Washington, DC celebrates the holidays with signature American style. Attend a Christmas tree lighting ceremony with the first family; whisper your wishes in Santa’s ear during brunch at the Kennedy Center; ice skate on the National Mall; shop Smithsonian Institution museum boutiques; and take in the monuments that make Washington, DC a stirring spot for visitors throughout the year. With special hotel packages and rates starting at $99/night available on Washington.org, it’s easy to inaugurate a new family holiday tradition.
With cool weather conditions ranging from the low-30s to the high-40s, Washington, DC offers plenty of fun, family-friendly and free things to do indoors and outdoors throughout the season.
To enable visitors from across the United States and around the world to make the most of their holiday experience in America’s hometown, Destination DC created an online holiday tool box: www.Washington.org/winter.
The official tourism and marketing office for the nation’s capital, Destination DC will also use social media to engage with travelers by offering a concierge-style holiday trip planning service this season. Log on to Washington, DC’s official Facebook page and join one of three real time Facebook discussions at 11 am EST on Tuesday, December 4; Tuesday, December 11 and Tuesday, December 18. Local experts will be ready to tailor memory-making holidays.
Visitors to www.Washington.org/winter are invited to:
• Compare hotel rooms and score discounts up to 35% on hotel rooms in the District of Columbia.
• Find scores of events, including 31 festive activities – one for every day in December!
• Prepare for delightful mornings, noontimes and evenings with holiday itineraries.
• Book a cozy city tour or consider free and only-in-DC indoor activities like touching the moon rock or visiting the elaborate holiday train display at the U.S. Botanic Gardens.
• Get up-to-the-minute advice from local experts. Log on to Facebook for any of three real-time holiday trip planning sessions with local experts.
• Celebrate the season of peace by getting face-to-face with civil rights heroes like Dr. King at his monument, the most recently dedicated on the National Mall.
• Toast the season in one of the city’s scrumptious restaurants, over 12 have working fireplaces
“Special holiday traditions like the annual lighting of the White House Christmas tree and the Washington Ballet’s version of The Nutcracker can only be found in Washington, DC,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and CEO of Destination DC. “And in 2012,” continued Ferguson, “families who come to the nation’s capital can create new holiday traditions with a visit to the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial and the Military Bowl.”
Whether visitors are in search of family fun or a romantic holiday evening, seasonal cheers or new excitements, the District’s holiday lineup is guaranteed to make lasting memories. Find a complete calendar on www.washington.org/winter
Ice-skating outdoors, a classic wintertime treat, is available at several nearby locations for those who want to show off their skills on the ice. The rink inside the magnificent sculptures located around the rink at the National Gallery of Art & Sculpture Garden (www.nga.gov/ginfo/skating, 202-737-4215). This site also offers delicious delicacies and warm treats at their Pavilion Café. Or, head to Georgetown Harbour (3000 K St. NW) for a spin around their new riverside rink boasting views of the Potomac and Theodore Roosevelt Island. Also, celebrating its inaugural season, the 12,000-square foot rink in Canal Park (2nd & M Sts. SE) in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood offers public skating sessions and learn-to-skate lessons.
The first week of December brings a festive lineup of tree lighting ceremonies to some of DC’s most famous locations, such as the National Christmas tree at the U.S. Capitol (date tbd) and the White House Christmas Tree on the Ellipse (Dec. 6, tickets for the lighting ceremony are distributed by national lottery), the lighting that kicks off a month of musical performances and events as part of the annual Pageant of Peace celebration. The Fairmont Washington, D.C., Georgetown Hotel will hold its annual tree lighting party, Nov. 29th. The hotel asks guests to bring a new, unwrapped toy for Toys for Tots. The National Menorah will be lit (date tbd) on the grounds adjacent to the White House. ZooLights returns to dazzle families at the National Zoo (most evenings Nov. 23-Jan.1). More than 40 animated light installations as well as Panda Claus delight visitors, and admission is free.
Need some time to relax after all of your holiday shopping? Washington, DC is full of world-renowned musical groups and stage performances that are sure to put you in the holiday frame of mind. The season brings a host of festive favorites to the Kennedy Center (202-416-8000, kennedy-center.org), including the National Symphony Orchestra Pops’ Happy Holidays!, and Handel’s Messiah.
Winter Theater & Family Friendly Classics
Many of the District’s theaters present their most anticipated shows around the holiday season, and it’s the perfect opportunity to view classic holiday performances. In DC, 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. The richly dressed version of A Christmas Carol (Nov. 16– Dec. 30) will be performed at historic Ford’s Theatre, a longstanding DC tradition. Catch family-friendly theatre at venues throughout the city, including Irving Berlin’s White Christmas (The Kennedy Center, Dec. 16 – Jan. 11), Dreamgirls (Nov. 13- Jan. 6) and Les Miserables (National Theater, Dec. 12 –30).
Take a look at the additional holiday events that are right around the corner in Washington, DC:
Nov. 23 – Jan. 6: Mount Vernon by Candlelight: Visitors to the famous estate learn about the Washingtons’ Christmas traditions as they tour the candlelit mansion, meet First Lady Martha Washington and enjoy caroling and free cookies. Exciting additions this year include a dozen themed Christmas trees, a gingerbread Mount Vernon by former White House pastry chef Ronald Mesnier, historical chocolate-making demonstrations, and a Christmas camel like George Washington kept on the grounds during Christmas 1787.
Nov. 24 & 25, 30 & Dec. 1, 2 & 27: Victorian Greeting Card Workshops: Learn the fine art of creating Victorian greeting cards at this workshop hosted by the National Park Service at the Clara Barton National Historic Site in Glen Echo, MD. Have your picture taken in Victorian costume then use the photo in your cards. Workshops are open to all ages and require advanced registration.
Nov. 30-Dec.23: Downtown Holiday Market: The popular holiday market held on 7th and F Streets, NW across from the Portrait Gallery. More than 60 regional artists sell their wares at this open-air happening.
Dec. 1: Scottish Christmas Walk: This annual tradition kicks off Alexandria’s holiday season with the fresh scent of heather and the stirring melody of bagpipes throughout the quaint streets of Old Town.
Dec. 1-25: Holiday Happenings at the Willard Intercontinental Hotel: Spend some holiday time at this historic hotel in the heart of the Nation’s Capital with their Nutcraker themed hotel packages, Christmas Eve dinner, Nutcracker Brunch, Holiday Tea, musical performances and much more.
Dec. 2: Logan Circle Holiday House Tour: This 30th annual event will feature East Logan, with special emphasis on the rich history of residential and commercial alley life in Logan’s own Blagden Alley and Naylor Court. The tour will also feature the Blagden Alley studio of world-renowned master printmaker David Adamson.
Dec. 7-9: Handel’s Messiah: Each December the Washington National Cathedral Choir presents this holiday classic.
Dec. 8: Russian Winter Festival: Hillwood 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.
Dec. 14 – 23: Florence: Christmas Music of the Trecento: The Folger Consort captures a distinctively enlightened spirit of 14th century Italy this holiday season with choir, organ, winds, and period strings.
Dec. 20 & 21, 27 & 28: Gingerbread House Making Workshop at Tudor Place: Stroll through the mansion built by Martha Washington’s granddaughter almost 200 years ago and participate decorating a mansion, recommended for kids.
Dec. 27: The Military Bowl presented by Northrup Grumman: For the fifth consecutive year, the game hosted at RFK kicks off a long weekend for football fans. Find details and purchase tickets on www.militarybowl.org.
Find more upcoming events, exclusive hotel packages, special performances and values for wintertime visitors on Washington.org.