The DMV already has a certain je ne sais quoi about itself. For starters, the architecture in Washington incorporates beautifully-detailed influences from ancient Egypt and 19th-century France. Plus, there’s all of these quaint tree-lined streets scattered off of 395 exits north and south of the district. When you really think about it, it’s incredibly picture perfect around here. Now, add thousands of twinkling lights and giant Christmas trees and menorahs to the mix, and the DC display becomes simply jaw-dropping. See for yourself! Be there when our ‘hoods go from great to greater at one of these festive tree or menorah lighting ceremonies. Come for the big reveal, and stay for the carols and cocoa.
photo: patti haskins via flickr
Holiday Tree Lighting and Block Party
One of the first holiday events of the season, the festivities at this Silver Spring block party include the lighting of the Colorbound Tree (a 35-foot tall public art installation), a cheer station with spiked warm beverages, art activities, live art, and more.
When: 6 p.m. on Nov. 16
Where: Downtown, 916 Ellsworth Dr., Silver Spring, MD
Festival of Lights and Carols
Head to Old Town Square to listen to live holiday music, eat s’mores and sip hot cider. Santa’s in the house a week later (Dec. 14) at Old Town Hall (3999 University Dr.) lunching with littles 10 and under for $6 apiece. Preregistration is required for that event, and tickets are on sale at the Parks and Rec office in City Hall, the Sherwood Center and Green Acres Center.
When: 2 p.m.-7 p.m. on Dec. 7 (tree lighting at 6 p.m.)
Where: Old Town Square, 10415 North St., Fairfax, VA
Tree Lighting and Sing Along
Make your way to Reston Town Center to see Santa and Mrs. Claus head down Market Street to the tree in Fountain Square. Sing along to “O Christmas Tree” with The Reston Chorale and a brass quintet, and stick around for a 30-minute holiday songfest. Note: The Conservatory Ballet will perform a scene from “The Nutcracker” at the square at 5 p.m.
When: 6 p.m. on Nov. 29
Where: 11900 Market St., Reston, VA
Light Up the Wharf
Make Christmas special by heading to the waterfront for the tree lighting, hot chocolate and s’mores by the fire pit, holiday crafts and live music. While you’re there, check out the restaurants, shops and recreation options, or catch a show at the new Anthem music venue. A little word to the wise: carpool (parking is hard-to-find) and come early if you can for a good viewing spot.
Cost: Free, although food may have a fee
When: 6 p.m.-8 p.m. on Nov. 30
Where: District Pier and District Square, 1100 Maine Ave. SW
photo: Elvert Barnes via flickr
CityCenterDC’s Holiday Tree Lighting
The posh mixed-use neighborhood will get the season started with performances by the Washington Chorus. NBC 4’s Eun Yang will emcee the countdown to the lighting of the 75-foot tree. Little ones can enjoy balloon artists, face painters and holiday activities.
When: 6 p.m. on Nov. 30
Where: 825 10th St., NW
2019 National Christmas Tree Lighting
Presented by the National Park Service and National Park Foundation, this tree lighting marks the 97th anniversary of the annual event. If you didn’t enter the lottery in October to score free tickets to the tree lighting ceremony, you’re likely out of luck. But the always-impressive tree will be lit every day from about 4:30 to 10 p.m.
When: Dec. 5
Where: Ellipse (National Mall)
7th Annual Tree Lighting at One Loudoun
While you wait for Santa to arrive (via firetruck, not sleigh), pick at refreshments and hot chocolate while the kiddos do crafts and listen to holiday tunes. After the tree lighting, Santa will be standing by for photos ahead of a fireworks show to close out the evening.
When: 5 p.m.-7 p.m. on Dec. 7 (tree lighting at 6 p.m.)
Where: 20626 Easthampton Plaza, Ashburn, VA
photo: Mid-Atlantic Center for the Arts and Humanities via flickr
Christmas Parade and Crab Tree Lighting
This celebration of Christmas–and crabbing!–features one of Maryland’s largest night time parades, complete with marching bands, floats, classic cars, horses, and more. The other draw to this fest is the official lighting of the Crab Basket Tree, which is made from 200 crab baskets (yep, the same bushel baskets used by local watermen to catch blue crabs.
When: 4:45 p.m. on Dec. 7
Where: 437 Race St., Cambridge, MD
Leesburg Christmas Tree Lighting
Leesburg’s major lighting extravaganza doesn’t disappoint. Local groups will perform and you’ll hear a special message from a special person (wink-wink). Come back the next week for Jingle Jam Concerts, Sounds of Christmas Downtown and the Annual Christmas and Holiday Parade. Check the website for more details and info on Rockin’ with Rudolph and Friends, a party for kids 8 and younger that is also held on Dec. 6.
When: 6 p.m. on Dec. 6
Where: 25 West Market St., Leesburg, VA
Jingle Jubilee and Tree Lighting
Costumed characters, giveaways and performance by local musical groups punctuate the main event: Santa’s arrival and the tree lighting. There’s also a photo booth stocked with props, and a chance to snap a shot with Santa and some of his pals, including Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph, chief reindeer. Bonus: Bring donations of food, toiletries, cleaning supplies or cash to support homeless veterans in Montgomery County.
When: 6 p.m.-7:30 p.m. on Dec. 7
Where: 31 South Summit Ave., Gaithersburg, MD
photo: Kevin Harber via flickr
National Menorah Lighting Ceremony
Presented by American Friends of Lubavitch, this annual event takes place on the Ellipse near the White House. It will feature performances by Dreidelman and the Macabees and the U.S. Marine Band plus attendees will get hot latkes and donuts in addition to dreidels and menorah kits. Tickets are required for this free event, so go online to get yours.
When: 4 p.m. on Dec. 22
Where: Ellipse on the National Mall
Manassas Museum Holiday Open House and Tree Lighting
Rock out to holiday tunes, and get hype for the arrival of Santa by VRE train. The tree lighting starts at 6:15 p.m., followed by cookies in the courtyard. Beat the mad shopping rush, by snagging a few things at Echoes, the Museum Store ( with a 10% discount–snatch!). Don’t come back the next day (Dec. 7, 10 a.m.) for the Greater Manassas Christmas Parade.
When: 5 p.m.-8 p.m. on Dec. 6
Where: The Manassas Museum, 9101 Prince William St., Manassas, VA
–Ayren Jackson-Cannady with Stephanie Kanowitz
featured photo: Frans Van Heerden via Pexels