Things to Do

13 Best Holiday Light Displays and Attractions Around the DC Area

Brighten up your holidays at winter wonderlands, drive-through light shows, and boat parades.

The DMV Winter Lantern Festival. Photo courtesy of Winter Lantern Festival.

Have a holly jolly holiday season with your loved ones at one of these immersive light experiences and attractions. Don’t forget to snap a festive photo to savor the memories.


Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights

November 11–January 7

location_on 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Ct., Vienna

language Website

The botanical garden transforms into a little more than a half-mile animated light show. Stop into the gazebo for stunning views reflected on the lake, or warm up with roasted s’mores and hot cocoa near the fire ($18).


Bull Run Festival of Lights

November 11–January 7

location_on 7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville

language Website

Photograph courtesy of NOVA Parks.

Explore two-and-a-half miles of fairytale vignettes from the comfort of your car, driving past leaping reindeer, LED archways, glowing candy canes, and sparkling stars. There’s also plenty of bright lights to sightsee on foot through the Christmas Village and Carnival ($30+). 


Ice and Lights Winter Village

November 17–January 1

location_on 4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria

language Website

Photograph courtesy of Ice and Lights Winter Village.

Check out Cameron Run’s light display, skate on the ice rink, and snap a Instagram-worthy photo in front of giant stars and shimmering archways ($8+).


Spectacular Factory

December 20–January 3

location_on 1238 Maryland Ave., SW

language Website

Photograph courtesy Artechouse.

The interactive museum Artechouse is bringing back their gift factory panorama with kaleidoscopic nutcrackers, giant swinging Christmas bells, and a candy-cane carousel. You can sip an exhibit-inspired mocktail or cocktail at the bar, and then venture through the indoor imaginative world ($25+ for adults, $17+ for ages 4-15, free for ages 4 and under).


“Season’s Greenings”

November 23–January 1

location_on 100 Maryland Ave., SW

language Website

The US Botanic Garden’s holiday display. Photograph courtesy of US Botanic Garden.

Here’s a chance to see some of your favorite DC landmarks in floral form. More than 20 plant-created landmarks and monuments will fill the US Botanic Garden Conservatory, while model trains chug through the holiday display in the gated outdoor gardens. There are festive lights weaved throughout the garden exhibit for guests to discover, and live holiday music on a select nights in December (free).


Winter Lantern Festival

November 24–February 18

location_on 8025 Galleria Dr., Tysons

language Website

Photo courtesy of Winter Lantern Festival
Photo courtesy of Winter Lantern Festival.

Take a whimsical stroll with your besties through an outdoor maze of glowing Chinese lanterns. This pop-up experience features 1,000 LED-light lanterns crafted into picturesque shapes and massive animal displays depicting elephants, dragons, and more ($26 for adults, $18 for ages 4-13).



November 24–December 30

location_on 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW

language Website

Photograph by Jim Jenkins/Smithsonian’s National Zoo.

Zoo Lights brings a dazzling light show to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo. You can walk through a lantern illumination display of rainforest, deserts, oceans, and polar habitats, and watch live musical performances (select nights, starting Fri through December 30, $6, National Zoo).


Winter Lights Festival

November 24–December 31

location_on 11950 Clopper Rd., Gaithersburg

language Website

Photograph courtesy of the City of Gaithersburg.

Seneca Creek State Park’s 3.5-mile loop is lit up in themes such as Toyland, Winter Woods, and the Enchanted Forest. Cars can ride past more than 450 illuminated displays and sparkling trees ($10+).


Enchant DC

November 24–December 31

location_on 1500 S. Capitol St., SE

language Website

Photograph courtesy of Enchant DC.

Enchant returns to DC with a giant light maze and brilliant outdoor decor. The theme for this season is “Reindeer Games,” and guests can wander through the immersive 10-acre experience in search of Santa’s missing sleigh bells (Fri through December 31, $32 for adults, $24 for juniors, Nationals Park).


LuminoCity Winter Light Festival

November 24-January 15

location_on 501 Perry Pkwy, Gaithersburg

language Website

Giant Candy Tree at LuminoCity Festival.

You’ll be walking in a winter wonderland at LuminoCity’s family-friendly frosty showcase. The luminescent journey takes spectators through three outdoor spaces fashioned with magical unicorns, a glowing bamboo forest, donut tunnel, and more light shows ($35+).


Georgetown Glow

December 1–January 7

location_on Georgetown

language Website

Photograph courtesy of Georgetown Glow.

Outdoor art installations radiate colorful neon when the LED lights are turned on from 5 to 10 PM throughout the historic Georgetown neighborhood. This year’s sculptures and light exhibits feature nods to Star Wars, facial expressions, and hang-drying laundry. Guided walking tours are available to learn more about the artistry (Free).


The District’s Holiday Boat Parade

December 2

location_on 45 Sutton Sq., SW

language Website

Photograph courtesy of the Wharf.

Watch decorated boats parade across the Washington Channel. In addition to the festive fleet, there’s ornament decorating, holiday karaoke, photos with Santa, live music by the Royals and Too Much Talent Band, and a fireworks finale (Free).


Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

December 2

location_on 1-A Prince St., Alexandria

language Website

Photograph by Evan Michio/Visit Alexandria.

This waterfront parade has been running for more than 20 years. View the decorated sailboats and powerboats from any spot on the Old Town waterfront or head to Waterfront Park for crafts and a Port City Brewing Company pop-up beer garden (Free).

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.