Touring through a winter wonderland: Where to see holiday lights in the DC area

Light festivals and displays are an opportunity for families throughout the DMV to enjoy some holiday spirit together.

Here is a list of where you can see holiday lights in the D.C. area:


Winter Light Festival in Gaithersburg

The Winter Light Festival in Gaithersburg is welcoming visitors for another holiday season. The lights at Seneca Creek State Park will open at night from Nov. 25 to Dec. 31 but will be closed on Christmas Day. The last entry for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve is 8:30 p.m.

When you drive through Seneca Creek State Park, you will see over 450 bright displays and trees that light up the night. Visitors can purchase one ticket for each vehicle — $15 Monday to Thursday; $25 Friday to Sunday; and $30 for vehicles with 15 or more passengers.

Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Temple

The Festival of Lights at the Washington D.C. Temple and Visitors’ Center in Kensington will be returning this year after not hosting the event in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be lights that illuminate the grounds from sunset to 9 p.m. every night from Dec. 1 through Jan. 2.

Visitors can see crèche nativity scenes from around the world, as well as more than 400,000 lights, decorated Christmas trees and a number of performances.

The performances are free but tickets are required.

‘Lights on the Bay’ at Sandy Point State Park

The Lights on the Bay holiday light show at Sandy Point State Park along the shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County has over 60 animated and stationary displays illuminating the roadway, according to its website. The event is from Nov. 20 to Jan. 1 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. and is sponsored by the SPCA animal society of Anne Arundel County.

Attendees can buy tickets online for $20 per car, $5 for 3D glasses and $30 for large passenger vans, mini buses and trolleys.

Watkins Regional Park Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro welcomes visitors to its drive-through holiday light show with over two million twinkling lights. It has a lot of new displays this year such as a 54-foot LED musical tree.

This event is from Nov. 25 to Jan. 1 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. Tickets for cars are $10 if purchased online and $15 at the gate. Tickets are $20 for a van or limo and $30 for bus.

Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens

Stroll through Brookside Gardens’ one-half-mile outdoor lights extravaganza at the horticultural gardens in Wheaton.

New this year, pedestrians and cyclists have the option to enter the seasonal light display at the pedestrian gate at 1800 Glenallan Ave. or via a half-mile path beginning at 2000 Shorefield Road near the Wheaton Regional Park Adventure Playground.

The show is open now and goes on every night through Jan. 1, 2023, except Nov. 21-24 and Dec. 24-25, 2022. Tickets are $10 per person for everyone five and older.


ZooLights at National Zoo

The annual ZooLights at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo will take place from 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. most dates between Nov. 25 to Dec. 30. For this year’s event, attendees will be required to have a special entry pass.

Passes open for reservations on a rolling basis two weeks in advance, and allow entry from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. There’s a $30 flat-rate parking fee, and daytime parking tickets won’t be valid.

The National Zoo said attendees will see LED lights and a number of glowing animal lanterns that “transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland.” There will also be warm winter treats, live musical performances and opportunities for holiday shopping.

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade

The Wharf in downtown D.C. is hosting the 30th anniversary of the District’s Holiday Boat Parade presented on Dec. 3 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. You can celebrate the holidays with this iconic event that features over 60 beautifully decorated boats parading along the Washington Channel.

Last year’s parade caused significant backups and event organizers recommend using alternatives like ride-share and taxis, the free Southwest Shuttle, Water Taxi and Metro to access the event.

Enchant at Nationals Park

Nationals Park will transform into a Christmas-themed light show that features a maze, ice skating rink and village with food and beverages for sale. Nationals Park is one of nine locations where Enchant, claiming to be the “world’s largest Christmas light Maze & Village,” has set up shop across the county.

The event is open now and runs until Jan. 1. Tickets start at $35 for adults and $23 for children.


Bull Run Festival of Lights

The Bull Run Festival of Lights in Centreville is open from Nov. 11 through Jan. 8. It’s an opportunity for families and friends alike to see over two miles of holiday light displays.

Visitors can drive through the festival in their cars, shut off the headlights and follow the magical glow. The festival advises those who want to stay away from crowds should come on the weekends. You can purchase tickets on Eventbrite, ranging from $30 to $75.

You can listen to WTOP’s Jason Fraley who previewed the event in 2020 here.

Ice and Lights at The Winter Village at Cameron Run

Ice and Lights at The Winter Village at Cameron Run in Alexandria is an opportunity for families to view light displays, take pictures and skate on the outdoor ice rink through Jan. 1 from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

Tickets are available for purchase, ranging from $8 to $20.

Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights

Meadowlark’s Winter Walk of Lights at the Meadowlark Botanical Gardens in Vienna is a garden trail decorated with lots of sparkling lights. It has lighted nature themes and animated displays along a trail, NOVA Parks said.

Winter Walk of Lights is open from 5:30 p.m. to 10 p.m. until Dec. 8. Tickets are available for purchase, ranging from $5 to $18.

Rocking Around the Boardwalk at Neabsco Regional Park

Visitors to Woodbridge’s Neabsco Regional Park might happen upon a magical path of handcrafted light displays. The annual display runs from Nov. 26 through the end of the year, and is free of charge with no registration required.

Neabsco’s holiday tree display kicks off Saturday, Dec. 10, offering a “one-of-a-kind seasonal treat” with holiday-themed music and even a selfie station, according to the park’s website.

Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights

Old Town Alexandria’s holiday boat parade is a sight to behold. More than 50 colorfully-lit boats will cruise down the Potomac River’s shoreline this year, as viewers enjoy dockside festivities like a pop-up beer garden, and family-friendly events featuring artist vendors, music and activities for kids.

Festivities start at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 3, with the parade scheduled for 5:30 p.m. that same day.

Winter Lantern Festival at Tysons

Lerner Town Square will be transformed into a immersive festival of lights, featuring more than 1,000 Chinese lanterns. Guests can wander though the “wonderland of light” that includes displays of Chinese myths, legends and zodiacs. Handmade lanterns will also feature displays of mammoths, polar bears and penguins. There will also be interactive light swings, see-saws and tunnels.

The festival starts on Dec. 16 until Feb. 12 and will be open on Friday through Sunday from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. General admission tickets cost $29.99 per person, plus a $2 service fee. Tickets for children between 3-12 years old are $17.99 each, plus a $2 service fee.

Tadiwos Abedje

Tadi Abedje is a freelance digital writer/editor for WTOP. He was born in Washington, D.C., and grew up in Northern Virginia. Journalism has been his No. 1 passion since he was a kid and he is blessed to be around people, telling their stories and sharing them with the world.

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