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DC Itinerary: 5 Days in Winter
- Have a wild time at ZooLights.
- Ice skate among famous sculptures.
- Shop for the perfect present in swanky Georgetown.
Arrive on Amtrak and start your holiday right away at Union Station. The historic building decks the halls in December with a 30-foot tree donated from the Embassy of Norway as well as a Norwegian Holiday Market. Plus, Union Station’s holiday model train display delights as the locomotive winds its way through the snowy mountains and fjords of Norway.
Spend your day taking a tour of Washington, DC’s iconic monuments and memorials. With Double Decker Tours, you can stay warm and cozy as you see some of DC’s most popular attractions, such as the Washington Monument; the Lincoln, Jefferson, World War II and Vietnam Veterans memorials; and the new Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial.
When night falls, check out the ZooLights (select evenings in November and December) at The National Zoo. The free exhibit features nightly walk-through, environmentally friendly animal light displays. Many of the animal houses also remain open in the evening for special animal keeper talks.
Warm up your morning with a visit to one of DC's 16 Smithsonian museums. From dinosaurs to dramatic art, each one offers a treasure trove of family-friendly exhibits.
Take in an evening performance of Septime Webre’s The Nutcracker at Warner Theatre. Set in 1882 Georgetown, this nation's capital-centric version features George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker and King George III as the Rat King.
After the show, enjoy a late-night dinner or cocktails at the Washington institution Old Ebbitt Grill. At Christmas time, two larger-than-life wooden soldiers stand guard at the door.
Metro to Navy-Archives Memorial/Penn Quarter for some shopping at the Downtown Holiday Market. With more than 150 exhibitors and artisans displaying everything from fine arts to fair trade, you can find great gifts for everyone on your list.
For lunch, try one of Downtown/Penn Quarter/Chinatown's dozens of restaurants, such as Ping Pong Dim Sum, Hill Country Barbecue Market or Jaleo. Then take a refreshing stroll a few blocks to reach the National Mall.
Feel like a kid again at the National Gallery of Art, where you can go ice skating in the Sculpture Garden until late and then warm up with some hot chocolate.
During the holidays, The White House pulls out all the stops with twinkling trees and historically significant decorations. Self-guided holiday tours are available to the public during December. Visitors must submit a request no later than 21 days in advance through their member of Congress. The White House Visitor Center across the street also offers an insider’s glimpse into The White House.
Walk over to the nearby historic Willard InterContinental Hotel. The gorgeous lobby is decked out with all the holiday trimmings. Warm up with a pre-theater hot toddy in the Round Robin Bar or, during the day, drink in the holiday tea service.
At dusk, the National Christmas Tree and Pageant of Peace on the White House Ellipse features a nightly tree lighting, menorah lighting and free musical entertainment. Every state and territory decorates a smaller tree for the beautiful display, so be sure and find the tree from your home state.
Take in an evening performance of Handel’s Messiah at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. White Christmas and a number of holiday-themed performances are also on tap. See a sweeping view of the city after the show from the Kennedy Center’s Roof Terrace Restaurant.
Spend the morning doing some holiday shopping in Georgetown, one of DC’s oldest and most famous neighborhoods that is full of fashionable shops.
For lunch, warm up with a meal at Blue Duck Tavern in Georgetown’s Park Hyatt. Named one of the best restaurants in the U.S. by Condé Nast Traveler and Zagat, the Obamas gave it their seal of approval with one of their famous date nights.
Spend the evening at historic Ford’s Theatre, where A Christmas Carol (Nov. 20-Jan. 1) is playing for the holidays. The classic tale of redemption has been hailed by the Washington Post as "musically high-spirited" and "infectiously jolly."