Skip to main content
Home

3 Days of Holiday Wonder in Washington, DC

The holidays are a magical time to plan a trip to the District. Discover an array of seasonal activities, many of which are free, through our three-day itinerary below.

The holidays are a magical time to plan a trip to the District. Discover an array of seasonal activities, many of which are free, through our three-day itinerary below.

Day 1

Morning

Warm up your morning with a visit to one of Washington, DC's many Smithsonian museums on the National Mall. From dinosaurs at the National Museum of Natural History to new displays at the recently renovated National Air and Space Museum to the vital stories featured inside the National Museum of African American History and Culture, each museum is a treasure trove for families.

 

Afternoon

Spend your day seeing DC’s iconic monuments and memorials on the National Mall. With Big Bus Tours, you can stay warm and cozy as you see some of the city’s most popular attractions, such as the Washington Monument, memorials dedicated to Lincoln and Jefferson, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial, the World War II Memorial and many more.

 

Evening

Venture over to Adams Morgan, where kids can enjoy ZooLights at the Smithsonian's National Zoo (Nov. 25 – Dec. 30). The free exhibit features environmentally friendly animal light displays. Many of the animal houses also remain open in the evening for special animal keeper talks.

Day 2

Morning

Head over to Chinatown for some shopping at the Downtown Holiday Market. With dozens of exhibitors and artisans displaying everything from fine arts to fair trade, you can find great gifts for everyone on your list. Live music also sets the mood and the on-site mini doughnuts are an annual favorite.

Afternoon

Feel like a kid again at the National Gallery of Art, where you can go ice skating in the Sculpture Garden and then warm up with some hot chocolate. Of course, the museum’s East and West Buildings contain some of the finest works of art in the world, if you’re into that sort of thing.

Evening

Take in a holiday-themed show at one of DC’s many reputable theaters. The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the historic Ford’s Theatre, Arena Stage, Warner Theatre and many others all offer seasonal programming.

Day 3

Morning

Um, you might have some presents to buy, no? If so, the cobblestone streets of Georgetown make for an awesome morning destination. Get some shopping done in the city’s most fashionable neighborhood, where you’ll find a wonderful selection of high-end options.

Afternoon

The Willard InterContinental Hotel’s gorgeous lobby gets decked out with all the holiday trimmings each year. Warm up with a hot toddy in the hotel’s lavish Round Robin Bar or reserve a special holiday tea service.

Evening

We saved the best for last. Each evening, the National Christmas Tree is lit on the White House Ellipse, creating a holiday atmosphere that cannot be beaten. You can view and visit the tree for free throughout the day (the tree is lit up for the night at approximately 4:30 p.m.). The Pageant of Peace features smaller trees decorated for every state and territory, so make sure to pick yours out. The National Christmas Tree opens to the public with a special lighting ceremony on Nov. 30.