Christmas Model Train Displays Near Washington, D.C.

One favorite family activity during the holiday season is seeing toy and model train displays. In 2019, visitors and locals will find many Christmas model train exhibits in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, where they can enjoy watching a variety of locomotives pull cars through miniature villages with seasonal decor, or riding a streetcar with Santa Claus. Each of these destinations offers a unique and special way to celebrate the magic of the season. 

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National Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace

National Mall Christmas tree with visitors illuminated with toy trains


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You'll find impressive Christmas trees and train displays located at the Ellipse grassy area near the White House, open each evening during the holiday season from December 9, 2019, through January 1, 2020. While visiting the National Christmas Tree, the most treasured Christmas tree in Washington, D.C., as well as the nearby decorated smaller trees known as the Pathway of Peace, be sure to view the model trains on the grounds.

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Season's Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Visitors to the United States Botanic Garden tour the East Gallery holiday model train railway display

 Chip Somodevilla / Staff/Getty Images

From November 28, 2019, to January 5, 2020, you can enjoy the annual holiday show, Season's Greenings, at the U.S. Botanic Garden adjacent to the U.S. Capitol. The model train room for this show will feature recreations of fountains, conservatories, and sculptures such as Brooklyn Botanic Garden's red Japanese torii gate. Check out The Conservatory's numerous flowers, and the West Gallery's holiday tree with its model train.

Early December weekdays are the best time to explore the show. 

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ZooLights at the National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoological Park Holds 'Zoolights' Holiday Display

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While visiting Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute in Washington, D.C., stop at ZooLights, a free event in which over 500,000 LED lights brighten up the zoo, animal lanterns glow, and live music plays. Check out the festive winter scene in the Visitor Center featuring a model train display, or buy a ticket to ride on The Zoo Choo-Choo around Kids' Farm and through the sparkling light displays.

ZooLights runs November 29, 2019, to January 1, 2020, with the exclusion of December 24, 25, and 31, 2019. 

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Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens

The Garden of Lights event at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton boasts over 1 million colorful lights shaped into the forms of animals, flowers, and other natural elements. Part of the dazzling event includes The Washington, Virginia & Maryland Garden Railway Society setting up a seasonal display featuring miniature trains and trollies. Inside the Conservatory, you'll see G-Scale model trains journeying through a seasonal landscape. Have some hot cocoa in the Visitor Center and enjoy the nightly musical performances.

The Garden of Lights is open from November 22 through December 31, 2019, except for November 25-28 and December 24-25. Bring warm clothes and aim for a weekday to avoid the crowds.

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National Capital Trolley Museum's Holly TrolleyFest

The National Capital Trolley Museum in Colesville, Maryland, offers a favorite seasonal event, the Holly TrolleyFest: Kids and adults can ride streetcars with Santa. The whole family can also enjoy the "Garden Railway," in which the auditorium is decorated and features train displays, as well as the museum shop filled with books and videos about transportation history.

The 2019 festivities take place December 7,8, 14, 15, 21, and 22. The fun continues December 28 and 29, but Santa won't be around.

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Fairfax Station Railroad Museum's Holiday Train Show

The Fairfax Station Railroad Museum's 30th Annual Holiday Train Show, the museum's largest model train show of the year, will be held rain or shine on December 7-8, 2019, with Sunday being the shorter day. Displays with a diversity of model trains will fill the station and grounds in Virginia.

Don't miss the gift shop if you'd like to buy some holiday gifts such as caboose clothing, train whistles, books, toys, postcards, and more. Other fun events for the family take place throughout the holiday season as well.