Once you’ve ooh-ed and ahh-ed over the National Christmas Tree and driven past the White House all decked out in holiday finery, make like a Northern Virginia native and check these classic Christmas activities off your list!
Sculpture Garden Ice-Skating Rink
Grab a hot cocoa and some friends for a spin around the rink at the Sculpture Garden, surrounded by huge contemporary sculptures and twinkle lights! If it gets a little too cold, you can hop off the rink and head to the Pavilion Cafe for a snack. Even though the Gallery and Sculpture Garden are closed on December 25, this would be a really fun pre-Christmas activity to do with the whole family!
Christmas at a Historic Mansion
Virginia is chock-full of historic mansions but there are two that deserve special recognition for their Christmas decorations! Mount Vernon, George Washington’s estate, takes the cake for their themed decorations (including 12 Christmas trees), historical chocolate-making demonstrations, and 18th-century dancing. Mount Vernon is amazing all year round, but is truly magical at Christmas-time—definitely a must-do for history buffs!
Oatlands Plantation is a little out of the way but so worth the drive! The historic plantation is all decked out for Christmas and the formally terraced garden with boxwood alleys and reflecting pool is gorgeous in every season! Architecture lovers will appreciate the original 19th-century walls and the second oldest greenhouse in the country. Stop by their Carriage House to sample their traditional holiday teas! Admission is free but Oatlands is closed on Dec 24 & 25!
Jingle Bell Carriage Rides!
Experience one of the “most magical Christmas towns in Virginia” for yourself from the backseat of a horse-drawn carriage! Our historic Downtown’s twinkling Christmas lights illuminate the decorated shop windows and festive wreaths, and there are plenty of cute coffee shops and locally-owned restaurants where you can stop in after your romantic carriage ride to warm up!
Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibit
After you’ve visited the venerable Mount Vernon, take a trip down to George Washington’s boyhood home at Ferry Farm! For 26 years, they’ve hosted a Gingerbread House Contest and Exhibit at Christmas where you can admire the gingerbread creations or try your hand at making your own! They’re closed on December 24 & 25 but this would be a great way to keep your out-of-town visitors busy in the meantime!
Bull Run Festival of Lights
One of the warmest ways to enjoy the holiday season—pile into the car and admire the sparkling lights and music! They’re open during Christmas if you need something to do while waiting for Old Saint Nick!
One of my personal favorite Christmas activities, Zoolights, is fun for all ages! The National Zoo is transformed into a winter wonderland at night with over 500,000 LED lights! See the imaginative light displays all around the Zoo and enjoy live music and holiday treats!
US Botanical Garden Christmas Display
The Botanical Garden is home to one of the largest indoor decorated trees in DC, a beautiful showcase of poinsettias and an extremely detailed toy train display in the East Gallery! Another popular display is the miniature re-creations of DC landmarks made out of plants in the Garden Court!
Christmas Day Organ Recital
If you’ve been singing Christmas songs since Halloween, this one’s for you! Make sure to show up early for the Christmas Day Organ Recital at the National Cathedral! This is a truly awe-inspiring event and definitely a DC bucket list item!
Did I miss one of your favorites? Let me know in the comments!