Thanksgiving has come and gone. I’m officially giving permission to turn on the twinkle lights and crank up the carols. Christmas, I’m ready for you at last! If you’re looking for local festivities to put spark your holiday spirit, here are some suggestions.
The National Christmas Tree
It doesn’t get any more “DC” than this! The National Christmas Tree is a Washington destination for locals and tourists alike. Soaring more than 40’ tall, the main tree is the centerpiece of President’s Park on the White House Ellipse. 56 smaller trees decorated with handmade ornaments from the US states and territories surround the perimeter. Enjoy nightly holiday musical performances as you stroll through this wonderland. The lights on the National Christmas Tree are lit daily from 4:30 pm – 10 pm. Open to the public, free of charge.
Holidays go wild at the National Zoo! Take your family for an after-hours visit to admire ZooLights: more than 500,000 environmentally friendly LEDs, animated light installations, live music, and more. ZooLights is open in the evenings from Nov. 24 – Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 24, 25 & 31).
Penn Quarter Holiday Market
With its rotating roster of artisans, crafts, hot drinks, sweet treats, and live performances, DC’s downtown holiday marketplace is worth more than one visit this season. Located at 8th and F Streets NW, the market spans the entire stretch along the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery. The holiday market is open daily from Nov. 24 – Dec. 23, noon – 8 pm.
Miracle on Seventh Street
Renowned mixologist Derek Brown (Mockingbird Hill, Southern Efficiency, Eat the Rich) brings his imagination and talent to this pop-up bar on 7th Street in Shaw. The third annual Miracle on Seventh Street combines creative Christmas-themed cocktails ($14) with out-of-this-world funky holiday decorations. 1839–1843 7th St. NW. Runs Nov 24 – December 31. Hours are Monday – Thursday 5 pm – 12:30 am, Friday 5 pm – 1:30 am, Saturday 1 pm – 1:30 am, Sunday 1 pm – 12:30 am.
Think historic residential Georgetown is buttoned-up and fussy? Think again! DC’s Federal neighborhood comes alive each year with illuminated artwork. A collaboration of artists — ranging from the locally renowned to the internationally celebrated — decorate outdoor areas in ways that are joyously unexpected. Then, head to Washington Harbor for an evening of ice-skating beneath a canopy of lights. Dec 8 – Jan 7, 5 pm – 10 pm.
George Washington’s Mount Vernon by Candlelight
Fa-la-la-la-la — Founding Father style. Candlelight tours led by “in-character” guides, 18th-century dancing, and fireside caroling make this a must-see for any history buff. Nov 24 – 25, Dec 1 – 2, Dec 8 – 9, and Dec 17 from 5 pm – 8 pm.
Savvy Santas know that CityCenterDC is the best place to suss out upscale gifts. Better still, on December 10 you can marvel at fashion-themed ice sculptures, enjoy live music, and indulge in warm drinks while checking off your holiday list. The holiday decorations are memorable and you’ll catch a glimpse of one of DC’s very best Christmas trees!
US Botanic Gardens ‘Season's Greenings'
The US Botanic Garden will be decked out for the holidays with a model train exhibit that runs through 45 plant-based reproductions of iconic US roadside attractions. Inside the Conservatory you'll also find the garden's collection of DC's landmarks, including a new model of the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture and the annual showcase of poinsettias. Nov. 23 – Jan. 1,10 am – 5 pm. Open until 8 pm Tuesdays and Thursdays in December with holiday concerts.
The National Menorah
The lighting ceremony of the National Menorah takes place on December 12 at 3:30 pm on the White House Ellipse. Bring the family for live music, latkes, and hot donuts. The event is free but tickets are required. The menorah is open for free visits throughout Chanukah.
German Market at Dupont Circle
The Heurich House Museum will stage a traditional Christkindlmarkt on December 1, 4 – 9 pm, and December 2 and 3, 11 am – 5 pm. Your $10 admission ($2 for children) includes entry to the market featuring arts and crafts from more than 40 vendors as well as entry to the historic mansion – decorated in true German Christmas splendor.
Swedish Christmas Bazaar
A DC holiday tradition, the House of Sweden’s marketplace will be held on December 2, 11 am – 5pm. Stock up on Scandinavian crystal glassware, artworks, food, plus more. Grab a snack in the Swedish café and don’t miss the magnificent St. Lucia procession and caroling.
Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception
The largest Roman Catholic church in North America is bedecked with more than 50 Christmas trees, over 65,000 lights, 500-plus poinsettias, and two gorgeous nativity scenes. Open daily, 7 am – 6 pm.
Russian Winter Festival
Hillwood Estate Museum and Gardens celebrates the holidays in grand 19th-century Russian splendor. On hand to greet you are Grandfather Frost (the Russian Santa Claus) and his granddaughter, the Snow Maiden. Make your own traditional Russian headwear and explore the historic estate to the strains of live music. Admission is $18 for adults (children free). Dec. 9 – 10, 10 am – 5 pm.
Georgetown’s family-friendly historic house and museum hosts a variety of holiday teas, candlelight tours, and wreath workshops. Bring the kids to Deck the Halls: A Family at Christmas (Dec. 2), where they can write a letter to Santa, sing with carolers, make Christmas crafts, and nibble on holiday cookies. Or, check out Gingerbreadpalooza! On December 17, when kids can craft their own gingerbread houses.