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Metro DC's 2018 Holiday Light Displays

Dave Kolakowski

Dave Kolakowski is "Head-of-Stuff" at Living In Metro DC and an area resident for over 45 years...

Dave Kolakowski is "Head-of-Stuff" at Living In Metro DC and an area resident for over 45 years...

Dec 4 4 minutes read

Get in the holiday spirit with these can't-miss 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, countless holiday markets, one-of-a-kind seasonal light displays and lots more. Here are some of the best, can't-miss ways to experience the holidays in Washington, DC.

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. while the National Christmas Tree is lit each day from 4:30-10 p.m.

ZooLights takes over the National Zoo all month long

Indulge your wild side with an after-hours visit to the National Zoo during ZooLights, which illuminates the zoo with more than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LEDs, animated light installations, live music and more. Bid good cheer to various animals on display. ZooLights runs Nov. 23 – Jan. 1 (closed Dec. 24, 25 & 31). 

Don't miss Georgetown GLOW, a jaw-dropping exhibition of light-art

This stroll through DC’s most historic neighborhood will certainly make you light up as you pass by unique, illuminated artworks. Georgetown GLOW has proven to be such a hit that it’s now a month-long celebration (Dec. 1 – Jan. 6 from 5-10 p.m.). A group of artists, from locally renowned to internationally celebrated, will display works in outdoor spaces throughout the neighborhood. Afterward, wander through a winter wonderland at The Washington Harbour, one of our favorite places to ice skate in the District.

Colossal Christmas wreaths make Union Station extra cozy

Union Station is like its own self-contained holiday oasis. The shops are no secret, and you’ll find plenty of gift ideas there – even for edibles (read: Shake Shack gift card). And don’t disappear without glimpsing the holiday model train display and the Norwegian Christmas tree.

Be dazzled by the lighting of the National Menorah

Attend the lighting ceremony of the National Menorah on Dec. 2 at 3:30 p.m. on the White House Ellipse and enjoy live tunes, latkes and hot donuts. The event is free but tickets are required. You can also visit the menorah for the duration of Chanukah.

Festival of Lights

Returning for its 41st year, this celebration at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple includes nightly concerts, a display of Christmas trees and creches, and a life-size outdoor Nativity scene. Visitors can wander the temple grounds while trying to figure out how to take good pictures of lights with an iPhone. Learn more here.
Fun fact: Basically every kid who grew up in the D.C. area thought at one point that the temple was Disney World.
Light count: More than 650,000

Catch Christmas spirit at National Harbor

An action-packed holiday schedule is the norm at National Harbor, a shopping, dining and amusement park-like landmark located just 20 minutes south of DC. Step inside the Gaylord National Resort for ICE! (Nov. 16 – Jan. 1), an indoor winter wonderland featuring two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures, ice slides, a live carving area and a retelling of A Charlie Brown Christmas.

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