Christmas & Holiday Events In The DC Area

No matter if you are celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, Washington DC and the surrounding areas in Virginia and Maryland always have festive holiday activities for the whole family. While staying in Fairfax County, there is always something to do during the winter season. Here are some of the annual events and others that you just may not want to miss this December!

Holiday Events In DC This Winter

Say Hello to the National Christmas Tree 

National Christmas Tree - DC Traditions

Begin your holiday activities in DC with the National Christmas Tree Lighting! This beloved American tradition, presented by the National Park Service (NPS) and National Park Foundation (NPF), features musical performances and the official lighting of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse in President’s Park. This year, the ceremony and official lighting will take place on Thursday, November 30. First celebrated in 1923 by President Calvin Coolidge, the National Christmas Tree Lighting today inspires people everywhere to pause to enjoy cherished traditions and memories made with family and friends in parks during the holiday season. The National Christmas Tree site is free to visit and will be open to the public Dec. 2, 2023, through Jan. 1, 2024. Hours are 10 a.m.-10 p.m. Sunday-Thursday, and 10 a.m.-11 p.m. Friday-Saturday. The Pageant of Peace surrounding the National Christmas Tree on the White House Ellipse also includes the National Menorah.

 Pose with "The People's Tree"

U.S. Capitol Christmas TreePhoto courtesy US Capitol Christmas Tree

The tradition in Washington DC 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." The 2023 tree will come from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden

Ice Skating National Gallery of Art

The National Gallery of Art is once again hosting ice skating in the Sculpture Garden in 2023! From November 20th through March 3rd, you can lace up your skates and get into the holiday spirit surrounded by the amazing sights in the surrounding courtyard. Skating lessons are available throughout the season and the rink is closed on December 25th and January 1st.

Peruse the Downtown Holiday Market

Downtown Holiday Market
Photo courtesy of Downtown Holiday Market

Nothing says a holiday event like a holiday market! This year the Downtown Holiday Market (DHM) will operate for 30 consecutive days and will have four weekend dates.  It will open Friday, November 17, and will run continuously through Saturday, December 23 (Closed Thanksgiving Day Thursday, November 23 and Monday December 4).  Hours will be from Noon to 8 pm each day.  Guests can make the most of their holiday shopping experience this winter by supporting local businesses and entrepreneurs across the region. The holiday market lineup features more than 70 exhibitors including Black-owned and minority-owned businesses Additional exciting and entertaining features include a live stage of exceptional regional performers. The daily schedule will be announced on the Downtown Holiday Market’s website.

Kennedy Style Holiday Cheer

Kennedy Center

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.

Catch a Show at the National Cathedral 

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 on select days in early December. In fact, all kinds of holiday events span the month of December so check their website for a complete listing of performance times. 

See the White House All Decked Out

White House Christmas

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 the 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.

Get Scrooged

A Christmas CarolPhoto Courtesy of Ford's Theatre

Take in Charles Dickens's 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. The production will be shown this year from November 17 - December 31, 2023.

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