Visiting Holiday Light Displays in the DC Area is our family’s favorite tradition! They are perfect for early winter nights, social distancing, and igniting the joy of the holiday season. Last year when we went to Meadowlark Botanical Walk of Lights, my daughter proclaimed, “it’s just like entering a storybook!”
I’ve updated the list below for 2021 and added 4 new ones. I will add additional events as I hear more and feel free to let me know in the comments if I missed one! Organized by DC, Virginia, and Maryland and you can see it all on the google map here.
Holiday Light Displays in DC
The most famous tree in the area! It is on the White House’s Ellipse and will be on Thursday, December 2nd 2021 and CBS will broadcast the ceremony on Sunday, December 5th. Tickets are unfortunately already sold out. But 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!)
Hooray for the return of the famous trains at the US Botanic Garden! This year they have them outdoors, still free and no reservations needed! It is open and the trains are running every day from 10 AM to 5 PM and starting November 24, more holiday decor and lights will be lit!
3. National Zoo
By far, the most popular light display in the district is ZooLights at the National Zoo. Unfortunately, they have already canceled 2021’s lights due to health concerns. Last year they had a 24-foot ZooLights Express truck that visited all 8 wards in the district. I will keep this section updated as I hear more for 2021.
Cost: FREE to watch the ZooLights Express
Huge lights display inside the Nationals Stadium featuring an illuminated ice skating trail, Christmas village, Little One’s Play Place, and more.
Dates: November 26 – January 2
Cost: Adults from $39, Children ages 3 – 17 $29 and Infants ages 0-2 free.
This year, Tudor Place will have its Lantern Light Tour in December! Sign-ups are available now starting December 7th at this link. Special Kids Night on December 16th!
Cost: Between $15 – $25. Ages 3 and under are free.
6. DC Holiday Lights on 12 Main Streets in DC!
Back again for 2021! DC Holiday Lights, “Experience the District’s Dazzle” returns. From U Street and Logan Circle to Mount Pleasant and Columbia Heights, you can stroll and shop locally 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 November 19 and January 6, 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!”
Dates: November 19, 2021 – January 6, 2022
Northern Virginia Holiday Light Displays
Located in Vienna, Meadowlark exceeded my expectations! The number 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. Highly recommend getting tickets ahead of time when you know your dates. They are sold for specific entry times every 15 minutes between 5:30 – 10 PM.
Off-Peak Dates: Nov 11 – Dec. 9: Online ticket price for ages 2 and older $16 + Eventbrite fee. Onsite $20
Prime Nights: Dec. 10 – January 2: Online ticket price for ages 2 and older $18 + Eventbrite fee. No onsite tickets sales after December 9th.
The only Drive-Thru on our list 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.
Dates: November 11 – January 2nd
Cost: $30 per vehicle online, $40 per vehicle at the door.
Promo Code: Use promo code LIGHT21 for $5 off the Monday-Thursday rate.
Holiday lights and an outdoor ice rink at this Alexandria water park! Includes fire pits, photo ops, light displays, and more! All tickets must be purchased online ahead of time.
Dates: Village and Skate November 19 – January 2nd. Just the ice skating from January 8 – February 27, 2022.
Cost: $9.19 for Village Admission. $22.03 for Village Admission with Ice Skating.
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” as well as by candlelight this year for 2 different events.
Mount Vernon By Candlelight November 26-27 and December 3-4, 10-11 & 19
Christmas Illuminations December 17 and 18
Cost: Ranges from $28-$60 so see websites for details.
Holiday Lights on the Farm is back at our favorite Virginian farm, Frying Pan! For $20 a car (advanced purchase or $25 at door), you can drive through a winter wonderland of 1 mile through the farm and woods. You can also check out the website for Wagon Rides through the lights as well (bundle up!
Dates: Starts November 27 and check the website for availability.
Maryland Holiday Light Displays
A beloved holiday tradition returns this year after it was canceled last year. Lights and light displays are all around the 50 acres of the garden in Wheaton Maryland.
Dates: November 19 – January 2nd
Cost: $10 per person age 3 and older. Please print out your ticket and bring along.
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 place every half hour from sundown to 9 pm. And on Fridays, Saturdays, and Sunday there will be snowfall over the tree during the light show!
Lots of activities this holiday season from shows, Christmas movies, indoor snow tubing, ice bumper cars and snowball build and blast. For lights, they have 3 million lights inside their resort to check out every night.
Cost: Depends on activity.
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!” Tickets must be purchased in advance.
Dates: November 26 – December 31 (closed Christmas day)
Monday – Thursday $15 per vehicle
Friday and Sunday $25 per vehicle
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 lookout for your favorite animal shapes!
Dates: November 19 – January 2nd
Walkthrough Friday – Sunday 5-8 pm Free parking – Cost is $28 over the age of 2 per person.
Drive-thru Wednesday – Thursday – Cost $33 per vehicle
6. The Drive Thru Chanukah Experience – Bethesda
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. Waiting to see the status for 2021.
Holiday Light Displays in DC Area that are Closed for 2021 Season:
- Confirmed that ZooLights at the National Zoo in DC will not take place this year.
Map of Light Displays
And finally, check out this post for 22 more socially distanced things to do with kids in DC!