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February 24, 2024

Washington, DC Shines for the Holiday Travel

Holiday Travel

Delve into holiday traditions and one-of-a-kind cultural experiences in the nation’s capital this holiday season. Destination DC (DDC) invites visitors to get in the holiday spirit by taking in the 100th annual National Christmas Tree, basking in holiday décor, shopping local and more. Learn more at washington.org/winter.

Elliott L. Ferguson II, president and CEO,  DDCl
Elliott L. Ferguson II, President and CEO, DDC

“The nation’s capital is a top destination to take in the holiday season thanks to fun seasonal events, celebrations and great value with more than 100 free things to do,” said Elliott L. Ferguson II, president and CEO of DDC, the official destination marketing organization for Washington, DC. “This year, by saving on experiences, visitors can splurge on local shopping, while taking in light displays, classic holiday performances and only-in-DC experiences.”

New and Notable in Washington, DC

District Wharf welcomed an additional 1.15 million square feet of mixed-use spaces, including a Pendry hotel, residences, a marina, parks and public areas.

The Smithsonian’s most visited museum free museum reopened in October with eight new transformed galleries. Free timed-entry passes are required.

Dedicated exclusively to contemporary art, the 32,000 sq feet museum draws from the Rubell family’s collection. The museum is three floors and offers exhibition galleries, public programming, flexible activation spaces, a bookstore, and more. Ticketed, free for DC residents.

  • The Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s (RAMW) DC Cocktail Week returns from Nov. 28 through Dec. 4. Participating restaurants will offer cocktails and mocktails paired with food bites, host special events for the public to enjoy like cocktail classes, tasting dinners, and happy hours, and create take-home cocktail kits for fans to make at home.
  • Museum of Illusions

Located in CityCenterDC, the museum will offer interactive, immersive experiences for all ages. The museum teaches about vision, perception, the human brain and science, while showcasing amusing illusions. Opens Dec. 13, 2022. Ticketed.

Select Seasonal Hotel Packages; Find More on washington.org

  • Churchill Hotel: Book Bubbles and Breakfast and enjoy a bottle of sparkling wine and chocolate-covered strawberries delivered to your room and continental breakfast for two. Use code BUBBLES.
  • Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C.: Book a suite to celebrate the new year and enjoy a celebratory bottle of sparkling wine, macarons, complimentary daily parking and a $50 credit at Café du Parc. For stays Dec. 28, 2022 – Jan. 3, 2023.
  • Hotel Zena: Keep family vacation stress-free and allow everyone to stay together. Book one room and receive up to 50% off a connecting room through Dec. 31, 2022.
  • The Darcy: Driving this holiday season? Enjoy overnight parking for one vehicle and high-speed WiFi, a $60 value. Select Park and Stay from special offers.
  • Hyatt Regency Washington: Stay at the Hyatt Regency Washington Nov. 1 – Dec. 31, 2022 and visit two of five participating museums (National Children’s Museum, National Building Museum, International Spy Museum, National Law Enforcement Museum, and Chinese American Museum) to receive one complimentary dessert or beverage. Code: MUSE

Holiday Events and Performances

  • Bells of Bethlehem opens at Museum of the Bible on Nov. 9, showcasing six bells from the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem. This is the first time any of the bells will be on display in the United States.
  • Experience Charles Dickens’ beloved Yuletide story of transformation and redemption, “A Christmas Carol,” at Ford’s Theatre Nov. 18 – Dec. 31.
  • The Washington Ballet presents “The Nutcracker” Nov. 25 – Dec. 30.
  • The Wharf hosts the Holiday Boat Parade on Dec. 3 as more than 60 decorated boats parade along the Washington Channel.
  • Take in a Step show with Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show” at the Atlas Performing Arts Center Dec. 9-18.
  • An unforgettable return to choral music is back at the National Cathedral with the “Joy of Christmas” Dec. 10-11.
  • Catch “A Candlelight Christmas” Dec. 17-18 at the Kennedy Center.
  • Wreaths Across America volunteer holiday wreath laying program returns to Arlington National Cemetery Dec. 17.

Dazzling Light Displays

  • Georgetown Park transforms to a holiday wonderland with multicolored lights, holiday décor and photo perfect visuals Nov. 25 – Jan. 30, 2023.
  • Explore the world’s largest light maze, Enchant at Nationals Park Nov. 25 – Jan. 1, 2023. The family-friendly experience offers ice skating, holiday beverages, a holiday market and a chance to meet Mr. Claus.
  • Environmentally friendly LED lights and dozens of glowing animal lanterns transform the National  Zoo into a winter wonderland with ZooLights. Friday, November 25, 2022 to Friday, December 30, 2022, 5:00 pm to 9:00 pm
  • CityCenterDC kicks off the Washington, DC holiday season on November 26th with the ninth annual holiday tree lighting celebration. The 75-foot tree is decked with over 155,000 lights.
  • Capitol Hill lights up Sunny, its prized tree, on Nov. 26 at Eastern Market Metro Park.
  • Celebrate 100 years of American tradition with the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on Dec. 2.
  • The first ever City Ridge holiday tree lighting festival includes free photos with Santa, caroling and live performances, ice carving demonstrations, train rides and more on Dec. 3.
  • SPECTACULAR FACTORY at Artechouse invites visitors inside an enchanting and experiential multiverse world filled with candy canes, nutcrackers, and more.
  • The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree was chosen from Pisgah National Forest in North Carolina. Once lit, the tree glows nightly on the West Front Lawn through New Year’s Day.
  • The National Menorah is lit on the Ellipse on Dec. 18 through Hanukkah.

Holiday Markets and Only-in-DC Shopping

  • Support the businesses at the heart of Capitol Hill during The Holly Days. Enjoy holiday shopping, dining, lighting and window displays, music and more along Eastern Market Main Street Nov. 1 – Dec. 31.
  • The 18th iteration of the magical Downtown Holiday Market returns to Penn Quarter with local vendors, light bites and festive décor. The market is free to the public and runs Nov. 18 – Dec. 23.
  • The Heurich House Museum’s Christkindlmarkt is back encouraging shopping small from Dec. 2-4. Shoppers can stroll through a German-style market in the castle garden featuring dozens of local artisans.
  • Shop DC’s minority- and women-owned businesses from anywhere through the city’s new digital retail platform Shop in the District.
  • Find locally made gifts at Shop Made in DCNubian Hueman https://www.steadfastsupplydc.com/and La Cosecha.

Winter Activities

  • Washington Harbour Ice Rink opens on Nov. 11.
  • Enjoy more than 20 drafts and a selection of warm cocktails in the glow of many fire pits at the outdoor beer garden Wunder Garten.
  • The Wharf Ice Rink returns on Nov. 23.
  • Enjoy winterized outdoor dining at any of DC’s permanent streateries.
  • Ice skate in the shadow of the National Gallery of Art from Nov. 26, 2022 – March 5, 2023.
  • Keep winter at Bay, with Estuary at The Conrad. Enjoy cozy outdoor dining and a warming seasonal menu with hot cocktails and cuisine inspired by the Chesapeake Bay.

Holiday High Tea

Luxury hotels around the city offer festive high teas. Reserve in advance:

  • St. Regis Washington, DC: Holiday Afternoon Tea is served Nov. 25 – Jan. 8, 2023. Each guest receives an official 2022 White House Christmas Ornament and enjoys selection of teas from Dammann Frères, tea sandwiches, holiday desserts and pastries and optional Champagne pairings. Tickets are available through Opentable.
  • Four Seasons Washington, DC: Every Saturday in December from 12-3:30pm, partake in a special holiday tea benefitting Children’s National Hospital. Each child at tea will be gifted with a Children’s National Dr. Bear stuffed animal. Tickets are available through Opentable.
  • Willard InterContinental Washington, D.C.: Holiday Afternoon Tea in Peacock Alley is available Friday-Sunday from Dec. 2-30. Indulge in a medley of distinctive teas, delectable sandwiches, and seasonally inspired sweets.
  • The Watergate Hotel: Enjoy a Nutcracker themed tea with specialty pastries and holiday table décor. Tea can be enjoyed Saturdays and Sundays, Dec. 3rd -31st.
  • Sofitel Washington DC Lafayette Square’s Opaline Brasserie: Offering de l’après-midi des Fêtes, a French afternoon tea for sweet and savory lovers of all ages. Saturday Nov. 26 – Dec. 17 from 2 – 4pm.

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