This holiday season rather than spending your money on another toy that will just take up space, why not invest in giving your family an experience? Whether it’s taking in a socially-distant lightshow or cooking up holiday treats with mavens from a local bakery, nothing is more precious than the gift of time and creating memories. We’ve rounded up some fun experiences that everyone in your clan will be sure to love.

Celebrate the Season

photo: Courtesy of Village of Rosemont

Rink Up for Frozen Fun

Ice skates under the tree add a touch of nostalgia to Christmas morning, but you don’t need to splurge on the footwear to recreate scenes from your mini Elsa’s favorite icy kingdom. The new Color Burst Ice Rink at Merriweather District makes a great outing. Admission is limited to encourage physical distancing so be sure to buy your tickets in advance. For a list of ice skating rinks in the DMV, go here.

When: Now-Jan. 31, Mon.-Thurs., 4-9 p.m., Fri., 4-10 p.m., Sat., noon-10 p.m., Sun., noon-6 p.m.
Cost: $14/person
Safety regulations: Masks are required while skating. For more details on curent health standards, go here.

Location: Color Burst Ice Rink
6000 Merriweather Dr.
Columbia, MD 21044

photo: Paradise Visitor's Center on Mt. Rainier

Go For Frozen Thrills (and Chills)

Adrenaline junkies will thrill at the sight of snow tubing tickets and—naturally—a snow tube on Dec. 25. The snow tube might not actually fit in their stocking ,but the tickets will (hint: put the tube in one a super-sized Santa sack). Check out Massanutten Resort for resort-themed fun when catching some snow.   

When: Dec. 19-mid-March
Cost: Mon.-Fri., $25; Sat.-Sun., $32
Safety regulations: Masks are encouraged when social distancing can not be maintained. For current precautions, go here

Location: Massanutten Resort
1822 Resort Dr.
Massanutten, VA 22840

Take a Class

photo: iStock

Get Crafty

When stuck inside it’s time to get creative – literally. At The Children’s Art Center, online classes range from My Grown Up & Me to Techniques for Teens. Whether your child wants to channel their inner Picasso or Degas these virtual classes will fit the bill. The Children’s Art Center puts together a list of supplies complete with links to make being prepared a cinch.

When: Monthly; the next session begins Jan. 5
Cost: $120/4-week session

photo: iStock

Bake Up Family Fun

Skip the Easy Bake Oven and take a hands-on class with your favorite mini baker. Learn how to measure, combine, sift, calculate and follow recipes with DC’s own Sticky Fingers Sweets & Eats virtual baking classes. These Cupcake Wars All Stars winners will help you whip up holiday cookies and peppermint cupcakes like a pro. Or, try your hand at making cake pops with Baked by Yael whose panda cake pops have been making zoo-going children happy for years. This local bakery will also arrange virtual cake pop parties and ship ingredients anywhere so cousins can continue to bond even if they are not under the same roof this year. When: Weekly offerings; check the calendar for current classes Cost: $10 & Up Safety regulations: Masks must be worn when in the store. This shop is offering pick up and delivery. Bonus: you can take classes online. Location: Sticky Fingers 1370 Park Rd. NW TK Online:

Make Memories

photo: Hook Hall

Dine Like a Viking

Want to eat outdoors without fear of freezing all while creating memories? Head to Hook Hall’s pop-up Viking Village where you can gather around your very own socially distant fire pit or book a private Viking Hut with extras that include your very own swing. Hook Hall has plenty of blankets and hot drinks to help you endure your test of outdoor survival.

Editor's Note: Kiddos are welcome, but it is 21 & up after 9 p.m.

When: Wed.-Thurs., 3-10 p.m., Fri., 11 a.m.-10 p.m., Sat. 10 a.m.-10 p.m., Sun., 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Cost: Menu items range from $7.99-24.99
Safety regulations: Hook Hall is following current D.C. regulations. Want to keep to yourself? Book a cabana for $100 for 2.5 hours.

Location: Hook Hall
3400 Georgia Avenue Northwest
Park View


photo: iStock

Make the Holidays Magical

The DC areas favorite children’s entertainer has taken his act straight to living rooms with across the region with his popular Zoom parties. For the holidays, The Great Zucchini is teaming up with Superhero Stu to bring magic and a visit with Santa to kids in a year when they need to laugh more than ever. Magic shows and virtual visits with Santa can be booked as a package or on their own. Best of all, you can select a private audience or invite as many friends as you can squeeze on a Zoom screen to join you. The Great Zucchini also offers virtual shows for a nominal fee ($12/household). The next performance is The Great Zucchini's Laugh-A-Second show which will featured on Zoom on Dec. 10 at 4 p.m. 

When: Various times and dates, depending on avail. 
Cost: $225/private parties

photo: National Harbor

Up, Up & Away

Airplanes might not be in your plans this year but you can still catch a bird’s eye view of the city at National Harbor’s Capital Wheel. Each family rides in their own private, climate-controlled Gondola that is cleaned between rides. On weekends, stop at the Flight Deck after your ride to enjoy hot chocolate by a firepit.  Just in front of the Capital Wheel is a 56' tall Christmas tree complete with snowfall and a light show every 30 minutes from sundown through 9:00 pm. This will add some wonder into a year that has been anything but wonderful.

When: Mon.-Thurs., noon-8 p.m., Fri.-Sun., 10 a.m.-8 p.m.
Cost: $15/adult, $13.50/seniors, $11.25/12 & under
Safety regulations: High-touch points are regularly sanitized. Masks are required. For more information, go here.

Location: The Capital Wheel at National Harbor
141 American Way
Oxon Hill, MD 20745

Catch a Show

Theatres may be shuttered but the show must go on! Imagination Stage brings their adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen to the small screen. For each performance, a small group of 12 families join members of the cast for a live, interactive prequel activity before watching a filmed professional production. It’s a fun way to join together to get in the holiday spirit for just $25.00 a household.

When: Dec. 12-Feb. 28
Cost: $25

Glow Up!

photo: iStock

Walk Through a Winter Wonderland

Want to make the Big Day dazzle even more? Grab the hats, gloves and thermoses (note: fill with hot chocolate) and head to one of the area’s holiday light displays. Go here for the DC guide to area light shows. The Meadowlark Festival of Lights is a fabulous walk-through display with limited, timed admissions. 

When: Now-Jan. 3
Cost: $20/adults, $12.50/children, Free/2 & under
Safety regulations: Masks are required. 

Location: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens
9750 Meadowlark Gardens Crt.
Vienna, VA 22182

photo: National Zoo

Wave to Panda Claws

Zoolights at the National Zoo is an annual tradition for many families, but this year will look a little different. The Zoo may be closed but the show must go on! Every Friday and Saturday through Dec. 19 the Zoolights Express will hit the road and travel through a different DC neighborhood. Put on pajamas, fill your travel mugs with hot coco and find a spot along the route to catch a glimpse of “Panda Claws” for a holiday experience they will remember.

When: Fri. & Sat. through Dec. 19
Cost: Free
Location: Dec. 11, Ward 5; Dec. 12, Ward 6; Dec. 18, Ward 7; Dec. 19, Ward 8

Shop ‘Til You Drop

photo: Downtown Holiday Market

Visit a Seasonal Market

Everything about this year is different so why not change the way you shop for gifts this year? Check out the Downtown Holiday Market for an outdoor, socially distanced shopping experience. The Market features more than 70 vendors and live local bands playing seasonal standards. Grab some hot chocolate from an on-site vendor to warm up after you shop. This is a great way for kids to support local businesses and artists while creating a memories that don't involve being dragged around a shopping mall.

When: Now-Dec. 23, noon-8 p.m.
Cost: Free
Safety regulations: Foot traffic will flow in one direction. Masks are required.

Location: Downtown Holiday Market
Centered at 8th and F St. NW

photo: Visit Alexandria

Elves on Patrol

Wander the streets of Old Town and look for one Santa’s little helpers. Elves (in masks) will hit King Street every Sat. from 11:00 – 2:00 p.m. through Christmas with surprises from Alexandria boutiques and restaurants for lucky shoppers. While you are there, check out Old Town Alexandria’s first holiday art walk created by Art League artists for a special, socially-distanced holiday display.

When: Dec. 12 & 26
Cost: Free
Safety regulations: Elves will be masked.

Location: Old Town, Alexandria

—Jamie Davis Smith


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