CHRISTMAS IN DC 2021

Beyond the White House, Capitol and politics of the District is a thriving city. The real DC isn't like an episode of House of Cards, it is so much more. It is a city filled with a rich history, the sounds of go-go, the taste of mumbo and residents from all around the world.


And while I believe DC is a city worth being on everyone's bucket list, she really lights up over the holiday season. With decorated storefronts and twinkling Christmas trees the monuments tend to glow a little brighter at night this time of year.


Whether you live here or are hosting out of town guests over the holidays I am sure this list will help you enjoy the season to the fullest.


CHRISTMAS TREE HUNTING

December 2020 holiday activities were significantly reduced and I was trying to find safe creative ways to enjoy the season while a friend was visiting. This resulted in us going on an unofficial tour of DC Christmas trees all over the city. If you are looking for an outdoor activity to enjoy with the family may I suggest a Christmas tree tour led by you! Use my guide to some of the best trees in the city.


ENCHANT CHRISTMAS

For the second year in a row Nationals Park is hosting, Enchant Christmas a magical Christmas light maze, with ice skating, holiday treats, a visit with Santa, and more. If possible try to snag a weeknight ticket as weekends can be fairly crowded.


When: Nov. 26-Jan. 2

Where: Nationals Park 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC 20003

Purchase tickets online here.


DOWNTOWN HOLIDAY MARKET

Celebrating its 17th year, DC's downtown holiday market is open daily from noon November 19 - December 23, 2021. Located in front of the National Portrait Gallery, the market features multiple vendors, hot beverages, sweets, and a calendar of holiday performances.


Plan a day outing starting at the National Portrait Gallery followed by a stroll through the holiday market. I recommend grabbing a churro and hot chocolate to enjoy while browsing, if the line is too long try XX donuts instead.


Want to continue the holiday fun in this area? Head to Urban Roast located just a block away for s'mores and cocktails. Reservations required.


Looking for a hearty meal to warm up with after the holiday market? Head to two of the best ramen shops in DC just a few blocks away. Daikaya (1st floor) for ramen or next door Bantam King. You will have to put your name in for either and can expect a long wait on a busy weekend. If you have your heart set on this plan I suggest stopping by here first to inquire how long the wait is and putting down your name for the waitlist while you explore the holiday market. Waits can sometimes be as long as 90+ minutes.

CITY CENTER DECORATIONS

City Center really knows how to bring the holiday cheer to DC. This downtown area has seasonal decor year-round but they go all out for the holiday season. This impressive 75-foot tree is one of the largest in the city, decorated with more than 150,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments.


Just a few blocks away from the downtown holiday market make your way over here to enjoy the decor and perhaps stay for dinner. I recommend Centrolina, Fig and Olive, or recently reopened DBGB for one of the best burgers I've had. Or try next door's Michelin starred Cranes.


U.S. BOTANICAL GARDENS

Although the inside will be closed for the 2021 season, there is still a lot to enjoy at US Botanic Gardens. This year will feature an outdoor train display with festive holiday adornments and lights throughout the garden from November 24, 2021, through January 2, 2022. The train display can be visited in the gated outdoor gardens between 10:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Tickets are not required.

Make sure to check out the Conservatory windows which will also be decorated for the holidays featuring thousands of colorful poinsettias and some collections of D.C. monuments and landmarks made from plant materials. The display is truly impressive and can be enjoyed later at night if you can't make it to the trains before 5:00pm.

NATIONAL HARBOR

Just a 20-minute drive from DC this waterfront area in Maryland has lots to offer during the holiday season.


To enjoy an outing here for just a few hours I recommend the following. Arrive around 4:30pm and take a stroll down to the water to snap a picture in front of the Christmas tree. Then make your way over to the lookout right in front of Grace's Mandarin to enjoy the sunset with a view overlooking the water and the iconic Ferris wheel lit up.


You might be feeling a little chilly by now depending on how windy it may be down by the water. So it's time to warm up with a holiday cocktail. Head over to the latest holiday pop up bar, the Gumdrop Tavern, where you can enjoy the festive decor and creative cocktails.


Want to make the evening a little more special? Book a VIP reservation next to the outdoor fire pit with s'more kits included.


SCHEDULE

December 23, 2021 - January 9th, 2022

Thursday - Friday: 4pm - 9pm

Saturday - Sunday: 1pm - 9pm


Next up it's time to make your way over to the Gaylord National Hotel for the free #LIT light show in the lobby of the hotel. A high-energy, celebratory show with thousands of dancing lights, lasers, and music at 7:30pm, 8:45pm and 9:15pm


CHRISTMAS AT THE GAYLORD NATIONAL HOTEL

There are many ways to celebrate the holidays at National Harbor and the Gaylord National Hotel offers plenty. Here you can see the extensive list of activities they offer.


This holiday season my family and I enjoyed the I Love Christmas Movies experience. Where we were able to walk through the movie set of five iconic christmas films: The Polar Express™, Elf™, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation™, A Christmas Story™, and The Year Without A Santa Claus™.


We were really impressed by the friendly staff and their enforcement of mask-wearing and spacing out guests in small timed groups. The experience is catered to children but enjoyable for the childhood spirit in all of us as well.


Throughout the hotel there were several vendors with delicious treats. A personal favorite was the Holiday Sweet Shoppe offering spiked hot cocoa and eggnog. Let me tell you, bourbon hot chocolate hits different.


MOVIES ON THE POTOMAC

If you are brave enough to bare the cold consider an outdoor movie screening in front of the Potomac river. Bring your own chairs and snacks, sit back and enjoy.


December 19: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation December 26: Polar Express January 2: It’s a Wonderful Life


SPEND A DAY AT THE WHARF

Light Up the Wharf, kicks off the holiday season at The District the Saturday after Thanksgiving. The waterfront transforms into a winter wonderland with thousands of twinkling lights.


Plan an entire evening of holiday fun with a stroll to admire all the holiday decor including Jack Daniel’s twenty-five-foot-tall whiskey barrel tree on Market Pier. Carry on the evening with a visit to the Terrazza at Officina for dinner and drinks and end your evening with a s'more around the campfire with the magnificent Christmas tree in the background.


You can also enjoy the ice rink from November 24, 2021 through February 2022.


Admission

Adult: $12

Youth (12 & Under): $9

Skate Rental: $6


ICE SKATING

You won't find me on skates, but this classic holiday pastime can be enjoyed in Washington, D.C. with some epic backdrops, like the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden, the Washington Harbor in Georgetown, or down at the Wharf.





LIBRARY OF CONGRESS

If the weather is too cold may I suggest a visit to the Library of Congress.


Next to the Capitol sits the largest library in the world, where more than 500 miles of bookshelves house books, photos, and maps and it's FREE to visit.

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This is a great holiday outing. Step into a historic building to enjoy its stunning architecture, rotating exhibits, and end with a photo op in front of the indoor Christmas tree. This spectacular tree is decorated with hand-painted wooden books representing every state.

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You must book a timed reservation ahead of time.


STROLL THROUGH GEORGETOWN

DC’s most historic neighborhood lights up during the holidays in a month-long celebration with outdoor works of art, an ice skating rink by the water, and wreaths hanging on lanterns. Wander around the charming residential streets of this historic neighborhood and peep the decor before making your way down to the waterfront.


A holiday favorite in the neighborhood is the famous Filomena. For over three decades this restaurant has been filling the residents of the nation's capital hearts and bellies with giant plates of pasta. Filomena goes all out with its holiday decor. The food is delicious, the atmosphere feels like a family dining room and the portions are dangerously big so keep in mind when ordering. Make sure to wave hello through the glass to the woman making fresh pasta as you head down into the restaurant.


AFTERNOON TEA AT THE WILLARD

Many hotels in the district put on a show for the holidays but no one does it quite like this iconic hotel. The Willard goes all out for the holidays and should be at the top of your list.


When it comes to feeling pampered, an afternoon tea always does the trick. As soon as the tiered tray of delights is set on the table and hot tea begins to pour into my delicate patterned teacup I am instantly transported to my own personal Downton Abbey fantasy.


Book a spot at the Willard's red-carpeted Peacock Alley lined with Christmas trees and enjoy the British tradition of scones, clotted cream, and jam accompanied by the sounds of a live harpist.

Afternoon Tea is offered every Friday, Saturday, and Sunday in December (excluding December 31) with seatings at 1:00 p.m. and at 4:00 p.m. (reservations are currently fully booked check for waiting list). This year due to increasing demand afternoon tea has now been extended into the Crystal Room as well.


Price: $79 per adult, or $89 with a glass of