Things to do in the DC area: Holiday lightings and parades, DC Cocktail Week … and more!

There’s so much to do in the D.C. area in the coming days, and WTOP has you covered with our weekly roundup of area events worth anticipating.

Check back every Thursday for a roundup of Things to do in the D.C. area.

"Darth Fisher" public art installation
The “Darth Fisher” public art installation by Streetart Frankey at Georgetown GLOW 2023. (Photo courtesy of Janus van den Eijnden)

For its ninth year, the free outdoor light art experience, known as Georgetown GLOW, is back on Dec. 1. Visitors of the Northwest D.C. neighborhood can expect five larger-than-life artworks to light up from 5 p.m. to 10 p.m. through Jan. 7, 2024.

These works include “Darth Fisher” by Streetart Frankey, which features a life-size Darth Vader sculpture, seen at East Market Lane with a lit-up fishing rod. There is also “Neighborhood” by Sergey Kim at Cady’s Alley, which will showcase illuminated laundry on washing lines. A kinetic light sculpture, called “Follow the Light,” is also expected on the Washington Harbour Lawn.

The event is accompanied by more than 30 GLOW-inspired walking tours and other fun and festive events, such as an outdoor holiday market on Dec. 6, a cocktail crawl on Dec. 6 and a cookie tour on Dec. 9.

“This would be a great way to invite people to re-imagine the season of light during the holiday season,” said Nancy Miyahira, vice president of marketing of the Georgetown Business Improvement District in an interview with WTOP. “(It’s) not … very traditional, but a very artful way to have something to do during the holiday season.”

Head to the Georgetown GLOW website to learn about this year’s artists and a map of where to find the installations.

Below is a list of more holiday displays, tree lightings, menorah lightings and parades worth expecting in the District, Maryland and Virginia.

Light Yards in D.C.’s Yards Park will showcase an interactive light installation free to the public every night. The event runs through Jan. 7, 2024, with five, 13-foot-tall bells that play a jingle as you swing. All ages are welcome.

Starting Nov. 24 and running through Dec. 30, the annual ZooLights event returns with more than half a million LED lights and illuminations. ZooLights does not feature the National Zoo’s animals. Admission to the event costs $6 per person, and the parking fee is $30 and available for pre-purchase online.

Once again, the annual holiday display, known as Season’s Greenings, is back at the U.S. Botanic Garden with holiday décor, D.C. landmarks made from plants and model trains circulating through the gated outdoor garden. The display runs from Nov. 23 through Jan. 1, 2024.

The Holiday Boat Parade by The Wharf in D.C. is set for Dec. 2. More than 60 boats will float down the Washington Channel, decked out with lit-up holiday decorations. Those who come can enjoy more activities besides the parade, including live music, ornament decorating and photos with Santa Claus.

The National Menorah Lighting in the nation’s capital can be expected on Dec. 7 with an attendance of more than 5,000 and a viewership that can reach up to 71 million people. Tickets are now available with free admission.

For the National Christmas Tree Lighting, it’s too late to join the free ticket lottery as it closed on Nov. 8 with results announced on Nov. 15. Even so, you can still watch the ceremony on the CBS Television Network on Dec. 15. This year’s live performers include Dionne Warwick, St. Vincent, Reneé Rapp and Joe Walsh.

2022 Holiday Tree Lighting celebration at CityCenterDC
The 2022 Holiday Tree Lighting celebration at CityCenterDC. (Photo courtesy of CityCenterDC)

Elsewhere in the District, visitors can find holiday tree lightings at CityCenterDC on Nov. 25, City Ridge on Dec. 2, Union Station on Dec. 7 and Columbia Heights Civic Plaza on Dec. 8.

For those in Virginia, find more tree lightings in Reston on Nov. 24 (with a parade!), Mosaic in Fairfax, Virginia, on Nov. 24 (with a Santa firetruck parade!), Shirlington on Nov. 30 and Rosslyn on Dec. 7.

Dozens of Scottish clans dressed in colorful tartans will parade through the streets of Old Town Alexandria in Virginia on Dec. 2. The Alexandria Scottish Christmas Walk Parade was founded more than 50 years ago and will start at the corner of Saint Asaph and Wolfe streets.

Be sure to check out the 23rd annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights later that day on Dec. 2. Dozens of brightly lit boats will cruise along one mile of the Potomac River, while visitors at Waterfront Park will be able to enjoy dockside festivities, such as a pop-up beer garden from Port City Brewing Company.

Elsewhere in Alexandria, Virginia, the Del Ray neighborhood will host a Christmas tree lighting and a Menorah lighting on Dec. 3 at the intersection of Mount Vernon and Oxford avenues. Guests will also be able to get free photos with Santa Claus.

The Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens in Wheaton, Maryland, is open every night through Dec. 31, except Nov. 20 to 23 and Dec. 24 to 25. The event is outdoors, open rain or shine. Tickets are $10 per person.

The 12th annual Winter Walk of Lights in Vienna, Virginia, offers a cozy stroll through Meadowlark Botanical Gardens. The half-mile Winter Walk paved trail is wheelchair and stroller accessible. This event runs through Jan. 7, 2024, including Thanksgiving, Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day.

For a 2.5-mile drive-through of festive light displays, consider the Bull Run Festival of Lights in Centreville, Virginia. The event at Bull Run Regional Park runs through Jan. 7, 2024. Guests only need to buy one ticket per vehicle. Prices start at $30.

In Gaithersburg, Maryland, enjoy the Winter Lights Festival on the lakefront of Seneca Creek State Park from Nov. 24 through Dec. 31, excluding Dec. 25. Tickets range from $15 to $25 depending on the day.

With 200,000 square feet of displays and more than one million lights, Winter City Lights in Olney, Maryland, offers a truly immersive holiday experience. Tickets for adults cost $39, while youth between the ages of 4 and 12 cost $31 each, and seniors cost $34 each. There is also an optional snowtubing ride option for $25 per person or an ax-throwing activity that costs an additional $10 per person.

For more holiday content, be sure to check back in next Thursday for the next weekly event guide. Here’s what else is happening in the D.C. area:


Spit Dat in Residence
On Nov. 27, the Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company and Spit Dat are hosting talented folks in their monthly open mic. Monday’s performance features Jenny Lares, a Philippine-born writer and arts administrator and Regie Cabico, an award-winning poet. Tickets are free of charge.

D.C. Cocktail Week
More than 85 locations are participating in this year’s D.C. Cocktail Week. Presented by the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington, the event allows the public to enjoy a variety of cocktails and nonalcoholic beverages, plus accompanying events, such as happy hours and salsa lessons. The event is from Nov. 28 to Dec. 5.

Swap and Shop
Been meaning to clear out parts of your closet? Consider heading to Sixth & I for the all-size and all-genders clothing swap event. Bring clothes, shoes and accessories to trade on Nov. 29. Admission is $5, but no one will be turned away due to lack of funds. Leftover clothing will be donated to a community organization.


‘Twas the Night Before
In Baltimore, Maryland, expect a dazzling holiday show at the Hippodrome Theatre with acrobatics and a soundtrack of reinvented holiday classics. This is the first holiday show from Cirque du Soleil, and it’s based on the classic poem “A Visit from Saint Nicolas” by Clement Clarke Moore. The show runs from Nov. 24 through Dec. 3 with tickets that range from the low $60s to above $150 each.

Canadian post-hardcore band Silverstein is celebrating the tenth anniversary of their album, “This Is How The Wind Shifts,” with a tour that extends to The Fillmore in Silver Spring, Maryland, on Nov. 29.

Nightmares Before Christmas
In this Profs & Pints event, the discussions are turned to the darker sides of the holiday season, especially Krampus. Leading the event is William Egginton, professor of humanities and director of the Alexander Grass Humanities Institute at Johns Hopkins University. The event is at the Guilford Hall Brewery in Baltimore, Maryland, on Nov. 29.


Winter Lantern Festival
Celebrate traditional Chinese lantern festivals in Tysons, Virginia, at the Winter Lantern Festival. Starting Nov. 24, the festival has more than 1,000 Chinese lanterns made by artisans, plus there will be interactive experiences, such as a bounce house, light swings and seesaws. Admission starts around $17.99 for children and around $25.99 for adults with a discount for seniors, students and members of the military.

Best of D.C. Comedy Showcase
Have a laugh at Lorton, Virginia’s Workhouse Arts Center with this special holiday weekend of comedy on Nov. 25. Tickets cost $20 per person.

Go bird watching
Every Sunday at 8 a.m., attend a free bird-watching event in Alexandria, Virginia, hosted by the Friends of Dyke Marsh. The event is at the Dyke Marsh Wildlife Preserve, a freshwater, tidal marsh on the Virginia side of the Potomac River in Fairfax County. For more recurring bird walks, check out this guide by the Audubon Society of Northern Virginia.

Have an event you’d like featured in WTOP’s Things to do in the DC area weekly guide? Fill out this contact form to have your event considered.

Michelle Goldchain

Michelle Goldchain’s reporting has focused primarily on the D.C. area, previously working as Editor of Curbed DC for Vox Media and Audience Growth & Engagement Editor for Washington City Paper. She is the author of "D.C. by Metro: A History & Guide.” She also reports for Artsplained on YouTube.

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