WASHINGTON, DC HOLIDAY TRADITIONS
Washington DC and the surrounding areas in Virginia and Maryland always have festive holiday activities for whole families. While staying in Fairfax County, you're only a short trip away from a number of fun holiday happenings. Here are some of the annual events and others that you just may not want to miss this season!
10 Things You Must Do in Washington, DC During the Holidays
1. Say Hello to the National Christmas Tree
People are drawn from all over to witness this American tradition. In early December of every year since 1929, our President has the honors of lighting up the National Tree - an American tradition (this year it takes place on December 3rd). In 1954, a "Pathway of Peace" - 56 smaller, decorated trees representing all of America's 50 states, five territories, and the District of Columbia - were planted surrounding the National Christmas Tree. This tradition continues today, so if you're visiting from out of town make sure to stop by and say hello to your state's tree (we hear the Virginia one is pretty nice). The Pageant of Peace on the White House Ellipse also includes the National Menorah. An official lighting ceremony on December 6 signals the start of Chanukah, followed by the lighting of a candle throughout each night of the holiday.
2. Pose with "The People's Tree"
The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree, or "The People's Tree," began in 1964 when Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives John W. McCormack (D-MA) placed a live Christmas tree on the Capitol lawn. In 1970, the Capitol Architect asked the U.S. Forest Service to provide a Christmas tree. Since then, a different national forest has been chosen each year to provide "The People's Tree." This national forest also works with state forests to provide companion trees that are smaller Christmas trees for offices in Washington, D.C. This year the tree will be lit by the Speaker of the House on December 2nd, and hails all the way from Alaska!
From November 27 through January 3 join the thousands of visitors who make ZooLights a part of their annual holiday tradition. ZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats, and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland. New this year will be a dazzling light show set to music! Every Saturday night of ZooLights (November 28, December 5, 12, 19, 26) the Elephant Community Center will be transformed into The Warm Up and Chill Out Lounge sponsored by Celebrity Cruises. Inside this exclusive space, FONZ members will enjoy complimentary drinks and themed goodies generously provided by Celebrity Cruises.
4. Get Scrooged
Take in Charles Dickens' classic in the confines of an iconic American theatre. Join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. Over the last several years, Ford's has been engaged in a dramatic expansion and renovation. In 2009, Ford's reopened a restored and renovated theatre along with a re-imagined museum, illuminating the world of Civil War Washington and the years of Lincoln's presidency. In 2012, Ford's opened the new Center for Education and Leadership, expanding the pathways for connecting with Lincoln's legacy.
5. Skate Amongst Sculptures
The 2015-2016 ice-skating season at this prime spot along the National Mall begins November 14 and continues through March 13, weather permitting. Experience ice-skating in the Sculpture Garden while surrounded by large-scale sculptures by contemporary artists. The Gallery and Sculpture Garden are closed on December 25 and January 1. Please note the ice rink will be closed when it rains or when the temperature dips below 20°F, so call (202) 216-9397 for info when the forecast looks gloomy or extra-cold. During evening ice-skating hours, when the National Gallery of Art and surrounding Sculpture Garden are closed, access to the rink is restricted to the Constitution Ave. and Madison Dr. entrances at 9th Street.
6. Kennedy Style Holiday Cheer
Whether you're a Washingtonian or visiting from far away, you'll feel right at home with the Kennedy Center's seasonal performances full of tradition and holiday cheer! President John F. Kennedy was a lifelong supporter and advocate of the arts, and frequently steered the public discourse toward what he called "our contribution to the human spirit." Two months after President Kennedy's assassination in November 1963, Congress designated the National Cultural Center as a "living memorial" to Kennedy, and authorized $23 million to help build what was now known as the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.
7. Season's Greenings
At the U.S. Botanic Garden from November 26 through January 3 the Conservatory boasts one of the largest indoor decorated trees in Washington, D.C., and a showcase of poinsettias. And it wouldn't be the winter holiday season without the train display in the East Gallery, where trains chug along tracks around and above you through imaginative structures created with plant materials. Explore Pollination Station where you can visit over-sized flowers, bees and butterflies in this year's scenic wonderland. Also see D.C. landmarks such as the Capitol, Lincoln Memorial, and the Washington Monument, all made from plants, on display in the Garden Court. Also take note that no matter how cold it gets during winter in D.C., the U.S. Botanic Gardens stays nice and warm year-round - so it's a great place to go to escape winter's chill.
8. See the White House all decked out
You don't have an unobstructed view because of the security fence, but you can still catch a sweet glimpse of the Presidential Mansion in all its glory, beautifully decorated for the holiday season. People gather mostly at the north side of the mansion along Pennsylvania Ave. to get closer, but you can actually get a great view, take great pics, AND position yourself near National Christmas Tree and National Menorah from the Ellipse on the south side. From snowball fights to gingerbread houses to digital trees, the White House is a treasure trove of holiday traditions - old and new alike. Take the quiz on this page to test your knowledge and learn a surprising thing or two about the White House's holiday history.
9 . Catch a Show at the National Cathedral
The National Cathedral is one of the most iconic structures in all of DC. During the holiday season you're invited to attend original and classic compositions that stir the soul and inspire the mind with meditative and moving performances. You'll see that the National Cathedral provides the perfect setting for some of the season's most joyous music, performed by a team of international soloists with the Cathedral's own combined choirs and Baroque orchestra. One of the most popular concerts is Handel's Messiah which takes place December 5th and 6th. Holiday events span the month of December so check their website for a complete listing of performance times.
10. Peruse the Downtown Holiday Market
Beginning on November 27 and lasting through December 23, the Downtown Holiday Market marks its 11th year. Bringing a unique and festive shopping "village" to the heart of Downtown DC, the market is centered around 8th and F Streets and features more than 150 regional artisans, crafters and boutique businesses of ethnically produced goods. Hundreds of diverse gift items, such as jewelry, pottery, paintings, and textiles will be offered by 60 exhibitors each day. Check back as the exhibitors rotate and the selection of goods will vary daily. You're sure to find something special for everyone on your list.