Things to Do

Where to See Festive Holiday Light Displays Around Washington

Drive-through light trails, winter wonderlands, lit-up animal sculptures, and more.

Photo courtesy Six Flags.

Once the weirdest Thanksgiving in memory ends, the weirdest Christmas season in memory begins. The good news is that while parties are getting cancelled and caroling is downright dangerous, the looking-at-lights part of the season is possible event in a pandemic.  Here’s a roundup. Note: Pandemic precautions are changing in the region, so wear a mask, keep your distance, and check with each venue before you go.

ZooLights Express

Various locations in DC

The annual National Zoo tradition is going mobile this year, touring its light-up animals, including “Panda Claws” on a holiday truck that will travel around the city on weekend nights. Details: ZooLights Express will visit one DC ward per day on Friday and Saturday nights from November 27 through December 19; Free.

Bull Run Festival of Lights

7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville, VA

Drive through 2.5 miles of holiday cheer and Christmas lights in the Bull Run Festival of Lights. Details: Open now through January 10, 2021; $25-$35 per vehicle, buy tickets here.

Winter Glow

3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Hwy., Mount Vernon, VA

Celebrate the winter holidays with history in mind at Mount Vernon. George Washington’s home will be lit up in lavender and blue, while Christmas carolers—in costume—sing classics. Probably the highlight of any visit will be the “special guest” Aladdin the Camel. Details: Open November 25 through December 28 (on alternating weekends), $30-$45, buy tickets here.

Winter Walk of Lights

9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna, VA

See Meadowlark Botanical Gardens transformed into a bright floral display in this Winter Walk of Lights. Walk through trails of colorfully lit trees with light-up butterflies, flowers, and more. Details: Open now through January 3, 2021; $18.75-$20 for adults, $11.25-$12.5o for kids younger than 13, buy tickets here.

Holiday in the Park at Six Flags

13710 Central Ave., Upper Marlboro, MD

The amusement park will be open for holiday fun with rides, festive lights, and Santa Claus. There will be a holiday magic light show, fire pits, and various holiday themed areas and attractions, including Christmas tunes. Details: Open on select dates from November 21 through January 3, admission prices vary, buy tickets here.

Ice & Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run

4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, VA

This wintry village offers fun light displays and ice skating (at limited capacity). There’s a rainbow-colored arch and various festive light sculptures, including penguins, polar bears, and reindeer. Details: Open now through January 3, $9.35 admission to the village, $24 for admission and ice skating, buy tickets here.

Winter Lights Festival

11950 Clopper Rd., Gaithersburg, MD

Drive through Seneca Creek State Park to see 3.5 miles of more than 450 holiday light displays in this Winter Lights Festival. The event website jokes that they’ve been “socially distancing since 1995,” when the festival first started. Details: November 27 through December 31, $12-$20, buy tickets here.

Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens

4155 Linnean Ave., NW

While not holiday lights per se, the festive flora at Hillwood are a fun opportunity to walk through the winter wonderland of Marjorie Merriweather Post’s storied gardens. See holiday decorations and gorgeous Christmas trees. Details: “Seasons Greetings” will be open November 24 through January 10, 2021 with timed-entry passes, $18, buy tickets here. Hillwood will also host a virtual winter story time for kids (“Winter Adventure with the Snow Maiden” is on Zoom on December 12 for $5) and flower design workshops (“Floral Design How-to: Holiday Blooms” is on Zoom on December 9 and 11 for $12-$60).

Festival of Lights

301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro, MD 

Behold 2.5 million lights in Watkins Regional Park’s drive-through display. There’s even a “54-foot LED musical tree.” Bring some canned goods to contribute to area food banks. Details: Open now through January 1. Tickets are $8 in advance, $10 at the gate.

DC Holiday Lights

Location varies

Walk through various DC neighborhoods to see glittering displays of the DC Holiday Lights on main streets in a dozen spots including Eastern Market, Mount Pleasant, and the U Street corridor. Details: Open now through December 31, free.

Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Temple

9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington, MD

For the 43rd year in a row, the striking temple is hosting many festive nights of light. Drive through temple grounds and shining trees to see more than 400,000 lights and two life-sized nativity scenes. Details: Open now through December 28, free.

This post has been updated.

Rosa is a senior editor at Bitch Magazine. She’s written for Washingtonian and Smithsonian magazine.