Things to Do

2011 Holiday Happenings in Washington

Light shows, Santa sightings, Hanukkah happenings, and more in the Washington area.

The National Gallery of Art Sculpture’s ice-skating rink is open through March. Photograph by Flickr user JosephLeonardo

Light Shows

ZOO LIGHTS: Washington’s wildest light show is back at the National Zoo. Little critters can enjoy thousands of environmentally friendly light displays, after-hours access to several animal houses, live entertainment, a train ride around the Great Cats Circle, and ice skating ($5). The show runs December 16 through January 1, excluding December 24, 25, and 31. Free. 5 to 9 PM.

Holiday Happenings In Washington:

Light Shows

Family Fun

Holiday Markets

Ice Skating

See Also: Concerts and Shows

SYMPHONY OF LIGHTS: Columbia’s long-standing tradition features more than 70 giant animated and stationary light creations. Walk-throughs ($10) are available Mondays and Wednesdays from 4:30 to 5:45 PM; drive-throughs (starting at $20) are available every day from 6 to 10 PM.

WINTER LIGHTS: Gaithersburg’s 16th annual Winter Lights Festival returns with 65 animated displays and 380 vignettes—including Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Victorian Village, the North Pole, Toyland, and Penguin Cove. Tickets (starting at $12) can be purchased at the gate. Proceeds will benefit local charities. The displays are available at 6 PM nightly through December 31, excluding Mondays and December 25.

LIGHTS ON THE BAY: Take a scenic drive along the Chesapeake Bay during Sandy Point State Park’s annual light show. Tickets ($14 per vehicle) can be purchased at the gate. Proceeds will benefit the Anne Arundel Medical Center. 5 to 10 PM. The show runs through January 1.

GARDEN OF LIGHTS: Brookside Gardens’ half-mile trail features more than 700,000 lights. Local musicians will perform from 6:30 to 8 PM. Tickets (starting at $20 per vehicle) can be purchased at the gate. The show runs through January 8.


Family Fun

CIVIL WAR SANTA: Pint-size history buffs can meet Santa on December 17 at the Surratt House Museum. Tickets ($3) can be purchased at the door. Noon to 4 PM.

BRUNCH WITH SANTA: The Kennedy Center’s 15th annual Brunch with Santa returns to the Roof Terrace Restaurant December 17 and 18. Kids can munch on childhood favorites including macaroni and cheese, chicken fingers, and French fries; adults can choose from seasonal gourmet salads, shucked oysters, French toast, and made-to-order omelets, plus a complimentary mimosa or glass of sparkling wine. A jazz band will provide entertainment. Tickets ($20 children 4 to 11, $39.95 adults) can be reserved through the event’s Web site. 10 AM.

SANTA’S WORKSHOP: Bring the whole family to the Herndon Community Center December 17 for a meet-and-greet with Santa, holiday games, a pizza lunch, and more. Tickets ($7 per child, $3 for adults eating lunch) can be purchased at the door. 11 AM to 1 PM.

TEA WITH SANTA: Stop by the Morrison House December 18 for afternoon tea, arts and crafts, story time, and photos with Santa. Tickets ($50 children, $150 adults) can be purchased through the event’s Web site. Proceeds will benefit the Child and Family Network Centers, an organization that provides preschool and social services to families in Virginia. Noon to 3 PM.

GINGERBREAD DECORATING: Santa’s little helpers can learn the art of gingerbread house decorating December 18 at the DC Ritz-Carlton. Hot cocoa, soda, and holiday cookies will be served, and kids get a chef’s hat and apron to take home. Tickets ($65) can be purchased through the hotel’s Web site. 3 to 4:30 PM.

CHANUKAH IN CANDY LAND: Chabad of Bethesda-Chevy Chase is hosting a menorah lighting at Bethesda Row on December 22. Guests can enjoy live music, hot latkes, cotton candy and popcorn, a magic show, and more. Free. 6 PM.

CHANUKAH HAPPENING: Stop by the Jewish Community Center of Northern Virginia on December 25 for an afternoon of fun, food, and live entertainment. Meet Clifford the Big Red Dog, join a Maccabi Parade, jump around a moon bounce, putter along a mini-golf course, have your face painted, and more. Festive food—including potato latkes, falafel, and schnitzel—will be available for purchase. Tickets ($18 per family) can be purchased at the door. 11 AM to 3 PM.

KWANZAA FAMILY DAY: During the Baltimore Museum of Art’s Kwanzaa celebration on December 28, kids can create their own African headdress, listen to storyteller Maria Broom, and catch a performance by Keur Khaleyi. Free. 1 to 5 PM.


Holiday Markets

NATIONAL HARBOR: At the National Harbor’s holiday market you’ll find handmade crafts, scarves galore, roasted chestnuts, hot apple cider, and a whole lot more. Saturdays and Sundays through December 18, noon to 6 PM.

DOWNTOWN HOLIDAY MARKET: The seventh annual downtown holiday market returns with 175 local artisans and exhibitors, holiday lights, and live music. The market (located between Eighth and F Streets) runs daily through December 23. Noon to 8 PM.

HOLIDAY SHOW: Waverly Street Gallery is hosting a multimedia art show through December 31. Shoppers can peruse jewelry, pottery, paintings, prints, photography, sculptures, and more. Tuesday through Saturday, noon to 6 PM.

HOLIDAY ART SHOW AND SALE: Glen Echo Park’s exhibition features ceramics, photography, painting, jewelry, and more. Saturdays and Sundays through January 8, 11 AM to 6 PM.

Ice Skating

It’s time to dust off those old skates, because the National Gallery of Art Sculpture’s ice-skating season is back in session. Tickets ($8 for a two-hour session) can be purchased at the rink.

Pentagon Row’s ice skating is open everyday, including holidays. Tickets ($8 for a two-hour session) can be purchased at the rink.

Skate beneath multicolored lights at Veterans Plaza in Silver Spring. Tickets ($8 for a two-hour session, $3 for skates) can be purchased at the rink. Open through March 13.

Practice your triple axel all year long at the Cabin John Regional Park Ice Rink. Tickets ($6.50) can be purchased at the door.

Herbert Wells Ice Rink offers public sessions on Wednesdays, noon to 2 PM, and Fridays, 3:15 to 5:15—tickets are $4 for residents and $5 for nonresidents, and include skate rentals. During Sunday family sessions (1:30 to 3:30), two children get in free with every paid adult admission. Tickets ($6) can be purchased at the door. Click here for a list of special events.

Rockville’s year-round Ice Arena offers public skating, classes in figure skating, birthday parties, and more. Tickets (starting at $7) can be purchased at the door.