This might just be the best year to check out the Holiday Light Displays in DC, Virginia and Maryland! They are perfect for early winter nights, social distancing and igniting the joy of the holiday season. We just got back last night from Meadowlark Botanical Walk of Lights where my daughter proclaimed, “it’s just like entering a storybook!” Visiting a Light Display is such a special memory whether it’s a tradition for your family or special for this year.
Below are the top 12 displays in our area as well as 5 of the most popular display that are unfortunately closed this year due to the pandemic (Go directly to the Map here.)
Holiday Light Displays in DC
1. National Zoo
By far, the most popular light display in the district is Zoolights at the National Zoo. This year will be different, but in a good way, I hope! Instead of being held on-site at the Zoo, aa 24-foot ZooLights Express truck will visit all 8 wards in the district. Each Friday and Saturday from Nov. 27 – Dec. 19 from 6-8PM starting with Ward 1. Our family is going to put some hot chocolate in a thermos and go for a neighborhood walk and try to catch the Zoo Light Express! I’m hoping the Zoo’s Twitter will keep us updated on location.
Cost: FREE to watch the ZooLights Express
This historic mansion is opening their gardens for Merry & Bright: Tudor Place Garden at Night on select nights from December 4 to December 19. Tickets must be purchased at their website to “explores parking garden rooms, twinkling lawns and shimmering tunnels of light while enjoying hot chocolate or hot cider.” No more than 40 people at a time will be in the garden. Sounds perfect!
Cost: Between $10 – $20. Ages 3 and under are free.
The most famous tree in the area! It is on the White House’s Ellipse and the Lighting Ceremony will be online on Dec. 3rd this year at thenationaltree.org. (No in-person audience) My favorite part of visiting the National Tree is actually not the tree itself but the 56 trees that surround it from US states and territories. The trees are lit each day from 4:30 – 10 PM. I like to use the SpotHero App to find parking downtown (not sponsored, just helpful!)
4. DC Holiday Lights on 12 Main Streets in DC!
A reader shared this wonderful experience with me and my family and I will definietly be checking this out! From U Street and Logan Circle to Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, you can stroll and shop local on 12 of the city’s main streets! From their website:
“DC’s Main Streets and commercial corridors have joined together to bring you a spectacular holiday experience. Between December 1 and December 31, take a stroll down each of the participating corridors below to experience a dazzling array of lights and decor. Then, cast your vote for the best decorated corridor!”
Northern Virginia Holiday Light Displays
Located in Vienna, Meadowlark exceeded my expectations! We went on a week night when they just had reduced the capacity due to the Governor’s orders. The amount of lights and variety was truly amazing! They give kids a scavenger hunt with a pencil and they can get a sticker at the end. There is also an adorable greenhouse to purchase hot chocolate and desserts like a s’more’s bar. The highlight for our family was the timed lights with music by the lake. My kids loved dancing along and we loved watching them from the many benches spread out. I appreciated the social distancing measures, especially the one-way walk path. You must get tickets online ahead of time and some dates/times may sell out.
Off Peak Dates: (Nov 11 – Dec. 11 and January 1 – 3) $18.75 for adults and $11.25 for ages 2-12.
Peak: (Dec. 12 – 31) $20 for adults and $12.50 for ages 2 – 12
Promo Code: Use PRIME20 for 20% off if booking November 23 – 27 (but not T-Day) or Jan 1 -3.
The only Drive Thru on our list which is perfect for staying warm and socially distancing! Located in Centreville, VA which is about 30 miles from downtown DC. The drive through is 2.5 miles of festive light displays. (Note: this year they will unfortunately not have the holiday village and carnival.)
$25 – $35 per car depending on the date and purchasing online or at the door.
Promo Code: Use promo code WEB20 for $5 off the Monday – Thursday rate.
This Alexandria water park is opening this year at about 1/3 capacity for a socially distanced Winter Wonderland! Includes fire pits, photo ops, light displays and more! The outdoor Ice Rink is open this year! All tickets must be purchased online ahead of time.
Nov to January 3rd: Village admission is $9.35 (Free under age 2). Village Admission with Skating (1 hour of skating and skate rental) is $24.
January 9 – Feb. 28: Ice Skating for $12.19 (includes 1 hour of skating and skate rental)
If you would like a more historical take on the holidays, check out George Washington’s home in Mount Vernon, VA. The estate will be “illuminated with soft lights and holiday patterns” and they will also have Christmas carolers, an 18th-century winter encampment, Aladdin the Camel, Artisan Craft Shop and Food Truck.
Dates: Nov. 27 – 29, Dec. 11 – 13 and Dec. 26 – 28 from 5:30 – 8:30 PM.
Members: $25 youth, $40 adult
Non-members: $30 youth, $45 adult
Maryland Holiday Light Displays
Every evening from November 14 to January 3rd, there will be a short light show on the 56-foot tree with over 2 million lights! The tree is located outside by the Ferris Wheel on Waterfront Street. The light show will take places every half hour from sundown to 9pm. And on Fridays, Saturdays and Sunday there will be snowfall over the tree during the light show!
Drive through 3.5 miles of more than 450 illuminated displays and lit trees in Gaithersburg! Their tagline made me laugh, “socially distancing since 1995!” Note: the Enchanted Evenings will not take place this year. Open Nov. 27 – Dec. 31 (except Christmas day)
Monday – Thursday $12
Friday and Sunday $17
A little further afield in Baltimore, the Maryland Zoo is doing their annual Zoo lights this year where you can drive through their displays and be on the look out for your favorite animal shapes! Note: the Saturdays walk through option is sold out as of writing.
Drive Thru: $45 per car
Dates: Wed/Th from 5 – 7 PM or Fri/Sun from 5 – 8 PM
12. The Drive Thru Chanukah Experience – Bethesda Only December 12 and 13!
A reader on Instagram shared this exciting experience with me! From their website: “The Chanukah Story comes to life with an epic audio-visual presentation in a Covid-safe manner.
This year with Covid restrictions and virtual schooling, the excitement and joy of large-scale Chanukah celebrations seemed to be out of the question. Until the Chabad Centers of Montgomery County came together to create the Chanukah Drive-thru Experience.
From the safety of their cars, families will literally drive-thru the Chanukah story as multiple illustrations, props and actors bring the 2500-year-old Chanukah story to life. Guided by a professionally created soundtrack, they will experience the Chanukah events as it would be happening in real-time. Participants will meet [at a distance] the Chanukah characters and pick up souvenirs and treats as they move through the Chanukah story.”
Cost and Dates:
Only December 12 and 13 (Saturday and Sunday)
Cost: $25 vehicle (early bird before Dec 6 – $20) + $2 per person. Purchase tickets online here.
Holiday Light Displays in DC Area that are Closed for 2020 Season:
- US Botanic Gardens
- Brookside Gardens’ Garden of Lights (Gardens are still open during the day)
- Nationals Park Enchant Christmas
- Gaylord National Harbor ICE Christmas
- Georgetown Glow is postponed to Spring 2021
Map of 10 Light Displays
And finally, check out this post for 22 more socially distanced things to do with kids in DC!