2021 Holiday Happenings in Washington DC

Great shopping at the Holiday Market by the National Portrait Gallery in Penn Quarter.

There’s so much to do in the Nation’s Capital during the holiday season, whether that’s a Christmas tree lighting, an outdoor market, a holiday performance, or a spin around an outdoor ice rink. Here are just a few ideas for your next visit to Washington D.C.

Light Up the Night

The tree at City Center is a stunning feature of this fabulous shopping area.
  • This year marks the 99th anniversary of the annual tree lighting ceremony at the White House, which takes place on December 5, 2021. Watch the entertainment on CBS at 8:30 pm (EST) featuring stars like LL Cool J, Chris Stapleton, H.E.R., Maren Morris, Patti LaBelle and more. The National Christmas Tree site will be open to the public Dec. 4 through Jan. 1, 2022, from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sundays through Thursdays, and 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. 
  • Walk past the beautiful U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree , which was chosen from Six Rivers National Forest in California. The tree is located on the West Front Lawn and is on display through New Year’s Day.
  • There’s nothing more fun than watching a procession of boats pass by on the shoreline of the DC Wharf for the Holiday Boat Parade. More than 60 boats, all lit up and glowing, sail down the Washington Channel on December 4.
  • The Yards DC – a neighborhood near the Washington Nationals Baseball Stadium – features a collection of shimmering trees illuminated from Dec. 1 – Jan. 1, 2022. Light Yards will cast The Yards’ Sun Deck with shimmering patterns of light and color. 
  • Escape the chilly weather and go inside the Conservatory at the United States Botanic Garden to see the lighted trees and greenery. Then enjoy the outdoor holiday display with festive adornments, winterberries and miniature trains. The festivities take place from Nov. 24, 2021 – Jan. 2, 2022.
  • Get your shopping in at Penn Quarter’s CityCenterDC, which is all dressed up outside with an installation of 400 gleaming ornaments and a glittering 75-foot tree.
  • The famous illuminations event at George Washington’s Mount Vernon happens Dec. 3-4, 10-11, 19. Come to see the Mansion and grounds lit by candlelight, and purchase tasty holiday treats, hot chocolate and shop for unique gifts at the Mount Vernon Museum Store.
Check out the Festival of State Trees at the White House’s Presidents Park

Celebrate with Live Theater

  • There’s no better tradition than experiencing Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” at Ford’s Theatre Nov. 24 – Dec. 27. This is a must-see show!
  • See a spectacular version of the classic ballet “The Nutcracker” performed by the Washington Ballet at the Warner Theatre from Nov. 27 – Dec. 26.
  • The annual “A Candlelight Christmas” begins on Dec. 19 through 22 at the Kennedy Center. After the show, take a walk through The Reach for stunning views of the city skyline at night. 
  • Behold the majesty of a full choral performance of holiday music at the National Cathedral with the “Joy of Christmas,” from Dec. 11-12.
  • The incomparable “Step Afrika!’s Magical Musical Holiday Step Show” is playing at the Atlas Performing Arts Center from Dec. 9-19, 2021. Afterward, visit the vibrant H Street neighborhood.

Shop For Unique Gifts

The National Mall is very festive during the holidays!
  • Head to Union Market to catch a grab a bite to eat, and do some shopping. Every Friday night at 5 pm through December, Union Market puts on a holiday light show.  
  • The magical Downtown Holiday Market returns to Penn Quarter with local vendors, light bites and festive décor. The market, located beside the National Portrait Gallery, runs from Nov. 19 – Dec. 23.
  • Eastern Market Main Street hosts its annual holiday market The Holly Days with live music, food and window displays from Nov. 1 – Dec. 31. 
  • Enjoy an authentic European-style market at the Heurich House Museum. Christkindlmarkt is held in the Castle Garden from Dec. 3-5 and features dozens of local artisans.

Go Ice Skating at DC’s Best Outdoor Rinks

Old Town Alexandria’s Events

Campagna Center’s 50th Anniversary Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend and Parade

On December 3 and 4, 2021 celebrate the season at a Taste of Scotland, at the Christmas Walk Weekend in Old Town Alexandria. The festivities include a holiday market, parade of Scottish bagpipers and and a lighted boat parade. December 3-4

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Freelance writer and photographer specializing in vivid, deeply reported stories about food, travel and family.

1 Comment Leave a comment

  1. Hi there Renee, I enjoyed reading your post and felt quite jealous to see that it’s so Christmassy out there already. I agree with you, that green (and is that other color silver) tree is stunning indeed. 🙂 — Amor


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