Making Memories

Capital Holiday Bucket List

The holidays are a very special time in the nation's capital. And with Arlington as your home base, you can save 20 percent on hotels while crossing off these must-see experiences from your holiday bucket list!

1. Visit the National Christmas Tree

November 28 - January 1

The National Christmas Tree will be lit every day from approximately 4:30 p.m. to midnight as part of the America Celebrates display at President’s Park (White House). This display is free to visit and will be open to the public after the National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony. The walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree features 56 state and territory trees decorated with hand-made ornaments that are unique to each tree.

National Christmas Tree in the Capital

2. Get Your White House Christmas Ornament

Every year since 1981, the White House Historical Association has had the privilege of designing the Official White House Christmas Ornament. These unique collectibles — honoring individual presidents or specific White House anniversaries — have become part of the holiday tradition of millions of American families. Sales of the ornaments support the historical preservation of White House art and artifacts.

3. See 'A Christmas Carol' at Ford’s Theatre

November 15 - December 30

Truly a holiday classic, join the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present and Future as they lead the miserly Ebenezer Scrooge on a journey of transformation and redemption. History buffs should make sure to schedule time for a special guided tour of the historic theater, where you can experience museum exhibits and immersive learning that explores President Abraham Lincoln's legacy.

patrons of A Christmas Carol at Ford's Theatre

4. Enjoy 'The Nutcracker' at the Kennedy Center or Warner Theater

December 5 - 9

Ballet West performs the Washington, D.C. premiere of its whimsical new production of The Nutcracker at The Kennedy Center. Pairing reimagined designs with beloved choreography, the opulent production delivers treasured moments and surprising new delights.

November 29 - December 20

Since 1992, the historic Warner Theatre has been the home of The Washington Ballet's production of The Nutcracker. This beloved version takes place in historic 1882 Georgetown with George Washington, King George III and other historical figures.

5. Experience ZooLights at the National Zoo

November 23 - January 1 (except December 24, 25 and 31)

Join the thousands of visitors who make ZooLights a part of their annual holiday tradition. A free event, ZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with a dazzling light show set to music!

a couple taking a walk among trees covered in Christmas lights

6. Celebrate the Holiday Season at one of Arlington's Neighborhood Festivals

  • The Village at Shirlington lights up on November 29 with festive live music, horse and carriage rides, and a tree lighting.
  • Immerse yourself in a winter wonderland December 1 at the Lee Highway Winter Festival of Lights with seasonal music, food and performers.
  • GRUMP!, an artisan holiday shopping experience, featuring handmade jewelry, bath and beauty products, plus live music, returns to Rosslyn on December 1.
  • Soak in the seasonal cheer at Pentagon Row Frost Fest December 1. See a fireworks display on the ice, visit Santa, and enter for a chance at a $1,000 shopping spree!

7. Lace up Your Skates at Pentagon Row

Ideal for families and friends alike, the plaza at Pentagon Row now features the largest outdoor ice-skating rink in Northern Virginia, and the second largest in the state! It even has an outdoor dual-sided stone fireplace for lounging during skating breaks.

ice skating rink at Pentagon Row
Richard Nowitz

8. Shop for a Unique Arlington Souvenir

Made in Arlington at Plaza Branch Library in Courthouse is a pop-up retail market dedicated to unique things beautiful, wearable and edible from innovators and artisans in Arlington. Upcoming Artisans and entrepreneurs includes:

9. Caring Santa is on His Way

December 2, 9 – 11 a.m.

Parents of children with special needs are invited to enjoy a private photo experience with Caring Santa where they will have the opportunity to visit with Santa and have their photo taken with him. Fashion Centre at Pentagon City will make necessary adjustments to the environment to support the sensory, physical and other developmental needs of children of all abilities for this special event.

10. Score Seasonal Sweet Treats Like Grandma Made Them

The Holidays just aren't same without a little sweet treat. Check out a few local faves like Living the Pie Life, Bakeshop or Heidelberg Bakery. A stop at one of these establishments is sure to be a guaranteed recipe for success.

a child reaching for holiday-themed cupcakes and treats in Arlington

Other Events Around the Region...

11. Sing Your Heart out at the Holiday Sing-A-Long at Wolf Trap

December 1, 4 p.m.

Kick off the holiday season with family and friends at Wolf Trap’s Annual Holiday Sing-A-Long! This musical celebration hosts a performance by the United States Marine Band and a sing-a-long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with local choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area.

12. Celebrate Christmas at Mount Vernon

November 23 - December 31

Christmas past meets Christmas present at George Washington's Mount Vernon estate. Just as the Washington's celebrated the holiday with family and friends, visitors can start a new tradition of visiting Mount Vernon this holiday season.

13. Admire the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

December 1, 5:30 p.m.

Alexandria's harbor shines as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront for the 19th annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights. Enjoy festivities out on the dock from 4:00 to 7:00 p.m. including a Letters to Santa postcard pop-up from paper goods boutique Penny Post, a DIY holiday wood ornament craft activity from AR Workshop Alexandria and a hot chocolate bar from Dolci Gelati.

14. Catch the Christmas Spirit at National Harbor

November 16 - January 1

An action-packed holiday schedule is the norm at National Harbor. Step inside the Gaylord National Resort for ICE!, an indoor winter wonderland featuring two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures, ice slides, a live carving area and a retelling of A Charlie Brown Christmas.