Take advantage of the shorter days and longer nights this season by visiting some of the most spectacular holiday light displays located in D.C., Maryland and Virginia:
ZooLights (3001 Connecticut Ave. NW) -- More than 500,000 LED lights will brighten the animal kingdom this holiday season at the Smithsonian National Zoo's annual ZooLights festival. New this year, ZooLights will feature a dazzling light show set to music. Visitors will also be able to enjoy live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. Through Jan. 2; 5-9 p.m.; admission is free.
D.C. Temple Festival of Lights (9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington) -- The annual festival of lights at the Washington, D.C. Temple of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (often referred to as the Mormon Temple) features free performances nightly in the state-of-the-art theater located in the Visitors' Center, with different artists or groups showcased each night. Performers include bell ensembles, choirs, orchestras and more. Be sure to arrive one hour before the performance begins, as concert tickets are handed out on a first-come, first-served basis. While waiting for the performance to start, walk through the Mormon temple grounds illuminated by more than 600,000 lights, which also includes decorated Christmas trees and international crèches. Through Dec. 31; most performances 6, 7, 8 p.m. nightly; admission is free.
Winter Lights Festival (11950 Clopper Road, Gaithersburg) -- Pile the whole family into the minivan for a leisurely drive through Seneca Creek State Park. The 20th annual Winter Lights Festival offers 3.5 miles of enchanted scenery and takes you past more than 365 illuminated displays, plus 65 animated vignettes that light up the night. Themed areas of the iridescent drive include Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village and the North Pole. Through Dec. 31 but closed Dec. 25; Sun.-Thurs. 6-9 p.m.; Fri.-Sat. 6-10 p.m.; admission prices vary by vehicle but are $12 for regular passenger vehicles Mon.-Thurs. and $15 Fri.-Sat.
Festival of Lights (301 Watkins Park Drive, Upper Marlboro) -- Add a little twinkle to your holidays and drive through the 29th annual Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park. The spectacular holiday event features more than a million sparkling lights and is sure to leave everyone amazed. The Festival of Lights is also offering attendees the chance to make a difference. Bring canned goods and nonperishable items to make a donation to local food banks. Through Jan. 1; 5-9:30 p.m.; admission prices vary by vehicle but are $5 for regular passenger vehicles.
Annmarie Garden in Lights (13480 Dowell Road, Dowell) -- Stroll down a lit path to experience Annmarie Garden in Lights. The glittering woods features "light sculptures" taking the shape of mythical beasts, wild animals, planes, pirates, princesses, circus performers, dinosaurs and more. Through Jan. 2 but closed Dec. 24-25; 6-9 p.m.; admission $6.
Bull Run Festival of Lights (7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville) -- Visit the Holiday Village to see Santa's Enchanted Lights, and watch as 40,000 lights dance to the season's most popular holiday music. Dazzling displays aren't all you'll find -- a carnival full of thrilling rides will be open through Jan. 2. And don't forget to snap a photo with Santa on your way out! Through Jan. 3; Mon.-Thurs. 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Fri.-Sun. and holidays 5:30-10 p.m.; admission prices vary but fees for regular passenger vehicles are $15-$25; coupons for most weeknights available here. Carnival tickets cost extra.
Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights (9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna) -- Take advantage of the unseasonably warm winter and walk through Meadowlark's half-mile tour of lights complete with animated displays. Keep your eyes open for Flurry the Snowman and Molasses the Gingerbread Man out on the trail. Through Jan. 3; 5:30-10 p.m.; ages 13 and older $12; ages 3-12 $7; ages 2 and younger free.