You are here
Ring in the Holidays DC Cool-Style: Washington Shines Throughout the Season
Between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, Washington, DC celebrates the season with free (and almost free) festivals, unique shopping, family-friendly theater, concerts and lights
(Washington, DC) - Washington, DC dazzles throughout the holiday season. Destination DC, the official tourism and marketing office for the nation’s capital, helps visitors and locals plan unforgettable holidays with ease. Find round-ups of must-try menus, holiday spectaculars and a full calendar of events on Washington.org. Get the insider scoop on cozy fireplaces, outdoor skating rinks and the newly reopened Renwick Gallery on DCcool.com. There’s also a real-time concierge service (1-800-422-8644 between 9am-5pm EST) and lively social channels for trip-planners in need of tailored suggestions and inspiration for staycations, long weekends and more.
“The nation’s capital is rich in holiday traditions like the lighting of the National Christmas tree, a visit with Panda Claus at the National Zoo, and a sing-along Messiah at the Kennedy Center,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC. “Everyone’s seasonal favorites are unique and DC satisfies them all: blockbuster art exhibitions, celebrations on and off the National Mall and a shopping throughout our distinctive neighborhoods.”
Visitors to Washington.org are invited to:
• Book hotel rooms and packages, including discounts up to 20% off hotels.
• Find special events, including 50+ festive activities - more than one for every day in December!
• Connect with in-house experts, locals and soon-to-be travelers across our social channels for up-to-the-minute trip advice. Washington, DC’s official Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts are packed with inspiration and user generated tips compiled with #MyDCcool.
• Just in time for the holidays, users of the Emoji DC app will be gifted with 16 new stickers.
Whether visitors are planning family fun or a romantic holiday escape, the District's unique holiday line-up is sure to please.
Try any (or all) of DC’s three outdoor rinks, open November-March, weather permitting.
• There’s one inside the National Gallery of Art’s magnificent sculpture garden, between the NGA’s East and West buildings and across the street from the National Archives (Constitution Ave. at 7th St. NW). Warm up at the Pavilion Café over hot chocolate, delicate pastries and sandwiches.
• Head to Georgetown Harbour (3000 K St. NW) and take a spin around their Potomac River-side rink boasting views of the Potomac and Theodore Roosevelt Island in this shopping mecca. Little ones can lean on a sturdy “penguin” as they learn to balance on blades.
• Head east to Capitol Riverfront and whip around the elliptical 12,000-square foot rink in Canal Park (2nd & M streets SE). This rink offers thematic sessions, learn-to-skate lessons, and a full bar at the Park Tavern for post-skate sips.
Holiday Displays and Lights Galore
The District spruces up with boughs and bows, decorated trees and of course lights. Among the elaborate displays:
• ZooLights returns to brighten the paths throughout the National Zoo (Nov. 27-Jan. 1, closed December 24, 25, 31). More than 40 animated light installations as well as Panda Claus delight visitors.
• Character-guided candlelit tours of George Washington’s Mount Vernon welcome visitors to walk through the founding farmer’s mansion and try 18th century dancing and fireside caroling. Aladdin the Christmas camel, a nod to General Washington’s tradition of bringing a camel to his farm for the delight of his guests, will be in the barn. Tours are scheduled for Nov. 27-28; Dec. 4, 5 and 20.
• A tradition since 1964, the Capitol Christmas Tree on the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol will be lit Dec. 2. The 74-foot spruce from the Chugach National Forest in Alaska will make a 13-stop journey across the country before arriving in DC.
• The National Christmas tree in President’s Park on the Ellipse (Dec. 3, tickets for the VIP lighting ceremony hosted by the first family were distributed by national lottery, Oct. 16-18) kicks off a month of nightly musical performances at the site at dusk through Jan. 1, 2016.
• Georgetown Glow, the city’s only curated exhibition of contemporary light-art installations dot the historic riverfront neighborhood for a second consecutive year, Dec. 11-20.
• The National Menorah will be lit on the Ellipse throughout Hanukah, beginning Dec. 16.
Festivities on the first night include free menorah kits, dreidels, hot latkes, donuts and cider, and an appearance by Dreidel Man and the Maccabees.
DC is a rich in world-class holiday shopping, from the luxury offerings in the Penn Quarter and Friendship Heights to the boutique-filled streets of Georgetown, downtown and 14th Street corridor, and the carefully chosen offerings inside the museums and galleries such as the National Building Museum, the Phillips Collection, the National Gallery of Art and the cuddly toy mecca: the National Museum of Natural History.
• The spirit of a traditional European holiday market imbues the Downtown Holiday Market. Centered at 8th and F streets NW in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum/National Portrait Gallery, this 11th annual pop-up features 150+ regional artisans from Nov. 27-Dec. 23, daily noon-8pm. Find ornaments, jewelry, accessories, pottery, handicrafts, clothing, paintings, and more.
• Museum Shop-Around at Strathmore in Bethesda, MD unites 20 non-profit museums shops in one marketplace in the historic mansion at the performing arts complex, Nov. 12-15.
• CityCenter DC, the luxury shopping and restaurant destination in the Penn Quarter hosts a site-wide shopping celebration with DC Modern Luxury Magazine on Dec. 2, between 6:30-9pm. Among the retailers: Gucci, Louis Vuitton, David Yurman and Zadig & Voltaire. CityCenterDC’s lighting display will be lit on Nov. 28 with ceremony.
• Another holiday pop-up, Parcel comes to Canal Park in Capitol Riverfront, Dec. 5-6. The market gathers local food purveyors and artisans selling gift-ready items in a tent adjacent to the neighborhood’s 10,000 square-foot outdoor skating rink. Live music and outdoor fire pits add to the festive atmosphere.
Music & Theater
Washington, DC’s cultural calendar is studded with concerts, ballets, and holiday-perfect plays and musicals sure to keep audiences in a holiday mood. The season brings a host of festive favorites:
• The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts is alive with performances celebrating many traditions including the Washington National Opera’s Hansel and Gretel and Handel's Messiah.
• The Washington Ballet's version of The Nutcracker (Nov. 29-Dec. 23) is an enchanting tribute to our nation's capital starring George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker and England's King George II as the villainous Rat King at the Warner Theatre.
• A richly dressed Victorian version of A Christmas Carol (Nov. 19-Dec. 31) will be performed at historic Ford's Theatre, a longstanding DC tradition.
•There are musicals too, including Steve Martin and Edie Brickell’s Broadway-bound musical, Bright Star at the Kennedy Center (Dec. 16-Jan. 11); Oliver! at Arena Stage (Nov. 13, 2015- Jan. 6, 2016); and Motown: The Musical at the National Theater (Dec. 1, 2015-January 3, 2016).
The District is home to hundreds of hotels decked for the season, including:
• The Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown Hotel will hold its annual tree lighting party Dec. 1, asking attendees to bring a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots.
• The Ritz-Carlton Georgetown offers “Sip, Savor, Shop,” a seasonal package bundling valet parking, shopping bag storage and lunch for $39. The hotel will also throw two holiday cupcake decorating parties, Dec. 6 and 13 hosted by Katherine Kallinis Berman and Sophie Kallinis LaMontagne, co-founders of Georgetown Cupcakes. For every dozen decorated, the hotel will donate one meal to Georgetown Ministries.
• Spend some holiday time at the historic Willard Intercontinental Hotel, offering themed packages, Christmas Eve dinner, Nutcracker brunch, holiday tea and musical performances in the lobby.
• Marriott Marquis Washington DC is creating their first-ever life-size gingerbread house. Using gigantic measures of holiday baking favorites - 700 lbs of flour, 200 lbs of sugar, 15 lbs of cinnamon and 250 lbs of candy - the hotel’s 70-member culinary team will construct the 10-foot high A-frame in the Greatroom Lobby. The house will open Nov. 27, 2015-Jan. 1, 2016.
A city of over 180 embassies and consulates, DC is a melting pot of global traditions. Leave your passport at home and trip around the world and through time:
• Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens celebrates Russian holiday traditions with folktales, cultural performances, music, hands-on arts projects for kids and self-guided family tours of the museum's Russian art collection during the Russian Winter Festival, Dec. 12-13.
•The Folger Consort captures the indulgent spirit of 18th century Versailles this holiday season in The Season Bids Us, a concert by acclaimed French violinist Julien Chauvin, soprano Rosa Lamoreaux and accompaniment on period strings, Dec. 18-23.
• Stroll through Tudor Place, the mansion built by Martha Washington's granddaughter almost 200 years ago, and attend a gingerbread house-making workshop, recommended for kids age 5 and older, Dec. 19-20.
Find more upcoming events, exclusive hotel packages, special performances and values for wintertime visitors on Washington.org.
About Destination DC:
Destination DC, the lead destination marketing organization for the nation’s capital, is a private, non-profit membership organization of more than 850 businesses committed to marketing the area as a premier global convention, tourism and special events destination with a special emphasis on the arts, cultural and historic communities. www.washington.org.