Your Ultimate Guide To DC's Can't-miss Holiday Activities

David Hatef

There is a notable chill in the air and there could be a forecast for snow any minute, so it must mean one thing: the holidays are upon us! Washington, DC magically transforms into something resembling more like the North Pole with stunning light displays, delicious goodies, gourmet hot chocolate, merry holiday markets and so much more. Join in the fun with these can’t-miss ways to celebrate the holidays in the city.

1. Visit the National Christmas Tree

This spectacular conifer resides on the White House Ellipse at President’s Park and is accompanied by surrounding trees decorated with handmade ornaments. The tree lighting ceremony takes place on December 9 this year and is lit daily from 4:30pm- 10pm every day. Guests can visit the tree from 10am to 10pm and enjoy nightly musical performances throughout the holiday season. It’s a must see for residents and tourists alike!

2. Re-Imagine the Season of Lights at Georgetown GLOW

There are holiday lights and then there is GLOW. This unbelievable light exhibit is a show like no other! It can be experienced from Dec 6 to January 5, 2020 with displays from 5pm- 10pm. Guests get to explore Georgetown’s historic streets in a different light with curated illuminated art installations. From sparkling reindeer to waves of stars and glowing geometric patterns, the compositions embrace the season with a modern art twist.

3. Celebrate like it’s 1787

From November 29th to December 31st, take a walk through George Washington’s iconic mansion at the Founding Father’s Mount Vernon estate. Once there, you can enjoy a character-guided tour, historic exhibits, and fireside caroling. Ask about purchasing tickets to Mount Vernon by candlelight to experience a centuries old holiday tradition. Oh, and don’t forget your dancing shoes and a few of your best very old school moves to participate in the 18th century dancing.

4. Shop in the Holiday Spirit under Palmer Ally

The signature string of lights in Palmer Ally is a fun and cheery way to get all your holiday shopping done. CityCenterDC has everything for the holidays and is your one-stop-shop for everyone on your list. Nearby restaurants have holiday themed entrees and plenty of options to fuel your shopping sprees. Discover live music, fashion-themed ice sculptures and more as you welcome the holidays.

5. Stroll through the U.S. Botanic Gardens

Take in the season’s greetings the floral way with America’s Gardens. From November 28 to January 5, 2020, guests can explore the botanic gardens in one spectacular holiday show. You’ll see plant-based recreations of sculptures, fountains, and conservatories filling the model train room. Iconic scenes include the Franklin Park Conservatory, Brooklyn Botanic Garden, and even NASA space nodes and rockets! The Conservatory is filled with thousands of flowers for the exhibit and a decorated tree complete with a model train. Celebrate the holidays and America’s diverse public gardens in this extraordinary exhibit!

6. Experience the Lighting of the National Menorah

This year the grand lighting of the National Menorah will be held on December 22. Fun for the whole family, the event offers free dreidels and menorah kits, hot lakes and donuts, and a special performance by the U.S. Marine Band. Although tickets are free, they are required to be in attendance.

7. Take in the District’s Holiday Boat Parade

The Potomac River is transformed into a dazzling display of decorated boats floating down the river from the waterfront in Alexandria, VA to The Wharf on December 7. Guests can enjoy festivities on both sides of the river and a parade beforehand as they sip on hot cocoa and eat s’mores around the fire pit. In addition to beautiful vessels, there is music, carolers, and fireworks to cap it all off at night’s end.

​​​​​​​What are your favorite holiday festivities in DC? Let us know in the comments!


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