Best 10 Ways to Celebrate the Holidays in Washington DC

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    Top Washington, DC Holiday Activities

    Winter Holidays in Washington DC
    ••• Winter Holidays in Washington DC. Photo © NPS/Bull Run Lights/National Cathedral/National Hannukkah Menorah/Visit Alexandria

    The holiday season is very busy in Washington, DC and offers an amazing variety of fun activities throughout the month of December. Many communities around the region host tree lighting ceremonies, tours of decorated historic houses, holiday festivals, live musical performances and special events. Try something new this year and enjoy the spirit of the season with family and friends. Following is a guide to the best holiday events in the capital region.



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    Visit the National Christmas Tree in Washington DC

    National Christmas Tree
    ••• Anthony Quintano/Flickr/CC BY 2.0

    The National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace is illuminated daily at dusk until 10 p.m. Each night in December, musical groups from the Washington, DC 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, the nightly events following are open to the general public. Read more about the National Christmas Tree.

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    See Christmas Light Displays

    ••• ZooLights. © FONZ/National Zoo

    Celebrate the holiday season with a drive or a stroll through one of the Washington, DC area's spectacle of lights at a local park or along the water in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia. These Christmas light displays are beautiful and a great way to share the magic and joy of a winter wonderland. For all of the dates and locations around the region, see a guide to the Washington DC Area Christmas Light Displays.

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    Visit Gaylord National Resort's ICE!

    ICE Gaylord National Resort
    ••• © Gaylord National Resort. ICE Gaylord National Resor

    Step inside a winter wonderland created entirely of 5,000 BLOCKS of ice weighing 1.5 MILLION POUNDS! hand-sculpted by 40 international artisans and kept at a chilling nine degrees Fahrenheit. With a new theme each year, this is an interactive holiday attraction you won't want to miss. Read more about ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort.

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    Take a Candlelight Tour

    Mount Vernon by Candlelight
    ••• Mount Vernon by Candlelight. Photo © Mount Vernon Ladies Association

    Take a candlelight tour and enjoy the festive holiday décor of historic homes in the Washington, DC area. Several house museums in Maryland and Northern Virginia offer candlelight tours, complete with seasonal music and holiday treats. See the schedule of Candlelight Tours in the Washington DC Area.

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    Scottish Walk Weekend and the Boat Parade in Old Town Alexandria

    ••• Scottish Walk. Photo © R. Kennedy/ACVA

    Watch hundreds of Scottish clansmen with their bagpipes gather for the traditional favorite Scottish Walk Parade. Later that evening, see dozens of festively decorated pleasure boats light up the sky along the Potomac River. 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. See the schedule of holiday events in Old Town Alexandria.

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    See Holiday Shows

    ••• Ballet West Nutcracker - Kennedy Center. Photo © Luke-Isley

    Washington DC celebrates the season with a wonderful lineup of holiday shows and live entertainment.Take the whole family see the Nutcracker - to 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. See the schedule of Holiday Shows in the Washington DC Area.

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    Attend a Holiday Concert

    ••• © Wolf Trap

    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 ranging from national to local talent to community groups to church choirs. See the schedule of concerts in Washington DC, Maryland and Northern Virginia.

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    See a Holiday Toy Train Exhibit

    Union Station Train Display
    ••• Union Station Train Display. © Kristoffer Ronneberg/Royal Norwegian Embassy

    Toy train displays are a family favorite for the holiday season. See model trains winds through a miniature winter wonderland with farms, a fishing village, churches, a ski jump and more. See a guide to Holiday Train Exhibits in the Washington DC Area.

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    Attend the National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting

    National Hanukkah Menorah
    ••• National Hanukkah Menorah. © American Friends of Lubavitch

    A National Hanukkah Menorah is lit on the White House grounds, at the Ellipse during the eight day Jewish holiday commemorating the Jewish Maccabees' military victory over Syrian oppression more than 2,000 years ago. Festivities at the lighting ceremony include musical performances and hot latkes and donuts. Read more about the National Hanukkah Menorah.

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    Ring in the New Year at a First Night Event

    First Night Annapolis
    ••• © First Night Annapolis

    Ring in the New Year with the kids at a special event with live performances of music, dance, theater, fireworks and more. You don't have to spend a lot of money to enjoy a night of celebration. A variety of family-friendly, low-key and low-cost events are held throughout the capital region. See the schedule of Family-Friendly New Year's Eve Events in the Washington DC Area

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