DC holiday events

21 Nov

Ice! at the National Harbor.

The holidays are all about traditions and now that you live in DC, it’s time to start creating some new ones.

Downtown DC Holiday Market: Located right across from the Verizon Center (and the Chinatown Metro station on the Red Line) and in front of the Smithsonian American Art Museum & National Portrait Gallery, this holiday market—essentially a craft fair—is a great place to get original gifts. It’s open December 3 – 23, from noon to 8. I personally don’t think this market is big enough to justify a special trip, but it would be a lovely addition to an evening out to dinner or before or after a Verizon Center event.

Ice!: This indoor winter wonderland is put on by the Gaylord National hotel near its location at the National Harbor. It’s basically a bunch of amazing ice sculptures and you walk through and look at them and take pictures while wearing an awesome blue parka. AND last year they had two ice slides, so hopefully that will be a repeat. While this event is mostly for children, I went with my boyfriend and we had a great time; I’d just recommend going late to avoid the intense crowds of kiddies. This year’s theme is “How the Grinch Stole Christmas.” I’m not sure I’ll be going again this year simply because it’s a bit expensive: at least $24 for an adult. Open through January 9, I’d definitely recommend going at least one time.

ZooLights: This evening event at the National Zoo, which displays light sculptures on the grounds, is basically mandatory for people with kids. But this year it’s even better because it’s FREE! So if you’re ever going to go, this is the year. You will have to pay $15 for parking ($8 if you’re a member) unless you don’t mind walking a few blocks—in that case you might be able to find street parking. ZooLights starts December 3 and runs through January 1.

The Nutcracker: The Kennedy Center never gets old to me. The tall ceilings and huge windows always make me feel fancy. And this is taken up a notch once the holiday decorations are displayed. The Kennedy Center hosts a performance of The Nutcracker annually, and this year it will be performed by The Joffrey Ballet from November 24 – 28. Tickets range between $45 and $180. And I’d keep an eye out for potential discount tickets on Goldstar.com.

National Christmas Tree: Well, I didn’t win tickets to this year’s tree lighting, but I’m not going to stay bitter because I still really enjoying seeing the National Christmas Tree. The National Menorah is also on the Ellipse.

U.S. Botanic Garden: Oh man, do kids love their trains. The Botanic Gardens, located on the Mall near the Capitol, is usually a peaceful and quiet place to explore. During the holiday season, on the other hand, it’s another matter. There’s a line to get in to see the train exhibit and once you’re in you shuffle around through the narrow corridor. I’ve got to be honest, I didn’t enjoy it all that much, but if you went during an off-time, you might have better luck. The holiday exhibit is up November 25 – January 2.

Volunteer: Get into the holiday spirit by volunteering at a soup kitchen, senior center or a kids’ holiday party. Don’t know where to start? Might I suggest Greater DC Cares. You can become a volunteer by doing a 10-minute volunteer orientation online. Then you just take a look at their calendar of volunteer opportunities and register for the events that interest you. And there’s always other people at these events that came by themselves, so it could be a great way to meet some new people.

Create Your Own: One of my favorite holiday events is my coworker’s post-holiday Gift Exchange Dinner. On a Sunday night a few weeks after Christmas, everyone gathers at a restaurant and brings the gifts they received but don’t like. Then it’s basically like a White Elephant Exchange except that the presents aren’t wrapped. It’s a fabulous time and it’s great to see some of the stuff people got (an oral irrigator was particularly memorable).

My roommate who had a Christmas tree and decorations recently moved out, and so in a few weeks I’m hosting an ornament-making party. I bought a bunch of crafts and my friends and I are going to sit around, eat snacks and do crafts.

The holiday season is a great opportunity for people new to the area to host a party. Invite the coworkers and neighbors that you’re friendly with, and start transitioning them to actual friends by inviting them to a shindig.

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