Holiday Happenings: 20+ Festive Events for the Whole Family

Gaithersburg Winter Lights Festival
Winter Lights Festival | Photo by Steven Sekellick

Whether you celebrate Christmas, Kwanzaa or Hanukkah—or are just looking for some festive family fun—you won’t want to miss these local holiday happenings, a mix of in-person and virtual events.

Editor’s note: Our staff verified information to the best of our ability at press time. Please check with event organizers prior to attending or participating in these activities to confirm dates, times, locations and other details.


Winter Lights Festival
Experience the wonder of 450 illuminated displays and enchantingly lit trees from the warmth of your car on a 3.5-mile drive through Seneca Creek State Park. Tickets required. The Winter Lights Enchanted Evenings will not be happening this year due to the pandemic. Seneca Creek State Park, Gaithersburg, MD | Nov. 27 to Dec. 31 (closed on Dec. 25) | $12+ 

Winter Walk of Lights
Enjoy a scenic half-mile walk through a gorgeous lighting display in the botanical gardens. Tickets are required. Social distancing guidelines apply and capacity may be limited. Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, Vienna, VA | Nov. 11 to Jan. 3 | $11.25-$20

Festive Art Installation
Snap the perfect holiday photo at The Boro Park’s Instagrammable art installation, featuring giant interactive gift boxes wrapped with bright bows and glowing with holiday lights. Post a photo of the installation on social media and tag @theborotysons to be entered into a weekly raffle for a swag bag of goodies from local retailers. The Boro, Tysons, VA | Dec. 1-27 | Free

ZooLights Express
The National Zoo’s dazzling annual holiday event is going mobile this year, visiting one D.C. ward each Friday and Saturday night from 6-8 p.m. It’ll be hard to miss the 24-foot truck decorated with festive lights and featuring “Panda Claws.” Washington, DC | Nov. 27 to Dec.19 | Free

Bull Run Festival of Lights
Follow the magical glow of holiday lights on this 2.5-mile drive through Bull Run Regional Park. Santa will be waiting in the holiday village on select nights for family photos. Tickets required. Bull Run Regional Park, Centreville, VA | Nov. 6 to Jan. 10 | $20-$50 

DC Holiday Lights
Take in the dazzling lights of Columbia Heights, Dupont Circle and other commercial corridors around D.C., then cast a vote for your favorite festive display. While you’re walking, be sure to support local businesses along your way. Check the website for a list of participating neighborhoods. | Dec. 1-31 | Free

Nightly Holiday Tree Light Show
Bask in the glow of 2 million twinkling lights in the National Harbor Waterfront District. The 56-foot tree will light up every half hour from sundown to 9 p.m., and snow will fall over the tree during weekend light shows. National Harbor, MD | Nov. 13 to Jan. 3 | Free

National Christmas Tree Lighting
A live audience will not be allowed on the Ellipse for the 98th annual lighting of the National Christmas Tree and holiday performances, but families can watch the event online and then stream it on demand throughout the season. Stop by President’s Park during December to view the illuminated National Christmas tree and 56 student-decorated trees representing every U.S. state and territory. Streaming and The Ellipse, Washington, DC | Dec. 3-31 | Free

Chanukah on The Ellipse
The annual lighting of the National Menorah includes musical performances from Dreidelman and the Maccabees, delicious packaged Chanukah treats and free dreidels and menorah kits. COVID-19 safety measures will be in effect. Registration required. The Ellipse, Washington, DC | Dec. 10 | Free 

family holiday events in the DMV
Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash


Holiday Sing-A-Long From Home
Join the Wolf Trap Foundation for two virtual performances by the U. S. Marine Band and a sing-along of Christmas carols and Chanukah songs with local choir and vocal groups. Streaming
Dec. 5 and Dec. 19 | Free

Winter Solstice Revels
Gather around the laptop and get ready to sing at this live virtual event hosted by Washington Revels. Enjoy performances by virtual choruses, a special mummers’ play and a traditional horn dance. Streaming | Dec. 20 | $35 per device 

Magical Musical Holiday Step Show
Step Afrika!’s talented dancers showcase the African-American tradition of stepping in this festive virtual performance. Expect a visit from arctic friends like Popper the Penguin and polar bear twins. Registration required. Streaming | Dec. 16 | Free

In Spirit of Kwanzaa
Now in its 15th year, this energetic virtual performance from Coyaba Dance Theater celebrates the seven principles of Kwanzaa through dance. Streaming | Dec. 29 | Free

The Nutcracker Storybook
The Maryland Youth Ballet has reimagined its annual production of the classic holiday story. The pre-recorded performance will be available to rent or purchase after its premiere. Streaming | Dec. 19 |
$10 to rent, $20 to purchase

‘The Snow Queen’
Make some hot chocolate and settle in for an amazing at-home theater experience from Imagination Stage. All winter long, families can tune into this retelling of the Hans Christian Andersen fairy tale that inspired Disney’s “Frozen.” Tickets required. Streaming | Dec. 12 to Feb. 28 | $25-29 per household 

Winter Adventure with the Snow Maiden
Join teaching artist and performer Natasha Mirny for the exciting Slavic folk tale of Grandfather Frost and the Snow Maiden. Families are invited to become part of Hillwood Museum’s virtual storytelling experience through music, movement and props. Tickets required. Streaming | Dec. 12 | Free for members; $5 for the general public

Family Holiday Activities in the DMV
Photo by Chris Ainsworth on Unsplash


Christmas Village at Leesburg Animal Park
If you have an animal lover in the family, consider celebrating the holidays at this popular petting zoo. Take photos with Santa Claus, ride the Candy Cane Express, roast marshmallows and more. Tickets required. Leesburg Animal Park, Leesburg, VA | Dec. 4-23 | Prices vary by activity

Winter Glow
Experience the wonder of George Washington’s estate illuminated with colorful lights and holiday patterns. Meet Aladdin the camel, listen to carolers and pick up a craft kit for the kids. Tickets required. George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Mount Vernon, VA | Dec. 11-13 and 26-28 | $25-$45  

Ice & Lights
Skate around the ice rink, sip hot chocolate and say “cheese” at festively lit photo ops, including a reindeer family, color-changing trees and a 3D sleigh. Face masks and social distancing required. Ice skating tickets must be purchased online. The Winter Village at Cameron Run Park, Alexandria, VA | Nov. 20 to Jan. 3 | $9.35-$24 

Occoquan HolidayFest
Explore historic Occoquan during the holiday season through a series of online and in-person activities. Events include a gingerbread house contest, a virtual tree lighting, a fireside family night and a trivia competition. Registration required. Occoquan, VA | Nov. 20 to Dec. 13 | Price varies by activity 

First Night Alexandria
Looking for a family-friendly way to ring in the new year? Celebrate the end of 2020 with fan-favorite local entertainers and fireworks in an alcohol-free and safe environment. Both in-person and online activities will be offered. Alexandria, VA | Dec. 31 | $25-$35; Free for children younger than 12 

A version of this story originally appeared in the December 2020 issue of Washington FAMILY magazine.

About WF Staff

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