6 Traditions You Won’t Want to Miss In DC this December

Christmas at the Mormon Temple

December is here and the festivities have begun. We can practically hear the Who’s down in Whoville singing “fahoo fores, dahoo dores, welcome Christmas, come this way…” and we can certainly sense the excitement and bustle in our own holiday-loving city. Everywhere we turn, it seems there is some type of holiday exhibit, performance, or event that draws in crowds of local Washingtonians and tourists alike. Many of these events may cost you a pretty penny, but there are plenty of offerings worth checking out that are completely free. We’ve compiled a list of six free ways to get in the Christmas spirit around DC this season.

1. Visit The Winter Wonderland at The ZooLights

Every year, thousands of visitors head to the Smithsonian National Zoo to get that special Christmas twinkle in their eye and take in the 500,000+ christmas lights displayed throughout the park. Admission is free, though if you want to enjoy a warm spiked hot chocolate, some holiday cookies, or snowless tubing it might cost you a few extra dollars. There are even several special nights throughout the month of December such as Date Night on the 8th which adds some extra surprises (hint: carolers) to your experience. You can visit this winter wonderland nightly from 5:00-9:00pm through January 1st.

2. Check A Few People Off Your Christmas List at the Holiday Market

Head to F street from 12:00-8:00pm until December 23rd and pay a visit to the Downtown Holiday Market for unique Christmas goodies. The 12th annual market gathers more than 160 different exhibitors who will have various gift items for you to find the perfect gift for that special someone. Even if you don’t intend to do any shopping, the daily musical performances, food, and drink make this festive market worth your time.

3. Light Up Your World at the Festival of Lights

Visiting the 39th annual Festival of Lights at the Mormon Temple has become a favorite holiday tradition of many DC families. The temple will be glowing through January 1st with over 650,000 lights, Christmas trees decorated with themes from around the world, and a full size nativity scene. After taking in the beautiful decorations, warm your heart and hands inside the temple with nightly performances by carolers, orchestras, and many other groups.

4. Say “Season’s Greenings” at the Botanic Garden

If you’re trying to get in the Christmas spirit, but you’re already looking forward to Spring, you might enjoy the Season’s Greenings exhibit at the US Botanic Gardens, where thousands of blooms are on display, including a showcase of holiday poinsettias. There will be a beautifully decorated Christmas tree, a model train show, and replicas of iconic national parks. The exhibit is open from 10:00am- 5:00pm with extended hours on Tuesday and Thursday evenings for live Christmas music.

5. Revisit The Christmases of Your Childhood at Union Station

Union Station will be decked out with humongous wreaths, a beautiful polar-bear themed Christmas tree, and an oversized holiday model train display. The train display draws in adults and children alike as they wonder at the splendor of the gigantic hand-made Norwegian replica and the beautiful landscape it is powering through. You can find the train in the west hall of the station until the new year.

6. Head to President’s Park to Find Your Own Pathway to Peace

If you want to avoid forking out money for the lighting ceremony but still want to take in the overwhelming beauty of the National Christmas Tree, head to President’s Park any evening in December and you can take a stroll down the pathway to peace for free. This walkway around the oversized tree features 57 smaller trees to represent each state and territory. In the evenings, there are also free singing and dancing performances by local groups on the ellipse stage in the park.

Our beautiful capital may not be quite as Christmas-obsessed as those Who’s, but we certainly have enough holiday entertainment to give them a run for their money. By the time you have checked each of these six DC holiday traditions off of your December to-do list, you’ll likely be humming your own Christmas tune.

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