There are so many fun things to do in DC for Christmas. From ice skating, to holiday lights, and live performances, Washington DC is a great place for holiday activities. Let’s take a look.
Fun Things To Do In DC For Christmas: Ice Skating
Ice skating is always one of the best things to do during the holiday season. Here are some places in Washington DC and the surrounding areas where you get into the holiday spirit with the whole family.
The National Gallery Of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink
Located on the National Mall, this ice rink offers a picturesque setting amidst art installations and sculptures. The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink operates with the following timings and pricing for the 2023-2024 season:
November 20, 2023, through March 3, 2024, weather permitting
Hours Of Operation:
Sunday to Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m.
Note: The rink is closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.
Ages 13 and above: $12
Ages 12 and under, seniors (60+), military service members with ID, students with school ID: $10
Season pass: $250
Skate rental: $6
Group Rate (10 or more) including skate rental: $14.
These fees cover two back-to-back, 45-minute skating sessions starting at the top of each hour, with ice maintenance occurring in the last 15 minutes of each hour. The last full session starts two hours before closing.
Washington Harbor Ice Rink
This is located in the Georgetown Waterfront area. Georgetown has coffee shops, great food, and many things to do, including ice skating! In the wintertime, this ice rink has stunning views of the Potomac River, making it a popular destination for ice skating.
The rink operates from November 17, 2023, to February 25, 2024, weather permitting.
Hours Of Operation:
Sunday through Thursday: 11:00 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.
Friday and Saturday: 11:00 a.m. to 10:30 p.m.
The rink also has special holiday hours, including open sessions on Thanksgiving week and other key dates during the holiday season.
Children (12 & under)/Senior/Military: $9.00
Group Rate (for groups of 10 or more, includes skate rental): $14.00
Skate Rental: $7.00
Penguin Rental: $10.00.
The Washington Harbour Ice Rink is the largest in the city and offers a unique experience with views of the Potomac River, Kennedy Center, Key Bridge, and historic Georgetown. In addition to open skating, the rink provides skate rentals, lessons, and the option to book private events
The Washington DC Wharf Ice Rink
The Wharf Ice Rink in Washington D.C. is a unique over-water ice skating venue offering a memorable experience from November through February. It’s located at Transit Pier, right outside The Anthem, providing stunning views of the water and monuments.
Operates from November through February, weather permitting.
Hours Of Operation:
Wednesday: 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Thursday-Friday: 4:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Saturday: 12:00 p.m. – 10:00 p.m.
Sunday: 12:00 p.m. – 8:00 p.m.
Note: The hours are weather-dependent and the rink may close for private events.
Adult Admission: $13
Youth Admission (12 and under): $10
Senior (65+)/Military (Valid ID required): $11
Group Rate (10+ with Skate Rentals): $15 per person
Multi-Entry Passes: $210 (with Skate Rentals), $130 (without Skate Rentals)
Season Pass (skate rental not included): $275
Additional Rentals & Purchases:
Skate Rental: $8
Skate Aid Rental: $8
Locker Rental (one-time use): $3
Handwarmers: $2 per pair
The Wharf Ice Rink Logo Hat/Scarf: $15 each.
The Wharf Ice Rink is an excellent destination for families, couples, or individuals seeking a fun and picturesque ice skating experience in the heart of Washington D.C.
Silver Spring Ice Skating Rink At Veterans Plaza
Although technically in Silver Spring, this rink is just 200 yards from the D.C. border. This outdoor Silver Spring Ice Skating Rink is in downtown Silver Spring at Veterans’ Plaza. The rink is surrounded by great restaurants, shops, and plenty of parking.
The outdoor rink is open every day through March 25 and offers public ice skating with skate rentals, parties, private rentals, and lessons. Parking is free after 8pm on weeknights and all day on weekends!
It’s an ideal size for all levels of skaters and includes amenities like double-bladed skates for toddlers and penguin-shaped skating aids.
National Harbor Ice Skating Rink At The Gaylord
The Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor has many holiday activities and holiday fun. See the more detailed information below
Fun Things To Do In DC For Christmas: Holiday Festivals
If you really want to get into the holiday spirit, then this time of year in Washington DC has many holiday festivals to bring the holiday cheer. After Thanksgiving weekend and extended through Christmas time, there are many holiday festivals to check out in the DC area.
Enchant At Nationals Park
Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park in Washington DC is one of the best holiday activities during the Christmas season. This holiday event is great for all ages, so be sure to bring the whole family. The holiday experience here goes from November 24 to December 31, 2023. This event has many attractions, including:
All-New Light Maze: This immersive adventure, “Reindeer Games,” is a light maze where participants help find Santa’s reindeer’s magic bells. The maze is a large-scale, enchanting experience designed to delight visitors of all ages.
Ice Skating Trail: Enchant also offers an ice skating trail set amidst a dazzling forest of Christmas lights. Skates are provided, allowing guests to create lasting memories while gliding on real ice.
For more details, tickets, and specific event information, you can visit their official website: Enchant Christmas in Washington DC
Gaylord National Hotel’s Annual Christmas Events
The massive Gaylord National hotel in National Harbor has many activities during the month of December to get you in the holiday mood and Christmas spirit. This spacious hotel has tons of things to do for kids and adults during the winter season. Let’s take a look at the Gaylord’s Holiday Festival.
The holiday activities run from November 19 to December 31, 2023 and include the following:
ICE! featuring Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: This signature event is a highlight, bringing the beloved holiday story to life in a walk-through ice sculpture experience.
Outdoor Ice Skating Rink: Guests can enjoy skating under the stars at the resort’s outdoor ice rink, creating a perfect yuletide experience.
Snow Tubing: For a dose of winter fun, the resort also offers snow tubing, adding an exciting element to the holiday festivities. It is one of the closest snow tubing destinations to Washington DC.
These activities at Gaylord National Harbor provide a mix of festive enjoyment, suitable for all ages, making it an ideal destination for holiday celebrations and creating unforgettable memories.
US Botanic Gardens
The US Botanical Garden has an adorable display of holiday themed items. You can take yourself on a self guided walking tour of these from November 23 to January 1, enjoy outdoor holiday displays, model trains, and more.
Model Trains in Outdoor Gardens: The outdoor gardens here will host model trains, providing a delightful experience for visitors of all ages.
Festive Lights: Throughout the US Botanic Garden, visitors can enjoy festive lighting, adding to the holiday atmosphere.
Conservatory Displays: The Conservatory will showcase poinsettias, holiday decor, and unique displays of Washington D.C. landmarks made entirely from plants.
Extended Hours On Select Days: On three Thursdays in December (14th, 21st, and 28th), both the conservatory and the outdoor train display will remain open until 8 p.m., offering special holiday evenings. However, note that the Garden will be closed on December 25th.
Daily Operation Hours: The Botanic Garden is open daily from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., including Thanksgiving Day, allowing visitors ample time to explore the displays
National Landing – Virginia
Not too far from DC in the Pentagon City & Crystal City area is a neighborhood called National Landing. For one weekend, this place transforms into a winter wonderland with plenty of activities and things to do that will get you in the holiday spirit.
Washington DC Downtown Holiday Market
The Downtown Holiday Market is known for its festive atmosphere, making it a popular destination from late November onwards for both locals and tourists during the holiday season. The market features more than 70 exhibitors, including Black-owned and minority-owned businesses from the DC Department of Small and Local Business Development’s (DSLBD) Made in DC program.
This diverse range of exhibitors allows shoppers to purchase unique and locally made items, ranging from artwork and jewelry to clothing and seasonal goods. In addition to shopping, the market has six food vendors offering tasty treats and hot beverages.
The market is centered at 8th and F Streets, NW in Downtown Washington, D.C. It spans two blocks of F Street, from 7th to 9th streets, creating an outdoor holiday shopping village.
Open daily from November 17 to December 23 for holiday shopping from 12:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. It is closed on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, and Monday, December 4.
Chanukah is starting 11 days sooner this year, on December 7, 2023. The biggest Chanukah celebration in the world happens at the National Menorah. It’s on the Ellipse, and you can watch the lighting ceremony there or live online.
Mark your calendars: The lighting is on December 7, 2023. You can get tickets from November 10th at 5 PM on their website. The Menorah will stay lit every day of Chanukah until December 15.
Activities At Tudor House In Georgetown
Tudor Lights: Christmas at Tudor Place (Now – December 7, 2023, 6:30 PM to 8:30 PM): This event marks the beginning of the holiday season at Tudor Place. Visitors can enjoy festive decorations and installations throughout the historic house and garden. Tudor Lights is a special holiday edition of the Tudor Nights event series, offering a chance to see rarely displayed items from the Tudor Place Collection & Archive. The evening concludes with cocktails and seasonal treats at the Dower House.
Candlelight Tour (December 8, 2023): This event provides a unique opportunity to experience Tudor Place illuminated by candlelight. It’s a special way to explore the historic house and its festive decorations in a more intimate, evening setting.
Family Gingerbread Workshop (December 9, 2023): This workshop is a fun, family-oriented event where participants can engage in the festive activity of building and decorating gingerbread houses. It’s a great way to spend time with family and indulge in a creative holiday tradition
Fun Things To Do In DC For Christmas: Christmas Lights
Washington D.C. also has some fun places to see Christmas lights. Let’s take a look at some of the popular spots:
There’s no better place than Georgetown during the holiday season. With it’s cute coffee shops, wonderful restaurants, and tons of shopping, it’s easy to feel the holiday spirit here. Many people don’t know that Georgetown also has a holiday lights experience that you can experience.
This is a unique outdoor public light art experience, runs from December 1, 2023, through January 7, 2024. The event has public light art installations in outdoor locations throughout the Georgetown commercial district, which are lit nightly from 5 pm to 10 pm.
The installations are set against the historic backdrop of D.C.’s oldest neighborhood, offering a blend of tradition and contemporary art. Visitors can also enjoy several walking tours tied to the exhibition, a special shopping night, and additional GLOW programming.
The DC Wharf Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
This event took place on the first Saturday in December, from 6 pm to 9 pm at 760 Maine Ave SW. The Annual Holiday Boat Parade features ships decorated with holiday lights, creating a festive maritime display. In addition to the festive boats, the District’s holiday boat parade has a huge fireworks display to end the evening.
ZooLights Washington DC
ZooLights at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C. is a popular annual event during the holiday season. It’s important to note that ZooLights does not feature live animals. All indoor animal exhibits are closed during the event to ensure the animals can rest undisturbed.
It runs from November 24, 2023, to December 30, 2023. The event is open from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m., except on Sundays when it closes at 8 p.m. The last admittance to ZooLights is at 8:30 p.m. from Tuesday to Saturday, and 7:30 p.m. on Sunday
This winter wonderland is made up of over half a million environmentally-friendly LED lights. Visitors can enjoy immersive lantern displays that showcase various habitats like rainforests, grasslands, deserts, oceans, and polar regions, along with the animals that inhabit them.
Bull Run Festival Of Lights, Virginia – Drive Through Christmas Lights!
The Festival of Lights runs from November 10, 2023, to January 7, 2024. It is open daily and the display hours are 5:30–9:30 p.m on Monday through Thursday. It is open a little later until 10 PM on Friday through Sunday as well as on holiday nights.
This DC area drive through light display is a 2.5-mile drive-through of festive light displays. You can experience the dazzling lights from the comfort of your car. You can turn off your headlights and just follow the glow of the lights (but remember to stay vigilant while driving!)
The cost for the light display is between $30-$40 per vehicle. Tickets are available for purchase online, and there’s a promo code “lights23” that provides a $5 discount on specific dates in November and December. It’s a great way to enjoy Christmas lights without having to deal with cold weather.
Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights
A walking light show in Vienna, Virginia is open from November 10 to January 7.
Winter Lights Festival, Gaithersburg, Maryland – Drive Thru Christmas Lights
Not to far from Washington DC is the suburban town of Gaithersburg. It’s a bit further than the popular suburb of Potomac. Here there is a drive-through light show that is open from November 24 to December 31.
Merriweather Symphony Of Lights – Drive Thru Christmas Lights
This event takes place at the historic Merriweather Post Pavilion and runs from November 23, 2023, to January 1, 2024. The drive-through is open most nights, including all holidays.
The Symphony of Lights is known for its spectacular display, featuring more than 300,000 bulbs. This family-oriented event includes both animated and stationary holiday light creations, and new lights are added every year to enhance the experience.
The lights are on from 6:00 PM to 10:00 PM on weekdays and from 5:00 PM to 10:00 PM on weekends. The cost is $25 per vehicle, except for walk-through nights. The proceeds from the event benefit the Howard County General Hospital. It’s important to note that limousines, buses, and dual axle vehicles are not allowed at the event.
City Center Lights
City Center in Washington DC always has some fun seasonal decorations.
Holiday Light Display In City Center Washington DC
This year you will find two giant reindeer to welcome you to this shopping and dining area. The other areas of City Center are also lit up for the holiday season making it a fun area to walk around.
Fun Things To Do In DC For Christmas: Christmas Trees
There are two popular Christmas tree light displays in Washington DC that you can check out with friends and family. Let’s take a look.
National Christmas Tree
The Lighting Ceremony for this tree in Washington, D.C. took place on November 30, 2023, at the Ellipse at The White House and President’s Park. Following the lighting ceremony, the National Christmas Tree will be open for public viewing from December 2nd through January 1st, offering a chance for visitors to be part of this annual holiday tradition in the nation’s capital.
This annual event is a longstanding tradition in the United States, bringing together performances, holiday spirit, and the symbolic lighting of the National Christmas Tree against the backdrop of the White House.
US Capitol Christmas Tree
Another popular tree is the Christmas Tree on the Capitol lawn. This Christmas tree is much less less crowded than the National Tree. Daytime or early evening visits are ideal.
DC Neighborhood Lights: From November 17 to January 7, local streets are lit up to celebrate the holidays and support local businesses.
National Cathedral Christmas Concerts: Enjoy holiday concerts online and in person, with dates throughout December.
Fun Things To Do In DC For Christmas: Restaurants & Pop Ups
Looking to dine at a place with a fun holiday vibe? These restaurants have special decor for to help you get into the holiday spirit.
Dirty Habit Restaurant
This popular bar has created a winter wonderland as of late November. Dirty Habit’s enchanting winter lodge is open from 3 PM to 9 PM during the week. On the weekends you can head here as early as noon.
Picture yourself cozying up by the fireside, indulging in mouth-watering delicacies like savory poutine, luscious creamy brie, and tantalizing calamari skewers. Elevate your experience with a selection of warming beverages, from rich hot chocolate to spirited toddies, perfect for those chilly evenings.
More information is on their website.
Bourbon Steak At The Four Seasons
This holiday season, the Four Seasons Hotel in Washington, DC is getting a cozy makeover with cozy chalets popping up in their Bourbon Steak Restaurant patio. The chalets are inspired by The Macallan, that famous single malt Scotch whisky brand.
You and your friends can hang out in one of three unique chalets that feel like a little piece of The Macallan’s place in Scotland. They’ve got a warm, woodsy vibe and super comfy touches that make them perfect for enjoying a top-notch scotch.
And here’s the best part: The Macallan Chalets are serving up some exclusive whiskies from the iconic brand, all matched up with the newest seasonal eats from the Bourbon Steak menu.
Cafe Milano is one of the best Italian restaurants in Georgetown and it is well known for being an iconic DC restaurant. Each year Cafe Milano decorates the restaurant to the nines with Christmas decor that you can enjoy while you savor some of their classic Italian dishes.
25 Fun Holiday & Christmas Events Washington DC 2023: Summary
From holiday light displays to holiday themed restaurants, there are so many fun things to do in DC around Christmas time. Georgetown has many restaurants and light displays as well as ice skating. You can head to the Wharf for more ice skating as well as holiday lights. Finally, there’s tons of areas with holiday markets where you can shop for unique things for your loved ones.