Things to Do

Best Things to Do in the DC Area 12/1-12/4: Holiday Boat Parade, City Ridge Tree Lighting Festival, and Alexandria’s Biggest Holiday Weekend

Plus, a new magical Shakespeare-inspired play.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade at The Wharf. Photograph courtesy of District Wharf.

Happy December, everyone!

Jump-start the new month with seasonal good vibes at a holiday boat parade or winter festival.


Best Things to Do This Weekend

  1. District’s Holiday Boat Parade. At the 30th annual District Holiday Boat Parade this weekend, you can watch a parade of more than 60 bedazzled boats float along the Washington Channel. The merriment will continue at The Wharf with Santa picture time, face painting, ornament decorating, balloon-animal making, winter drink samples, live music, and a fireworks finale (Sat, free, The Wharf).
  2. Alexandria’s biggest holiday weekend. Meanwhile, you can also see a parade of more than 50 boats cruise along the Potomac River as part of Alexandria’s holiday weekend festivities, which also includes the 51st Annual Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. In addition to the parade itself, guests can enjoy family-friendly events in Old Town North, and food, music, make-your-own-crafts stations, and a pop-up beer garden in Waterfront Park (Sat, free, Alexandria).
  3. City Ridge’s Tree Lighting Festival. You can find caroling, ice-carving demonstrations, photos with Santa, train rides, seasonal drinks, and more all in one place this weekend at City Ridge’s Tree Lighting Festival. The tree lighting celebration will be hosted by NBC4’s Shawn Yancy (Sat, free, Northwest DC).
  4. Tenley WinterFest. Close out the Tenley WinterFest with loads of local holiday food specials and events. You can sip and savor complimentary wine and bites while watching French films at Le Chat Noir, take self-guided tours of historic St. Ann’s Church, have family story time at the library, shop small at a pop-up market, participate in a neighborhood scavenger hunt for prizes, and go on a meditative music walk (Thurs-Sat, free, Northwest DC).
  5. “The Tempest.” Round House Theatre, in collaboration with Folger Theatre, is showing the new, highly entertaining stage-play-turned-magic show, The Tempest. The good news is that this mystical reimagining of Shakespeare’s romance has been extended through January 15 (Thurs-Sun, $46+, Bethesda).


Alexandria Boat Parade light up letters. Photograph by Evan Michio/Visit Alexandria.

Want More Things to Do?

Budget-friendly. Shop sweet treats, luxury scents, fashion, jewelry, and more at the Park View Holiday Market at Hook Hall (Sun, free, Northwest DC). Or, find the perfect gift from a local vendor at the National Landing Holiday Market (Sat, free, Arlington). There’s a Peppermint Mocha Competition where you can taste delicious coffee and then vote your favorite (Sat, free, Arlington).

Arts and culture. Lay eyes on the latest luxury trends at The Gatsby Showcase fashion show (Sun, $75+, Southwest DC). Create holiday keepsakes at an in-studio arts workshop (Sat, $80+, Southwest DC). Buy signed copies of presidential history books at the White House Historical Association’s Annual Holiday Book Festival (Fri, free, Northwest DC).

Theater and shows. See the opening of Synetic Theater’s wondrous take on the folktale Snegurochka in Snow Maiden (starting Thurs, $25, Arlington). Laugh your way into the weekend at Yes Queen! comedy show (Thurs, $12, Northwest DC). Get tickets to a one-man show, Playing Burton (starting Thurs, $25+, Northeast DC).

History and heritage. The Smithsonian is hosting a National Conversation on Race featuring five panelists and a music performance by Nolan Williams Jr. and the NEWorks Voices of America (Thurs, free, National Museum of African American History and Culture).

Music and concerts. The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington, DC presents a sparkly Holiday Show (Sat, $25+, U Street). Experience a Christmas music classic, Handel’s Messiah (Fri-Sun, $20+, Northwest DC). You can sing-along to holiday tunes with the U.S. Marine Band in concert at Wolf Trap (Sat, free, Vienna).

Holiday fun. Walk through Meadowlark Botanical Gardens’ enchanting trail of sparkling lights (Thurs-Sun, $16, Vienna). Bring the kids to a Breakfast with Santa (Sat, free, Tysons). Visit the Yards DC’s Instagram-worthy swinging bells light display (starting Thurs, free, Navy Yard). Make crafts with the family and listen to live music by the Singing Snow Princesses at Lake Anne’s Holiday Festival and Christmas Market (Sat, free, Reston). Warm up with hot cocoa and winter tunes (Sat, free, Arlington). Don’t miss the kickoff of Frosted at Franklin Park (Sat, free, Downtown).

Get involved. Browse food and handmade wares and sample wines from Lebanon and the Caucasus at Maydan’s holiday market; proceeds go to Children of Persia and Center for Human Rights in Iran (Sun, $15, Northwest DC).

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Briana A. Thomas is a local journalist, historian, and tour guide who specializes in the research of D.C. history and culture. She is the author of the Black history book, Black Broadway in Washington, D.C., a story that was first published in Washingtonian in 2016.