Christmas light displays in the DC area are beginning to shine. There are enough displays that you can visit one a night from now until the end of the year! Whether you live in Georgetown or Arlington or Olney, there is a Christmas display near you. The D.C. Christmas light displays are extravagant—some even include over 500,000 LED lights and a few roaring tigers!

Georgetown Glow

The Georgetown GLOW month-long, free art installation is one of the Christmas lights displays in the DC area. Instead of Christmas trees and snowmen, here you will see neon bent to the will of the artists, sometimes in abstract and intriguing forms. Cloud swings and snow cones, pom poms out of a Dr. Seuss book and herons sweeping around the C&O Canal are just a few of the pieces you may see when you visit.

New artists are featured each year, which is what makes this event so special. D.C. locals and visitors always have a reason to head to Georgetown in December, even if they don’t celebrate Christmas.  Georgetown Glow runs from December 1-January 7 and it is free.

More than 40 of Georgetown’s restaurants and retail shops are offering promotions, events, and/or extended hours on Dec. 6 as part of a special GLOW Shopping Night. From 20% off, to buy-one-get-one deals, gifts with purchase, pop-ups, gift card bonuses, and free sips while you shop, you better get GLOW’ing.

As part of GLOW Shopping Night, Neighbors DC is hosting an outdoor holiday market on the lawn of Grace Church (1041 Wisconsin Ave NW) from 2 pm – 8:30 pm. Vendor offerings include candles, jewelry, greeting cards, art, and novelties. There, you can also join FERN Florist & Floral Bar for a festive holiday wreath-making workshop from 2 pm – 5 pm. An expert instructor will guide you through the process, ensuring you create a masterpiece that reflects your personal style and the joy of the season. You’ll even go home with a free ornament of your choosing.

December 6 gets even better from 6 pm – 10 pm, more than a dozen Georgetown restaurants and shops are participating in a self-guided holiday cocktail crawl. Featured drinks include a Naughty and Nice with Irish whiskey, Apple Pie Martini, Hot Buttered Rum, and an Italian Poinsettia – plus non-alcoholic hot mulled wine.  For more information about the Georgetown Glow and the location of the art installations, click here.

ZooLights at the National Zoo

Zoolights at the National Zoo on Connecticut Avenue is another place to visit for Christmas lights displays in the DC area.  For one month out of the year, ZooLights offers glowing animal lanterns, Instagram-worthy exhibits, and 500,000 LED lights.

Walk to the Elephant Community Center to see a spectacular laser light show, or the reflecting lights at the new “Entre les Rangs” exhibit. There’s so much to see at ZooLights, and you might need more than one night to see it all!

ZooLights offers plenty of food, including holiday treats, food trucks, and BBQ dishes. You’ll also find children’s rides and virtual reality experiences, including a popular slide near the tiger and lion exhibits.

There is a small charge this year for the first time to see the Zoolights.   Parking always seems hard at the zoo, so you might want to consider taking the metro or buying a home in Cleveland Park! 

Enchant DC

Of all the Christmas lights displays in the DC area, the world’s largest light maze is Enchant Christmas, a rain-or-shine holiday festival in D.C.’s Nationals Park. Within the 90,000-square-foot maze, you’ll find light fixtures like a 100-foot-tall Christmas tree.  The festive ice skating trail features even more lights, and is included in the cost of admission.  Enchant Christmas runs from November 24 to December 31.  Tickets are $32 for adults and $24 for children.

December 3 is Paws n Claus night at Enchant Christmas.   You can bring your pup with you as you explore the light maze, get a picture with Santa, and feel altruistic since the Enchant DC organizers are donating a full-belly meal to one shelter dog for every doggy ticket purchase.

Food and beverage vendors serve festive snacks or you can have a full feast at the PNC Diamond Club within the stadium.   For more information about the event, just click here.

Seasons Greenings at the US Botanic Gardens

From the festive lights and model trains in the outdoor garden to the Conservatory filled with poinsettias and miniature D.C. landmarks made out of plant materials, the U.S. Botanic Garden combines a love of Christmas and plants into one amazing event. And it’s FREE.  The Seasons Greenings is located at 100 Maryland Avenue SW and it is open from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day from 10 am to 5 pm.

On the lawn in the gated outdoor gardens, G-gauge model trains will circulate from 10:00-5:00 daily through displays of pollinators made from plant parts. These scenes will range from oversized models of native U.S. flowers, butterflies, bats, and hummingbirds to an orchid bee pollinating a vanilla orchid flower, a chocolate midge pollinating a cacao flower, a lemur pollinating a traveler’s tree flower, and more! The Garden will be closed on December 25.

On three Thursdays in December — Dec. 14, Dec. 21, and Dec. 28 — the Conservatory and outdoor train display will have extended hours, staying open until 8:00 p.m. There will be live holiday music during these evenings.

National Christmas Tree

Washington, D.C. is home to incredible Christmas tree displays. After the annual lighting ceremonies, you can see sparkling Christmas trees at almost any capitol landmark.  The National Christmas Tree and decorated trees from each U.S. state can be seen on the Ellipse at President’s Park.  On the U.S. Capitol’s West Lawn, find the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree— it’s selected from a different part of the country each year!  The National Christmas Tree will be lit this year on November 30.  Tickets are available through an on-line lottery.

Not surprisingly, the history of the Lighting of the National Christmas Tree is intertwined with the history of America for the last 94 years. Through peace and war, Americans have celebrated the season in this holiday event.  In November, 1923,  First Lady Grace Coolidge permitted the District of Columbia Public Schools to erect a Christmas tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. The organizers named the tree The “National Christmas Tree.”  On Christmas Eve, President Calvin Coolidge walked from the White House to the Ellipse and “pushed the button” to light the 48-foot Balsam fir.  Enthusiastic spectators looked on as the tree lit up with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white and green.  A local choir and a “quartet” from the U.S. Marine Band performed too.  The National Tree has come a long way since 1923!  Last year was the 100th year of the National Christmas Tree.  The 2022 ceremony welcomed an estimated 10,000 visitors including the president and vice president and a host of performers from Shania Twain and Andy Grammer to the U.S. Marine Band.  There were 13,000 feet of lights, 63,750 LED lights and over 400 ornaments.

Rather than celebrate the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse,Roosevelt had two Frasier firs planted in Lafayette Park.  The two firs stood on either side of the statue of Andrew Jackson. The expectation was that one of the trees would serve as the National Christmas Tree each year.

The year before United States entered World War II, President Franklin D. Roosevelt condemned war, invoked the beatitudes of Christ, and called on “belligerent nations to read the Sermon on the Mount.” At the ceremony, he also prefaced his prepared remarks with an announcement that he and Mrs. Roosevelt would like the celebration moved to the South Lawn of the White House grounds next year. He remarked that such a shift in locale would make for a “more homey” celebration.  Nonetheless, the tree was not lit for the war years.  For more information about the history of the National Christmas Tree, just click here.

You can also find lit-up Christmas trees at Union Station, the Willard, Fairmont Washington D.C., the Canadian Embassy and the Library of Congress.

Winter Lights Festival in Gaithersburg

If you want to wander a bit further from DC into Montgomery County to see the lights, you can check out the display of lights at Seneca Creek State Park, open nightly November 24 through December 31 (except December 25.)   The 3.5 mile drive through the enchanted setting of Seneca Creek State Park takes you past more than 450 illuminated displays and beautifully lit trees that light up the night. The park is located at 11950 Clopper Road, conveniently accessible from I-270.  This is an appealing way to see the lights for families with young children because you never have to get out of your car or get cold!  (ZooLights was cold the year that I went to see it!)

A word of caution though is that you now have to buy a ticket for your car on line ahead of your visit.  Here is a link to the ticket site.

Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights

If you are looking for another Christmas lights display in the DC area, you should consider the Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights at 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court in Vienna.  Take an evening walk through the enchanting Meadowlark Botanical Gardens adorned with lighted trees and displays featuring nature, winter, and holiday themes.  Our half-mile Winter Walk paved trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible.

Sip on a cozy, hot beverage (with or without spirits) as you walk and roast marshmallows for your s’mores to finish out the evening.

Winter Walk of Lights is illuminating the gardens for the 12th year and serves as many as 110,000 visitors each year.

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