Christmas tree lighting ceremonies are a great way to kick off the holiday season with family and friends. All of the following events are free to attend and, apart from the tree lighting at the White House, open to all to attend. If you live in the Washington D.C. area, check out one of these winter events to get in the holiday spirit.
In Washington, D.C.
- CityCenterDC's Holiday Tree Lighting
The Sixth Annual CityCenterDC Tree Lighting will take place on Saturday, November 30, 2019, at 6 p.m. (in case of rain, it will be postponed one day to December 1). This living community is located at 10th Street NW and H Street NW, right in the heart of the city. Families will be entertained with balloon artists, face painters, and a holiday performance by the Washington Chorus.
- Union Station Holiday Extravaganza
The tree that is illuminated in this ceremony is a gift from the Royal Norwegian Embassy, as a yearly reminder of the alliance between the U.S. and Norway. The 23rd Holiday Extravaganza will take place on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, at 6 p.m. in the main hall of Union Station. Expect to see holiday performances from local choirs and an appearance by the Norwegian Ambassador to the United States.
- The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is an annual tradition that began with President Coolidge over 90 years ago. It will be held on Thursday, December 5, 2019, at the White House Ellipse, but tickets are required to attend and only given out through a lottery. If you miss out on getting tickets, you can still see the National Tree and the accompanying Pathway of Peace seven days a week from December 9, 2019, until January 1, 2020.
- Fairmont Washington, D.C. Georgetown Lighting
The Fairmont Hotel located in the West End will host its annual tree lighting ceremony on Tuesday, December 3, 2019, beginning at 5:30 p.m. This free event is open to the public, and families can take a picture with Santa, listen to a live performance by the Georgetown Visitation Madrigals, and sip on complimentary hot chocolate. The event also supports Horton's Kids, a local youth development non-profit, and participants are encouraged to bring a toy donation.
- Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
Not to be confused with the National Christmas Tree Lighting at the White House, this event takes place at the U.S. Capitol building and is presided over by the speaker of the house. The 2019 date has yet to be announced, but the tree has already been chosen from Carson National Forest in New Mexico.
- National Harbor Christmas Tree Lighting
Kick-off the holiday season by seeing the sky lit up with fireworks and a huge Christmas tree decorated with two million lights at the waterfront in National Harbor, right across from D.C. The initial show is on Saturday, November 16, 2019, but you can catch the fireworks every Saturday evening up until Christmas. Sip some hot chocolate, ride the Capital Wheel or carousel, meet Santa, and take advantage of all the other holiday events.
- Silver Spring Holiday Tree Lighting
This tree lighting is also a giant block party, with games for kids and adults, hot chocolate, spiked cider, and street art exhibitions. The event takes place at the Fountain Plaza right in downtown Silver Spring on Saturday, November 16, 2019, from 6 p.m. The "tree" is actually an illuminated 35-foot-tall public art installation, and each year is made of different materials.
- Rio-Washingtonian Center Tree Lighting
Come out to Lakefront Plaza in Gaithersburg on Friday, November 22, 2019, to kick-off the holiday season with the annual tree lighting celebration. Meet Santa & Mrs. Claus, listen to some seasonal entertainment, and ride a horse and carriage to get in the holiday spirit.
- Annapolis Grand Illumination
The Annapolis Grand Illumination tree lighting takes place every year on the Sunday after Thanksgiving (December 1, 2019) near the Market House in Maryland's capital, Annapolis. There are dancing and caroling beginning at 5:30 p.m., and Santa arrives on a horse-drawn carriage at 6:30 p.m. to light the tree. If you can, bring unwrapped gifts or non-perishable food items to donate to local families in need.
- City of Gaithersburg's Jingle Jubilee and Tree Lighting
Also in Gaithersburg, the city-wide tree lighting takes place at the City Hall Concert Pavilion on Saturday, December 7, 2019, at 6 p.m. Take pictures with costumed characters, enter into a festive giveaway, and purchase some winter treats. The city also collects donations of toiletries and food items for homeless veterans.
- Savage Mill Bridge and Christmas Tree Lighting
This lighting isn't just a tree, but the entire Bollman Truss Bridge in the city of Savage, on December 7, 2019, at 8 p.m. The nearby shopping center hosts the event, so after the lighting, you can visit the mall for holiday shopping, grab a bite, or take a picture with Santa.
In Northern Virginia
- Fairfax Corner Holiday Light Up
Meet Santa & Mrs. Claus, take a horse and carriage ride, and enjoy holiday entertainment all at the Fairfax Corner Holiday Light Up, on Friday, November 15, 2019, beginning at 6 p.m. California Pizza Kitchen will also be providing drinks at their pop-up bar. This event benefits the group Women Giving Back, and all attendees are encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift donation.
- Tysons Corner Center Christmas Tree Lighting
This event in McLean—dates still TBD for 2019—at the Tysons Corner shopping center includes a lighting ceremony with live entertainment. The 52-foot signature tree will be lit through the end of the year and be accompanied by a nightly light show.
- Virginia Gateway Fireworks Spectacular
This event isn't a traditional tree lighting, but rather holiday fireworks show. Come out to Virginia Gateway in Gainesville on Saturday, November 16, 2019, starting at 4:30 p.m. to enjoy live entertainment and other holiday activities. The fireworks begin at 7 p.m. This event benefits the group Women Giving Back, and all attendees are encouraged to bring an unwrapped gift donation.
- Village at Leesburg Christmas Tree Lighting
This isn't just your standard tree lighting, but rather an illuminated musical production on a five-story tree. The opening ceremony and official show takes place on Saturday, November 23, 2019, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Visit with Santa or enter the nearby stores for special promotions. If you miss out on the initial performance, don't worry. It repeats daily until the end of the year, giving you plenty of time to return.
- City of Alexandria's Tree Lighting Ceremony
The city of Alexandria prepares for the holidays with their annual tree lighting ceremony in Old Town Alexandria, right in front of city hall. Check it out on Saturday, November 23, 2019, from 6 p.m. until 8 p.m. Kids will be able to sit with Santa and Mrs. Claus to ring in the holiday season.
- Reston Town Center Christmas Tree Lighting and Sing-Along
Few cities offer a full-day holiday event like Reston does. It all begins at 11 a.m. on Friday, November 29, 2019, with a holiday parade at the Reston Town Center. Later, Santa and Mrs. Clause arrive on their horse-drawn carriage to take pictures with the kids all afternoon. In the evening, there are train rides along Market Street, a dancing performance, and finally the tree lighting at 6 p.m.
- Light Up the Village at Shirlington
The Arlington tree lighting takes place at the Village at Shirlington shopping center on Thursday, December 5, 2019, at 6 p.m. Families are invited to take photos with Shirlington’s Santa Claus and participate in activities for children. Horse-drawn carriage rides through the village will also be available.
- Santa Lights Manassas
At this tree lighting event, Santa arrives not by carriage but via the Virginia Rail Express. Come out to the Manassas train depot on Friday, December 6, 2019, beginning at 5:15 p.m. After lighting the tree, Santa will greet all the children in attendance. The Harris Pavilion Ice Rink is also open for ice skating. The festivities continue the following day, with a 10 a.m. holiday parade through the town.
- Leesburg Christmas Tree Lighting
Celebrate the start of the holiday season in Leesburg at the annual Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony on the Town Green on Friday, December 6, 2019, at 6 p.m. The festive ceremony will feature performances from local groups and a holiday message. The crowd will be encouraged to join in the festivities and view the lighting of the Christmas tree.
- One Loudoun Holiday Tree Lighting
Ashburn welcomes the entire community with the 7th annual tree lighting, located in One Loudoun Plaza on Saturday, December 7, 2019, from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. The community will celebrate the season with music, food and beverages, a tree lighting, and a spectacular laser show.