Top 20 Holiday Destinations (Close to DC!)

Get outta town -- but not too far! These ideas for holiday fun range from the uber-local (Connecticut Avenue) to the road-trip-required (Baltimore, Richmond and more).

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Anne Arundel Medical Center
Get outta town -- but not too far! These ideas for holiday fun range from the uber-local (Connecticut Avenue) to the road-trip-required (Baltimore, Richmond and more). STARTING WITH... Lights on the Bay offers an eye-popping two-mile scenic drive along the Chesapeake Bay that's -- yes, really -- better with your 3D glasses. You'll also find scavenger hunts, raffles and (on weekends before Christmas) appearances from Santa, all at Sandy Point State Park (1100 East College Parkway, Annapolis, Md.). Nightly through Jan. 1, 5-10 p.m. $14 per car. DISTANCE: 37 miles from downtown D.C.
Chester Simpson
The Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights on Saturday, Dec. 1 will illuminate the Old Town harbor with the National Mall as a backdrop. The fun begins at 3 p.m. with free Santa photos for kids and pets, and free hot cocoa and cider. The parade gets under way at 5 p.m. Watch from the marina behind the Torpedo Factory (105 N. Union St. Alexandria, Va.). DISTANCE: 8 miles from downtown D.C.
Middleburg, VA
Christmas in Middleburg gets under way with the O' Holy Night! Tree Lighting Ceremony on Friday, Nov. 30 at 5 p.m., then picks up again on Saturday Dec. 1, devoted to everything Christmas in Virginia's horse country. A hundred red-coated riders on horseback will take to the streets, with their loyal hounds by their sides during a Christmas parade also featuring llamas and alpacas. You'll also find hayrides, a craft fair, choir performances and more. DISTANCE: 43 miles from downtown D.C.
The town of Berlin, Md. is celebrating Victorian-style throughout the season with a mind-boggling arrant of events, including carriage rides, a Christmas bazaar, a parade, historic home tours and more. See the complete schedule (PDF) here. DISTANCE: 140 miles from downtown D.C.
Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association
Tour Mount Vernon by Candlelight with "Martha Washington" (or so she claims) on a holiday tour of the Washingtons’ historic estate, plus live music, dancing and seasonal decorations. Dec. 1-2, 8-9 and 15.16; see times here. Admission $22 for adults; $15 for kids age 11 and younger. DISTANCE: 15 miles from downtown D.C.
Eric Schulzinger
This sure beats commuting. Take a leisurely drive through 3.5 miles of the Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek State Park (11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg, Md.) and check out 360+ lighted displays with themes such as Winter Woods, the North Pole and Penguin Cove. Now through Dec. 31 (except Dec. 25). Admission $12 per car Mon.-Thurs.; $15 per car Fri.-Sun. DISTANCE: 28 miles from downtown D.C.
Will May
Monticello's holiday evening tours offer a rare glance to see the estate after dark. See how the holidays were celebrated in Jefferson's time, and browse historic holiday decor and other items in the shops, including wreaths you didn't have to make yourself, taper candles and tabletop items. Dec. 15, 20-23 and 26-30. Tours $45 per person. DISTANCE: 116 miles from downtown D.C.
What's Christmas without an ogre or two? Shrek the Halls is the theme for this year's ICE! at the Gaylord National Resort (201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md.), where colorful sculptures and 20-foot-tall slides were carved from two million pounds of ice. Now through Jan. 6; $15.99-$22.99 offpeak; $22.99-$29.99 peak; free for kids under 3. DISTANCE: 10 miles from downtown D.C.
Sarah Pixley
Virginia's 100 Miles of Lights stretches along I-64 from Richmond, all the way to Virginia Beach and everywhere in between. More than two million twinkling lights -- via drive-through and walk-through light shows -- will be illuminated in Richmond, Williamsburg, Newport News and more. See all locations here. DISTANCE: 110-210 miles from downtown D.C.
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Macy's Center City (1300 Market St., Philadelphia) does more than just decking the halls -- their Christmas Pageant of Lights features 100,000 lights, festive live music and more. Walk through Dickens Village on the third floor, and don't miss the windows on your way in (or out). DISTANCE: 135 miles from downtown D.C.
National Zoo
OK, ZooLights isn't exactly a long journey, but the National Zoo's outdoor lighting display can feel like another world. More than half a million LED lights transform the zoo via illuminated vignettes. You can also go snow tubing on Lion and Tiger Hill, get your pic taken with Panda Claws and ride the new, solar-powered Conservation Carousel. Dec. 1-2, 7-9, 14-23, 26-30, and Jan. 1. Free admission; parking $16. DISTANCE: 3 miles from downtown D.C.
Rockville Town Center
Rockville Town Square offers a tree lighting Nov. 29, a menorah lighting Dec. 9, and ice skating daily at a rink surrounded by shops and restaurants. Skating Mon.-Thur. noon-10 p.m., Fri. noon-11 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-11 p.m. and Sun. 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Skating $7-8; skate rentals $3. DISTANCE: 22 miles from downtown D.C.
Longwood Gardens
Longwood Gardens (1001 Longwood Road Kennett Square, Pa.) celebrates the season with half a million lights throughout its outdoor lighting displays and 20+ indoor gardens. Lights illuminated starting at 3:30 p.m. daily; timed admission tickets are required. Members only Dec. 3, 10 and 17. DISTANCE: 111 miles from downtown D.C.
NBC Washington
Cap off a holiday shopping trip with ice skating at Pentagon Row (1201 S. Joyce St., Arlington), located around the corner from the Pentagon City mall, with a great soundtrack and beautiful seasonal decor. Skating $7-8; skate rentals $3. See hours here. DISTANCE: 5 miles from downtown D.C.
Baltimore Waterfront Partnership
What's Christmas without... lasers? Yep. Power Plant Live's Holiday Light Show Spectacular (34 Market Place, Baltimore) incorporates "live flame effects," snow, fireworks and yes, lasers. Now through Dec. 31. Free admission; see schedule here. DISTANCE: 38 miles from downtown D.C.
Winter Festival of Lights
Not adapting well to the cold weather? Stay toasty in the car! The Winter Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park (301 Watkins Park Drive/Rte. 193, Upper Marlboro, Md.) features more than a million lights in displays such as Santa... flying a helicopter. Now through Jan. 1, 5-9:30 p.m. $5 per vehicle; free on Dec. 25.. DISTANCE: 19 miles from downtown D.C.
William B. Folsom
Bundle up against the cold for your Meadowlark Winter Walk, when Meadowlark Botanical Gardens (9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, Va.) will be illuminated by half a million LED lights. Highlights are the two-story animated fountain and the Gingerbread Village, park officials say. Now through Jan. 6. Admission $13 for adults; $8 for kids ages 3-12. DISTANCE: 19 miles from downtown D.C.
Washington D.C. Temple
A light show, half a dozen decorated Christmas trees, a nativity scene and live music will be a part of this year's Festival of Lights at the D.C. Mormon Temple (9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, Md.). Stroll the grounds to see more than 600,000 lights, then head inside to warm up with live performances of choirs, violin, swing music and more. Now through Jan. 1; indoor music 7 and 8 p.m. nightly. Free admission. DISTANCE: 10 miles from downtown D.C.
Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The Dominion GardenFest of Lights is more than just lights, although you'll find plenty of those. The decked-out Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden (1800 Lakeside Ave., Richmond, Va.) also offers trains, holiday dinners, kids' activities and more. 2012's "East Meets West" theme features plants and decorative arts of Asian origin that have influenced Western tradition. Now through Jan. 7 (except for Dec. 24-25); 5-10 p.m. nightly. $11 adults; $7 kids 3-12; free for kids under 3. DISTANCE: 101 miles from downtown D.C.
Dutch Winter Wonderland
The little ones will love Dutch Winter Wonderland (2249 Lincoln Highway E., Lancaster, Pa.), where they -- and you --can board a decorated mini-train, catch a light show, ride the skyway and hear the secret of what really happened on the night before Christmas (according to two mice, anyway). Dec. 1-2, 8-9, 15-16, 22-23, 26-30. Admission $12.99; kids under 3 free.DISTANCE: 122 miles from downtown D.C.
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