Get in the holiday spirit with holiday markets, Christmas light displays and seasonal events in the nation’s capital
Sure, the District might be part of the Mid-Atlantic region, but it feels more like the North Pole during the holidays thanks to the National Christmas Tree, holiday markets, one-of-a-kind seasonal light displays and lots more. Here are some of the virtual and in-person ways to experience the holidays in Washington, DC. And remember, please wear a face covering and maintain social distance when out and about in the city.
Cross visiting the National Christmas Tree off your bucket list
The National Christmas Tree is DC’s claim to fame during the holidays, and for good reason. The gorgeous conifer lives in President’s Park on the White House Ellipse, where it's surrounded by trees decorated with handmade ornaments from 56 U.S. states and territories and is accompanied by nightly musical performances throughout the holiday season. The display is free to visit and open from 10 a.m. – 10 p.m. beginning Dec. 4 while the National Christmas Tree is lit each day from 4:30-10 p.m. This year's lighting ceremony takes place on Dec. 2, with the event set to air on Dec. 5 on CBS. Insider tip: Homewood Suites by Hilton Washington, D.C. Downtown is offering a special 'Smore and More package for the occasion; the hotel is within walking distance of the tree display.
Check out the Downtown Holiday Market
This free-to-frequent downtown bazaar has expanded its space this year to account for social distancing. Centrally located in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery, the beloved market stretches across two blocks of F Street between 7th and 9th streets. Scope out eclectic wares from dozens of pop-up tents with seasonally flavored music performed live in the background. Locally roasted coffee and crafted-before-your-eyes mini-doughnuts inspire a cold-weather appetite, creating a holiday atmosphere you won’t find anywhere else in DC. The market will be open Nov. 19–Dec. 23, and will be closed Nov. 25 and Dec. 6. Please make sure to read the market’s safety information before your visit. There will be one entrance at 8th and F streets and guests will walk one-way through the market. If you're looking for a convenient place to stay, consider Motto by Hilton Washington DC City Center, which is well within walking distance and offers plenty of holiday decor.
12-8 p.m., daily | Free admission | Safety guidelines
F Street between 7th and 9th Streets NW, Washington, DC
Experience the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
Warm up at Mount Vernon
Explore George Washington’s estate by candlelight and learn about historic holiday traditions on Nov. 26–27, Dec. 3–4, Dec. 10–11 and Dec. 19, and enjoy the dazzling spectacle of Christmas Illuminations on Dec. 17–18. Please make sure to review Mount Vernon’s COVID-19 protocols before you plan your visit.
5:30-8:30 p.m. | Tickets
George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, VA 22121
Embrace the neighborhoods with DC Holiday Lights
Neighborhoods throughout the nation’s capital are adorning their “main streets” with colorful lights between Nov. 19, 2021, and Jan. 6, 2022. Additionally, vendors in each neighborhood are offering holiday specials and promotions throughout the month to encourage shopping locally. You can enjoy this holiday cheer in Adams Morgan, Columbia Heights, Mount Pleasant, Dupont Circle, Logan Circle, U Street and Woodley Park, among other locales. Votes can be cast for the best decorated corridor! Once you've explored the neighborhoods, settle in for the night at the luxurious Madison Washington DC, a Hilton Hotel. Kids can write a letter to Santa and adults can enjoy cocktal specials at the Lady Madison Bar.
Be dazzled by the lighting of the National Menorah
The National Menorah - White House Ellipse
Chanukah kicks off with this Nov. 28 lighting ceremony of the world’s largest menorah on the White House Ellipse, which greets all with latkes, doughnuts, menorah kits and dreidels. Music from the United States Navy Band will add a soundtrack to the scene. As is the custom, a new candle is illuminated on each of the eight days of Chanukah. Special measures will be in effect due to COVID-19, with limited seating available. Please wear a mask if you plan to attend.
4 p.m. (gates at 3 p.m.) | Free admission | Tickets required
White House Ellipse, 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20500
Feel merry and bright when you visit Tudor Place
Holiday Lights at Tudor Place
Experience one of the city’s most historic destinations with a lantern light tour taking place Dec. 7, 9, 11, 14 and 16. Explore the Historic House by candlelight to learn about traditional holiday celebrations, and then set out into the beautifully kept gardens guided by lantern lights.
Tudor Place, 1644 31st Street NW, Washington, DC 20007
Groove to the rhythms of Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show
Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show
DC’s Step Afrika!, the first professional company dedicated to the tradition of stepping, puts on a holiday extravaganza every year. Celebrate the return of this family-friendly performance in its 10th anniversary, running from Dec. 9–19 at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.
Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H Street NE, Washington, DC 20002
Peruse the free Dupont Circle Holiday Pop-Up
Artists and makers will be situated in front of retail shops all over the Dupont Circle neighborhood for this annual event hosted by Historic Dupont Circle Main Streets. Approximately 50 vendors will sell paintings, scarves, chocolates, jewelry, pottery and additional holiday-themed items. Pop-up shops will feature imported food, fine art, shoes and more.
Dec. 4, 12-5 p.m. | More info | Free admission
Make your way to the Park View Pop-Up Holiday Market
Hook Hall hosts this pop-up of the popular Park View Farmers Market on three consecutive Saturdays. Many vendors are offering food and holiday gifts from local artists, makers and producers at this holiday bazaar.
Dec. 4, 11 & 18, 10 a.m. – 2 p.m. | More info | Free admission
In front of Hook Hall, 3400 Georgia Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20010
Marvel at Enchant at Nationals Park
Enchant Christmas, which features a beloved light maze, will make its home in DC at the gorgeous Nationals Park from Nov. 26 to Jan. 2, 2022. There will also be ice skating trails, a holiday village with products from local businesses and a kids’ play place. Expect plenty of Instagram-friendly settings and holiday spirit at this one-of-a-kind installation. Also, make sure to check out special Enchant packages at Hilton Washington DC Capitol Hill.
Nationals Park, 1500 South Capitol Street SE, Washington, DC 20003
Grab some gifts at Heurich House Museum's Christkindlmarkt
Heurich House Museum's famed Castle Garden will again host the Christkindlmarkt throughout the first full weekend of December after a hiatus in 2021. Tickets grant you access to the arts and crafts-laden market featuring goods from dozens of vendors and the historic mansion, which will be decorated to the nines.
Heurich House Museum, 1307 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20036
Take in the District Holiday Boat Parade
Each year, dozens of dazzling boats traverse the Potomac River from the waterfront in Alexandria, Va. to the The Wharf. You can observe the parade on Dec. 4 free of charge, and there are holiday festivities to enjoy beforehand, including winter drink sampling, chances to meet Santa, ornament decorating and more. Prizes will be awarded to the most beautiful vessels, which begin their journey at 6 p.m., and fireworks will cap off the parade at 8 p.m. To be within close proximity of the ships setting sail and docking, book a stay at Hilton Crystal City at Washington Reagan National Airport, which offers holiday brunches and themed cocktails throughout the season.
6-9 p.m. | Free admission
The Wharf, 1100 Maine Avenue SW, Washington, DC 20024
Check out CityCenterDC's Holiday Tree
CityCenterDC will light its jaw-dropping 75-foot Christmas tree during a cheerful (and free) celebration on Nov. 27 at 6 p.m.. In addition, the ceremony will feature a countdown hosted by NBC4’s Eun Yang, a performance by a seven-piece dance band, balloon artists, face painters and plenty of other holiday-themed activities. You can enjoy the tree throughout the holiday season, as well as gorgeous lights along Palmer Alley. Stay in the festive mood by staying at Conrad Washington, DC, which features its own ski chalet on its rooftop, drink specials, festive decorations and Zoom visits with Santa on Christmas Eve.
CityCenterDC, 825 10th Street NW, Washington, DC 20001
Travel through Light Yards
Yards Park annually offers a festive light installation at its Sundeck. Australian-based light design sculptors Amigo & Amigo have crafted a stunning new installation with 22-foot-tall trees and colored patterns sure to dazzle you as you wander through the area this holiday season. The space is wonderful for an illuminated, night-time stroll. Light Yards is lit up each night from 6-10 p.m. and the installation is open from Dec. 1, 2021 to Jan. 1, 2022.
6-10 p.m. nightly | Free admission
Yards Park, 355 Water Street SE, Washington, DC 20003