Washington DC in Winter: The Best Holiday Adventures in Washington DC

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Did you know that Washington, DC gets about 17 inches of snow every winter season? With the Lincoln Memorial Reflecting Pool frozen, the district can definitely look like a winter wonderland.

Washington, DC winter weather is the best way to experience snow while having an amazing vacation. There are so many fun things to do in winter, but when you’re in DC it’s even better because the locals really get into the spirit of the holidays.

Keep reading to learn about the best holiday adventures you can take part in while enjoying Washington, DC in winter.

1. Visit the Festive National Zoo

One of the best places to go in the winter in DC is the National Zoo. That’s when an already impressive zoo shows it’s true colors with ZooLights. During that time, you can visit during the after-hours and feast your eyes on well over 500,000-holiday lights. If you care about the environment, you’ll be happy to know that each bulb is LED so they’re environmentally friendly.

In addition to the colorful lights, they also have animated light installations and huge, glowing animal lanterns that are a joy to look at. The newest edition to the festivities is an award-winning exhibit that features swaying light which mimics a beautiful field of wheat in the breeze.

If you’re a panda fan, then you’ll go crazy for Pandamonium: A Virtual Experience. While wearing a virtual reality headset, you can get up close and personal with fluffy pandas and their cute children.

Any shopaholic will have a ton of fun browsing the outdoor market which features a wealth of local artisans selling many unique trinkets and artworks. It’s going to be twice as big as last year’s market.

There will be even more exciting things to do than that, but you’ll just have to go and discover it for yourself. Best of all, these special event nights at the zoo are free and can be easily accessed using the public transportation system.

2. Enjoy the District’s Holiday Boat Parade

New York might have the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade to brag about, but they don’t have an awesome holiday boat parade like the one in Washington, DC. During this festive time of year, you’ll be able to witness a multitude of wonderfully-lit boats coasting along the Potomac River.

The beautiful boats take off from the waterfront in Alexandria, Virginia at 6 p.m. and then go all the way to the Wharf in DC. You can watch this dazzling parade from anywhere along the river and it’s completely free of charge.

No matter which side of the river you’re on, you can expect a medley of fun activities that you can join, including friendly games and delicious food to feast on.

While watching the parade, you can decide with friends and family which boats are decorated the best. Afterward, you can find out if any of the boats you picked won prizes for their creative decorations.

At 8 p.m., the parade will be finalized with a phenomenal display of fireworks. You’ll want to bring a high-quality camera to capture all of the holiday beauty. That way, you’ll be able to remember the good times forever.

3. Indulge in Afternoon Tea at the Willard

During its 200 years of rich history, the Willard InterContinental Washington has seen visitors of many illustrious stripes. From United States Presidents and foreign dignitaries to best-selling authors and celebrities, the Willard has much to brag about.

The Willard has many high-class rooms that combine antique charm with modern-day elegance. Perhaps staying at the Willard is out of your price range, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop by to enjoy a soul-warming sip of afternoon tea.

Most days during December, you can visit the breathtaking luxuriousness of Peacock Alley and have not only delicious tea but also yummy sandwiches and pastries.

The posh atmosphere is further enhanced by festive holiday decorations and the heavenly sounds of harp music. You’ll definitely be able to pretend that you’re a king or queen from 1 to 4 p.m.

Plus, you might even feel the spirit of past guests, such as Abraham Lincoln, David Lloyd George, Buffalo Bill, and even Charles Dickens, the author of A Christmas Carol.

4. Take a Picture with the National Christmas Tree

No Christmas celebration is complete without a dazzling Christmas tree. During the holidays, Washington, DC is home to one of the most eye-catching Christmas trees in existence. The National Christmas Tree is one of the main reasons people flock to DC for the winter season.

This majestic conifer can be found on the White House Ellipse in President’s Park. You’ll be able to see that it’s covered in gorgeous, hand-made ornaments from all 50 of the United States as well as ornaments from 6 territories.

The National Christmas tree is officially lit up during a ceremony on December 5th and after that, it remains lit every day from 4:30 to 10 p.m. The display itself is open to visitors from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. and is absolutely free.

Depending on which night you visit the Christmas tree, you may be able to catch a lovely music performance that really captures the holiday atmosphere.

You won’t want to miss an opportunity to visit the National Christmas Tree because it’s become a tradition that is almost a century old now.

It started in 1923 when President Calvin Coolridge lit a fir that was almost 50 feet tall with 2,500 Christmas-colored bulbs. At the same time, there was a music performance featuring a local choir and members from the U.S. Marine Band. By visiting the tree, you’ll be a part of history.

5. See a Play at Ford’s Theater

Ford’s theater is a gorgeous venue that is historically important for many reasons, including the fact that it was the place where Abraham Lincoln was unfortunately assassinated while watching the play, Our American Cousin, in 1865. But now, in addition to plays, the theater is a testament to Lincoln’s legacy and features an enlightening museum filled with interesting exhibits.

After you’ve had a delicious cup of tea at the Willford and felt the spirit of former guest Charles Dickens, you can visit the Ford’s Theater and watch the timeless play, A Christmas Carol.

The classic story was written by Dickens and originally published on the 13th of December in 1843. For the play version, the beloved actor Craig Wallace will reprise the role of the cranky Ebenezer Scrooge as he is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future, until he is eventually redeemed and transformed into a kind and caring soul.

However, you shouldn’t expect a simple adaption of the story. Rather, this play is based on renowned director Michael Baron’s original conception and is bursting with catchy songs. You’ll have to bite your lip to stop yourself from singing along.

Past productions of the play have been positively reviewed and praised for their jolly atmosphere, their stunning visuals, and their amazing vocals. Any fan of the theater will definitely want to reserve their tickets ahead of time.

The play runs for two hours with one intermission and tickets range from 22 to 124 dollars. showtimes will begin on December 10th and run through January 1st, starting the new year with a hearty dose of Christmas cheer.

6. Shop at the Downtown Holiday Market

Even the most seasoned shopaholic will probably need to visit the Downtown Holiday Market at least twice if not more. Not only is the market huge but the vendors and crafters often come and go which means there is always something new.

You’ll be able to find the Downtown Holiday Market in front of the National Portrait Gallery and the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Whether you’re looking for groovy t-shirts, hand-made soaps, artistic photographs or something totally different, you’re sure to leave the market with a handful of fun purchases.

Wonderful holiday performances will accompany your shopping and will feature different genres depending on what day you go. They’re a great way to take a break during your hunt for the best gifts and most unique crafts.

Although you can shop during the day, the beautiful night lights around the market might tempt you to visit a bit later in the evening. Either way, the market is open every day from noon to 8 p.m.

After you’ve had your fill of shopping, you should consider going to one of the nearby museums. The National Portrait Gallery has numerous portraits, photographs, and sculptures of the people who have contributed to American history. From presidents and actresses to writers and activists, you’ll surely be able to recognize more than a few friendly faces.

On the other hand, the Smithsonian American Art Museum is one of the biggest and most varied American art collections in the country. There, you can glimpse the history of American art, starting from the 17th century to the modern-day.

If you have the time and energy, why not be ambitious and go to both museums?

7. Attend the Holiday Book Fair

Did you know that Iceland has a winter holiday called jólabókaflóð in which people give each other books on Christmas Eve and then curl up for the rest of the evening to enjoy a good read? The name of the holiday translates to “Yule Book Flood” and the idea should put a smile on any book lover’s face.

In the spirit of this holiday tradition, why not go to the holiday book fair and find some great gifts for yourself and others?

The holiday book fair is hosted at the Writer’s Center on Sunday, December 15th and lasts from noon to 3 p.m. It’s a great way to meet local authors and publishers and talk about your favorite books.

Some of the authors that will be there include Sarah Winn, Beth Kanter, John DeDakis, and others. You’ll also find prestigious publishers, such as people from The Baltimore Review, Plamen Press, and Poet Lore.

As it happens, there will even be representatives from the Iceland Writers Retreat. You can ask them about what books they’ve received during jólabókaflóð.

8. Watch the National Hanukkah Menorah Lighting Ceremony

Christmas is far from the only holiday during the winter season. If you want to get into the spirit of Hanukkah then make sure you don’t miss out on the National Hanukkah Menorah lighting ceremony.

Starting at 4 p.m. on December 22nd, the ceremony will start the process of lighting up the world’s largest public menorah. The event will take place on the Ellipse of the White House grounds and will have several concerts, including music performances by “The President’s Own” of the U.S. Marine Band and Dreidelman & the Maccabees.

The fun doesn’t end there, you’ll also be able to enjoy some hot latkes and give the kids some free dreidels and menorah kits. If you or anyone in your family is of Jewish heritage, they will surely appreciate attending this wonderful celebration.

Keep in mind that, although the event is free, you must reserve a ticket ahead of time.

Adventure & Enjoying Washington, DC in Winter

Now that you know how to have the most fun while visiting Washington, DC in winter, you can plan out one of the best holiday adventures of your life. Why skip this beautiful season while in slightly chilly Florida or stay stuck in the snow in New Hampshire when you can have an exciting DC winter in the country’s capital?

After your vacation is over, there’s a high chance that you’ll fall head over hills with DC. In that case, why not consider moving into a spacious and luxurious apartment?

Our apartments can provide you with the highest quality living space so that you can live like royalty in one of the greatest places in the United States. If you have any questions, feel free to contact us at any time and we’ll be happy to help.

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