Winter is a great time to visit Washington DC. While the temperatures are dropping, the city is heating up with dazzling light displays, outstanding theater and a whole world of holiday themed activities. No matter what your preference, an ultimate adventure awaits you this winter in DC.
The possibilities are endless, but here are just twelve things that you can do this winter holiday trip:

close up of ice skates

1. Get Your Skate On

Imagine skating amongst beautiful pieces of art and soaring sculptures in a lush garden. The ice rink at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden is a picturesque scene planted right on National Mall. It is the quintessential ice-skating experience. But if the National Mall is too crowded for your tastes, there are many other places to hit the ice in the Nation’s Capital.

2. Catch a Holiday Show

DC embraces the holiday spirit with all the delightful Christmas jingles, holiday displays and illuminating lights. But most importantly, with its flourishing theater and performing art venues. DC’s theater and performing arts venues are packed with an abundance of holiday-themed shows, be it the classic Nutcracker with a Washington twist, the traditional rendition of A Christmas Carol, the immensely talented Step Afrika!’s Magical Holiday Step Show or the legendary Fiddler on the Roof and so many more. Seriously, good luck choosing one.

3. National Christmas Tree

The stunning conifer that lives in President’s Park on the White house Ellipse is this city’s claim to fame. The National Christmas Tree is lit daily from 4:30 pm from the beginning of December to early January and is accompanied by nightly musical performances throughout the holiday season. Don’t miss your chance to stand next to it.

Zoo Lights at Washington DC National Zoo

4. ZooLights

The Smithsonian National Zoo is a favorite throughout the year, but winter is a chance to indulge your wild side with an after-hours visit to the National Zoo during ZooLights. Illuminating the zoo with more than 500,000 environmentally friendly LEDs, animated light installations and live music, the zoo is truly a place where the holiday spirit comes alive. Hot chocolate, coffee, eggnog, s’mores and holiday cookies are all available to indulge your senses as well.

5. U.S. Arboretum Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifer Collection

The gorgeous, 446-acre property makes for an inspiring and visually captivating visit at any time of the year. The Arboretum is full of treasures, from the Capitol Columns to the Bonsai & Penjing Museum to the seven-acre Gotelli Dwarf and Slow-Growing Conifer Collection. This collection is one of the most comprehensive in the world, with 1,400 specimens forming an oasis that is perfect for getting lost in, or simply admiring from the gazebo that overlooks the area. You are sure to be amazed.

6. Library of Congress – Movie Screening

During the month of February, the Library of Congress hosts a special movie series in its Pickford Theater. The theme for the 2020 film series is A Year of Change: Best Picture Nominees of 1968, featuring five wide-ranging films that paint an in-depth picture of American life in the late 1960s. All the screenings are free, but you will need to secure the tickets in advance. Tickets for the 2020 film series will be available from December onwards.

7. Discover Holiday Markets

Explore all that the magical holiday marketplaces found throughout Washington DC have to offer. You will be tempted to visit every market several times, due to a rotating group of vendors and live entertainment. Find that perfectly thoughtful gift for all the special people in your life at the Downtown Holiday Market, peruse arts and crafts in a historic mansion at the Heurich House Museum’s German Christkindlmarkt or head to the House of Sweden in Georgetown and celebrate Scandinavian-style at the Swedish Christmas Bazaar.

8. World’s Largest Menorah

Perhaps the most prominent public Chanukah program in the world is the annual lighting ceremony of the National Chanukah Menorah on the Ellipse. The lighting of this menorah – the world’s largest – is attended by thousands every year. Throughout Chanukah, the National Menorah stands tall just across from the White House, an international symbol for the Jewish community. Its first lighting comes on Dec. 22, featuring a free ceremony (tickets are required) accompanied with musical performances, hot latkes and donuts.
U.S. Botanical Gardens

9. Season’s Greetings: America’s Gardens

Do you miss the lush greenery and warm breezes of summer? You will not, once you visit the U.S. Botanic Garden this winter. The conservatory gets decked out for the holidays with its annual exhibit displays focusing on gardens from Hawaii to Maine, and featuring iconic spots like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden, Franklin Park Conservatory and Huntsville Botanical Garden. Inside, you’ll also find the garden’s collection of DC’s iconic landmarks and a showcase of poinsettias. On select evenings, the Conservatory stays open until 8 p.m. for live performances of seasonal music.

10. Georgetown Glow

Take a stroll through DC’s most historic neighborhood and be awed by Georgetown GLOW’s stunning artworks, a curated exhibition of outdoor light art installations. This event has almost become a holiday tradition, gathering art from artists both local and international. Each year, a group of artists display their unique works throughout the neighborhood, creating an outdoor art exhibition that has become a month-long celebration.

11. Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

Celebrate the holidays and watch beautifully decorated boats pass by The Wharf. Decorate ornaments, cookies (courtesy of Praline baker) or warm up by the Camp Wharf fire pit while making s’mores. Each year, dozens of holiday-themed and illuminated boats traverse the Potomac River from the waterfront in Alexandria, VA to The Wharf as part of the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Enjoy the holiday festivals on both sides of the river while you observe the parade, free of charge.

exterior of washington dc union station during holidays

12. Christmas Spirit at Union Station

Union Station is like its own little holiday town. Its famous model train display is not to be missed, and neither is its dazzling Norwegian Christmas tree. Enjoy these lovely sites while shopping or dining at one of Union Station’s vast array of stores and restaurants. Be greeted by amazing wreaths at the front of the station as you enter or wish them a cheery goodbye as you exit to explore more of the city.

Having a hard time choosing from all these fun activities? With two and four bedded room options, an on-site buffet style restaurant and plenty of free bus parking, the accommodations will certainly be the easy choice at National 4‑H Conference Center. Contact us to know more about how we can make your next trip to DC the best one yet.