Best Things To Do In Washington D.C. At Christmas

Washington D.C. is a wonderful place to spend the holiday season. There are beautiful decorations, lights, and displays in addition to all the wonderful attractions that are already here. Additionally, you will enjoy many of the museums and sights with far less crowds than in the summer. Here are the best things to do at Christmas time around D.C.!

U.S. Botanic Garden’s Christmas Display

The U.S. Botanic Garden’s festive Christmas display includes models of landmarks like the Capitol.

The U.S. Botanic Garden’s festive Christmas display includes models of landmarks like the Capitol.

The U.S. Botanic Garden is a fun place to visit anytime of year, but at Christmas time it goes above and beyond! Come see the displays of all the monuments made out of plant materials. There is also a room with a miniature train that goes through different landmarks from around the country. We have been the past two years, and both years both the kids were really entertained! Also they have plant passports you can pick up and carry around while you look for different stations throughout the garden. Stamp your passport at each station and enjoy the scavenger hunt. Besides all the beauty of the plants and Christmas displays, it's warm in the gardens! Pop in for a little bit to warm up after you've visited the Christmas tree at the Capitol just across the street. Check the schedule because they also do evening jazz concerts during the season as well.

Visit the Christmas Trees

The Christmas tree at the Capitol building in Washington D.C.

The Christmas tree at the Capitol building in Washington D.C.

There are a few notable trees around town you may want to visit. The first one is the National Tree at the White House. You can find it outside the gates of the South Lawn. Just an honest caveat here, don't go expecting the tree at Rockerfeller Center. This tree is not as grand. But with a view of the Washington Monument behind, it is still worth seeing. Check the schedule for the Tree Lighting ceremony and try to get tickets if you will be in town.

There is also a tree outside the Capitol Building. This one is a bit bigger and more decorated than the National Tree. It will be on the National Mall side of the Capitol building. If you're at the Capitol, you can also pop into the Library of Congress to see their tree! The Library of Congress is just behind the Capitol and is one of the most beautiful buildings in D.C. Adding  in the Christmas tree makes it is even more gorgeous. The Library of Congress, Capitol, and U.S. Botanic Garden are conveniently located to each other and could be done all in one day. Also drop by City Center for some high end shopping, another gorgeous tree, and the seasonal hanging decorations.

White House Christmas Tours

Touring the White House at Christmas is one of the best things you can do in Washington D.C.!

Touring the White House at Christmas is one of the best things you can do in Washington D.C.!

This one takes a little bit of prior planning and luck. If you know you are visiting D.C. at this time of year, apply early for an East Wing Tour of the White House. This self-guided tour (more of a walk through) is in high demand at this time of year, and for good reason. The decorations are absolutely beautiful and change each  year. The East Wing staff works tirelessly on them and enlists the help of volunteers to help get all the decorating done. The tour is family friendly, you can bring children and babies. We did a night time tour and the final cherry on top was a choir singing Christmas carols just before you exit. It was magical. I would do this every year if I could!

Arlington National Cemetery Wreath Laying

Christmas wreaths laid on the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Christmas wreaths laid on the headstones at Arlington National Cemetery.

Arlington National Cemetery is a stunning and humbling place to visit. Every year there is a wreath laying event put on by Wreaths Across America. I attended last year with my mom and we both thought it was such a wonderful experience. Anyone can show up to lay wreaths, and people come out in droves for it! Expect to get there early and for it to be crowded upon arrival. It might sound like a somber event and not kid friendly, but the atmosphere is actually very uplifting and joyful. There are many families there showing their children what it means to serve and sacrifice. I would not hesitate to bring my children. If you won't be in town for the actual wreath laying, still stopping by to see the headstones with the wreaths is worth the visit. I can't think of a more beautiful time of year to see the cemetery. 

If you won't be in Washington D.C. but would like to participate in a similar event near your hometown, click here to see where you can lay wreaths at a cemetery near you. And click hereto donate a wreath ($15) for the wreath laying.

Ice Skating at the Sculpture Garden

This one we attempted to do last year, but it didn't quite happen. In the winter the National Gallery of Art Outdoor Sculpture Garden turns its fountain into an ice skating rink! What better place to go ice skating than at the National Mall?! The cafe here is also lovely and serves up good food and warm drinks, better than most of the other museums on the Mall!

Wolf Trap Singalong

This one is a bit outside of DC, but it is worth the journey! Wolf Trap is an outdoor amphitheater and every year they put on a FREE holiday singalong. The “President’s Own Marine Corps Band” provides the music along with other local choir groups, and everyone enjoys singing along to their favorite holiday songs. It’s a very fun, celebratory atmosphere. The crowds shows up wearing festive attire, bringing coolers of snacks, and everyone has a genuinely good time! Be sure to arrive here early as seating is first come, first served. If you can’t find seats, there are some grassy areas at the back. You may not see the musicians as well but you can still hear the music and the kids will have some room to dance and play. 

Other Events to Check Out

-Zoolights at the National Zoo

-Winter Walk of Lights at Meadowlark Gardens 

-And always check KidFriendlyDC.com when traveling here with kids! She always posts all the events going on and has great information on what to do with kids!

Read more about visiting Washington D.C. here!

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