11 Best Ways to Get in the Holiday Spirit This December in DC

Happy holidays! December in Washington is always a special time, filled with seasonal activities and very merry things to do. To make sure you can make the most of your month, we’ve compiled eleven of the best local ways to get in the holiday spirit. Have another way you like to celebrate? Feel free to share your spirited suggestions in the comments!  

Santa at the Fairmont, Washington, DC

Visit Santa in his suite at the Fairmont

Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. through Sunday, December 19, 2021, all naughty and nice children can stop by Santa’s Hogwart-themed suite with their parents to tell the jolly man what they have on their wishlist this year (15 minute visits, no charge). Gingerbread treats and other sweets created by the hotel’s pastry team are available for all visitors.

*FYI – Those writing a letter to Santa, and posting in his red mailbox on-site at the Fairmont will receive one back via the postal service!

Wander and wonder at Light Yards 

The Yards decks the halls all December long with another FREE and larger-than-life light display that features illuminated, 22 feet tall trees trimmed top to bottom in holiday decor and festooned lights that cast The Yards’ Sun Deck with beautiful, colored patterns every night from 6-10 pm. The lit wonderland (designed and crafted locally in Baltimore by Amigo & Amigo) is the perfect place for the whole family to get in the holiday spirit and snap some Instagram-worthy pics, or wander before or after drinks and dinner at one of The Yards’ 20+ eateries.

Stuff yourself with Christmas at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

Ice Bumper Cars at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac

 Gaylord National Resort is DC’s holiday headquarters, with a tree lot, holiday hosting cooking classes, a holiday sweet shop, and an 80’s themed holiday pop-up bar/retro arcade. Back this year is the larger-than-life Gingerbread display (created from more than 300 lbs. of baked gingerbread, 400 lbs. of royal icing and 100 lbs. of chocolate!!), but holiday revelers will also love ice skating, ice bumper cars, and a new Snowball Build and Blast attraction where guests will build and toss real snowballs or take a thrilling slide down the frozen hill at Snow Flow Mountain.

Gaylord National also debuted Gaylord Hotels’ original production, I Love Christmas MoviesTM this year, which guides guests through thirteen scenes from the most iconic classic Christmas movies like The Polar Express™, Elf™, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation™, A Christmas Story™, and The Year Without A Santa Claus™.

Be holiday thrilled at a theme park 

Six Flags America turns its entire park into a holiday showcase on weekends and select December days with Holiday in the Park, an eye-popping winter wonderland featuring 10 specially-themed areas, seven holiday shows, seven thrilling coasters, s’mores pits for roasting, and much more. Even those who don’t love roller coasters will get a thrill out of the million glittering lights, festive foods, and dazzling holiday entertainment.
Folger Consort’s Holiday Concerts

Go old-fashioned caroling with Folger Holiday Concerts 

Folger Consort, the early music ensemble-in-residence at the Folger Shakespeare Library, hosts a series of holiday-themed concerts in December, both in-person and on-demand via streaming. Performances take place in the spacious and atmospheric St. Mark’s Church on Capitol Hill, with music from Christmas carols in English from the Middle Ages as well as medieval Latin carols from throughout Europe.

Support local – and lights – in Adams Morgan

Celebrate the holiday season, support local small businesses, and enjoy a variety of fun holiday activities and decor including an interactive light display, in Adams Morgan at the neighborhood’s month-long interactive light display in the plaza at Columbia Road and Adams Mill Road. Visitors can also listen to holiday carolers in Dickensian costumes on the plaza on some dates and times throughout the month.

Banish the Bah! Humbug with live theatre

Craig Wallace as Scrooge in Ford’s Theatre’s ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Image by Carol Rosegg

One of DC’s best-loved theaters, Ford’s Theatre, reprises its holiday classic, Charles Dickens’s A Christmas Carol, which always inspires with its message of mercy and charity. Attending live theatre can be such a joyful experience, especially around this time of year, and this tale of transformation and redemption is wonderful for everyone aged 5 and up!

Step back to the 18th century holidays at Mount Vernon

Join Mount Vernon for a family-friendly celebration of the holiday season where you can tour George Washington’s mansion, see the historic area by lantern-light with a background of classic and patriotic holiday music, shop for 18th-century wares and crafts in the Artisan Market, imagine what a winter encampment would have been like in the bygone era, and even see stunning holiday fireworks.

Kate ice skates at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink

Ice skate in the city’s most famous Sculpture Garden

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink is one of the most iconic things to experience during winter in Washington. Skate surrounded by national museums as well as large-scale sculptures by modern and contemporary artists including Louise Bourgeois, Alexander Calder, Tony Smith, Roy Lichtenstein, and Roxy Paine from 11:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and 11:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. Friday and Saturday, then warm up with hot cocoa while you stroll the Mall or before visiting a museum.

Get giftable with local makers in the middle of downtown

Shop and support local creators at the Downtown DC Holiday Market, where visitors can expect a range of family-friendly offerings including gifts and crafts, festive decor and lights, authentic German treats and local bites, and live entertainment on the mainstage all month long. Admission is FREE and free and this festive atmosphere is open to the public with hours from 12:00 pm to 8:00 pm daily (apart from Monday, December 6, 2021).

Enchant Christmas 2021 at Nationals’ Ballpark. Image credit: Kate Michael

Be extravagantly enchanted and illuminated

Experience extravagant illumination while navigating the world’s largest light maze and other engaging physical and digital activations all while maneuvering around the mischief of Enchant Christmas’s Eddie the Elf. DC’s Enchant Christmas takes up the entire Nationals Ballpark with the maze, an ice skating trail, a Little One’s Play Place, the Village — where visitors will find delicious local eats and holiday shopping — and Santa’s Landing for photo opportunities with Mr. and Mrs. Claus.