From Classic to Cool: The Best of Winter in the Nation's Capital

Elena Sonnino - Washington Dc
December 11, 2012

December in the Washington DC area may not mean snow for local children (although it does not stop our students from doing the snow dance or wearing their pajamas inside out to bring on a coat of white), but it does provide an exciting assortment of activities around the area for children and families of all ages. From holiday lights to ice skating to special events, the Washington Metro area rings in the holidays and the beginning of winter in fine fashion, more than making up for our lack of snow for snowball fights, sledding, and snowmen.

Festive Lights

Holiday light fans have several choices, from Maryland to to Washington DC to Virginia, to take in the sparkle and artistry of light displays. One unique holiday light offering is ZooLights as it takes over the National Zoo with 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights that turn the zoo into a celebration of all things winter. ZooLights is a free event, although those looking for a taste of winter can speed down two 150 long snow tubing tracks at the Lion/Tiger Hill for a fee. Or, families can interact with costumed characters strolling through the zoo, take a festive train, or visit the Wildlife Train Park. ZooLights runs until January 1. Another choice for those on the lookout for holiday lights is the 17th Annual Winter Lights Festival at Seneca Creek State Park, with a 3.5 mile drive through 360 illuminated vignettes and 65 animated displays. 

Trains and Characters

Another local tradition is the Season's Greetings exhibit at the United States Botanical Garden. Train lovers will ooh and ahh over the Garden Railway in the East Gallery, featuring a train that runs through a creative Enchanted Forest with buildings and landscapes all created with plants and plant materials. Evening guests will enjoy music performances on selected dates. Season's Greetings is open until January 1, 2013. Another imaginative exhibit and event is Ice at the Gaylord National Harbor. Ice Dreamworks is back featuring Shrek the Halls. The animated favorite is brought to life with colored ice sculptures, interactive areas, and characters like Shrek, Fiona, Donkey, Gingy, and Puss in Boots. You also won't want to miss the two incredible twenty-foot tall ice slides carved from two million pounds of ice. Tickets are required for this event and often sell out in advance. Find out more about tickets and availability here. If you are near the National Harbor on December 24, you can catch a glimpse of the Water Skiing Santa and his kneeboarding reindeer at 1:00 p.m.  

Winter Fun

The Washington DC area may not have snow in December, but ice skating rinks provide a winter fun activity for all ages. The new ice skating rink at Washington Harbor in Georgetown is the area's largest outdoor ice skating venue, open until March 1. Other options for ice skating can be found at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink, at the Canal Park Ice RinkSilver Spring Ice Rink at Veterans PlazaPentagon Row, or Reston Town Center. Of course, an ice skating outing might call for a warm cup of hot chocolate afterwards.  

What about you? What are your favorite holiday and winter themed activities in the Washington DC area? 


From the Parents

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