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Guide to Winter Holidays in Washington, DC

christmas tree

Everything you need to know about how to celebrate cold weather holidays in the District

Visit Washington, DC during a winter holiday and you’ll find a wonderland of themed markets, activities for couples and families as well as monumental ceremonies honoring American history and heroes.

Check out this guide to all the sights to see and things to do during the winter holidays.


Christmas & Hanukkah

Head to the White House Ellipse for a nightly lighting of the National Christmas Tree, a national holiday symbol since it was first decorated in 1923.

holiday market

Holiday spirit flows freely at the Downtown Holiday Market, located in Penn Quarter. The market has over 150 vendors, as well as music, food and coffee for chilly winter days and nights.

The lighting of the National Menorah for Chanukah takes place annually in early December, a festive gathering featuring live music, menorah kits, hot latkes and donuts.

New Year's Eve

Ring in the new year in the nation’s capital. For a classic Washington experience, try New Year’s Eve at the Kennedy Center. Many of DC’s hotels throw elaborate parties as well. Packages typically include dinner, drinks, dancing and an overnight stay.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day

Washington, DC is home to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, making it the perfect place to observe Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. The moving memorial features a 30-foot statue of the civil rights leader and engraved inscriptions from many of his speeches.

The long weekend is also a great time to experience Civil War and civil rights history in Washington, DC. The nation’s capital served an important role during both eras. From a tour of Lincoln’s Cottage to honoring those who served in the war at the African American Civil War Museum, you can take a compelling, citywide look at these significant times.

Phillips Collection museum

Valentine's Day

In February, DC stands for Date City. Washington is chock full of places for a romantic rendezvous, and Valentine’s Day (and the rest of winter) is a great time to snuggle up with your sweetheart. Find everything you need for a great date with  our favorite romantic spots in the city.

Presidents Day Weekend

What better place to celebrate Presidents Day than the city in which the President resides? From the Washington Monument to the Lincoln Memorial, DC recognizes the country’s founding fathers with aplomb.

Lincoln memorial

In addition to our many memorials (Washington Monument, Lincoln, Jefferson and FDR, to name a few), the nation’s capital is filled with presidential attractions. Pose for pictures with every president at Madame Tussauds Washington D.C., or see the First Lady’s gowns at the National Museum of American History. Of course, you can see living history with a tour of the White House (reservations must be made in advance), or check out the White House Visitors Center across the street.

If you would like to learn more about spending winter in DC, check out our dedicated winter itinerary for more.