Courtesy of The Washington Times
The 2017 holiday season is upon Washington, D.C. Visitors and locals alike are beginning to flood the streets, eager to explore the wintry festivities that the nation’s capital has to offer. D.C. possesses a multitude of fests, foods and performances that celebrate this time of year, making it hard to chose how to spend the numbered days of winter break. But never fear, the following are several of D.C.’s best holiday delights, including both timeless favorites and new, more off-the-beaten-path adventures.
It is starting to get cold outside, so embrace it! D.C. boasts some fantastic outdoor ice skating, perhaps the most notable spot being the National Gallery of Art’s (NGA) Sculpture Garden Ice Rink, which has been open since 1999. The rink is nestled in a distinctive spot on the National Mall amongst the works of many renowned sculptors, making it the perfect place to enjoy the winter cityscape of D.C. The NGA’s rink is an old holiday favorite, but if skaters are looking for a new place to try their blades, they can head over to the Watergate Hotel’s Top of the Gate Skating Rink. This cool new facility serves as both a rink and a skate-up bar, where drinks can be enjoyed while taking in the unbeatable views of the various monuments and the Potomac River.
For those who love the ice but do not want to skate, check out ICE! 2017 at the Gaylord Hotel in National Harbor. ICE! is a huge indoor ice sculpture park, complete with ice slides and colorful christmas characters, all hand carved by the artisans of Harbin, China. This year’s theme is “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” The facility is kept around nine degrees fahrenheit, so make sure to bring a warm coat.
But enough of the cold. If you cannot get to someplace tropical this winter but miss the heat, check out another D.C. classic, the United States Botanic Garden’s ‘Season’s Greetings’ exhibit, featuring model scale buildings made entirely from plants. This year, the exhibit highlights ‘Roadside Attractions’ straight off of the many miles of Route 66. Probably one of the most whimsical annual exhibits around D.C., the botanical gardens are a great place to escape the cold and admire earthy miniatures. They also offer free musical performances on Tuesdays and Thursdays in their gardens.
If you are looking for more good shows in D.C. this winter, be sure to check out the happenings at The Kennedy Center. This holiday season, they feature a wide selection of both holiday and American musical favorites. Among the many shows are The Second City troupe’s Twist Your Dickens, a comedic twist on A Christmas Carol; Handel’s Messiah, a must see Christmas classic and An American In Paris, a new Broadway musical. Also, do not miss The Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker, one of D.C.’s “perennial favorites” (Washington Ballet). If music and dance are not really your thing but you still want to join in the holiday performance spirit, try The American Film Institute’s (AFI) Silver Theater and Cultural Center in Silver Spring, Maryland. They are having a Holiday Classics film festival until Dec 24, featuring Die Hard, It’s a Wonderful Life and many other great films.
Cinema aside, the holidays cannot occur without a proper light show. The National Zoo has set up their annual ZooLights. This D.C. favorite features a free traverse of the zoo-turned-winter-wonderland to enjoy colorful LED light exhibits as well as entertainment, shopping and holiday treats. But keep in mind, due to renovations to the zoo’s Visitor Center Auditorium, there is no lego display, model train exhibition or gingerbread competition this year. ZooLights is a truly unique experience, but if the light-up pandas and giraffes are beginning to wear on you, try Georgetown GLOW instead. Now in its fourth year, GLOW is an exhibit of ultra-modern light art all over Georgetown, which is the “region’s only curated exhibit of outdoor public light art installations,” which aims to “bring renewed light to all this holiday season” (Georgetown Glow).
Finally, for D.C. holiday shopping, be sure to check out the Downtown Holiday Market (DHM) which operates daily from noon to 8 p.m. until Dec 23 in front of the National Portrait Gallery. It features great live music, the works of over 150 artisans from the D.C. area and tasty holiday treats. DHM creates the unique experience of shopping in a “village” despite being in the middle of one of the busiest spots in D.C. It also is conveniently located near the metro and parking to enable quick accessibility for those last-minute shopping trips downtown. If you are running out of gift ideas, make sure to take a spin around the various Smithsonian Museum Gift Shops for some inspiration. Often overlooked, these stores can cover a wide range of interests in just a few stops.