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Washington DC Dawn Monument - HDR | © Nicolas Raymond/Flickr
Washington DC Dawn Monument - HDR | © Nicolas Raymond/Flickr
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What's On In Washington, D.C. In December

Picture of Kate McMahon
Updated: 20 November 2016
The holiday season is finally upon us. Luckily, the District offers a wide variety of holiday events that celebrate diversity and all faiths. Here’s what’s on as the year comes to an end so you can get your social calendar in order.


Zoo Lights

📅 November 25th – January 1st

The National Zoo’s Christmas time light display transforms zoo grounds into the North Pole, with festive cheer spread over the 163-acre campus. Elaborate light displays, a luge track and plenty of hot cocoa await spectators at the free event. Approximately 500,000 lights flashing in time to holiday tunes will mesmerize you, guaranteed. After-hours animals on show include residents of the Small Mammal House and Reptile Discovery Center, and possibly the big cats — if they can stay awake. Lions sleep for an estimated 20 hours per day!

The National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C., USA +1 202 633 4888

National Christmas Tree Lighting

📅 December 1st

For nearly a century, the U.S. has held a grand national tree lighting ceremony at The White House. This year’s ceremony will take place on December 1st, and entertainment includes Chance The Rapper and Kelly Clarkson. Tickets are distributed randomly through a lottery system but aren’t required to visit any other day. From December 9th – 22nd, choirs, carolers and other performers will provide free, festive entertainment each evening.

The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, D.C., USA

Bethesda Winter Wonderland

📅 December 3rd

The neighborhood holiday party features the usual festive entertainment, but also a unique ice sculpting competition. Watch as artists chisel away blocks of ice to shape them into wonderful winter creations. Afterwards, caroling students from local schools will break out in tune, and Santa will arrive to listen to everyone’s wish lists. It is set to take place on December 3rd from 1 – 4 pm.

Veterans Park, 7800-, 7898 Woodmont Ave, Bethesda, MD, USA

Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show

📅 December 3rd – 4th

The cooking exhibition combines food and entertainment for a weekend of fun. Featuring over 400 exhibitors, from personal chefs to catering companies, the cooking extravaganza will host cooking demonstrations by some of the nation’s top chefs. But, what’s indulgent without alcohol? There will also be a spirits pavilion featuring local mixologists.

The National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, D.C., USA +1 202 633 4888

Smithsonian Holiday Festival

📅 December 5th – 6th

Think of this as the quintessential Christmas celebration that spans the city. The Smithsonian hosts an annual two day celebration on the National Mall to ring in the season. There’s music, author signings, a holiday film screening, free chocolate and a Santa Claus (the conventional kind); many museums also provide complimentary gift-wrapping.

National Mall, Washington, D.C., USA +1 202 426 6841


Third Eye Blind

📅 December 8th

The early 2000’s alternative heart throbs, who nearly everyone listened to as a young teen, will be performing at The Fillmore in Silver Spring. Anticipate a crowd comprised of mostly twenty-somethings who want to relive the glory days of their angsty teen years. Wish you would step back from that ledge, my friend, na na na.

8656 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910, +1 301 960 9999

Holiday Cheers For Grown-Ups

📅 December 10th

This adults-only holiday party promises free flowing champagne and melodious tunes from the Capitol City Symphony. Inundate your stomachs with bubbly and pack your ears with euphony. Tickets are $40, and the musical party takes place at the Atlas Performing Arts Center.

1333 H St NE, Washington, DC 20002, +1 202 399 7993

Wreath Workshop

📅 December 10th

In a time of national distress, maybe try a new soothing hobby – like wreath making! Create your own herbal wreathes in this workshop at Tudor Place. The event focuses on employing sustainable materials, as holiday demand for traditional boxwood wreathes puts a strain on the plant population. Instead, attendees will use a variety of foliage combined with herbs and spices, like cinnamon and lavender, to create a festive masterpiece.

1644 31st St NW, Washington, DC 20007, +1 202 965 0400

Washington Nationals Winterfest

📅 December 10th – 11th

The nation’s favorite baseball team holds an annual winter fair to celebrate their fans during the off season. Players, coaches, and team personnel will meet with supporters, give autographs, and engage in interactive exhibition demos – batting cages, a kid’s zone, and inflatable games.

801 Mt Vernon Pl NW, Washington, DC 20001, +1 202 249 3000

Hillwood Russian Winter Festival

📅 December 10th – 11th

The nordic winter festival will celebrate Sviatky – the Russian holiday-time equivalent to the Solstice and Yuletide. Figures of Russian children’s dreams will make an appearance – Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden. Festival-goers are encouraged to dress in traditional Russian garb like kokoshniks and top hats in the imitation of old Russian nobles.

4155 Linnean Ave NW, Washington, DC 20008, +1 202 686 5807


Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas

📅 December 16th

In honor of late jazz star Ella Fitzgerald, the Kennedy Center Jazz Club will perform pieces from her hit holiday record, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas. In 1979, during the height of her career, Fitzgerald was named an honoree at the Kennedy Center – they’ve long been devoted to her greatness.

2700 F St NW, Washington, DC 20566, +1 202 467 4600

Children’s Christmas Pageant

📅 December 17th

The National Cathedral’s annual Christmas Pageant retells the nativity scene. Children adorned in angel wings, and others in shepherd staffs or dressed as a menagerie of animals, will sing joyful praises in the celebration of Jesus’s iconic birth story. All children are welcome to participate.

3101 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC 20016, +1 202 537 6200

Ugly Sweater Run

📅 December 17th

The District often hosts ecclectic themed 5K races, and this year’s Ugly Sweater Run is no exception. Break out the most gaudy holiday sweater you can find, throw it on, and go run three miles in its presumably itchy material. Holiday music will blast through speakers around the course, and a themed Kaluha cocktail and mechanical reindeer will greet runners at the finish line.

2400 E Capitol St SE, Washington, DC 20003, +1 202 547 9077

An American In Paris

📅 December 17th

The French Embassy’s annual holiday ball lets you go to Paris, on a budget of $50. You’re technically in France when on the embassy grounds and the sophisticated party offers an open bar, jazz quartets, festive carolers, and a French pastry chef. Everyone who’s anyone in this city attends this wintertime soiree.

4101 Reservoir Rd NW, Washington, DC 20007, +1 202 944 6000


The Water-Skiing Santa

📅 December 24th

Each year, Old Town Alexandria (a short drive from D.C.) hosts a rather eclectic holiday show on Christmas Eve that involves mythical characters and water sports. A santa impersonator Santa himself, dawned in the classic red suit, straps on a pair of water skis and glides down the Potomac River. The Grinch pilots a jet ski, while Frosty the Snowman greets his adoring fans on land.

Waterfront Park, 1 Prince St, Alexandria, VA, USA

National Menorah Lighting

📅 December 25th

At 4pm on Christmas Day, there will be an annual national menorah lighting ceremony on the White House lawn. Admission is free, but tickets must be obtained. The United States Marine band will provide tunes, and hot latkes and donuts will be offered – what more could you ask for?

1600 Pennsylvania Ave NW, Washington, DC 20500, +1 202 456 1111

Kanye West

📅 December 27th

The self-professed egomaniac will take over the Verizon Center; if his past concerts are any indication, the show is sure to be unforgettable to say the least. Our tip is to get tickets while they last.

601 F St NW, Washington, DC 20004, +1 202 628 3200

Party For Reproductive Rights

📅 December 31st

Saloon is hosting a New Year’s Eve bash, where all proceeds will be donated to Planned Parenthood. The charitable event promises a cash bar, live DJs, and a raffle – ring in the New Year getting drunk for a cause!

1205 U St NW, Washington, DC 20009, +1 202 462 2640