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The 9 Best Holiday Lights Displays in Washington D.C.

Lara Dreux | December 16, 2020 | Culture Holiday

Washington DC Christmas Tree

It's fair to say we all need a break, and the winter holidays season is the perfect excuse to let your cares melt away. The only stress that should be on your mind is how much to loosen your belt buckles and which woollen sweater is the ugliest.

Washington D.C. is a go-to destination for the spring cherry trees, but its holiday lights and winter decorations are equally mesmerizing. If you're on the hunt for some merry cheer, try one of these nine spots guaranteed to be lit with festivities.

See also: Top 6 Pie Shops in D.C.


National Christmas Tree

15th St. NW & E St. NW / Website

Starting in 1923, President Coolidge and the First Lady inaugurated the National Christmas tree and its lighting ceremony. Now a tradition that symbolizes peace and hope, this tree is a beacon of light we can all look to. The yearly lighting ceremony can be watched online, but be sure to drive by for a magical, sparkling sight.

US Capitol Christmas Tree

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW / Website

A majestic tree is chosen each year from a different national forest, then transported to the US capitol to be displayed by the White House. The US Capitol Christmas tree brings seasonal joy to the west lawn, as to the rest of the city and the nation. This year, a luscious tree has been selected from the Mesa, Uncompahgre and Gunnison national forests in Colorado. Come admire this spectacular tree and join in the ornament making to add a little piece of yourself to this American symbol.

The National Menorah

1600 Pennsylvania Avenue / Website

Standing tall, right by the Christmas tree, is the impressively tall national menorah. All holidays are celebrated in DC, and all are welcome. Witness the lighting of the candles and share Hanukkah's spirit as it lights dark times with joy.

INSIDER TIP: The gates open at 3 p.m. on Thursday. Be sure to book your tickets in advance.


Downtown Holiday Market

F St. NW, 7th to 9th St. NW / Website

The lights come from the numerous little market stalls here, more than 150 of them! Now celebrating its 16th year, this adorable seasonal market is the perfect outdoors location to get unique gifts for under the tree, all while supporting local business. As if that weren't appealing enough, take a break and enjoy delicious snacks like empanadas, candy or German baked goods.


The Light Yards

1300 First St. SE / Website

Watching lights shine bright from afar can be wonderful, but what if you want to feel a part of the spectacle? The Light Yards give everyone a spotlight, letting you play with the lit installations. This year, you will find The Pool and Angels of Freedom. Hop about the 106 interactive light spheres of the Pool to create beautiful patterns of light, or transform yourself into an angel with the Angels of Freedom installation.

The Willard

1401 Pennsylvania Ave. NW / Website

Stop by the Willard hotel lobby, a D.C. landmark that sets up jaw-dropping Christmas decorations, each year better than the last. Their towering tree decorated in refined ornaments stands out against the marble columns and paisley moquette, a visual ensemble worthy of a story book fantasy.

District Wharf

760 Maine Ave. SW / Website

To embrace all of D.C.'s lights not once but twice, come admire the mesmerizing skyline and its aquatic reflections by the waterfront. Here, you'll find plently of neat shops and top-tier restaurants to keep you entertained for hours on end — all with a killer view.

INSIDER TIP: If you plan on dining here, make sure you reserve in advance.

Zoolights On the Go


While we're celebrating, why not let animals join the party? Though the beloved ZooLights event will not be held on-site at the Zoo this year, the ZooLights will be set on the wheels of a 24-foot-long truck. The festively-decorated vehicle with light displays featuring “Panda Claws” is driving around the District now through Dec. 19, visiting a different ward each Friday and Saturday evening.


Festival of Lights Drive-thru

9900 Stoneybrook Dr. / Website

For the poetic scenery of a winter wonderland, drive around the Festival of Lights and soak in the spectacularly-lit vista. The Temple grounds glow with more than 400,000 lights, featuring two outdoor, life-size nativities. This drive-thru is open nightly now through Dec. 28th.

INSIDER TIP: Tune into FM radio station 101.7 to add festive music to your drive-thru experience.

Photography by: Mark Wilson