December 2016 Festivals and Events in Washington, DC

The Washington, DC area and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host lots of annual festivals and special events. Enjoy the holiday season including, Christmas tree lighting ceremonies, holiday open houses, candlelight tours, concerts, shows, light displays, Hanukkah and Kwanzaa events and more. All dates, prices, and activities mentioned are subject to change, so please check the official website or call to confirm information.

Please note, since there are many ongoing holiday events,  this page has been set up to feature ongoing events at the top of the page and continues below with a section for each week of the month. This list is curated to highlight the best events in the region (rather than overwhelm you with too many). Most are large annual events. Smaller or one-time events will be included in my weekly article, Washington DC Events - Top Things to Do This Weekend.  In December, there are many ongoing seasonal activities. Be sure to continue reading to see the...MORE events for each week.

More Washington, DC Area Event Calendars

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  • 01 of 05

    Ongoing Events (Various Dates or Continuing throughout December)

    ••• Photo © Alexandria Convention & Visitors Association

    Holiday Craft Shows in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia
    Find unique gifts for the holidays at a variety of craft shows held in the Washington, DC area.

    Cut Your Own Christmas Tree at a Maryland or Virginia Farm
    Find Christmas tree farms in the Washington, DC suburbs.

    The National Christmas Tree and the Pageant of Peace
    Lighting ceremony - December 1, 2016, 5 p.m. Ellipse near the White House. Visit the National Christmas Tree and enjoy live entertainment through January 1.

    Candlelight Tours in the Washington, DC Area
    Enjoy the festive holiday decor of historic homes by candlelight tour, complete with seasonal music, storytelling and holiday treats.

    Holiday Shows in Washington DC
    See the schedule of live theatrical holiday performances in the DC area.

    ICE! – Christmas at the Gaylord National Resort
    Through January 1, 2017. The award-winning holiday attraction is a winter wonderland created entirely of 5,000 BLOCKS of ice hand-sculpted by 40 international artisans.

    Six Flags America - Holiday...MORE in the Park
    Through January 2, 2017. Upper Marlboro, MD. The amusement park offers a holiday celebration featuring millions of glittering lights, holiday entertainment, seasonal treats, Santa’s Village, and many popular rides.

    Washington Redskins
    Enjoy the football season and cheer for DC's team.

    Nutcracker Performances in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia
    Enjoy the Christmas holiday classic ballet. The Nutcracker is performed at a variety of theaters, from community theaters in the suburbs to Washington, DC's most formal performing arts centers.

    Holiday Concerts in Washington, DC
    Find a schedule of holiday concerts of Christmas classics, Hanukkah songs and much more.

    Holiday Model Train Exhibits
    Toy train displays are a family favorite for the holiday season. Visit these holiday model train exhibits in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia.

    Washington DC Area Christmas Light Displays
    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.

    Best Christmas Events for Kids in the Washington, DC Area
    While you are busy preparing for the holiday, be sure to take some time out to make some special Christmas memories with your kids.

    National Cathedral Christmas Events
    Take a guided tour, hear festive music, make Christmas decorations, or attend a religious service.

    Holidays at National Harbor
    Enjoy nightly light shows, a weekend holiday market, ICE at the Gaylord and more.

    Downtown DC Holiday Market
    November 25-December 23, 2016. Sidewalk on F Street between 7th and 9th in front of the National Portrait Gallery. Enjoy a unique seasonal shopping marketplace of downtown Washington DC including gift items by more than 180 exhibitors.

    Christmas in Old Town Alexandria
    The holiday season in Old Town Alexandria is magical with historic streets decorated brightly for the holidays, entertainers on street corners, colorful shop windows and lots of fun activities.

    Christmas at Mount Vernon
    Through January 6, 2016. Learn about the Christmas traditions of George Washington and his family, meet historic characters and tour the Mount Vernon Estate by candlelight.

    Hanukkah Events in the Washington, DC Area
    Various Dates. Find special events celebrating the holiday in Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia

    Kwanzaa Events in the Washington, DC Area
    Various Dates. Find special holiday events around the region.

  • 02 of 05

    Week One: December 1-7, 2016

    ••• 2013 National Christmas Tree. Photo © Getty Images

    Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies
    Various Dates. Mark your calendar and enjoy the season at a variety of Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremonies in the Washington, DC area.

    Through December 9, 2016. Potomac, MD. The ​free one-of-a-kind art extravaganza features a wide variety of paintings, sculpture, photography, music, theater, poetry, dance and workshops. 

    The National Christmas Tree and the Pageant of Peace
    Lighting ceremony - December 1, 2016, 5 p.m. Ellipse near the White House. Visit the National Christmas Tree through Jan. 1.

    Georgetown GLOW
    December 2, 2016 - January 1, 2017. Georgetown, Washington DC. One of the city's most treasured communities will host a festive holiday light exhibit.

    Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show
    December 3-4, 2016. Washington Convention Center. Attend a consumer event focusing on food and entertaining with more than 150 exhibitors including specialty food companies, caterers, party planners, personal chefs, kitchen planners and appliance...MORE manufacturers.

    Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend
    December 2-3, 2016. The holiday parade and family-friendly activities are a traditional favorite of the Alexandria community.

    Manassas Christmas Parade
    December 3, 2016. Old Town Manassas, VA celebrates the holiday season with a parade including floats, local celebrities, live performances, marching bands, animated characters, giant balloons and more.

    Smithsonian Holiday Festival
    December 3-4, 2016. 10 a.m. – 5:30 p.m. Washington DC. Get in the holiday spirit with free festive musical performances, book signings, crafts, special foods and more. Complimentary gift-wrapping will be available at the National Museum of American History. The free Circulator bus will transport visitors to the other festivities around the National Mall.

    Bethesda's Winter Wonderland
    December 3, 2016. See a variety of entertainment and performances, a live ice sculpting presentation and a visit from Santa Claus.

    Antietam Illumination
    December 3, 2016. Sharpsburg, MD. Take a free driving tour along the national battlefield and see 23,110 luminaries lit in honor of those killed, wounded or missing during the Battle of Antietam.

    Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
    December 3, 2016. See dozens of festively decorated boats light up the sky along the Potomac River.

    Middleburg Hunt and Christmas Parade
    December 3, 2016. Middleburg, VA. Enjoy a unique holiday event in Virginia's horse country.

    Logan Circle Holiday House Tour
    December 4, 2016.  Logan Circle, Washington DC. Get an inside view of a variety of homes in the historic neighborhood.

    Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony
    December 6, 2016, 5:00 p.m. West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. Listen to holiday music by a section of The United States Marine Band (The President's Own), and carols sung by the Congressional Chorus.

    Pearl Harbor Day at the World War II Memorial
    December 7, 2016, 1:52 p.m.  World War II Memorial, Washington DC. As part of the commemoration, nearly twenty Pearl Harbor Survivors and other World War II veterans will lay wreaths at the Freedom Wall in remembrance of the more than 400,000 Americans who lost their lives during World War II.

    Winternational Celebration
    December 7, 2016, 11 a.m. – 2 p.m. Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Atrium, 1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington DC.  The free event celebrates the holiday traditions from a global perspective with an international bazaar featuring cultural performances, embassy exhibitors and artisans, gingerbread cookie decorating, and a sampling of global food.

  • 03 of 05

    Week Two: December 8-14, 2016

    Grand Opening MGM Casino National Harbor
    December 8, 2016. National Harbor, MD. The new $1.4 billion casino and resort will celebrate its grand opening. The property includes a gaming facilities, a hotel, restaurants and live entertainment venues.

    The Living Christmas Tree
    December 9-11, 2016. Riverdale Baptist Church, 1177 Largo Road, Upper Marlboro, MD. This unique annual performance features a 30-foot-tall steel structure that holds an 80-person choir. The family-friendly show inspires the celebration of Christmas through musical performances and dramatic scenes.

    Annapolis Christmas Lights Boat Parade
    December 10, 2016. Eastport Yacht Club Parade of Lights. Annapolis City Harbor. Enjoy a parade of lights when more than 70 power and sailboats show off their holiday decorations. See more about Christmas Events in Annapolis.

    Washington Nationals Winterfest
    December 10-11, 2016. Washington Convention Center, Washington DC. Show your team spirit and get ready for the upcoming season at a...MORE fun-filled baseball festival with select Nationals players, coaches and team personnel.

    Leesburg Holiday Parade and Festival
    December 10, 2016, 6 p.m. Catch your Christmas spirit and bring the whole family to see Santa and his friends parade down King Street, through the heart of historic Leesburg.

    Santarchy DC
    December 10, 2016. A fun, quirky holiday event that is held in major cities around the world! Hundreds of Santas visit major sites around Washington DC and spread their holiday cheer.

    Russian Winter Festival
    December 10-11, 2016, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Hillwood Museum, 4155 Linnean Avenue, NW, Washington, DC. Celebrate the holiday season in traditional Russian style! Enjoy music, jokes, and fortunetelling by winsome characters.

  • 04 of 05

    Week Three: December 15-21, 2016

    Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon
    December 16-17, 2016, 5:30-9 p.m. Mount Vernon Estate, Mount Vernon, VA.  Enjoy an evening of holiday-themed fireworks and special programs. Before the fireworks show begins at 8:45 p.m., watch colonial artisans make chocolate, meet re-enactors from the First Virginia Regiment, enjoy cider by a bonfire, and learn 18th century dance moves from costumed guides.

    Arlington Wreath Laying Ceremony
    December 17, 2016. Holiday wreaths adorn thousands of headstones at Arlington National Cemetery in Wreaths Across America.

    National Cathedral Children's Christmas Pageant 
    December 17, 2016, 2 p.m. Washington National Cathedral, Washington DC. This joyous event is designed for children and is free and open to the public.

    Continue to 5 of 5 below.
  • 05 of 05

    Week Four: December 22-31, 2016

    The Water-skiing Santa
    December 24, 2016, 1 p.m. Old Town Alexandria. This unusual annual event features a water-skiing Santa, flying elves, the Jet-skiing Grinch, and Frosty the Snowman performing on the Potomac River.

    10 Things to Do on Christmas Day in Washington DC
    Although not everyone celebrates the holiday, most businesses and attractions are closed on December 25th. Find out what's open on this day.

    National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony
    December 25, 2016, 4 p.m. Ellipse, White House Grounds, Washington DC. The festivities include musical performances and hot latkes and donuts. 

    Candlelight Tour of Historic Houses of Worship
    December 26, 2016, 4-9 p.m. Frederick, Maryland. More than a dozen churches open their doors to the public for special programs, angelic choirs, and nativity scenes celebrating religious diversity and local history.

    Military Bowl and Parade
    December 27, 2016. Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium, Annapolis, Maryland. College football bowl game benefits the...MORE United Service Organizations.

    New Year's Eve Celebrations in the Washington, DC Area
    December 31, 2016. Check out these suggestions of ways to ring in the New Year in Washington, DC, Maryland or Virginia.

    First Nights and Family Friendly New Years Eve Events
    December 31, 2016. Ring in the New Year at a family-oriented, non-alcohol event in Maryland or Virginia.

    More Washington, DC Area Event Calendars

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