Nov 21, 2023 - Things to Do

13 must-see holiday light displays around D.C.

Lights galore at Enchant. Photo courtesy of Enchant

The D.C. area is glowing up for the holidays.

  • Here are the best lights around town, including extravagant (and free!) neighborhood displays, ticketed festivals, and luminescent villages.

💡 DC Holiday Lights

Details: A bunch of D.C. neighborhoods decorate their main streets, and throw holiday events and markets with local businesses.

Price: Free

Dates: Now through Jan. 7.

Where: Check out the decorations in Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park, Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle, Georgetown, Logan Circle, Lower Georgia Ave., Mt. Pleasant, Petworth, The Parks, U Street, Upper Georgia Ave., Uptown, and more.

⭐ NOVA Parks

Details: Northern Virginia parks offer a variety of light-gazing experiences. Whether you prefer to stay cozy in your car through the Bull Run Festival of Lights, the area's largest drive-thru experience in Centreville, skate at Ice & Lights in Alexandria, or stroll through Meadowlark's Winter Walk of Lights in Vienna.

Dates: Now through Jan. 7.

Price: Tickets vary by activity. Advance online reservations are encouraged.

❄️ Winter City Lights

Details: Olney's "Field of Screams" turns into a festive Christmas campus for the holidays with over a million lights and 18 acres of outdoor fun — think bonfires, snow tubing, a 1.5-mile light trail, and lots of warming food and drinks.

Dates: Now through Dec. 30.

Price: Tickets are $39 for adults, $31 for kids, and free for children under 4. Snow tubing and axe-throwing are extra.

Where: 4501 Olney-Laytonsville Rd., Olney, MD

Christmas tree lighting ceremony in CityCenter DC
Tree lighting at CityCenter. Photograph courtesy of CityCenterDC

🌲Seasons Greenings

Details: The U.S. Botanic Garden's annual holiday display features model trains in the gated outdoor gardens and festive lights throughout the native plants and flowers.

Dates: Nov. 23-Jan. 1.

Price: Free

🦓 Zoo Lights

Details: The National Zoo's animal-themed light and lantern display is a D.C. holiday favorite — plus the family-friendly evenings include live musical performances, holiday markets, hot cocoa for kids, spiked hot cocktails for adults, and more attractions beyond the twinkles.

Dates: Nov. 24-Dec.30.

Price: Tickets are $6 per person (free for kids under 2). Parking passes are $30.

Where: National Zoo, 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW

Elaborate lanterns at the Winter Lantern Festival in Tysons, VA
Artistic lanterns at the Winter Lantern Festival. Photo courtesy of Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty Images

🏮Winter Lantern Festival

Details: Visitors walk through 1,000 hand-made Chinese lanterns at this luminescent display near Tysons Galleria, decked out with interactive features and a bounce house — perfect for families, art lovers, and Instagrammers alike.

Dates: Nov. 24-Feb. 18.

Price: Tickets are $26 for adults and $18 for kids, plus bundles for groups.

🎄 Enchant

Details: The massive holiday village and light maze at Nationals Park caters to both families and adult fun. Visitors can skate through a glowing forest, eat and drink in the marketplace, and snag photos with Santa.

Dates: Nov. 24-Dec. 31.

Price: Tickets are $32 for adults and $24 for juniors, plus package specials for families/groups.

Where: Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St. SE

⚡Festival of Lights

Details: Prince George's County Parks goes all out with a drive-thru light trail, plus activities like horseback riding and hay rides through the glow.

Dates: Nov. 24-Jan. 1.

Price: Varies by vehicle. Cars are $10 online and $15 at the gate.

Address: 301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro, MD

🎄CityCenterDC Tree Lighting

Details: Combine a trip to the Downtown Holiday Market in Penn Quarter with a stop by CityCenterDC's 75-foot tree and giant reindeer nearby. A lighting ceremony takes place on Nov. 25 with live music by The Revels, balloon artists, face painters, and holiday treats.

When: Nov. 25.

Price: Free

Where: 825 10th St., NW

Artechouse holiday immersion exhibit featuring a nutcracker
Artechouse holiday immersion. Photo courtesy of Artechouse

🇺🇲 National Christmas Tree

Details: The National Christmas Tree lighting ceremony happens on Nov. 30. The public is invited to visit the 63-foot Norway spruce, alongside 58 smaller trees, starting Dec. 2 — all lit up around sunset each evening. The National Menorah lighting happens on Dec. 7.

Price: Free

Where: White House Visitor Center, 1450 Pennsylvania Ave., NW

✨ Georgetown Glow

Details: Local and international artists create luminescent installations that are set up throughout Georgetown. Visitors can sign up for various walking tours through the neighborhood.

Dates: Dec.1 - Jan.7

Price: Free, though some tours are ticketed.

Where: Various locations around Georgetown.

A boat decked out in Christmas lights with a reindeer on the bow in Alexandria
A festive boat in Alexandria. Photo courtesy of Celal Gunes/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

🛥️ Holiday Boat Parades

Details: Local boats deck their decks in holiday lights for two different parades at The Wharf and in Old Town, Alexandria. The parades coincide with dockside holiday parties filled with live music, activities, and food and drink specials. In Alexandria, it's part of a three-day festive weekend of events.

When: Dec. 2.

Price: Free

Where: The Wharf, 45 Sutton Sq., SW. Old Town, Cameron St., Alexandria

🎨 Artechouse's Spectacular Factory

Details: An immersive holiday light experience returns to the multi-media art studio, where visitors can walk among floating giant Christmas bells and thousands of nutcrackers.

When: Dec. 20-Jan. 8.

Price: Tickets start at $14.

Where: Artechouse, 1238 Maryland Ave., SW

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