How lights, parades and other events will impact DC-area roads this holiday season

There are a number of reasons why the holidays can be so stressful, and while gift shopping and family drama normally top the list, another one can be fighting D.C. traffic to either take in or just avoid seasonal events.

Here’s a rundown of a few of the area’s larger holiday events, and some insights from the WTOP Traffic team on how they will impact area roads.



Zoo Lights will be on from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. for several days through Dec. 30 at D.C.’s National Zoo. “Zoo Lights leads to evening delays on Beach Drive and Connecticut Avenue through Woodley Park without fail,” said WTOP Traffic reporter Dave Dildine.

The Festival of Lights at the Washington D.C. Temple in Kensington, Maryland, runs from dusk to 9 p.m. starting Dec. 1 through Jan. 2. Fortunately, Dildine doesn’t expect it to impact nearby major roads too much.

“Traffic will back up on Stonybrook Drive on the busiest nights, but the lines seldom affect larger roads,” he said. “There’s usually some police direction in and out of the parking lots.”

Gaithersburg’s Winter Lights Festival runs through Dec. 31 (except Christmas Day) starting at 6 p.m. at Seneca Creek State Park. The festival is “notorious for creating long delays” on Route 117/Clopper Road, Dildine said. The event can also affect traffic on Route 124 and Interstate 270.

“Game Preserve Road is usually a bad shortcut since it’s very confined and windy,” Dildine added.

The Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens in Montgomery County, Maryland, will be open most evenings from 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. through Jan. 2. While it’s typically a popular event, Dildine said it shouldn’t lead to long traffic delays.

The Festival of Lights continues nightly from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Jan. 1 at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro, Maryland. The Prince George’s County Department of Parks and Recreation recommends that visitors enter along Route 202; Dildine notes that long lines formed along nearby Route 193 last year.

Lights on the Bay runs from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Jan. 1 at Sandy Point State Park in Anne Arundel County, Maryland. Big crowds are normal, Dildine said, and on the busiest nights, it can cause congestion on the service road “and even on Route 50 itself west of the Bay Bridge.”

In Centreville, Virginia, the Bull Run Festival of Lights runs nightly through Jan. 8 starting at 5:30 p.m. Backups can be long on Bull Run Post Office Road, Dildine said, but they haven’t impacted Route 29 much the last few years. Organizers advise visitors who want to avoid crowds to come on weeknights. The weekend before and the weekend after Christmas draw the heaviest crowds.

Jack Pointer

Jack contributes to WTOP.com when he's not working as the afternoon/evening radio writer.

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