Winter Festival of Lights: Watkins Regional Park in Maryland

Winter Festival of Lights, Watkins Regional Park

M-NCPPC Department of Parks and Recreation 

The Winter Festival of Lights, a drive-through Christmas display in Prince George County, Maryland, features more than 2.5 million twinkling lights. Sponsored by the Department of Parks and Recreation, the festival is one of the most affordable light displays in the region. 

Held at Watkins Regional Park, it's a fun family event for all ages. Tune your car radio to some Christmas favorites, and enjoy a drive through a winter wonderland while taking in the illuminated reindeer, snowflakes, toy soldiers, Santa, gingerbread men, candy canes, and more. One of the most popular displays is the Gingerbread House. Children love the carousel of lights, as well as the 54-foot (16-meter), LED musical tree.

You can drive through Watkins Regional Park nightly from 5 p.m. until 9:30 p.m. between November 27, 2020, and January 1, 2021.

How to Visit

Watkins Regional Park is in Upper Marlboro, Maryland, about a half-hour drive from Washington, D.C., making it a great side trip during a holiday vacation in the nation's capital. The cost of attending the light show varies depending on the type of vehicle and the number of people in the group. Tickets should be purchased online in advance, but cash will also be accepted in person. On November 30 and December 25, 2020, entrance is free. All spectators are encouraged to bring canned goods as a donation for local food banks to distribute throughout the holidays.

Maryland Route 193 is the only way to enter the Festival of Lights. Guests will not be able to make a left turn from Maryland Route 202 towards Maryland Route 214 but instead can make a U-turn onto Route 193 to enter.

Nearby Holiday Events

The Washington, D.C., area has many other seasonal activities for the whole family, including tree lighting ceremonies, tours of decorated historic houses, holiday festivals, live musical performances, and special events.

For fans of Christmas lights, 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, D.C., area entertain visitors on the Ellipse, in front of the White House. This is another memorable way to enjoy the holiday season. Although tickets are required for the Lighting Ceremony, the nightly events following it are open to the general public. 

Watkins Regional Park Activities

Watkins Regional Park is one of the most popular parks in the county. During the day, park-goers can enjoy playgrounds, picnic areas, and hiking and biking trails. Additional attractions include the Watkins Nature Center, with a butterfly/hummingbird garden and displays of live animals such as amphibians, reptiles, and birds of prey. Also, guests enjoy riding the Chesapeake Carousel and seeing Old Maryland Farm, which features farm animals, gardens, and agricultural exhibits. There are plenty of additional things to explore in the park, such as the miniature train and mini-golf, softball, football and soccer fields, basketball courts, as well as indoor and outdoor tennis courts. For those planning for a longer visit, the park has 30 individual campsites and three group sites.