Christmas in DC: Five Things to Do During the Holidays

If you’re interested in experiencing Christmas in DC, there are plenty of fun things to keep you busy! These are five of our favorite holiday things to do.

What to Do in Washington DC During Christmas

1. Christmas trees

If you visit Washington, DC before Christmas, you need to check out the holiday trees. There are two popular trees on the National Mall. One is the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse, on the south side of the White House. The first time a tree was decorated and lit on this spot was in 1923. Every president since Franklin Roosevelt has given a speech during the yearly lighting ceremony. The National Christmas Tree is a permanent tree but due to severe weather over the decades it is not the same tree as in the 1920s.

A mile and a half down the street is the Capitol Christmas Tree. This tree stands on the West Lawn of the US Capitol. It is not a permanent tree. Instead, a tree is chopped down and transported to Washington, DC. In 2017, it is an 81 foot tall engelmann spruce from Montana. Each year a different state provides the Capitol Christmas Tree.

A bonus tree that you can check out is at the Canadian Embassy on Pennsylvania Avenue. If you’re walking down Pennsylvania Avenue, stop by, say hello, and check out the tree that they bring down from Canada to celebrate the holidays.

2. ZooLights

ZooLights is an extremely popular annual event where they decorate the National Zoo in Christmas lights. For the kids there’s a glow-in-the-dark play area, a holiday carousel, and a trackless train to drive them around the zoo. Since it is usually cold, there is plenty of coffee, hot chocolate, and mulled wine to keep you warm. If you’re hungry, you can find roasted nuts, s’mores, Christmas cookies and other treats. The best thing is that aside from any souvenirs or beverages that you choose to buy, the National Zoo is always completely free.

3. U.S. Botanic Garden

Every year the U.S. Botanic Garden assembles a display called Season’s Greetings. In addition, you will see their famous model train winding its way through the gardens,. They have live music and special events. This is one of the only sites in Washington, DC open on Christmas Day.

4. Union Station

Union Station is the main train station in Washington, DC. It is also one of the most festively decorated buildings in the city. There are wreaths with red and green lights on the outside, a giant Christmas tree on the inside, and no train station would be complete without a special holiday themed model train in the Great Hall.

5. Downtown Holiday Market

A great way to celebrate Christmas in DC is with some local souvenirs. The market runs every year from Black Friday until December 23rd. It provides space for over a hundred local artisans to sell their crafts and locally made goods. You’ll find things like jewelry, paintings, clothes and other little items that make for great gifts. There’s also plenty of food and beverages to keep you warm and caffeinated.

Bonus: Christmas tours!

Many tour companies, including Trip Hacks DC, run special holiday tours. Our Christmas tour combines two most popular stops on our monuments tour with some really cool things that you can only see around the holidays. In addition to the World War II Memorial and Washington Monument, we swing past the White House, National Christmas Tree, then stroll down Pennsylvania Avenue, past the Canadian Embassy, and eventually arrive at the Capitol Christmas Tree. Our holiday tour runs for about 3 weeks in December.

Coming to Washington DC, and want to sign up for our special Christmas tour?

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation’s Capital. Trip Hacks DC provides tips, tricks and travel hacks for planning your trip; and guided tours to show you around once you get here. Our tours are family and school group friendly and our guides specialize in the major Washington, DC sites. Click here to check out the upcoming tour options and to book your tour here today! Feel free to contact us if you have any tour questions

About Trip Hacks DC

Trip Hacks DC was founded by Rob, a veteran tour guide in the Nation's Capital.

Everyone wants to get the most out of travel experience; we know that planning a trip can be fun but sometimes stressful. The tips and travel hacks offered here will help you make the most of your trip and avoid missing out on the best things the city has to offer. Our trip planning e-book is the perfect resource for every first-time Washington, DC visitor.

If you're looking for a guided experience once you arrive, Trip Hacks DC specializes in private tours; but has public tours options as well. Visit the Guided Tours section to learn about some of the suggested tours and the trip planning resources section for help preparing for your trip. Feel free to contact us if you have any questions!

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