17 Fun Holiday Activities in Washington, DC

17 Fun Holiday Activities in Washington, DC

  • Lockard + Smith
  • 12/7/21
Washington DC is one of the best places to spend the holiday season. In our nation’s capital, you’ll find no shortage of holiday-themed sights, events, performances, activities and more. Here’s a look at 17 fun holiday things to do in DC in 2021.
Trees and Menorahs

National Christmas Tree and Menorah

Just across from The White House, you can find the National Christmas Tree and National Menorah in the Ellipse inside The President’s Park. Attend lighting events at both the Christmas Tree and Menorah in the days leading up to the holidays, or visit them anytime you’re in the area around The White House.

U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

Each year, a different national forest in the United States is selected to provide the Christmas tree that will sit on the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn leading up to the holidays. In 2021, California’s Six Rivers National Forest provided the tree. There’s so much to see and do around the Capitol. If you’re visiting the Smithsonian or other popular destination near Capitol Hill during the holiday season, be sure to stop by the U.S. Capitol tree.
Markets and Shopping

Downtown Holiday Market

From Nov. 19 through Dec. 23, Washington DC’s Downtown Holiday Market is open daily from noon to 8 p.m. Visitors can find exhibitors selling holiday items, live music, food, drink, plus more. The Market is known for its support of small businesses and the festive atmosphere it creates during the holiday season.

Park View Holiday Market

Visit the Park View Holiday Market at Hook Hall on select Saturdays leading up to Christmas. This year, the Holiday Market will be open from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Dec. 4, 11 and 18. Visiting the Market where 60-plus makers and artisans exhibit is a great way to support local and small businesses.
Historic Tours

Mount Vernon

George Washington’s home is always a popular destination for visitors to the DC area. But the holidays are a unique time to take in Mount Vernon. On select dates in November and December, Mount Vernon plays host to fireworks shows along the Potomac and gives candlelight tours of the historic property.

Tudor Place

Not to be outdone by Mount Vernon, Tudor Place also offers special events during the holidays. This year, Tudor Place is providing lantern-light tours in the days leading up to Christmas. Tours include a journey through the historic Georgetown home by candlelight, followed by a self-guided tour of the property’s gardens by lantern light.

The Nutcracker at the Washington Ballet

Catch the Washington Ballet’s performance of the holiday classic The Nutcracker through Dec. 26. Performances, set to Tchaikovsky’s music, include more than 100 students and trainees from The Washington School of Ballet. There are 30 performances scheduled throughout the holiday season.

A Christmas Carol at Ford’s Theater

See Dickens’ A Christmas Carol at the historic Ford’s Theater through Dec. 27. The show is only 75 minutes (with no intermission), making it the perfect addition to a holiday-themed night on the town this December.

Step Afrika!

Step Afrika! is celebrating the 10th year of its Magical Musical Holiday Step Show. If you’re looking for a family-friendly show in DC this holiday season, the Step Afrika! Holiday Step Show runs from Dec. 9 to 19 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.
Ice Skating

Skating at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden

What better way to enjoy the outdoors during the holiday season than by ice skating. The National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden transforms into a skating rink each year during winter. In 2021, ice skating at the Sculpture Garden opened in mid-November, and it runs through early March. The rink is open from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. It’s open from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday.

Washington Harbour Ice Rink

You can also find ice skating at Washington Harbour during the holiday season. The rink is open from 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Friday and Saturday, plus from 11:30 a.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. Check for special events and popups on different nights. For example, Switzerland’s Embassy will host a popup stand from 2 to 6 p.m. on Dec. 10.
Lights, Villages and More

Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park

Enchant Christmas is a “light maze adventure” at Nationals Park that is open from late November through Jan. 3. The experience includes more than lights and a maze, though. There’s also ice skating, a Christmas Village, a play area for kids, plus the opportunity to visit Santa.

City CenterDC’s Holiday Tree

CityCenterDC is home to a series of holiday-related events this December. In addition to year-round shopping and dining, visitors during the holiday season can navigate through CityCenterDC’s ice maze (Dec. 10 through 12), listen to holiday music on The Plaza (Dec. 10, 11, 17 and 18), plus more. Check for upcoming holiday events at CityCenterDC.

The Light Installation at Yards Park

The Yards Park is back in 2021 with its Light Yards extravaganza. From 6 to 10 p.m. throughout December (and on New Year’s Day), visitors can visit the light installation featuring 22-foot-tall trees and take in other light-filled experiences. Admission to Light Yards is free. Carve out some time afterward for a meal or a drink at one of more than 20 bars and restaurants in the area.

Light Display at the U.S. Botanical Garden

Don’t miss the holiday light display at the U.S. Botanical Garden, open to the public from late November through Jan. 2 (except for Christmas Day). This year, the display includes model trains running through displays of agricultural areas from around the world, including orange groves in Florida, grapes in Australia, coffee in Uganda, onions in Mexico, artichokes in California, wheat and corn in Kansas, plus more.

Christmas Village at the Gaylord National Harbor

The Christmas Village at the Gaylord National Harbor offers something for everyone. Go ice skating, drive bumper cars, decorate gingerbread houses, meet Santa, have a snowball fight, plus much more.
Bull Run Festival of Lights
Visit the Bull Run Festival of Lights to drive 2-and-a-half miles through a winter wonderland. After your drive, visit the Holiday Village for s’mores by a bonfire, holiday shopping, and other activities. The Festival of Lights is open through Jan. 2.
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