Get in the holiday spirit with holiday markets, Christmas light displays and seasonal events in the nation’s capital.
Cross visiting the National Christmas Tree off your bucket list
The National Christmas Tree is DC’s claim to fame during the holidays, and for good reason. The gorgeous conifer, which is free to visit, lives in President’s Park on the White House Ellipse, where it's surrounded by trees decorated with handmade ornaments from 56 U.S. states and territories and is accompanied by nightly musical performances throughout the holiday season. This year's lighting ceremony will take place on Nov. 30.
Check out the Downtown Holiday Market
This free-to-frequent downtown bazaar is centrally located in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, the beloved market stretches across two blocks of F Street between 7th and 9th streets. Scope out eclectic wares from dozens of pop-up tents with seasonally flavored music performed live in the background. Locally roasted coffee and crafted-before-your-eyes mini-doughnuts inspire a cold-weather appetite, creating a holiday atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else in DC. The market will be open Nov. 17–Dec. 23, and will be closed Nov. 23 and Dec. 4.
Get some Season's Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden
The free Season's Greenings celebration at the U.S. Botanic Garden is a beloved annual tradition in the nation's capital. The 2023 edition features five G-gauge model trains circulating through oversized animal pollinators made from plant parts. Indoors, see thousands of poinsettias as well as 22 plant-based landmarks of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the National Gallery of Art's East Building. Throughout the Terrace Gardens and Bartholdi Gardens, trees and shrubs feature string lights, festive evergreens and six large plant-based sculptures of pollinators. The display will be open from Nov. 23 through Jan. 1, 2024 (closed on Dec. 25).
Experience the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
Embrace the neighborhoods with DC Holiday Lights
Neighborhoods throughout the nation’s capital are adorning their “main streets” with colorful lights between Nov. 17, 2023, and Jan. 7, 2024. Additionally, vendors in each neighborhood are offering holiday specials and promotions throughout the month to encourage shopping locally. You can enjoy this holiday cheer in Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Logan Circle, Petworth, U Street and Woodley Park, among other locales. Votes can be cast for the best decorated corridor!
Be dazzled by the lighting of the National Menorah
Chanukah kicks off with this Dec. 7 lighting ceremony of the world’s largest menorah on the White House Ellipse, which greets all with latkes, doughnuts, menorah kits and dreidels. Music from the United States Navy Band will add a soundtrack to the scene. As is the custom, a new candle is illuminated on each of the eight days of Chanukah.
Groove to the rhythms of Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show
Peruse the free Dupont Circle Holiday Pop-Up
Artists and makers get situated in front of retail shops all over the Dupont Circle neighborhood for this annual event (Dec. 2) hosted by Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets. Dozens of vendors will be on-hand to sell paintings, scarves, chocolates, jewelry, pottery and additional holiday-themed items. Pop-up shops feature imported food, fine art, shoes and more.
Join the thousands of visitors who make ZooLights, powered by Pepco, a part of their annual holiday tradition. The free event, which runs from Nov. 24 through Dec. 30, includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. Environmentally friendly LED lights and dozens of glowing animal lanterns transform Smithsonian's National Zoo into a winter wonderland. Note that timed passes are required.
Marvel at Enchant at Nationals Park
Enchant Christmas, which features a beloved light maze, will make its home in DC at the gorgeous Nationals Park from Nov. 24 to Dec. 31, 2023. There will also be ice skating trails, a holiday village with products from local businesses and a kids’ play place. Expect plenty of Instagram-friendly settings and holiday spirit at this one-of-a-kind installation.
Gaze at neighborhood light installations during Georgetown GLOW
Stroll through DC’s most historic neighborhood to see jaw-dropping illuminated artworks. Georgetown GLOW, which runs from Dec. 1 through Jan. 7, 2024, is always a holiday hit in the District. Participants range from locally renowned to internationally celebrated, while their works gorgeously adorn outdoor spaces throughout Georgetown. Go deeper with a weekend walking tour of the installations with DC Design Tours.
Grab some gifts at Heurich House Museum's annual market
Heurich House Museum's famed Castle Garden hosts the Christkindlmarkt throughout the first full weekend of December every year (dates for 2023: Dec. 1-3). Tickets grant you access to the arts and crafts-laden market featuring goods from dozens of vendors and the historic mansion, which will be decorated to the nines. This year, the markt will be folded into Maker Month, a new month-long celebration of artisans.
Take in the District Holiday Boat Parade
Each year, dozens of dazzling boats traverse the Potomac River from the waterfront in Alexandria, Va. to the The Wharf. You can observe the parade on Dec. 2 free of charge, and there are holiday festivities to enjoy beforehand, including winter drink sampling, chances to meet Santa, ornament decorating and more. Prizes will be awarded to the most beautiful vessels, which begin their journey at 6 p.m., and fireworks will cap off the parade at 8 p.m.
Check out CityCenterDC's Holiday Tree
CityCenterDC lights its jaw-dropping 75-foot Christmas tree during a cheerful (and free) event on Nov. 25. The ceremony, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, features a countdown, a performance by a seven-piece dance band, balloon artists, face painters and plenty of other holiday-themed activities. You can enjoy the tree throughout the holiday season, as well as gorgeous lights along Palmer Alley. Stay in the festive mood at Conrad Washington, DC, which features incredible views of the tree, its own rooftop, drink specials and festive decorations.
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