You are here

12 Ways to Make the Most of Winter in Washington, DC

Friends gathered around the fire at The Wharf - Ways to make the most of Winter in Washington, DC

The nation’s capital is full of winter whimsy with holiday celebrations, date night delights and plenty of free events and things to do.

Wintertime is always the right time to visit DC. When the temperatures drop, the District heats up with fireside dining, world-class theater and dazzling light displays. Plan the best vacation ever and discover holiday magic in Washington, DC.

Your ultimate guide to wintertime in Washington, DC

1 Discover free things to see and do galore

Free activities and things to do this winter in Washington, DC - Georgetown GLOW holiday light installation

There’s a wealth of free winter activities in the nation’s capital, making it a great destination to celebrate any winter holiday. From ice sculptures to holiday markets, DC features plenty of free events and things to do that are sure to inspire winter wonder.

2 The holidays mean can’t-miss events and light displays

The National Christmas Tree on Christmas Day in Washington, DC - Holiday Light Displays and Winter Events in DC

When the winter holidays roll around, DC might as well be the North Pole. A visit to the city from late November through New Year’s Eve isn't complete without a visit to these one-of-a-kind seasonal displays and events, including the National Christmas Tree, countless holiday markets and so much more.

3 Catch a show with holiday spirit

The Washington Ballet's Nutcracker - Holiday Performances in Washington, DC

As the holidays near, Christmas jingles can be heard throughout the city while holiday displays and lights illuminate the District. Perhaps most importantly, you need ways to let your seasonal spirit flourish. Luckily, DC's theater and performing arts venues are packed with plenty of holiday-themed shows, from the classic Nutcracker with a Washington twist to laugh out loud takes on holiday classics and much more.

4 Experience the magic of Enchant at Nationals Park

Santa Claus with child at Enchant Christmas - Dazzling holiday display, market and light maze in Washington, DC

Enchant Christmas is a beloved light maze, billed as the biggest in the world, that will make its home in DC for the first time at the gorgeous Nationals Park. Throughout the holiday season there will also be ice skating trails and a large holiday market offering products from more than 60 vendors, including local businesses and international brands. Expect plenty of Instagram-friendly settings and holiday spirit at this one-of-a-kind festival.

5 Cozy up by the fire at these restaurants

@_kassi333 - Top of the Gate Rooftop Bar at The Watergate Hotel - Restaurants and Bars with Outdoor Fires in Washington, DC

Even during the coldest days of the year, the District’s bars and restaurants heat up with roaring fireplaces, warm wood-fired ovens and outdoor fire pits. So shake off the brr of winter at these prime spots for getting cozy and warm up with dishes and drinks sure to satisfy the appetite.

6 Lace up your skates and hit the ice

Ice Skating on Georgetown Waterfront - Washington Harbour - Washington, DC

Washington, DC is home to some of the most unique ice skating rinks in the country. How many people can say they’ve skated under twinkling Edison bulbs on the National Mall, on the waterfront in a neighborhood 40 years older than DC itself or on the rooftop of The Watergate Hotel? There’s no better time to triple axel ‘round the District than this winter, so make sure to check out the city's best ice skating rinks.

7 Find the perfect gift at a holiday market

Family shopping at CityCenterDC - Where to go shopping during the holidays in Washington, DC

Shop ‘til you drop at all of the magical holiday marketplaces that can be found in Washington, DC. Each market is worth multiple trips, thanks to a rotating cast of vendors and live entertainment. Find a special, thoughtful gift that the big retail stores can’t offer at the Downtown Holiday Market, peruse arts and crafts in a historic mansion at the Heurich House Museum's German Christkindlmarkt or head to the House of Sweden in Georgetown and celebrate Scandinavian-style at the Swedish Christmas Bazaar.

8 Celebrate New Year’s Eve in DC

@wwwchris - Concert at The Anthem on the Southwest Waterfront - Events at The Wharf in Washington, DC

New year, same great city full of the best New Year’s Eve parties and events. Whether you’re looking for a luxurious night on the town or a New Year’s event for the whole family, the District has it all.

9 Woo your boo with the perfect date night

@leanilaphotos - Couple at the National Gallery of Art East Building on the National Mall - Free Modern Art Museum in Washington, DC

Putting together a special evening for Valentine’s Day (or any day, for that matter) is priority number one – and the nation’s capital shines as a date night destination with its scenic monuments, award-winning dining scene and outstanding attractions. You’ll have no problem planning such an unforgettable occasion here, but (just in case) we’ve put together date ideas, couple-centric deals and the city’s most romantic spots so you can do date night right.

10 Ring in the Chinese New Year

@mill_burray - Chinatown Friendship Archway at night - Landmarks in Washington, DC

In case you didn't know, the Year of the Rat begins on Jan. 25, 2020, so honor the turn of the lunar calendar with these activities and events. The nation’s capital is rich with Chinese culture, so it’s no wonder that the city features numerous ways to appreciate this holiday.

11 Snow day? Snow problem.

Winter sledding at the United States Capitol Grounds - Snow day activities and things to do in Washington, DC

Even major blizzards don’t stop District residents and visitors from donning their snow gear and taking to the streets to play. Check out these snow day must-dos the next time you encounter a snowstorm in the nation’s capital – and remember to be careful when venturing out into the cold!

12 Sip on some ridiculously delicious hot chocolate

@icecreamjubilee - Nutella Hot Chocolate from Ice Cream Jubilee - Where to Find the Best Hot Chocolate in Washington, DC

Brace yourselves, winter is here and along with it, the bitter cold. How will you weather the storm? Lucky for you, melty, chocolatey goodness awaits you at these places to get sweet, sinfully delicious and sometimes very adult hot chocolate.

The Best Things to Do in Washington, DC