15 Ways to Enjoy the Holidays in the Washington, D.C. Area
The beautiful Washington, D.C. is brimming with holiday activities for everyone.
The beautiful and remarkable Washington, D.C. is a historic place brimming with holiday activities for everyone. From light shows in the city's parks and neighborhoods to shopping and visiting with Santa in Reston Town Center, kids and adults alike will find ways to enjoy the holidays in the Nation's Capital and its surrounding areas. Take a look at some of these suggestions for ways to celebrate this joyous season in Washington, D.C.
Watch the Boat Parade Along the Potomac River
A lovely stream of Christmas-light-clad boats makes its way down the Potomac River.
Light displays are a classic holiday tradition for many people. When they're free, it's even better. The yearly holiday boat parade is a free event that runs along the Potomac River. Featuring Christmas lights and decoration-donning boats, the parade expresses the cheer of the holidays in a uniquely local way. Offering ornately decorated vessels sparkle and delight viewers with joyous decorations and twinkling lights, the lineup of boats runs between Alexandria's waterfront and Washington's Channel at Water Street. The event takes place in an ideal location for sightseeing and dining, so it should be easy to find places to enjoy a hot chocolate or splash of eggnog before or after the parade.
See Scottish Walk Weekend in Old Town Alexandria
Donning traditional apparel, bagpipe-playing paraders participate in Scottish Walk Weekend in Old Town Alexandria, Virginia.
Old Town Alexandria not only has the privilege of welcoming the boat parade as it streams by along the Potomac; the town also invites visitors to celebrate the season at its traditional Scottish Walk Weekend. Ringing in the holidays by lining the streets with Scottish clansmen and their bagpipes, the Old Town boasts beautiful sights and historic sounds in this seasonal event. The old streets of Alexandria are carefully and cheerily adorned with holiday trimmings, featuring entertainers on street corners and beautiful shop windows laced with Christmas decorations. The walking parade starts on King Street and travels East before its finale at Mount Vernon Avenue.
Visit Zoo Lights at the National Zoo
The Smithsonian's Zoo Lights invites visitors to the National Zoo for sparkling holiday fun.
Zoo Lights is a yearly event hosted by the National Zoo offering attractions such as lovely light shows, musical performances, and a model train display. The zoo boasts free admission every day, and so does this holiday event! Operating from the beginning of the season all the way until January 2nd (with the exception of Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and New Year's Eve), Zoo Lights is free to the public and features nocturnal animal displays and rides on the "Zoo Choo-Choo," a trackless train that costs only $3 per ride. Offering a great family outing opportunity with lots of fun for kids, Zoo Lights is a wonderful addition to any roster of holiday traditions.
Enjoy the Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple
The Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple in Washington, D.C.
The Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple in Washington, D.C., is another wonderful holiday event that provides live indoor performances, internationally-themed Christmas trees, and spectacular nativities from all over the world. Free to the public, the festival boasts 650,000 lights that shine brightly throughout the temple grounds along with a life-sized nativity scene. The festival is an on-going nightly event that brings cheer throughout the entire month of December and up to January 3rd.
Visit ICE at Gaylord National Resort
The ice sculptures at Gaylord National Resort are crafted by a handful internationally-renowned artisans.
A wonderland made entirely of ice, the Gaylord National Resort's ICE display is made of 5,000 blocks of ice sculpted by artisans and weighing in at a total of two million pounds. Gaylord National Resort is a hotel located on the Potomac River in National Harbor. Kept at nine degrees Fahrenheit, the ice sculptures are meticulously carved by forty skilled artisans from Harbin, China, a city well-known for its yearly Snow and Ice Festival. Gaylord Resort's unique ice attraction hosts different themes every holiday season, and the 2015 theme is "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town," which features a hot chocolate stand, a sculpture of Santa's sleigh, and a carousel ride. The attraction allows visitors to climb on and interact with the displays, which are colored to match the colors they would be in real life.The ice weighs a total of two million pounds. Gaylord Resort also boasts a sixty-foot, 7000-pound suspended-in-air Tree of Light that is free for visitors to view.
Go on Candlelight Tours of Historic Homes
Tudor Place offers candlelight tours every holiday season.
To make the area's history available to the public, Candlelight tours open historic homes to offer a view into the past accompanied by holiday music and storytelling. Decorated for the holidays, historic homes in Maryland and Northern Virginia provide a slice of Christmases past to add to your Christmas present. The Frederick Candlelight House Tour, located in downtown Frederick, Maryland, opens the doors of multiple historic homes built between 1750 and 1950. The Tudor Place Candlelight Tour on 31st Street The Historic Alexandria Candlelight Tours gives access to five decorated sites in Old Town Alexandria.
Make a Visit to Mount Vernon
George Washington's estate at Mount Vernon is a lovely place to visit during the holidays.
The Mount Vernon Candlelight Tour gives visitors an education on George Washington's family Christmas traditions while giving them the opportunity to meet historic characters and tour the Mount Vernon Estate. Christmas at Mount Vernon is another event hosted in honor of George Washington and his legacy. The event is available all the way through the first week of January. Featuring a gingerbread version of the estate and an 18th-century dance, the event also offers chocolate-making demonstrations and gives guests the opportunity to make a chocolate toast to the grand beginnings of a lovely New Year.
Tour the Historic Houses of Worship
Historic churches in Frederick, Maryland invite visitors to enjoy their history and beauty during the holiday season.
Among other historic holiday events in the area, the Historic Houses of Worship in Frederick, Maryland invite visitors to enjoy programs, nativity scenes, and choir performances in more than a dozen historic churches.
Enjoy Alexandria's Holiday Market
Lovely items are to be found at Alexandria's Holiday Market in Carlyle Square.
Alexandria's Holiday Market, located in John Carlyle Square, is a unique Christmas market offering entertainment, wine, and beer. The market even features such novelties as traditional European food and dessert items.
See a Holiday Show in Washington D.C.
The Washington Ballet puts on the Nutcracker at Warner Theatre.
For some, the holidays aren't the holidays without seasonal shows such as the Nutcracker and A Christmas Carol. The Washington National Opera performs Hansel and Gretel this year for another holiday viewing option.
Visit the Living Christmas Tree
Made up of a choir of eighty people, The Living Christmas Tree is a unique attraction put on by Riverdale Baptist Church.
Riverdale Baptist Church in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, hosts a marvelous performance called The Living Christmas Tree. Featuring a thirty-foot steel Christmas tree that holds a choir of eighty people, this is a unique holiday event that brings a new flavor to the holidays.
Attend the National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting
The National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting is held on the White House grounds every holiday season.
Hosted on the White House grounds, the National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting is a memorial to the Jewish victory over Syrian oppression over 2,000 years ago. Starting in the first week of December, the menorah is lit each night of Hanukkah on the Ellipse and is accompanied by musical entertainment, latkes, and vibrant celebration of our nation's religious freedom.
See the National Christmas Tree Lighting
The National Christmas Tree Lighting takes place on the Ellipse in front of the White House every year.
Also on the Ellipse in front of the White House, the National Christmas Tree is lit early in the season during the popular Lighting Ceremony, which requires tickets to attend. Nightly events are featured throughout the month until just before Christmas. Since 1923, the National Tree has brought Christmas cheer to the nation along with the Pathway of Peace, which includes fifty-six decorated trees that represent all fifty states, plus five territories and the District of Columbia. The ceremony is also broadcast on live TV, featuring performances by famous entertainers. The tree is available for viewing by the public with no need for tickets after the lighting.
Visit the Vietnam Memorial Christmas Tree
Donning letters and ornaments made for the troops by children across the nation, this Christmas tree is a monument to veterans and active soldiers alike.
Each year during Christmas week, volunteers put up a tree at The Vietnam Memorial Wall. The tree is decorated with ornaments and letters made by kids across the nation to say thank you to the veterans.
Celebrate at Reston Town Center
Ballerinas light up the streets in the parade at Reston Town Center in Washington, D.C.
Reston Town Center abounds with holiday activities that include the Annual Holiday Parade. During this event, giant balloons, floats, and characters fill the street with holiday magic. American flags and jingle bells are handed out to guests before the start of the parade. With a different theme every year, the parade is a holiday must. The Gingerbread Man Mile is a fun run offered to children only, which benefits needy kids. Reston Center also provides visits with Santa, horse-drawn carriage rides, and an ice skating pavilion.
Watch White Christmas at the Kennedy Center
This classic film comes to life on the stage at the Kennedy Center.
White Christmas, a classic holiday film, comes to the stage at the Kennedy Center. Following the original story and plot line, the performance is a brand new arrangement of classic Irving Berlin songs featuring lovely harmonies. This popular Christmas story has become a holiday tradition that now comes to life in a whole new way.
The holiday season brings unique D. C. experiences that include festive seasonal gatherings and events, light displays, and trips into the past through historic tours. Whether you're visiting the capital for a short time or you've lived there for many years, there's always a new holiday experience to be had for all.
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