Unique Holiday Attractions in the Washington, D.C. Area

Traditional Christmas Tree and Capitol Building at night - Washington D.C. United States of AmericaWith the holidays in full swing this month, it is a perfect time to look at some of the Washington, D.C. area’s best seasonal attractions. Here are some of our favorites.

Illuminated Destinations

The Washington, D.C. area has a variety of amazing light displays to experience with different themes. These displays all showcase superb design skills and creativity.


A holiday tradition now in its 15th year, Zoolights provides a winter wonderland atmosphere featuring dozens of eye-catching displays with half a million LED lights. Visitors walk on the National Zoo’s pathways to experience immersive lantern displays depicting different animals and the habitats where they live. Zoolights also features live music as well as food and shopping offerings for all ages.

The Garden of Lights

Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, MD, transforms itself into a fantastic, illuminated winter garden during the holiday season. Visitors walk through a half-mile of colorful lights, exhibits, and decorations adorning their 50 acres of flowerbeds and grounds.

Season’s Greenings

The U.S. Botanic Garden near the U.S. Capitol organizes an annual holiday display called “Season’s Greenings” that is enjoyed by both horticulture and holiday fans. The display features festive lights, poinsettias, and holiday décor throughout the building and grounds. Highlights include D.C. landmarks created from plants and a variety of model trains whirring by on tracks.

The Alexandria and D.C. Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

This unique holiday parade shows off decorated pleasure boats cruising along the Potomac River. The participants include dozens of different-sized powerboats and sailboats, along with the District’s fireboat, the John Glenn, which spouts water 70 feet into the air. The boats are creatively illuminated and decorated as they compete to win awards.

Keep an eye out for the Waterskiing Santa in one of the parade boats. This Santa will be in the parade to celebrate his upcoming show in Alexandria on Christmas Eve accompanied by jetskiing elves, reindeer, and other seasonal characters.

Christmas Trees

Illuminated Christmas tree lights at night with 50 small trees representing each state at National Mall in Washington D.C. in 2014Everyone is impressed by tall and beautiful Christmas trees to celebrate the season. Some of the most famous in the area are described below.

National Christmas Tree

A National Christmas Tree with an annual lighting ceremony has been taking place for a century since President Calvin Coolidge and First Lady Grace Coolidge started the tradition in 1923. A living tree has been featured in its designated location on the Ellipse south of the White House since 1973, but occasional plant diseases have resulted in cut trees also being used—including this year.

Visitors can see the current National Christmas Tree, a 40-foot-tall Norway spruce from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia as well as 58 decorated smaller trees on the Pathway of Peace circling the main tree. The 58 small trees represent the states and territories as well as schools managed by the Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Indian Education and the Department of Defense Education Activity. Students design the unique ornaments found on each tree.

There are also musical performances featured at the lighting ceremony and during the rest of the month.

The U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree

The tradition of the Capitol Christmas Tree also known as “The People’s Tree” began in 1964, when the Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives placed a live tree on the West Lawn of the Capitol. Since 1970, the U.S. Forest Service has chosen a different national forest to provide a cut tree to be The People’s Tree. This year’s tree is a 63-foot Norway spruce from the Monongahela National Forest in West Virginia.

The Capitol Christmas Tree features more than 5,000 ornaments made by hundreds of children and volunteers from its home state as well as over 5,000 colorful LED lights and a striking 4½ by 5½ inch star at the top.

CityCenter DC Holiday Tree

CityCenter DC Park boasts a towering 75-foot holiday tree with thousands of lights and ornaments accompanied by two 25-foot lighted reindeer. To start a month-long celebration, there is a festive tree-lighting ceremony with treats, musical performances, and other fun activities.

Holiday Trees at the Wharf

The Wharf area on the DC waterfront features two striking holiday trees. The first is a traditional 45-foot-tall spruce Christmas tree decorated with thousands of lights and ornaments and guarded by nutcrackers. The other tree on District Pier was created by stacking and decorating more than 100 Jack Daniels whiskey barrels in the shape of a traditional Christmas tree.

Holiday and Christmas Markets

Union Station during Christmas time at night - Washington D.C. United States of AmericaHoliday and Christmas markets are beloved throughout Europe and have become popular in the U.S. as well. Here are some of the best local markets to enjoy.

Downtown Holiday Market

Located on the F Street sidewalk in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery, this month-long market features more than 70 regional artisans, crafters, and boutique businesses of ethically produced goods. This market brings a festive shopping village to the middle of the city. The market also has a live stage featuring an interesting variety of regional performers.

Heurich House Museum Christmas Markt

The Heurich House Museum’s garden is the site of a festive holiday craft market featuring more than 50 local artisans. The market also offers German mulled wine, food and treats, and children’s ornament making.

Old Town Alexandria Christmas Market and Holiday Craft Show

This lively Christmas market in Old Town Alexandria features arts and crafts, jewelry, baked goods, refreshments, and more products from over 110 local vendors as well as live entertainment.

German Christmas Market

The German Military hosts this traditional German Christmas Market in Reston with German food and beverages, including mulled wine. The festive atmosphere at the market also includes illuminated stalls offering handcrafted gifts, ornaments, and souvenirs.

These attractions are just a small amount of the many fun-filled things to do in the DC area during the holiday season.

Everyone at Network Depot wishes you a Merry Christmas and a festive holiday season with your family and friends!

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