Christmas Traveler site banner

Christmas In Washington DC


Capitol Christmas TreeWashington DC is a nice place to visit around the holidays. The weather is usually cool enough there to feel appropriately seasonable, but it's rarely cold enough to snow. The monuments and public buildings, which are always well lit and attractive in the evenings, look even prettier with the extra lights and color of the holiday season.

You've probably seen scenes from the National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony on tv, the event is televised each year and includes a concert and appearance by the President and first family. If you can't be there for that event, there are still lots of opportunites to enjoy Christmas time in DC.

For more information about visiting Washington DC in general, including attractions and hotel options, see

Things to Do

The National Christmas Tree

2016 National Christmas Tree Lighting: The date for the 2016 National Christmas Tree lighting is December 1st. There is a lottery for tickets to attend the tree lighting ceremony. The 2016 Tree Lighting Ceremony lottery opens at 10:00 a.m October 7 and closes at 10:00 a.m. October 10th. Kelly Clarkson, Chance the Rapper, Yolana Adams, James Taylor, the Lumineers, and Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood are scheduled to perform. Visit the National Tree Lighting website for details and updates.

Located on the Ellipse accross from the White House. There are smaller trees all around the big tree, each representing the United States and Territories. The National Christmas Tree is actually a living tree that grows in this location all the time. A National Hanukkah Menorah is also lit during the eight days of Hanukkah. More Info.

The Capitol Christmas Tree

The Capitol Christmas Tree is a traditional cut tree that is selected each year from one of the National Forests. The 2016 tree will come from the Payette National Forest in Idaho. The tree makes a tour with stops along the way as it travels to DC (tour schedule). The date for the 2016 Capitol tree lighting has not been set yet, but the lighting usually occurs in early December. More Info.

Ice Skating

PandaAn outdoor skating rink is set up in the National Gallery of Art's Sculpture Garden. The rink is opens in November. 2016 dates have not yet been announced. Skate rentals are available. More info.

Zoo Lights at the National Zoo

Stroll through the National Zoo amidst a wonderland of holiday lights. You can go inside the exhibit buildings such as the small mammal building and great ape house to warm up. There are also train rides, snow-less tubing, a model train display, and shopping at the zoo shops available. Plus, you can enjoy warm holiday beverages and special sweet treats. More Info.

Zoo Lights 2016: Every night from November 25 to January 1 (expect December 24 & 25). 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. Admission is free.

Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Mormon Temple

DC Mormon Temple with holiday lights Enjoy the display of over 500,000 lights on the grounds of this beautiful temple, plus Christmas trees, international creches, and a life-sized nativity. There are musical performances nightly in the Visitor Center's indoor theater. Free tickets are handed out 90 minutes before each performance. 2016 not yet announced. More Info.

Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend in Old Town Alexandria, VA

This is an annual holiday season festival with a Scottish flair. There's the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade featuring tartan-clan marching units, bagpipes, drums, dancers, and more. There's also a heather and greens sale, homes tour, and "Taste of Scotland" food and scotch tasting event. December 2 -3m 2916 in Old Town Alexandria, VA. Details.

Mount Vernon by Candlelight

During the holiday season to Mount Vernon can enjoy candlelit character-guided tours of the mansion, plus 18th-century dancing and fireside caroling. The 2016 Candlelight tour dates are November 25 & 26, and December 2, 3, 10, 11, and 18. Details.

Holiday Shows

Handel's Messiah - National Symphony Orchestra

This holiday favorite is performed each year at the beautiful Kennedy Center. December 15 - 18, 2015. Tickets and More Info.

The Washington Chorus Candlelight Christmas

The Washington Chorus performs choral pieces and sing-a-longs accompanied by organ and brass at the Kennedy Center Concert Hall from December 11 - 22. More information.

The Nutcracker - Washington Ballet

The Washington Ballet's performance of Septime Webre's version of The Nutcracker is another holiday tradition. This version of the classic ballet is set in historic Washington DC and stars George Washington as the heroic nutcracker. It's all set to the traditional music by Tchaikovsky. At the Warner Theatre November 268 - December 24, 2016. Tickets and More Info.

Kennedy Center Merry Tuba Christmas

December 14, 2016. Enjoy a free concert of traditional Christmas music performed by an ensemble of hundreds of tuba, sousaphone, and euphonium players. The concert is 6:00 p.m, December 14th in the Concert Hall at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Free reserved tickets will be distributed in the Hall of Nations beginning around 4:00 p.m.. More information.

American Holiday Festival Concert - U.S Army Band

Conductor holding batonThe U.S. Army Band "Pershing's Own" performs a popular holiday concert each year. The 2016 concerts will be held at DAR Constition Hall in Washington DC. Free tickets (while supplies last) will be available online only starting at 10:00 a.m. (ET) on November 1, 2016. Details.

2016 U.S. Army American Holiday Festival Concerts: December 2, 3 (two shows) and 4.

Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long

The "President's Own" Marine Corps Band and local choirs perform at this annual free performance. The audience is invited to sing along on a selection of holiday favorites. Audience members bring bells to participate in "Jingle Bells" and candles for "Silent Night." Toys for Tots toy donations are accepted at the event. Held at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap National Park for the Performing Arts. The 2016 date is Decmeber 3rd at 4:00 p.m.. Details.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical

How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical plays at the National Theater December 13 - 31, 2016. Details.

LivingSocial has discount tickets available for select performances of How the Grinch Stole Christmas at the National Theater.

Goldstar also has discount tickets for How the Grinch Stole Christmas.


The Hay-Adams - Located right where you want to be during the holidays, within view of the White House and Washington Monument.

Comfort Inn Downtown DC / Convention Center - Convenient to the Convention Center. There's a Metro Station at the Convention Center that will take you just about anywhere else you want to go.

Hotels near the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts - Be near the Kennedy Center for the National Symphony Orchestra's performances of Handel's Messiah.

Hotels near Warner Theatre - Home of the Washington Ballet's production of The Nutcracker.

Hotels near the Mormon Temple - Stay near the Washington DC Mormon Temple, where the holidays are celebrated with thousands of lights and nightly musical performances.

Hotels near the National Christmas Tree - The tree is located at the Ellipse, across from the White House.

Washington DC hotels with free breakfast - Start the day of quickly and inexpensively with free breakfast at your hotel.

See More Washington DC Hotels