As America’s capital, Washington, DC is a place everyone should visit at least once in their lifetime. It has several neoclassical monuments and buildings, the most notable being the Capitol, the White House and the Supreme Court building.
As a major tourist hub, you can bet that Washington does Christmas right. Here are some things you can see and do during a holiday visit.
The National Christmas Tree
The National Christmas Tree is one of the city’s major holiday attractions. The conifer is located in President’s Park on the White House Ellipse and it’s surrounded by trees decorated with ornaments that represent 56 U.S states and territories. There are live performances throughout the holiday season and it’s free to visit.
The National Christmas Tree lighting kicks it all off and occurs in early December.
Zoo Lights at the Smithsonian National Zoo
The Smithsonian Zoo is a great place to visit at Christmastime. During the holiday season, it is lit up with over half a million LED lights and animal shaped displays that transform the walkways and buildings.
In addition to the lights, the zoo has plenty of other holiday fun in store. This includes a Gingerbread Village, a laser light show, a zoo choo choo, live music and dance, a Reindeer Games Fun Zone and a holiday market.
Treats like gingerbread, kettle corn, cookies, candy canes and hot chocolate are available for the kids while adults can sip mulled wine, coffee and eggnog.
Downtown Holiday Market
If you feel like doing a little holiday shopping, the downtown market is the place to be. It’s located on F Street between 7th and 9th St. right in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. It’s a great place to buy unique items and enjoy coffee and mini doughnuts while browsing. Live music is also featured.
Visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
Not to be outdone by the White House, the U.S. Capitol also has its own Christmas tree. Each year it is brought in from a different state and people can track its journey to Washington online. Once delivered, it is decorated and put on display at the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol where anyone can take in its magnificent beauty.
Enjoy Winter Glow at Mount Vernon
George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate also gets decked out for the holiday season. The upper garden and greenhouse sports blue and lavender lights while patterned lights run though Bowling Green. Lanterns light the path through the Historic area.
While viewing, guests can also enjoy holiday music and reenactments from soldiers at a recreated century winter encampment. Aladdin the Camel will be meeting with children. Artisan goods and holiday food will be on sale.
Tickets must be purchased for admission.
The Holiday Market at THE REACH at Kennedy Center
This performing arts center transforms into a holiday market at Christmastime. There are plenty of crafts and artisan goods available for sale as well as food items like snacks, grilled food, beer, wine, cider and hot chocolate. The event is family friendly and free to enter.
Enjoy a Holiday Movie at the Wharf
Every year, Transit Pier at the Wharf erects a 20’ LED screen specifically meant for the viewing of holiday movies. Groups of up to four can gather around their own firepits to watch. Food and drinks will be provided by Cantina Bambina. Guests also get stockings filled with offers and treats from local vendors.
Home Alone, Elf, A Christmas Story, The Polar Express and National Lampoon’s Vacation are among the classic favorites you can catch.
Afternoon Tea at the Willard
Every afternoon during holiday season, the Willard InterContinental Washington, one of DC’s most historic hotels, offers a traditional afternoon tea. Th events typically take place in Peacock Alley but as Christmas gets closer, the event is moved into the more spacious Crystal Ballroom.
The room is dressed up with seasonal décor and guests are served items like sandwiches, pastries and festive teas. Vegetarian, vegan and children’s’ menus are available. Seating must be reserved in advance.
There are also to-go and private group options.
Walk Through DC’s Holiday Lights
Just walking through DC can be a treat during the holiday season. Neighborhoods like Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street and Woodley Park light up their main street making for a festive hike. There is even a competition that allows you to vote for the best corridor.
While venturing through these neighborhoods, be sure to stop in at the local shops and vendors who are offering holiday specials and promotions throughout the season.
Catch the Lighting of the National Menorah
Every year, Hanukkah kicks off with the ceremony of lighting the world’s largest menorah which is located on the White House Ellipse. Guests are served latkes and doughnuts and given their own menorah kits and dreidels. The United States Navy Band provides musical accompaniment.
Another light of the menorah is lit every night. Attendance to the lightings is free but tickets must be reserved in advance.
Light Yards is another event that is becoming an annual Washington tradition. Every year, Yard Park presents a festive light installation at its Sundeck. The lights are created by local designers and the display features dancing lights synchronized to festive music. Nearby restaurants offer specials to those who come through to check out this free event.
The Festival of Lights
The Festival of Lights takes place at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints’ Washington D.C. Temple. During the holiday season, the grounds and indoor areas are lit up by more than 400,000 lights and life size nativity scenes. There is often a choir on hand to perform unique arrangements of holiday and religious favorites.
D.C. is a city with plenty to do and see. It is especially lovely during the holiday season. Which of these activities will you be adding to your to-do list when you come to visit?