From a water-skiing Santa to holiday pop-ups to jaw-dropping lighting displays, the D.C. area will have your calendar packed all season long.
Downtown Holiday Market (through Dec. 23)
The Downtown Holiday Market continues a 15-year winter tradition outside the National Portrait Gallery. More than 60 exhibitors each day will help you fulfill everyone's wishlist while you enjoy entertainment, snacks and treats. // See our guide to holiday markets around the D.C. area here.
Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park (through Dec. 29)
Soak up a night of holiday wonder at Nationals Park's Enchant Christmas (pictured in lead image), which organizers say is the largest Christmas light maze and market in the world. Wind your way through the luminous arches and sculptures donned with hundreds of Christmas lights, go ice-skating or wait for Santa to stop by for a visit and pictures. Sip on a hot cider from the cafe while you hunt for the perfect gift at the market. // Find more ice skating rinks around the D.C. area here.
ICE! at National Harbor (through Dec. 30)
Tour impressive ice sculptures and slip down a two-story ice slide during ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort in National Harbor, Maryland. This year's theme, Dr. Seuss' "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," features scenes from the iconic Christmas special.
Miracle on Seventh Street (through Dec. 31)
Miracle on Seventh Street, aka the Christmas bar, has reopened for the season in Shaw. Expect immersive, over-the-top displays in multiple rooms — which this year also honors the Nationals' World Series victory — and festive drink specials.
Christmas at Mount Vernon (through Dec. 31)
Enjoy a historic holiday during Christmas at Mount Vernon, which offers events such as candlelit tours (Dec. 6-7; Dec. 13-14; Dec. 22), fireworks (Dec. 20-21), a specialty food tour (through Dec. 22), ornament making and cookie decorating.
WinterFest at Kings Dominion (through Jan. 1, select nights)
Kings Dominion in Virginia transforms into a winter wonderland during Winterfest as the theme park is illuminated by millions of shimmering lights, a 300-foot tree and holiday displays. Catch live shows and strolling performers, plus holiday activities and dishes. The park says some rides will be open as well.
ZooLights (through Jan. 1, except on Dec. 24, 25 and 31)
The National Zoo is illuminated each night by thousands of lights, with several new features this year, including Entre Les Rangs, a field of lights that aim to evoke wheat swaying in the breeze, the zoo says. Animal lanterns crafted in China will depict pandas, monkeys, elephants and more. And a new virtual experience, "Pandamonium," will let you hobnob with the zoo's pandas (virtually, of course).
'A Christmas Carol' at Ford's Theatre (through Jan. 1)
Catch a perennial holiday classic at Ford's Theatre, which is bringing a "music-infused" edition of "A Christmas Carol" to the stage. Tickets start at $32 for some performances.
Winter Walk of Lights (through Jan. 5)
Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna, Virginia, plays host to a half-mile-long Winter Walk of Lights each year. Look for the animated Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights and the Holiday Nature Walk, as well as new displays each year, planners say. You can also roast marshmallows and cozy up with hot beverages by the fire.
'The Nutcracker' (various dates)
You've got your pick of performances of the holiday classic ballet "The Nutcracker." The Kennedy Center will feature the Atlanta Ballet (through Dec. 1), while the Washington Ballet will perform at the Warner Theatre (through Dec. 22), and the Moscow Ballet's "Great Russian Nutcracker" will come to the Strathmore (Dec. 15-16).
U.S. Botanic Garden's 'Season Greenings' (through Jan. 5)
This year, the U.S. Botanic Garden's lush holiday train display will let you explore botanic gardens across the country without leaving the one here in D.C. Check out plant-based re-creations of the Brooklyn Botanic Garden's red Japanese torii gate, Franklin Park Conservatory and Botanical Gardens' flamingo topiaries and more. Catch seasonal music Tuesdays and Thursdays. And for the first time this year, you'll also be able to shop at a pop-up store Wednesdays through Sundays. Coffee, tea and hot chocolate will be available for purchase on the front terrace.
The U.S. Capitol's tree lighting is free and open to the public. The 60-foot blue spruce, which came from New Mexico's Carson National Forest, will be decorated with thousands of handcrafted ornaments from the people of New Mexico. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi will light the tree during a ceremony on the West Front Lawn of the Capitol. Then, the tree will be lit each night through New Year's Day.
Light Yards (Dec. 6-23)
The Yards in Southwest D.C. will be brilliantly illuminated again this holiday season by an interactive light installation on the waterfront. This year's is called Airship Orchestra. "Head inside the formation to bathe in volumetric sound and rhythmic light pulsation," planners say. You can explore the installation from 6 to 10 p.m. each night.
Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend & Parade (Dec. 6-7)
Join thousands of people as they celebrate the 49th annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend. This two-day event has tons of activities to choose from, giving you many ways to celebrate the rich Scottish heritage of Old Town Alexandria. The parade will feature Scottish bagpipes, drums, dancers, dogs and a special visit from Santa.
GeorgetownGLOW (Dec. 6-Jan. 5)
GeorgetownGLOW offers a curated display of public art throughout this historic neighborhood. Artworks using light will be scattered throughout Georgetown with some interactive pieces to keep you on your toes. Plan a stroll between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.
Boat Parades at the Wharf and in Old Town (Dec. 7)
The first Saturday in December offers both the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights and the Holiday Boat Parade at The Wharf (pictured). In Old Town Alexandria, the parade will be part of a full day of events that also includes a pop-up beer garden, holiday music, crafting activities, pictures with Santa and Mrs. Claus, and more. Across the river at the Wharf, an evening of activities features a waterfront beer and wine garden, s'mores, fireworks and live music.
Pathway of Peace on the White House Ellipse (Dec. 9-Jan. 1)
If you haven't already scored tickets for the Dec. 5 tree lighting ceremony outside the White House, you won't be able to attend. But you can still view the lighting display nightly on the adjacent Ellipse from Dec. 9 to Jan. 1. Called the Pathway of Peace, the walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree will feature 56 state and territory trees decorated with unique handmade ornaments. In addition, you can catch free 30-minute music and dance performances on the Ellipse stage (Dec. 11-15; Dec. 17-22).
National Menorah Lighting (Dec. 22)
Celebrate the start of Hanukkah with a ceremony on the White House Ellipse to light the National Menorah. Tickets are required to attend but are free; you can register online here. The U.S. Marine Band will perform, and you can also enjoy hot latkes and donuts.
Chanukah On Ice! (Dec. 22)
A six-foot menorah will be illuminated at the Pentagon Row skating rink to mark the start of Hanukkah. You can take a spin on the ice rink, enter a free raffle, chow down on latkes and more.
Waterskiing Santa (Dec. 24)
What's Christmas without a little bit of quirk? Every year on Christmas Eve, Water Skiing Santa attracts a crowd as he glides along the Potomac at the Old Town waterfront. Planners say the best viewing area is the Alexandria City Marina and Waterfront Park. Stick around for a meet-and-greet with Santa and Mrs. Claus.