Holidays in Washington, DC: Tree Lightings, Ice Skating, Craft Fairs, and More

Get festive on the ice, sip hot chocolate, make your own ornaments, and other seasonal activities.

By: Mallory Yu

Where to Go Ice Skating


National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Open through mid-March, weather permitting. Hours are Monday through Thursday 10 to 9, Friday and Saturday 10 AM to 11 PM, Sunday 11 to 9. A two-hour session is $8 for adults, $7 for children 12 and younger, and students with ID; skate rental is $3.

Washington Harbour Ice Rink. Open through mid-March. Hours are Monday through Thursday noon to 9, Friday noon to 10, Saturday 10 to 10, Sunday 10 to 7. An all-day session is $9 for adults, $7 for children, seniors, and military; skate rental is $5.

Canal Park. Open Monday through Friday from noon to 9; Saturday from 10 to 10, and Sunday from 10 to 7. Admission is $8 for adults; $7 for children/seniors/military; skate rental is $3.


Rockville Town Square Ice Rink. Open through mid-March. Monday through Thursday noon to 10, Friday noon to 11, Saturday 10 AM to 11 PM, Sunday 10 to 10. A two-hour session is $8 for adults, $7 for children 12 and younger; skate rental is $3.

Silver Spring Ice Skating at Veterans Plaza. Open through March 25. Monday through Thursday noon to 10, Friday noon to 11, Saturday 10 AM to 11 PM, Sunday 10 to 10. A two-hour session is $8 for adults, $7 for seniors ages 55 and up, and children 12 and younger; skate rental is $3.


Reston Town Center Ice Skating Pavilion. Open through mid-March. Monday and Tuesday 11 to 7, Wednesday and Thursday 11 to 10, Friday and Saturday 11 to 11, and Sunday 11 to 7. An all-day session is $9 for adults, $7 for seniors ages 55 and up, and children 12 and younger; skate rental is $5.

Pentagon Row Ice Skating. Open through March 18, weather permitting. Monday through Thursday noon to 10, Friday noon to 11, Saturday 10 AM to 11 PM, Sunday 10 to 10. A two-hour session is $8 adults, $7 seniors ages 55 and up, and children 12 and younger; skate rental is $3.

Additional reporting by Andrea Poe and Monica Sakala. 

Where to See Tree and Menorah Lightings

November 29

Christmas Tree Lighting at the Fairmont. Head to the Fairmont Hotel for the annual tree lighting event starting at 5:30 PM. Includes complimentary holiday cookies for all, mulled wine and hot chocolate, holiday card-making, and family photos with Santa Claus. Everything’s free and open to the public, but the hotel asks that guests bring a Toys for Tots donation.

Rockville Town Square Holiday Open House. The event begins at 6:30 PM with Santa’s arrival. Includes live performances, both on the ice and off, free photos with Santa and his reindeer (with the donation of a toy to benefit the Housing Opportunities Commission of Montgomery County), and more.

December 1

Jingle Jubilee. Starting at 6 PM, kids will have the opportunity to take pictures with Santa and Frosty the Snowman along with other holiday friends. The tree lighting ceremony includes musical performances by the Gaithersburg High School holiday ensemble and students at the Pritchard Music Academy. Hot chocolate for purchase will benefit the Gaithersburg Student Union, or you can purchase hot apple cider, coffee, and kettle corn to support Autism Speaks.

December 4

Capitol Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony. Watch as speaker of the House John Boehner lights the 2012 Capitol Christmas Tree at 5 PM, a US Capitol tradition since 1964. This year’s tree is 65 feet tall and has been decorated by approximately 5,000 ornaments that reflect this year’s theme, “celebrating our great outdoors.”

December 9

National Chanukah Menorah Lighting. Watch the 4 PM lighting ceremony of the National Chanukah Menorah, with live music from the United States Navy Band and the Three Cantors. Snack on hot latkes and doughtnuts in the cold, and pick up menorah kits and dreidels.

Holiday Craft Shows Around Town


Downtown Holiday Market. November 30 through December 23, more than 180 exhibitors will display items for sale on the sidewalk in front of the National Portrait Gallery. Find everything from painting and photography prints to soaps and candles while enjoying a variety of live musical entertainment or snacking on foods from local vendors. The market will be open everyday from noon to 8.

Swedish Christmas Bazaar. December 1, 11 to 5. Pick up some traditional delicacies and home-baked goods at the cafe, or browse the Swedish items and crafts for sale. Then at 5, learn more about Swedish holiday traditions with a Lucia procession and song.


Harbor Holiday Festival. November 30 through December 2, Friday and Saturday 10 to 7, Sunday 10 to 5. Adult admission: $12 at the door; children under 15 free. Tickets are available at the festival’s website. Find unique holiday decor and gifts from more than 150 boutiques; parents can peruse Santa’s Cellar to pick up some beer, wines, and spirits for the holiday party. For kid-friendly entertainment, enjoy puppet shows or decorate crafts.

Glen Echo Park Holiday Art Show and Sale. Open through January 6; Saturdays and Sundays 11 to 6. For more artisanal crafts, head over to the Glen Echo Park Holiday Art Show, where resident visual arts organizations will be showing items for sale. Choose from wares such as glass and ceramics, or pick up additional holiday ornaments for your tree.


McLean Holiday Craft Show. Open November 30 through December 2; Friday 11 to 7, Saturday 10 to 6, Sunday 11 to 4. Admission: $2 for adults, $1 for children 13 and younger. Featuring 80 artisans from across the country, this show has lots to offer with crafts made from materials such as wood, ceramics, and glass.

Holiday Market at Del Ray Artisans. Open Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays from November 30 to December 16; Friday 6 to 9 PM, Saturday 10 to 4, Sunday noon to 4. Free admission. Browse a selection of handmade arts and crafts from local artisans, including pottery and jewelry, textiles, and paper crafts. Homemade baked goods will also be sold, with proceeds benefiting Computer Core.

Other Holiday Events


Season’s Greetings at the US Botanic Garden. Open from 10 to 5 through January 1. Stroll through the Botanic Garden and enjoy the annual holiday exhibit, featuring wreaths and garlands, model trains, and living ornaments. Stop by the Garden Court to see a display of landmark buildings from around DC, created from various plant materials.

Silent Night, Holy Night. Open through January 7, the National Cathedral’s annual exhibit features a selection of creches from its nativity sets. See baby Jesus’s birth in miniatures and using rare materials, as well as traditional and nontraditional depictions.


Winter’s Eve in Glen Echo Park. December 15; 6 to 9 PM. Events include a complimentary bar offering hot chocolate, popcorn, and other treats, along with storybook readings and a sing-along. Make your own blown-glass ornaments ($35 for two, first come, first served), or browse ready-made crafts at the Holiday Art Show, which will remain open until 11 during Winter’s Eve.

Winter Lights Festival. Take a three-and-a-half-mile drive through the park to see more than 360 light displays and 60 animated vignettes.

ICE! at Gaylord National. Open daily through January 6; operating hours and ticket prices vary on weekdays and weekends. This year’s theme is Shrek the Halls, featuring ice sculptures of Shrek characters as well as 20-foot-tall slides carved from ice. Winter coats are provided for everyone, but dress warmly—more than 2 million pounds of ice makes for a very chilly atmosphere.

Lights on the Bay. After nightfall, a parade of cars wends along a 2½-mile light show at Sandy Point State Park, on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in Anne Arundel County. Lights on the Bay illuminates the darkness with 70 twinkling sculptures, including a giant teddy bear and a regionally inspired sailboat. Through January 1; $14 per car; 443-481-3161.

Garden of Lights. Don warm clothes and stroll through the Garden of Lights at Wheaton’s Brookside Gardens. Experience nearly a million twinkling lights in unusual displays, including the shapes of wild animals. Enjoy the model trains in the conservatory and musical performances in the visitors center. Through January 6; $20 per car Monday through Thursday, $25 Friday through Sunday; 301-962-1453.


Mount Vernon by Candlelight. Tours offered Saturdays and Sundays from December 1 to December 16, tickets available online. Admission: $22 for adults, $15 for children under 12. Led by “Mrs. Washington,” the tour takes visitors through the first and second floors of the estate and features dancing and other characters from the Washingtons’ world. Learn more about how our first President celebrated Christmas, and enjoy the decorations and live music.