10 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. Christmas tree

Greg Pease / Getty Images 

In Washington D.C., the busy holiday season offers a variety of fun activities throughout December. As local communities get ready for their tree lighting ceremonies and historic homes open their doors to show off the holiday decor, there is a lot of festive fun to be had in D.C. this month. You'll also find holiday festivals, stage and musical performances, and other special events.

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Visit the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.

National Christmas Tre

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The National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace is lit daily at dusk and stays alight until 10 p.m. Each night in December, musical groups from the Washington, D.C. area entertain visitors on the Ellipse, in front of the White House. This is one of the most memorable ways to enjoy the holiday season in the nation's capital. Although tickets are required for the Lighting Ceremony on December 5, 2019, the rest of the events are open to the public.

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See Christmas Light Displays

House ablaze in lights as part of Christmas display in Dyker Heights, Brooklyn, New York, U.S.A.
Barry Winiker / Getty Images

Celebrate the holiday season with a drive or a stroll through one of the Washington, D.C. area's spectacle of lights at a local park or along the water in Maryland or Virginia. These Christmas light displays are a great way to share the magic and joy of a winter wonderland. Dates and start timesvary from year to year, so you'll need to do some digging in a few weeks before Christmas to find out when everything gets going.

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Visit Gaylord National Resort's ICE!

Gaylord's ICE!

 Jared / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

In December, you can step inside a winter wonderland made up entirely of 5,000 blocks of ice collectively weighing 1.5 million pounds, hand-sculpted by 40 international artisans, and kept at a chilling 9 degrees Fahrenheit. With a new theme each year, this interactive holiday attraction at Gaylord National Resort is one you won't want to miss. In 2019, the show's theme is based on Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas and will be on display until December 30.

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Take a Candlelight Tour

Mount Vernon Prepares For Christmas

Getty Images / Joe Raedle

On a candlelight tour, you can enjoy the festive holiday decor of historic homes in the Washington, D.C. area. Several house museums in Maryland and Northern Virginia offer candlelight tours, complete with seasonal music, and holiday treats with a historic and elegantly decorated backdrop. George Washington's 18th-century Mount Vernon Estate is one of the most spectacular to explore by candlelight.

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Join the Scottish Christmas Walk

Scottish Christmas Walk

cabania / Getty Images

Alexandria was founded by Scottish settlers, so its roots go all the way back to Scotland. It's possible to watch hundreds of Scottish clansmen with their bagpipes gather for the traditional favorite Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. Alexandria is a magical place during the holiday season with a wide array of events and one of the best shopping districts in the capital region. During the festive weekend, don't miss a Taste of Scotland, an event that lets attendees sample from a tasting menu of Scottish whiskey and beers. This year's parade gets going at 11 a.m. on December 7, 2019.

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See Holiday Shows

Ford's Theater

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Washington, D.C. celebrates the season with a wonderful lineup of holiday shows and live entertainment. You can take the whole family to see the Washington Ballet's Nutcracker and marvel over Clara’s Christmas fantasy when the wooden toy soldier comes alive and takes her on a magical tour of wonderful holiday adventures or explore the magic and wonder of the story of Scrooge and the progression to Christmas past in Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre.

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Attend a Holiday Concert

Christmas concert in D.C.

 KMazur / Contributor / Getty Images

Get in the spirit of the season as you enjoy a musical performance of Christmas classics, sing-alongs, Hanukkah songs, and much more. Live concerts are performed by a wide variety of musicians and include national talent, as well as local community groups and church choirs.

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See a Holiday Toy Train Exhibit

United States Botanic Garden

 Ron Cogswell / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Toy train displays are a family favorite for the holiday season. You can see model trains wind through a miniature winter wonderland with farms, a fishing village, churches, a ski jump, and more. Some favorites include the Garden Railway Exhibit at Brookside Gardens, and the Seasons Greetings Show at the United States Botanic Garden.

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Attend the National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting

National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony Held On DC's Ellipse

Getty Images / Win McNamee

A National Hanukkah Menorah is lit on the White House grounds at the Ellipse during the eight-day-long Jewish holiday commemorating the Jewish Maccabees' military victory over Syrian oppression more than 2,000 years ago. Starting December 22, 2019, at 4 p.m., festivities at the lighting ceremony will include musical performances, hot latkes, and doughnuts. Admission is free, but your tickets need to be reserved ahead of time.

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Ring in the New Year at a First Night Event

Alexandria fireworks show

Victor Wolansky / Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association

Ring in the New Year with the kids at this special event with live performances of music, dance, theater, fireworks, and more. Admissions is free, proving you don't have to spend a lot of money to find a good time on New Year's Eve in Washington, D.C. A variety of family-friendly, low-key, and low-cost events are held throughout the capital region.