish the evening with treats and a small pumpkin. Reservations are required, and space is limited, so sign up soon!

Cirque de la Symphonie: Halloween Extravaganza
Where: Kennedy Center
When: October 13-16
Tickets: $24-99

Cirque de la Symphonie brings its trademark brand of awe-inspiring feats and thrills, including jugglers, aerialists, contortionists, strongmen, and more, to a program set to classic spooky music, such as Dukas’s The Sorcerer’s Apprentice, Saint-Saëns’s Danse macabre, and Bach’s Toccata and Fugue in D minor, among other familiar tunes. The Sunday matinee performance is part of the NSO Family Concert Series, designed for young audiences. Beginning one hour before the performance, children and families can enjoy the “Haunted Hall” activities, which include games and activities, an instrument petting zoo, and spook-tacular decorations. Audiences are encouraged to come in costume for all for performances.

The Best Haunted House Ever
Where: Thomas Jefferson Community Theatre
When: October 14-23
Tickets: $15/adults, $10/children

Encore Stage & Studio presents a Halloween-inspired show this season: When students from two different high schools sneak into a local haunted house to scare their classmates, utter chaos ensues. At first it seems like the students are just pulling Halloween pranks, but when a spooky zombie and mysterious ghost don’t fit into the students’ haunting plans it can only mean one thing–they are not alone in the house! Happy haunting! Recommended for ages 6 and up.

Spooky SPY Family Night
Where: International Spy Museum
When: October 14, 6-9pm
Admission: $14

Ditch your Halloween costume and change your while identity at the Spy Museum’s annual Halloween event! Has your brother been spying on you? Is grandma really a secret agent? Does dad really have lethal ninja skills? Now’s your chance to find out as your family of spies gains exclusive after-hours access to the Museum. Test your family’s spy skills as you run top secret missions, go deep undercover and transform your appearance with the help of professional make-up artists, challenge yourself in Code Cracker competitions, and enjoy SPY snacks and a chance to explore all forms of spy tradecraft. Go in disguise as your favorite spy! For ages 5 and up, includes exclusive after-hours admission, SPY snacks, scavenger hunt, prize competitions, and more! Space is limited — advance registration required. (One adult required for every five KidSpy agents.)

http://www.atlasarts.org/event/2016-10-17/“>Goulishly Good Music
Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center
When: October 16

Capital City Symphony’s Family Concerts are always fun, interactive, and educational. This year’s program is inspired by the spookiness and fantasy of Halloween, so don costumes to join in the fun! Face the ghosts and ghouls of Saint-Saëns’ Danse Macabre and Mussorgsky’s Night on Bald Mountain, or enter the fairy tale world of Stravinsky’s The Firebird. Along the way you’ll learn how the instruments of the orchestra combine to bring these amazing stories to life. Go 30 minutes before show time to meet the musicians at the Instrument Petting Zoo — kids just might discover their new favorite instrument.

Boo at the Zoo
Where: National Zoo
When: October 21-23, 5:30-8:30pm
Admission: $20/members, $30/non-members

Join the National Zoo for their annual not-so-spooky Halloween haunt, one of DC’s most popular events for the kiddie crowd. With more than 40 treat stations, animal demonstrations, keeper chats, live entertainment, and decorated trails, this frightfully fun evening is a treat for the whole family. Costumes encouraged!

Soul Strolls
Where: Congressional Cemetery
When: October 21-22 & 28-29
Admission: $20/adult, $10/child

Congressman, carpenters, suffragists, and bootleggers are among the graveyard residents on Capitol Hill, and they all have a unique tale to tell. Congressional Cemetery’s annual Soul Strolls explore these stories through guided tours and costumed interpreters. Typically only open from dawn to dusk, this special event allows nighttime access to the public. Hour-long walks depart every 15 minutes between 6 -9pm, with beer, wine, and cider will be for sale (to put you at ease among the spirits).

Monster Mash
Where: Center at Leesburg
When: October 22
Admission: Free

Join the the Village at Leesburg for a frighteningly good time the 7th Annual Monster Mash! There will be center-wide trick-or-treating starting while supplies last, live music, street performers, a costume contest for children and pets, a Halloween parade, and as seen on Food Network’s Halloween Wars, Extreme Pumpkin Carving by James Hall, pastry design by Al Dibartolo, and chocolate sculpture with our very own Santosh Tiptur.

Air and Scare
Where: Udvar-Hazy Center of the National Air & Space Museum
When: October 22, 11am – 5pm
Admission: Free, but parking is $15 until 6pm

See the spooky side of air and space at the Udvar-Hazy Center’s 11th Annual Air & Scare! Arrive in costume for safe indoor trick-or-treating. Participate in creepy crafts, spooky science experiments, and other Halloween-themed activities. Bring the tiniest visitors by the Tot Zone to play dress-up and hear a story. Fun for the whole family!

Haunted Museum Historic Ghost Tour
Where: National Building Museum
When: October 23, 29, & 31, 8pm & 9pm
Admission: $22/members, $25/non-members

Ghost tours at the National Building Museum combine history, humor, and several hair-raising tales into a fun evening. The Museum houses many artifacts related to the building — plans, drawings, and tools — as well as some objects that defy easy explanation, including a collection of shoes found underneath the foundation, believed to have been buried to ward off evil spirits, and a plaster mask, thought to be a death mask dated from the late 1800s. The building is spectacular — and eerie — with the lights out! This tour is recommended for ages 10 and up. Tickets are limited.

Harbor Halloween
Where: National Harbor
When: October 23, 12-2:30
Admission: Free

It’s a spooktacular family event that will include activities for everyone. Join the fun at The Black Dog’s Howl-loween. Trick or treat around the shops at the Harbor. Enjoy a showing of Hocus Pocus on the Plaza Big Screen (movie will begin at 12:30am). Watch a chef pumpking carving contest. Plus, enjoy special activities, including pumpkin decorating, a Halloween coloring station, and a fabulous family fall themed photo station.

Where: Market Common Clarendon
When: October 22, 11am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Market Common Clarendon’s fourth annual Falloween Festival celebrates the season and the October holiday with a day of delights for the whole fam. Highlights include live children’s entertainment by Rainbow Rock and Mr. Knick Knack, a petting zoo, face painting, pumpkin decorating + crafts for kids, and a trick-or-treat session throughout the property. This follows the annual Howl-O-Ween Dog Walk, in partnership with Homeward Trails and Doorways For Women and Families, which starts and ends on The Loop at Market Common Clarendon beginning at 10am, stopping through local businesses to support both partners with a costume contest taking place at the end of the event.

A Spooktacular Halloween Party
Where: Carluccio’s in Old Town
When: October 27, 6-8pm
Admission: $20

Join Carluccio’s in Old Town Alexandria for a spooktacular evening! The restaurant will be hosting a children’s Halloween party with cookie decorating and a costume contest. Kids ages and up will receive a free pasta meal, with ticket purchase, and accompanying adults can enjoy happy hour specials. Children and accompanying adults encouraged to dress up!

Paranormal Mansion Tours
Where: Oatlands Estate & Gardens
When: October 27-29, 7pm & 8pm
Admission: $30/adult, $12/child

Get a “different” look at Oatlands on this after dark tour of the old mansion. Hear ghost stories and accounts of unexplained occurrences on the property. Advance reservations are required and non-refundable.

Where: 7th Street SE in front of Eastern Market
When: October 28, 5:30-7:30pm
Admission: Free

Capitol Hill’s annual neighborhood event is legendary for little ones. The block of 7th Street SE next to Eastern Market will be closed to traffic for one of the best community Halloween celebrations in the city. Hayrides, moon bounces, goody giveaways, and even a mini carousel add to the excitement. The best part is seeing the masses of jubilant kids in all kinds of costumes indulging in the extravaganza.

Haunted Hangar
Where: College Park Aviation Museum
When: October 28, 7-9pm
Admission: $5

Wear your costume and enjoy fun fall themed activities. Explore the museum’s gallery and all of its hidden haunts. Arts, crafts, hayrides, and spooky fun await kids and families at the museum where old aircraft and other aviation displays wow visitors.

Spirits of the Past
Where: Bradley Farm in Herndon
When: October 28-29
Admission: $5

The Bradley Farm Haunted House promises everyone a ghoulishly fun time, and for a good cause — proceeds from the community fundraising event help Herndon-Reston FISH bring emergency help to folks in our community. This year’s “Spirits of the Past” theme promises fright and fun! On Friday and Saturday evening from 6-10pm, it offers a dark and scary adventure that’s perfect for tweens, teenagers, and adults. For the younger crowd, there’s a kids haunt with a milder scare on Saturday from 1-5pm that includes trick-or-treating inside the haunted house for children 10 and under, as well as face painting, balloon art, carnival-style games, live entertainment, and costumed characters.

Mr. Jon & Friends Halloween Party
Where: Jammin Java
When: October 29, 10:30am
Admission: $8

Kids musical performer Mr. Jon and playing a Halloween Party concert at Jammin Java. His silly interactive show includes classics like “Wheels On The Bus” along with originals, and his my puppet friend George the Monkey will join the fun, too. All ages can enjoy it, but the 1-6 crowd will dig it most.

Halloween in the Garden
Where: Annmarie Sculpture Garden
When: October 29, 11am – 4pm
Admission: $1

Dress the whole family and enjoy a day of trick-or-treating, art activities, lunch and more! The 17th Annual Halloween in the Garden will feature more than 70 community organizations and businesses donning costumes and handing out candy and treats to all the children. Free ooky, spooky crafts will be provided and devilishly delicious food vendors will be present. Admission fees will benefit local charities. Don’t forget to bring your camera — there are always unique photo opportunities with the boo-tiful decorations. New this year, purchase a line-hopper pass for $3/person, on sale at the admission gate from 10:30-11am, and jump to the front of the trick-or-treating line!

Trick or Treat at Tudor Place
Where: Tudor Place
When: October 29
Admission: $10/non-member, $5/member, $3/accompanying adult

Halloween is “spooktacular” at Tudor Place! Wear your costumes (optional) and follow meandering paths to find treats (not tricks!) in every corner of the enchanting North Garden. Enjoy pumpkin-decorating and other crafts, face painting, and outdoor games amid lovely autumn color.

Glen Echo Fall Frolic
Where: Glen Echo Park
When: October 29, 1-4pm
Admission: Free, but small cost for some activities

It’s a safe and fun Halloween event with something for everyone! Daytime activities for families will include pumpkin decorating, arts & crafts, face painting, trick-or-treating, and a costume parade around the Park.

Halloween Carnival
Where: Falls Church
When: October 29, 6-8:30pm
Admission: $2/children ages 2 and up (adults free)

The City of Falls Church has been hosting the annual Halloween Carnival for over 30 years! Infants through fifth graders are invited to enjoy carnival games, a moon bounce, face painting, crafts, a haunted house, movies, candy, and a live creepy creature show featuring the spookiest reptiles in nature. The first hour is best for children up to 2nd grade, and 3rd – 6th graders will enjoy the second hour.

Fall-O-Ween Country Fair
Where: Port Discovery
When: October 29, 10am – 3:30pm
Admission: $13.95/ages 2 and up

Dress up the little ones in their favorite costumes and join Port Discovery’s annual festival. Enjoy not-so-scary, family friendly programs and performances including science-themed activities, crafts, live entertainment, arts & crafts, and more!

Spooky Science
Where: Maryland Science Center
When: October 29, 12-4pm
Admission: $20.95/adult, $16.95/ages 3-12

Celebrate the chills and thrills of Halloween at the MSC’s 8th annual event, where creepy chemistry and mysterious science combine to provide a hauntingly good time. Spend the afternoon with making gooey, glowing slime, decorating pumpkins, exploring spooky sensory bins, and even watch pumpkins being launched off of the roof!

Pumpin Rock ‘n Roll
Where: Warner Circle Park in Kensington, MD
When: October 29, 12-4pm
Admission: Free

Join Headfirst Camps this Halloween for a spooky afternoon of music, games, food, and fun at the first ever Pumpkin Rock N’ Roll! Warner Circle Park will be transformed into a full-blown Halloween extravaganza. Kids can participate in a fun costume contest and parade, and enjoy family-friendly attractions including festival-style musical performances, food trucks, inflatable rides and slides, and a rock wall. Don’t miss the main event: The Pumpkin Roll, a derby race of Halloween pumpkins-turned-boxcars.

Halloween-Themed Storytime
Where: Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supplu
When: October 29, 11am
Admission: Free

Join 826DC at Tivoli’s Astounding Magic Supply Company for a scary (but not too scary) storytime. Join for age-appropriate readings of Poe’s “Tell Tale Heart” or one of their favorites, “The Hairy Toe,” while you shop for last minute Halloween costumes at the store full of magically fun items. Recommended for ages 6-12.

Halloween Scavenger Hunt
Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library
When: October 29, 3pm
Admission: Free

Celebrate Halloween at the library! Join staff at MLK Library in the Children’s Room for a spooky scavenger hunt and see what treats await! Costumes are encouraged. Recommended for ages 5-12.

Halloween Fun in Occoquan
Where: Occoquan, VA
When: October 29
Admission: Free

Join the town of Occoquan for a day of Halloween fun! Enjoy life-size Halloween characters found on shop benches, porches, and doorways. Hunt for six Halloween characters pictured on the entry form (available at any participating shop) and be entered into a drawing to win a life-sized Venetian Victorian Halloween figure!

Dia de los Muertos
Where: National Museum of the American Indian
When: October 29-30
Admission: Free

Join the National Museum of the American Indian for its annual Día de los Muertos (“Day of the Dead”), a celebration originating in Latin America, particularly in Mexico and Central America, to commemorate the lives of the dearly departed and welcome the return of their spirits. Learn and take part in this centuries-old tradition, which includes pre-Hispanic and Spanish customs alike.

Trick-or-Treating at Mount Vernon
Where: Mount Vernon Estate & Gardens
When: October 29 & 31, 3:30-6:30pm
Admission: $12/adult, $6/child

Trick-or-treat at Mount Vernon as George Washington’s estate open its gates for Halloween fun and spook-tacular activities. Join a special scavenger hunt, take a wagon ride on the 12-acre field, and create a boo-tiful Halloween craft. Guests can also check out wool carding, spinning, and fish net making in the historic area before greeting “Martha Washington” on the piazza of the Mansion. Historic chocolate-making demos and tastings will take place. Burn off all the extra excitement (and calories!) with 18th-century dancing. A children’s costume parade around the Mansion will begins at 5pm, and prizes will be awarded for most fang-tastic “George” and “Martha” costumes!

Pumpkin Parade Parties
Where: Gymboree of DC
When: October 29 & 31
Admission: $20/non-members, $15/members ($5/sibling)

Dress up and join the Halloween fun at one of two Gymboree parties! Pumpkin activities, seasonal craft projects, music, snacks, dancing, and parades will be part of the festivities. Newborns – 5-year-olds are invited October 29 3:30-5:30pm, and newborns – 2-year-olds can party October 31, 2-3:30pm. Reservations required: Call 202.627.2450 or email wdc@gymboreeclasses.com. Gymboree DC is located at 2639 Connecticut Ave. NW, Suite 113.

Trick or Treat in the Boo-tiques
Where: Old Town Boutique District in Alexandria
When: October 31, 11am – 6pm
Admission: Free

Bring your little ghosts and goblins to the Old Town Boutique District’s annual event to start their trick-or-treating early. Stop by the dozens of shops, where they’ll be dishing out treats and some maybe some family-friendly tricks. Halloween costumes are encouraged.

Spy Fright
Where: International Spy Museum Store
When: October 31, 2-6pm
Admission: Free

Go deep undercover this Halloween at the Spy Museum where spooks of every kind will be on the prowl. Spend the scariest night of the year at the place where disguises aren’t just for Halloween! Everyone is invited to arrive in disguise in the Spy Museum Store, where acclaimed professional make-up and disguise artist, Roger Riggle, will be on hand to teach the tools-of-the-trade necessary to transform guests in preparation for a night of tricks and treats. Demonstrations are free-of-charge and include quick disguise applications meant to help guests create their own undercover masterpieces.

Halloween Trick or Treating
Where: Fashion Centre at Pentgaon City
When: October 31, 5-7pm
Admission: Free

Pumpkins, superheroes and wizards are invited to showcase this year’s frightfully-festive Halloween ensembles in Pentagon City during mall-wide trick-or-treating on Halloween evening. Spooky characters can find candy treats from participating retailers displaying a sign in the window.

Trick-or-Treating & Photo Ops
Where: Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets
When: October 31, 5-7pm
Admission: Free

It’s not a trick, but there will be treats! Little shoppers are encouraged to participate in the Leesburg Outlets’ mall-wide trick-or-treating event this spooky season for a chance to show off costumes and collect tasty snacks from the center’s participating retailers. And Halloween’s favorite black cat, Jinx, will be strolling through the center, available for photo opportunities!

Day of the Dead Art Workshop
Where: Arlington Arts Center
When: November 4
Admission: $25

Get ready for AAC’s annual Day of the Dead Celebration at these sessions where students can create works of art inspired by the Latin American holiday. There are two classes, one for ages 7-10 and one for ages 11-14.

Fall Festivals
Where: Around the area
When: Through early November
Admission: Varies by locale

Many of the fall festivals around the area incorporate Halloween fun into their offerings. Pick out potential jack-o-lanterns, do Halloween-themed crafts, go on rides, and more. See a list of seasonal celebrations here.

Did I leave out any good ones? Let me know in the comments!

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Plan for the 2016 County Fair Season


Where do you get carnival rides and games, farm animals, the junk food gamut, live entertainment, pony rides, piglet races, and wares for sale all in once place? The County Fair. And the season for them is about to begin. Get the details on this year’s county fairs around area and get ready to have some fun!

Howard County Fair
What: The fair begins this coming weekend, and you have through next Saturday to enjoy rides, Shazam Magic Shows, musical entertainment in the evenings, pig races and pony rides, the Kids & Critters barn, and more. Most of the rides cost extra, and packages are available, so be sure to check out the website to see what’s available if you plan to go.
When: August 6-13, 8am – 11pm daily, though activity times vary, so be sure to check the schedule.
Where: 2210 Fairground Road, West Friendship, MD
Cost: Admission is $5/age 10 and up, $2/seniors, free for kids under 10. Rides and games are extra.

Montgomery County Fair
What: This fair is a family fave. (You can get a glimpse of one of our experiences there and read a review from a few years ago), so trust me when I say that there is so much to do, you have to see the schedule on the website for yourself to get the full scope. Highlights include plenty of 4-H exhibits and demos, including opportunities to pet some of the animals; animal races, pony rides, a KidZone with interactive games and activities, tons of carnival and kiddie rides, arts & crafts, and monster trucks and a demolition derby, and much more.
When: August 12-20, Times vary by day so check the schedule for specifics.
Where: Montgomery County Fairgrounds, 501 Perry Parkway, Gaithersburg, MD (Get directions)
Cost: Admission is $10/ages 12 and up, free for kids 11 and under. Tickets for rides cost extra. A one-day all-u-can-ride carnival wristband is available for $25. And note that parking is $10 at the fairgrounds, but FREE parking and shuttle bus service are available from Lakeforest Mall, located at Lost Knife Rd. and Odenhal Ave.

Prince William County Fair
What: Virginia’s largest annual county fair will include 4-H exhibits, rides, contests (think pie eating and water balloon tossing), animal shows, craft demos, the Children’s Barn, Kid’s Zone, live performances, and more. Note that August 12 is Kid’s Friday when all admissions are $6. And there are other special days with all kins of promos, so be sure to check the schedule for details.
When: August 12-20, Hours vary by day, so check the daily schedule on their website (scroll down the page).
Where: Prince William County Fairgrounds. Get directions here.
Cost: Admission is $10/ages 14-59, $5/seniors and ages 5-13, free for ages 4 and under. Be sure to look for daily specials, too.

Arlington County Fair
What: We’ve been and have had a great time. It’s big enough for a fun-filled day, but not so huge that it’s overwhelming, and you feel rushed to get to everything. There are carnival rides for everyone from toddlers to adults, and the kids especially loved the pony rides and piglet races. You can also check out competitive exhibits, enjoy live entertainment, cheer on a variety of racing animals, view outdoor movies, and take the little ones to the Kids’ Court for moon bouncing, face painting, and more.
When: August 17-21, hours vary by day, so check the schedule for specifics.
Where: Thomas Jefferson Community Center, 3501 Second St., Arlington, VA. Get parking/shuttle information here.
Cost: Admission is free. Buy tickets to use for rides and other activities: $1/ticket, $20/24 tickets, $40/48 tickets.

Prince George’s County Fair
What: A variety of entertainment and attractions for all ages — 4-H exhibits magic and dance shows, pig and duck races, a horse pull competition, a chain saw artist, a K-9 show, and much more.
When: September 8-11, hours vary by day.
Where: Rosecroft Raceway in Fort Washington.
Cost: Admission is $6/ages 12 and up, $5/ages 6-11, free for ages 5 and under. Rides and games are extra.

Anne Arundel County Fair
What: Carnival rides and games, animal exhibits, monster trucks, pony rides, garden tractor pulls, pig races, pie eating contests, a talent show, live music and much more
When: September 14-18, check the website for hours.
Where: Anne Arundel County Fairgrounds at 1450 General’s Highway (Route 178) in Crownsville, MD
Cost: Admission is $6/ages 16 and up, $4/ages 8 – 15, free for ages 7 and under. Rides and games cost extra.

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Easter Events Around DC for a Hopping Start to Spring

Easter egg hunting requires fuel

Easter egg hunting requires fuel

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Don’t put your eggs all in one basket when it comes to Easter celebrations. Numerous places around the area are hosting egg hunts, Easter bunny visits, and much more spring fun. Even if you’re not big on the holiday, there are attractions and activities beyond bunnies and candy-filled eggs that will have the whole family hopping with joy. Here’s where you can find them, listed in order of start date. And if I’ve left out any good ones, feel free to let me know in the comments.

Spring Easter Egg Hunt
Where: Ticonderoga Farm
When: Weekends March 12 – April 3
Admission: $14.95 ages 2 and up

With giant slides, awesome jumping pillows, playgrounds, animals, mazes, and more, the farm in Chantilly is a blast everyday (it’s open daily), but they take the fun up a notch on weekends in early spring. Along with the permanent amusement, there are egg hunts ( and visits from the Easter Bunny. Be sure to check the website for timing of specific activities. For an idea of what’s there, see this post about their Winter Festival, which is much of the same, but with Easter instead of Christmas festivities. And this post about a class field trip has info and pics, too.

Where: Butler’s Orchard
When: March 19, 20, 25, 26, 28 & April 1-3, 9am – 4pm
Admission: $9/child, $7/adult

One of the more popular spring festivals in the area, Butler’s has all the trappings for seasonal fun: bunnies, eggs, and other Easter-related treats to get young guests in the holiday spirit. Attractions include hayrides down the Bunny Trail, egg hunts, the Rubber Ducky Derby, giant slides, and a small petting zoo. Face painting and pony rides are also usually offered for an extra fee. Concessions are available, and there are also plenty of picnic tables if you prefer to pack a lunch.

Nova Parks Egg Hunts
Where: Parks throughout Northern Virginia
When: Various dates
Admission: $10

Several parks in Northern Virginia are hosting all kinds of Easter fun to celebrate the holiday and the season. Easter bunny visits and photo ops, egg hunts, crafts, and more activities will be part of the festivities. Registration is required. Go here to see where and when you can jump in on the fun!

Egg Hunt
Where: Meadowside Nature Center
When: March 25, 10am – 3pm
Admission: $8

Search for real eggs in othe meadow, then dye and decorate the eggs you find. Enjoy other spring-themed activities throughout the event as well. Fun for the entire family! Don’t forget to bring a basket to collect your eggs. Egg hunts are scheduled for every half-hour throughout the day. Reservations are required.

Easter Egg Decorating
Where: Brentwood Arts Exchange
When: March 26, 1pm
Admission: Free

Fun! Glitter! Eggs! The Brentwood Arts Exchange promise all three at this free family-friendly workshop. Create beautiful decorated eggs that will impress friends and even the Easter Bunny. Children will receive their first two eggs for free. Additional eggs will be available to purchase 2 for $1.

9th Annual Eggstravaganza
Where: Tudor Place
When: March 19 & 26, 10am – 12pm
Admission: $10/child, $8/child member, $5/adult

Rolling green lawns, bright spring blooms, and the elegant mansion on a hill serve as backdrop for this festive annual attraction. Join the Easter Bunny as children of all ages enjoy an Egg Hunt and thrilling Egg Roll Contest down the grand South Lawn. Crafts include paper chick “pets” and colorful butterflies, plus there will be games for all ages. Plan to take a self-guided tour of Tudor Place’s 5½ acres of glorious gardens, and be sure to bring a camera!

Fabergé Egg Family Festival
Where: Hillwood Estate and Gardens
When: March 19-20, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $18/adult, $5/ages 6-18, free for 5 and under

Celebrate spring’s arrival in traditional Russian style! Hillwood’s annual festival has programs, music, art, and activities for all ages. Happenstance Theatre will present stories of Russian Easter traditions in a fun family play. A favorite for all ages is the “Fabergé’s Workshop” to create a Fabergé-inspired egg. Samovar Russian Folk Music Ensemble takes visitors back to Old Russia as they play traditional instruments, and the Kalinka Dance Ensemble performs Russian folk dances. And centuries-old Russian springtime games like egg-rolling and egg and spoon racing will entertain children of all ages.

Dinosaur Egg Hunt
Where: Hidden Oaks Nature Center
When: March 19-20 & 26-27
Admission: $7-9/child

Stomp over to Hidden Oaks, where children ages 2-8 can enjoy a dinosaur-themed program and outdoor egg hunt while visiting dinoland in Nature Playce and make a dino craft. Pre-registration is required. Programs run several time throughout the day for 45-minute sessions.

Easter Weekend Itinerary
Where: Lansdowne Resort
When: March 25-27
Admission: Varies by activity

The resort, spa, and golf club in Northern Virginia has curated the perfect Easter Weekend Itinerary for local residents, traveling guests, and families alike. Activities include Build-A-Bunny workshops, a Flick & Float screening of the movie Hop while floating in the indoor pool, Easter Day Brunch, and an Eater Egg Hunt. Details and prices are on the website.

Bird Egg-stravaganza
Where: Woodend Nature Sanctuary
When: March 26, 10am – 12pm
Admission: $10/child

Join the Audubon Naturalist Society for a nature-themed egg hunt at their Bethesda headquarters. Children can search for eggs along the Woodend Nature Sanctuary trails. Afterwards, they can cash in their eggs for prizes, participate in crafts, and enjoy other nature themed activities

Easter Eggstravaganzas
Where: Various locations around the DC-Metro
When: March 26
Admission: Free

These festivals held in several neighborhoods around the area offer all kinds of Easter fun – egg hunts, Easter bunny visits, face painting, yummy treats, games, prizes, and more. They’ll take place in Northwest DC, Capitol Hill, Springfield, Gainesville, and Alexandria.

5th Annual Easter Egg Hunt
Where: Madame Tussauds
When: March 26, 8am, 8:30am, & 9am
Admission: $25/adult and three children

If your kids are early risers, then keep this event in mind: A fun and educational “eggs-ploration” through American History at the wax museum! Tons of eggs will be hidden throughout the Presidents Gallery, and once children have collected the empty eggs, they can then trade them in at the end of the hunt for an Easter gift bag full of goodies. Guests can also enjoy a meet & greet with the Easter Bunny, an on site petting zoo, plus Easter crafts and face painting! All children must be accompanied by an adult. Tickets can be purchased online.

Falls Church Annual Easter Egg Hunt
Where: Cherry Hill Park
When: March 26, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Join this annual family celebration hosted by the city’s Recreation and Parks Department. Children dressed in their spring finest can hunt for candy and special eggs in Cherry Hill Park and have their photo taken with our special guest, the Easter Bunny! BYO basket — they’ll supply the candy, fun, and happy springtime memories. In addition to scrambling for eggs, children ages 11 and younger can participate in a make-your-own-candy-bag craft project and have a chance to meet and take pictures with the Easter Bunny.

Spring Fest
Where: McLean Community Center
When: March 26, 10am – 12pm
Admission: $5, free for 2 and under

Spring Fest is a special event that includes self-guided arts and crafts projects, entertainment and the opportunity for your children to get a professional photo with Bunny. Remember to bring your Easter basket for our parent/child Easter egg hunt. Registration is required for all participants, and sign up soon, as space is limited. Recommended for ages 3-8.

11th Annual Stead Park Easter Egg Hunt
Where: Stead Park
When: March 26, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

Hop to it and join Friends of Stead Park and Foundry United Methodist Church for their annual Community Easter Egg Hunt! In addition to the egg hunts, there will be special “golden eggs” filled with a prize for each age group to find; crafts and snacks; selfies with the Easter Bunny, and twice as many eggs as last year. Bring your own basket and register in advance.

Champagne Easter Brunch & Egg Hunt
Where: Mandarin Oriental Washington, DC
When: March 27
Admission: $74/adult, $35/child

If you want to get fancy for the holiday, celebrate Easter with an extravagant Champagne brunch and a waterfront egg hunt on a beautiful sprawling garden, plus visits from the Easter Bunny at one of the city’s swankiest hotels. Enjoy a lavish buffet-style meal at Muze with multiple live cooking stations spread throughout the restaurant. Children can hunt for eggs hidden throughout the hotel’s stunning garden overlooking the Tidal Basin, accompanied by the Easter Bunny. There will also be fun-filled activities in the hotel’s supervised Little Fans Clubroom.

Easter Monday: A Washington Family Tradition
Where: National Zoo
When: March 28
Admission: Free

Celebrate Easter on Monday at the Zoo! Join them for special family-focused activities and live entertainment. A traditional Easter Egg Hunt and animal demonstrations as well as visits from the Easter Panda will be part of the festivities! This event will be held rain or shine.

White House Easter Egg Roll
Where: White House Lawn
When: March 28, 8am – 5pm
Admission: Free, tickets required

The mac daddy of Easter events in DC, the annual White House Easter Egg Roll requires tickets won through lottery for admission. You should know by now if you were “successful” in scoring them or not; but if you don’t, you can check your status on recreation.gov. Unofficial tip: I heard from a friend who was lucky enough to go one year that people were giving away extra tickets at the entrance. While I can’t confirm that’s always the case, if you’re going to be in that area and really want to go, it wouldn’t hurt to stop by and see if folks are being so generous. Note that entries are timed, so while it goes all day, guests only stay for their designated amount of time.

Egg Hunt & Marshmallow Harvest
Where: Great Country Farms
When: April 2-3, 10am – 5pm
Admission: $10/child $12/adult at the gate

After a long cold winter, nothing chases away the chill like a visit to the farm. Head to Great Country for the first “crop” of the spring– Marshmallow Picking! Do marshmallow peeps grow on trees? Be sure to check it out and harvest a few to roast on the bonfire with Farmer Bob. You can even purchase a s’mores kit to melt away that chocolate craving. Guests can also help find Easter Bunny eggs during egg hunts (by age – see the schedule) with over 18,000 treat-filled eggs. Plan to visit spring chicks and baby animals, check out the spring plantings in the greenhouse, take a hayride and rejoice in the new season. Don’t forget to bring your camera for photo ops with the Easter Bunny. Buy advance tickets online for only $10/adult — visit the website to purchase, and look for the schedule of events there, too.

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Make Some Family Plans for the 2016 National Cherry Blossom Festival


With the National Park Service’s recent announcement of the predicted cherry blossom peak (March 31 – April 3) and the Capital Weather Gang’s declaration that winter is over and spring is on, it’s time to talk celebration. And the National Cherry Blossom Festival, along with a couple of museums, have it all figured out for us with several weeks of events and activities to enjoy during the prettiest time of year in DC. Here are the best of them for families to help you have a peak blossom experience. Happy spring! (Update: The National Park Service revised their prediction, and the peak is now expected March 18-23.)

Asia Heritage Family Day
Where: National Air & Space Museum
When: March 19, 10am – 3pm
Admission: Free

Get ready for the Blossom Kite Festival and celebrate spring and Asian Heritage! Talk to kite experts, see pan-Asian kite displays, marvel at indoor kite flying, make your own kite, and maybe even take a dance lesson! This year’s Kites of Asia Heritage Family Day will have a special focus on Nepal and India.

Make an Okinawan Textile Craft
Where: GW Museum & Textile Museum
When: March 18-20
Admission: Free

Discover Okinawa at this three-day celebration for all ages! Try your hand at origami, traditional bingata painting, and other art activities. Enjoy children’s stories, dance performances, and karate demonstrations. Learn about the geography and natural environment of the island, sample Okinawan treats, and take home a local souvenir. Check the website to see the schedule of events each day.

Family Day at the Building Museum
Where: National Building Museum
When: March 26
Admission: Free

The National Building Museum is hosting their annual event to kick off the cherry blossoms celebration family-style. And they’re doing it with a nod to the National Park Service’s Centennial Anniversary. The day will feature hands-on fun and games focused on parks, planning, landscape design, and architecture. Activities will include folding origami masterpieces, designing a memorial for the National Mall, constructing a tatebanko diorama, meeting DuAro (Kawasaki’s robot), trying on traditional Japanese clothing, and learning more about the National Park Service’s milestone celebration.

Blossom Kite Festival
Where: Washington Monument Grounds
When: April 2, 10am – 4:30pm
Admission: Free

Go fly a kite! Seriously. The Kite Festival is, in my opinion, the best event during cherry blossom season (when the weather cooperates, anyway). The sight of thousands of kites in all colors, shapes, and sizes soaring around the Washington Monument is truly a sight to behold. It’s absolutely magical for my kids, and even for me as a jaded adult. The sails you see flying at the Festival each spring range from simple to pretty darn creative. Dragons, sharks, butterflies, giant soccer balls, even some that look like intricate works of art actually outnumber your basic diamond. And anyone can go fly their kites, so be sure to bring one. There’s a competition aspect to the event, too; expert kite enthusiasts will wow crowds with cool stunts, and prizes will be awarded to winners of various categories such as most beautiful, funniest, and aerodynamics.

Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival
Where: Southwest Waterfront, 600 Water Street SW
When: April 9, 1-9pm
Admission: Free

A fun family event happening along the water is the annual fireworks show at the Southwest Waterfront. It’s an all-day and part-evening affair with free live music and family-friendly festivities, including water-related activities, cultural experiences, and delicious foods. The grand finale will begin at 8:30pm when the National Cherry Blossom Festival Fireworks Show lights up the night sky.

Family Workshop: Paper Trails
Where: Sackler Gallery
When: April 10 & 16, 1-4pm
Admission: Free

In celebration of the National Cherry Blossom Festival, explore the importance of paper across Asian artmaking traditions. With educators from the Freer|Sackler and the National Museum of Women in the Arts, use traditional Japanese papers and bookmaking tools and techniques to create your own artist’s book. This program is designed for children ages 6–12 and adults to enjoy together.

National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade
Where: Constitution Avenue, 7th – 17th Streets NW
When: April 16, 10am – 12pm
Admission: Free

The pinnacle of cherry blossom festivities is easily the parade. Thousands of people line Constitution Avenue every year to watch the spectacle of lavish floats, giant helium balloons, marching bands, and a variety of performers travel down Constitution Avenue. Tickets for grandstand seats are available for $20, but you can stake out a spot along the curb for free. Plan to arrive early to get a good view — the crowds come out for this one, especially if it’s a pretty spring day.

Sakura Matsuri
Where: M Street & New Jersey Ave. SE
When: April 16, 10:30am – 6pm
Admission: $8/ages 13 and up in advance, free for 12 and under

Following the Cherry Blossom parade, many folks head right over to Sakura Matsuri, the Japanese Street Festival that is America’s largest one-day exhibition of Japanese culture. There will be live music and dance performances, all kinds of Asian and Western foods, martial arts demos, Japanese art, and more. All at a new location in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood. Be prepared for a crowd.

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


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


Light Displays

Holiday Markets


Holiday Shows


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.)

Where: National Harbor
When: November 21 – January 3
$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

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.

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!


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

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.

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.

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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