1. Nightly Caroling Program
The Willard InterContinental, Through December 23
The hotel is decking the halls and rocking the lobby with its yearly tradition of caroling performances. You can enjoy nightly singing from renowned ensembles while drinking holiday spirits from their pop-up bar. There’s even a gingerbread display of the Jefferson Memorial. Free.
2. Walk Through a Holiday Market
If you’re still looking for the right gift for your picky cousin, quirky roommate, or artsy brother, try stopping by one of the holiday markets around town. Though many closed earlier in the month, there are still some good ones for procrastinators, including the Really Big Holiday Market at the Eaton and Winterfest at Wunder Garten. For our full list of festive markets, click here.
3. The Hip Hop Nutcracker
Strathmore, December 18 and 19
Tchaikovsky meets turntables in this retelling of the ballet classic, complete with an onstage DJ and electric violinist, an opening set from hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow, and a breakdancing Sugar Plum Fairy. $33 to $68.
4. More Holiday Shows
If a the Nutcracker isn’t your jam, there’s plenty of other shows around town. Catch elves and other dancers jumping, flipping, and stepping their way across stage at Step Afrika’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show (Atlas Performing Arts Center, December 19-22; $25-$45). Check out local actor/singer Shayna Blass, who will headline a musical comedy Hanukkah Show at Millennium Stage (Kennedy Center, December 18; free). Listen to melodic opera singers at Opera on Tap’s Holiday Hooplah—if you’re feeling particularly festive, you could try singing along yourself (Wonderland Ballroom, December 20; free, donations accepted).
5. Enchant Christmas
Nationals Park, through December 29
After a Cinderella story of a baseball season, it’s only fitting that the Nats’ home would transform into a fairytale winter wonderland, complete with a giant ice rink and a 90,000-square-foot maze of lights. $19.99 to $33.99.
6. Waterskiing Santa
Old Town Alexandria Waterfront, December 24
In this wacky tradition—now in its 33rd year—Santa Claus braves the cold Potomac for some waterskiing fun, joined by elves and other friends. Free.
7. Go to a Holiday Bar
You already know the Christmas pop-up bar Miracle on 7th , but if you want to avoid a line you could try Bar Mitzvah at Ivy and Coney, boozy hot chocolate at Dos Mamis, or Après Ski at Conrad DC. For a full list of festive bars, click here.
8. Ugly Sweater Brunch
Tico, December 21-22
Put on your favorite ugly holiday sweater to celebrate the season with a mimosa in hand. Free to make a reservation.
9. All of the Lights
For the first time, National Cathedral will put on a “Holiday Light Spectacular” with an indoor snow-globe-inspired light show, holiday tunes, and a screening of The Snowman backed by a live orchestra (Washington National Cathedral, December 27; $40). For a lit city tour, stop by the kid-friendly ZooLights (National Zoo, through January 1; free), Instagram-worthy Georgetown GLOW (Multiple locations in Georgetown, through January 5; free), and Beetlejuice-like interactive Light Yards (Yards Park, through December 23; free). For more holiday light displays to see, click here.
10. Season’s Greenings: America’s Gardens
United States Botanic Garden, Through January 5
The floral holiday decorations (including more than 3,000 poinsettias) are lovely and there’s a schedule of live music performances throughout the month. Plus, it’s one place that’s actually open Christmas Day.
11. Hanukkah Party at Casolare
Casolare, December 23
Classic dishes like babka and latkes aren’t the only cause for celebrating the festival of lights. Proceeds from the party and raffle, with prizes like a challah-making class, will benefit the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society. Free (12 and Under), $25 (general admission), $20 with discount code WASHINGTONIAN.
12. Anacostia Community Museum Kwanzaa Celebration
THEARC, December 27
Come together for celebration, crafts, and culture at the museum’s interactive Kwanzaa celebration. With song and dance from Melvin Deal and the African Heritage Dancers & Drummers, it’s fun for the family that’s sure to get your feet moving. Free.
13. Go Ice Skating
The National Gallery of Art, through March 15
Skate away the holiday season at one of DC’s most popular rinks, along the National Mall. You don’t have to be an aspiring Michelle Kwan—skate lessons with Snowplow Sam are available for young children, along with hockey, adult, and basic lessons. $9 (adults), $8 (seniors and children under 12).
14. ICE! featuring Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas
The Christmas Village National Harbor, through December 30
Made with two million pounds of ice, the Grinch-themed sculptures depicting favorite scenes from the holiday classic look, well, cool. $25 (child), $33 (adult).
15. Festival of Laughs
DC Improv, December 30
Comedian Jessica Kirson has joked that she takes ecstasy when she visits her family because “it makes me love them.” For those who are sick of their relatives but prefer to cope using humor rather than mind-altering substances, Kirson headlines this comedy fest on the last night of Hanukkah. $18.