Christmas at National Harbor

Christmas Tree at National Harbor

Rachel Cooper / TripSavvy

National Harbor, the 300-acre waterfront development near Washington, D.C., hosts a merry season of holiday events along the Potomac River in Maryland, including a Christmas tree lighting, live entertainment, movies, photos with Santa, and fireworks. Also, don't miss the spectacular holiday decorations and special events at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. The resort in National Harbor features décor including more than 2 million lights, indoor snowfall, and a Christmas Village.

Note several events have been altered/canceled for 2020, so see below and event websites for details.

Getting to National Harbor

Home to an eclectic mix of shops, National Harbor is a great holiday shopping destination. A wide range of restaurants offers visitors festive dining with waterfront views. The Tanger Outlets shopping mall and MGM National Harbor hotel and casino are nearby, making this area one of the prime destinations to explore in the capital region.

Located just minutes from Washington, D.C., National Harbor is accessible from Interstate-295 and Interstate-495 by car, Metrobus, or water taxi, but there is no direct access by Metrorail.

Schedule of Events at National Harbor

There are plenty of fun ways to spend the holidays at National Harbor and nearby.

  • Nightly Holiday Tree Light Show: The fireworks were canceled for 2020 and replaced with dazzling light shows. Every half hour from sundown to 9 p.m. between November 14, 2020, and January 3, 2021, enjoy the lighting of the 56-foot (17-meter) tree. You can also see 2 million lights in this National Harbor Waterfront District event.
  • MGM National Harbor Conservatory: From November 21, 2020, through January 31, 2021, enjoy food, drinks, and treats, along with entertainment and wonderful photo opportunities.
  • Holiday Movies: Every Saturday at 3:30 p.m. throughout the holiday season, Christmas movies are presented by Chase at National Plaza. Don your warmest clothing and head to the Potomac River. Free popcorn will be handed out and the first 100 guests will receive a Chase blanket.
  • Winter Festival of Lights in Prince George’s County: If you don't mind heading about 25 minutes from National Harbor, you can see more than 2.5 million lights at this drive-through event from 5 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. starting November 27, 2020, and going through January 31, 2021. Held at Watkins Regional Park in Kettering, the festivities include a huge 54-foot (16-meter) LED musical tree.
  • Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center: The resort temporarily closed and Christmas events were canceled for 2020. Visit with the whole family throughout the holiday season. Entertainment at the resort includes the must-see show ICE!, with huge sculptures created entirely of ice, and plenty of Christmas stories. There is also ice tubing, ice skating, gingerbread decorating, joyous train rides through Christmas Village, and more.
  • Ride The Capital Wheel with Santa: This event was canceled for 2020. Every Saturday from late November to late December, you and the kids can take a spin with St. Nick on The Capital Wheel. As you rise 180 feet (55 meters) above the Potomac, you'll be met with spectacular views of Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia.
  • Frozen Carousel Christmas: This event was canceled for 2020. On Saturdays from late November through late December, go to the Carousel for an ice-themed party under the pavilion. Feel free to leave your selfie stick at home; one will be available for your family to get that perfect snap with the Ice Princess.
  • Live Music & Santa, Oh MY!: This event was canceled for 2020. Typically held in December at Bobby McKey's Dueling Piano Bar, this show provides a place where you and your kids can rock out to live music. Also, there's an all-you-can-eat buffet and bar for non-designated drivers and a chance to take photos with Santa.
  • Dickens Caroling Quartet: This event was canceled in 2020. Usually held in late December, this gathering features a group singing carols as they make their way through the Waterfront District. If you want to be sure to catch the singers, you can find them on the Plaza stage towards the end of their performance.
  • Toys for Tots: This event was canceled in 2020. Toys for Tots usually happens in early December in National Plaza. Donations are accepted, and each family dropping off a new toy will be given one free Capital Wheel ticket.
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