Top 5 things to do in Washington, DC during the holidays

From the iconic National Christmas Tree to ice skating under the stars, immerse yourself in festive activities in the nation's capital.

Washington, DC is an enchanting place to visit no matter the season. But, come holiday time, this city transforms into a winter wonderland you won't want to miss. In this post, we'll cover the top five things to do in Washington, DC during the holidays. So, whether you're a traveler looking for a new adventure or a holiday enthusiast, get ready to be dazzled by the nation's capital!


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1. Check out the National Christmas Tree
The National Christmas Tree, located on the Ellipse, is the home to a massive tree that is decorated from top to bottom with twinkling lights and ornaments. Surrounding the tree are dozens of smaller Christmas trees decorated by different states and territories. Once lit, visitors can see the tree 24 hours a day until early January. 

The lighting ceremony of the tree, a tradition since 1923, usually takes place on the first Thursday of December and marks the beginning of the holiday season in Washington, DC. The event is a spectacular celebration with live performances, celebrity appearances, and of course, the lighting of the tree. 

2. Go ice skating in front of the National Gallery of Art

Ice skating in the heart of the city with views of the Capitol, Pennsylvania Avenue, and the National Archives will undoubtedly charm everyone! Every year, an ice rink opens up on the National Gallery of Art's iconic Sculpture Garden, welcoming people to skate under the stars. This activity is open late into the night and is the perfect way to experience Washington, DC during the winter season. 

3. Visit the ZooLights

The National Zoo's "ZooLights" is an event that transforms the zoo into a dazzling winter wonderland, with over 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights illuminating the entire park. The mesmerizing light displays include larger-than-life animal sculptures and sparkling trees and there are a variety of activities such as live musical performances, winter-themed crafts, and an opportunity to see some of the nocturnal animals up close.

Whether you're looking for a family outing, a romantic date night, or simply an immersive holiday experience, attending ZooLights at the National Zoo is an unforgettable way to celebrate the season and create lasting memories. The ZooLights usually start during the last week of November and lasts until the beginning of January. Bonus - admission is free! 

4. Experience the Downtown Holiday Market

The Downtown Holiday market is a one-stop-shop for holiday goodies. Located in the heart of the city, this market offers a wide variety of crafts, decorations, and treats. The market is open daily from mid-November through late December, and there are usually around 150 exhibitors participating each year. It's a perfect spot to pick up unique gifts to fill your Christmas stockings or grab a snack while you stroll around the city. 

5. Watch the National Menorah Lighting

The National Menorah Lighting is an annual event that takes place at the White House Ellipse. You can join the celebration and witness the lighting of the tallest Menorah in the world, standing at 30 feet tall! It's one of the must-see events happening during Hanukkah and offers an unforgettable experience. 

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