Things to Do Around DC on Christmas Day

Get out of the house for live music, ice skating, or a luxe movie theater.
Things to Do Around DC on Christmas Day
The ice rink on the Georgetown Waterfront is open on Christmas Day.

A lot of places are closed on Christmas Day, but that doesn’t mean you have to be trapped indoors with your family. Here are a few fun options for December 25th, whether you’re looking for more festive holiday activities, or just want to get out and about.

Go ice-skating in Georgetown 

Whether you can land a triple-lutz or need the wall to break your fall, ice skating on one of Washington’s many atmospheric ice rinks is a winter must. The rink at Washington Harbour (a.k.a. the Georgetown waterfront) is open from noon to 10 PM on Christmas Day, with skate rentals available for kids and adults. A number of restaurants around the skate spot will also be open for food and hot drinks. For avid ice-goers, here’s a map of all the ice rinks around the DMV. 

Take a stroll around the National Mall

Many museums are closed on December 25, including all the Smithsonian venues. That doesn’t mean you can’t head to the National Mall and tour the memorials, which are free and available for anyone to stroll through. An extra perk: you may even get the rare opportunity to visit popular spots like the Jefferson, Lincoln, FDR, MLK, Vietnam, and WWII memorials without tons of tourists. 

Listen to live music at 19th annual all-star Christmas Day Jazz Jam

The Kennedy Center’s annual holiday jazz show is a beloved Christmas Day tradition in DC, and it’s free. Vibraphonist Chuck Redd hosts the show starting at 6 PM, accompanied by artists such as drummer Lenny Robinson, bassist James King, and vocalist Delores King Williams, among others. No tickets are required, though you may want to arrive early to secure a spot.

Watch the Game at Ventnor Sports Cafe

Watching sports is a beloved holiday tradition for many. This Christmas Day, the Adams Morgan bar will open at 2:30 PM, inviting all to watch the NBA and NFL games. Eggnog and hot cider will be available, and the kitchen will be open until 11 PM.

Head to George Washington’s Mount Vernon

George and Martha Washington’s historic estate near Alexandria is open year-round for visitors, and is especially lovely during the holidays thanks to decorations and a special visit by Aladdin the Christmas Camel. Other Christmas in Mount Vernon activities include chocolate-making demonstrations, holiday fifing, and an hour-long tour detailing food in the 18th century and what the Washingtons ate for their holiday meal.

See the holiday lights

There are many destinations for holiday lights spread out over Washington, from CityCenterDC’s enormous tree to the wreaths at Union Station. Though the popular Zoo Lights are closed on Christmas Day, Georgetown Glow is an equally festive bet for a stroll around the historic neighborhood. Another option: stroll by the White House to catch a glimpse of the National Tree.

Embrace the cheer at Ice! at National Harbor

One of the best places to experience holiday cheer with the family is Ice! at National Harbor. This year’s theme is Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, inspired by the 1964 TV special featuring loony characters like a cranky Santa, reindeer bullies, and an elf dentist. A massive ice display, carved with two million pounds of frozen water, is a must-see. Also at the event: ice skating, an ice slide, and hot cocoa. Online tickets are available starting at 10 AM on December 25th.

Visit a green display at the Botanic Garden

Every year the Botanic Gardens puts on an incredible holiday display, Season’s Greenings, in which a model train speeds through a maze of elaborate plant sculptures. This year’s theme is Roadside Attractions, which features kitschy destinations from 40 states, including South Dakota’s Corn Palace, Niagara Falls’ Maid of the Mist, and Ohio’s World’s Largest Basket.

Drop into a beautifully-decorated hotel 

A lot of bars and restaurants are closed on Christmas Day. Hotels are often the best bets for a last-minute drop-in, especially the fancier ones that go all-out on holiday decorations. Warm up by the lobby fire (with s’mores!) at the Ritz-Carlton Georgetown, or visit the Michelin-starred Plume restaurant at the Jefferson Hotel (we also love their cocktail bar, Quill). Seven trees are decorated throughout the Hay-Adams, and you can dine overlooking the White House. Blue Duck Tavern in the Park Hyatt is always a holiday favorite. Love seafood? Try Urbana inside Dupont’s Kimpton hotel, which serves a traditional Italian Feast of the Seven Fishes.

Catch a movie

This is where you’ll find us come Christmas afternoon. In addition to the big-chain theaters, Washington has several indie cinemas like the Landmark Theatres in Bethesda, Penn Quarter, and Shaw’s Atlantic Plumbing where you can reserve seats in advance, order beer and wine, and eat upscale snacks like mini crab cakes (our advice: book seats sooner rather than later). Other luxe movie-going options include the ArcLight Cinema in North Bethesda and Angelika in Fairfax’s Mosaic District. Our food critic reviewed them all.

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Editorial Fellow

Nehal joined Washingtonian as an editorial fellow in fall 2017. She enjoys all things food, arts, culture, and health and is always looking out for new trends. This past May she graduated from Johns Hopkins with a degree in creative writing and a minor in photography. She lives in Foggy Bottom.