I really like spending Christmas in Washington DC…first, it’s home now, and I love being home at Christmas. Second, it’s usually pretty quiet. Much of the town leaves (since most of the town isn’t ‘from’ Washington), and you can drive and park with ease. That, in and of itself, makes it a good time to stick around the city. It’s not really a big time for tourists, either, which means it’s a great time to visit museums.
In addition to the normal attractions, there are some other super cool things to do around Christmas time in Washington (in addition to visiting the National Christmas Tree, of course!).
Zoolights: If you want to see a ridiculous number of Christmas lights (am I supposed to call them holiday lights now?), Zoolights is the place to go! The National Zoo is pretty spectacular, all lit up in holiday fun. While it definitely appeals a bit more to kids, I think adults can appreciate the spectacle, too. I seriously have never seen so many types and styles and lights in my life. Pandas is a big theme this year, with the addition of the new little panda cub Bei Bei. The best time to go is right before the lights turn on, so you can see some of the animals and then enjoy the lights on your way out.
National Botanical Garden: Near the Capitol, the National Botanical Garden is pretty neat over Christmas: if you are a train lover, this is the place to go. Trains wind around the area in and out of tunnels…yes, I still like trains, and I know I’m not the only one. In addition to the trains, they have these unbelievably detailed replicas of key sites in DC, like the Lincoln Monument and White House made of all plant materials. They take weeks to create, and are beautiful. The Botanical Garden is also a good place to warm up if it’s cold (not this year, unfortunately). Free to enter.
Downtown Holiday Market: A bit more unexpected for DC is the annual Downtown Holiday Market. They actually block off a street each year near Chinatown, and different vendors rotate in and out of the market throughout most of December. There are often performers (acrobats are always fun to watch); weekends often have the best acts. There’s also food…key to any good holiday market, I think. Not a whole lot of kitsch, if that’s not your idea of fun–most of the vendors selling “things” have pretty high quality goods. Interesting to window shop, even if you don’t need to do more holiday buying. Free to enter.