December Family-Friendly Events Guide

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December is here, and with it comes a multitude of opportunities for family fun. In addition to the events compiled here, please check out our guide to Hanukkah Happenings, our 2022 Holiday Light Display Guide, and our Christmas Tree Lighting Guide. These and other resources – including some that can help you find the perfect gift – can be found in our guide to Winter Holidays, Activities, and Events. As you enjoy the lights, performances, crafts, and fireworks, know that DC Area Moms wish you and your family all the joy, peace, and love of the season.

The Day You Begin

Now – December 18
The Kennedy Center
Washington, DC
Jacqueline Woodson’s (Kennedy Center Education Artist-in-Residence) popular picture book comes to life in this heartening musical production. It is a story about finding the courage to begin in a place where nobody really knows you yet. While the production is suitable for all ages, it is best suited for kids from 7 to 12 years old. There is a sensory friendly show on December 10th. On December 17th there will be a Creative Conversation and Book Signing event with Jacqueline Woodson after the 1:30pm show.

ZooLights

Now – December 30
National Zoo
Washington, DC
ZooLights is back! Admission is free, but you must have a special entry pass for the event. This can be obtained online. In addition to the festive glow of the lights and animal lanterns, visitors will enjoy live music performances, yummy winter treats, and even some holiday shopping.

Enchant – Christmas

Now – January 1
Nationals Park
Washington, DC
The World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze and Village will return to Nationals Park this winter. The magical World of Enchant is filled with dazzling displays that feel like they come right out of a childhood Christmas dream. Marvel at the 100 ft. animated tree, glide across the glistening Ice Skating Trail, pose for photos with Santa himself, and enjoy delicious festive holiday treats every step of the way. Purchase tickets online. Please note that on select Wednesdays, visitors can get one free kids ticket when you buy an adult, senior, or military ticket.

Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden

Now – January 2
U.S. Botanic Garden
Washington, DC
The ever popular holiday display at the United States Botanic Garden is back! Festive decor, poinsettias, and models of DC landmarks made with plant materials will delight visitors in the Conservatory. The ever popular train display will be outdoors in the gated gardens. Trains will run from 10am to 5pm daily. Tickets are not required.

DC Holiday Lights

Now – January 8
Various Neighborhoods
Washington, DC
Fourteen of DC’s Main Streets and commercial corridors have joined together to provide visitors with a dazzling holiday experience. Take a stroll down each of the participating corridors to experience a variety of fun holiday light displays and decor. You can even vote for your favorite! You can maximize your experience by downloading self-guided walking tours of some of the neighborhoods or by joining a citywide scavenger hunt.

Georgetown GLOW DC

Now – January 22
Georgetown
Washington, DC
Every night from 5pm to 10pm, DC’s oldest neighborhood will be aglow with the light from this free, curated, outdoor public art experience. Five international and national artists have created commissioned works that will be on display throughout the Georgetown commercial district. A map of the installations can be found here. If you want to enrich your experience, check out one of the thirty walking tours that tie the GLOW exhibition to the history of the area.

Snow Maiden

December 1 – 23
Synetic Theater
Arlington, VA
This family-friendly production shares the folktale of a lonely boy who lives in a frozen forest in the mountains. He builds a girl from snow. The girl comes to life, but what will happen to the girl when the snow begins to melt? This story of friendship and hope is told through stunning movement, acrobatics, and dance. Make sure you arrive early because each 45 minute performance will feature pre-performance holiday activities.

Hershel and the Hanukkah Goblins

December 1 – January 1
The Puppet Co.
Glen Echo, MD
In this production, based on the book by Eric Kimmel, Hershel just wants to celebrate Hanukkah with the community. However, the lighting of the candles has been forbidden by the Queen and King of the Goblins. Hershel will try to save the day and lift the curse for the shtetl (village). Attendees attending the shows during Hanukkah (December 18 through December 26) will take home a special gift.

Winter Holiday Family Day

December 3
Smithsonian American Art Museum
Washington, DC
From 11:30am to 3pm, join SAAM for a celebration of the season. There will be tons of activities the whole family will enjoy, including a reading of “The Nutcracker,” music provided by DJ Harry Hotter, a scavenger hunt, face painting, and more. If you can’t make it downtown to the museum, you can find crafts, coloring pages, and performance videos online at the Museum’s Winter Holiday Family Zone.

Drop-In Art Making

December 3
National Gallery of Art
Washington, DC
This free event gives guests a chance to create art in an informal, relaxed environment. Each month, a different art activity inspired by museum pieces will be offered. All ages and levels of art-making abilities are welcome, although children must be accompanied by an adult.

51st Annual Scottish Christmas Walk

December 3
Old Town from St. Asaph Street and Wolfe Street to Market Square
Alexandria, VA
The City of Alexandria was officially established by three Scottish merchants and named after its original founder, John Alexander, also of Scottish descent. Join the city as it celebrates this heritage with its annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. Dozens of Scottish clans will take part in the parade. There will also be pipe and drum bands from around the region, Scottie dogs, and more. Check out other holiday events held throughout the weekend.

Holiday Boat Parade

December 3
The Wharf
Washington, DC
Celebrate the holidays with this beloved DC event that features over sixty boats adorned in holiday decorations parading along the Washington Channel. There will be a number of family-friendly activities to enjoy at The Wharf, including visits with Santa, live holiday music, ornament decorating, ice skating, and more. A fireworks finale will begin at 8pm. Many boaters will also participate in the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights at the Old Town Alexandria waterfront the same evening at 5:30pm. See that event’s website for details.

Holiday Tree Light Show & Fireworks

December 3, 10, and 17
National Plaza
National Harbor, MD
Families can enjoy a custom light show on a 60-foot holiday tree every Saturday night through December 17th. The lights will dance to the sounds of a holiday medley performed by the United States Air Force Band. The light show will begin every half hour from sunset until 9pm. The 5:30pm show will be followed by a spectacular fireworks display. While you are at National Harbor, enjoy dinner at one of the many restaurants in the area and perhaps a ride on the ferris wheel.

Holly Trolley Fest

December 3 – 18
National Capital Trolley Museum
Colesville, MD
If your kids are fascinated by things that go, they will love the National Capital Trolley Museum. Families can celebrate the holiday season with a ride aboard an actual street car, by enjoying model railroad holiday displays, and by watching a live steam display. Santa and Mrs. Claus will be on each street car trip.

Step Afrika! Magical Musical Holiday Step Show

December 9 – 18
Arena Stage
Washington, DC
As the world’s first holiday show highlighting the African American tradition of stepping, the Magical Musical Holiday Step Show will be fun for the entire family. The production’s exciting movement, captivating rhythms, and the sounds of DJ Nutcracker are sure to wow audiences. You will be stomping your feet and clapping your hands to the energetic beats from Step Afrika. Tickets are available online. Family Fun Packs are available which provide four tickets at a 44% discount!

Entertainment Nation Opening Festival

December 9 – 18
National Museum of American History
Washington, DC

Join the Museum as it celebrates the opening of its new Culture Wing with a ten-day family festival! Throughout the festival, a variety of events are scheduled such as conversations about the cultural impact of entertainment, talks with curators, sneak peeks at objects from the national collection, film screenings of pop culture classics (including The Wizard of Oz and Batman), free activities, and musical performances. Some of these events require online registration. There are also daily activities planned, including hands-on family crafts, pop-up concerts, and photo ops with beloved characters from film and television. Visit the Museum’s Events page for the most up-to-date schedule of the festival’s programs and daily activities.

Air and Space Family Day: Moon Missions Past and Present

December 10
Smithsonian Air and Space Museum
Washington, DC
Join the Museum as it celebrates the 50th anniversary of the last Apollo moon mission, Apollo 17. Visitors will learn about moon landings and what the future holds in our exploration of the moon. Families will be able to learn from demonstrations and hands-on explorations. Activities such as “Train Like An Astronaut” and a Shapes on the Moon art activity will also be available. This event is free to attend, however guests must obtain a timed entry pass for entry into the museum.

Winter Festival

December 10
U.S. National Arboretum
Washington, DC
Celebrate the season with the Friends of the National Arboretum from 10am until 4pm. Shop at one of the local vendors that will be on site for a gift for that special someone. Decorate your home from floor to ceiling with Christmas trees and greenery that will be on sale. There will also be family-friendly activities available to keep the kids entertained. This event is free to attend, but registration is preferred (though not required).

Explore Kwanzaa

December 10
Anacostia Community Museum
Washington, DC
From 11:30am to 1pm, the Museum will host an exploration of Kwanzaa, the holiday born in the Black Power movement of the 1960s. Grammy-nominated artist, “The Culture Queen,” will be part of this fun event. Kids of all ages will enjoy crafts and music as they learn more about this holiday.

Washington Museum of Illusions Grand Opening

December 13
Washington Museum of Illusions
Washington, DC
This new museum, located at CityCenterDC, aims to use illusions to challenge visitors to see the world differently and to reveal how our brains interpret reality. More than fifty exhibits offer an intriguing sensory experience through holograms, stereograms, optical illusions, and immersive rooms. There is even a Smart Playroom where visitors can compete with family and friends in dilemma games, puzzles, impossible knots, and more.

Cirque Dreams Holidaze

December 15 – 18
Theatre at MGM Grand
Oxon Hill, MD
Cirque Dreams Holidaze is back with its Broadway-style musical, circus artistry, and whimsical holiday spirit. The whole family will enjoy the amazing acrobatics and enchanting stage settings of this astonishing holiday spectacular.

Christmas Illuminations at Mount Vernon

December 16 & 17
George Washington’s Mount Vernon Estate
Mount Vernon, VA
Join Mount Vernon for an evening of family-friendly fun and fireworks choreographed to holiday music. Before the fireworks begin around 8:15pm, take a stroll through the estate and enjoy the wintry lights of the gardens and the mansion, an 18th-century winter encampment, the working Blacksmith Shop, Christmas carolers, and Aladdin the Camel. Food will be available for purchase and a Winter Market will sell 18th century wares and crafts. Purchase tickets in advance.

The Hip Hop Nutcracker

December 19 – 22
The Music Center at Strathmore
North Bethesda, MD
The Hip Hop Nutcracker returns to Strathmore for its 10th year. This contemporary dance spectacle is a remixed and reimagined version of the classic, smashing hip hop dance and Tchaikovsky’s timeless music together into a heart-stirring and inspirational holiday event.

A Family Christmas

December 24
The Kennedy Center
Washington, DC
This performance provides an unforgettable holiday experience for families. The Choral Arts Chorus will perform holiday classics for kids. Holiday sing-alongs and Christmas favorites will have your family singing all the way home. Santa, Frosty, and Rudolph will even make special appearances! This one-hour concert is geared for children ages 5 and up.

Waterskiing Santa

December 24
Old Town Waterfront
Alexandria, VA
Watch this long-running holiday tradition along the Potomac River at the Old Town Waterfront. After the show, Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their merry crew meet and greet children and families by the Christmas Tree in Waterfront Park.

Noon Yards Eve

December 31
Yards Park
Washington, DC
Yards Park will ring in the new year with its traditional early celebration (10am – 1pm) at a family-friendly, all ages event during Noon Yards Eve. Details have not been released at time of publication, but stay up to date by visiting the event website. While there, your family can enjoy Light Yards, which is a larger-than-life light installation featuring illuminated, 22 feet tall trees trimmed top to bottom in holiday decor and festooned lights. Light Yards runs every night from Dec. 1 through Jan. 1.

Freedom’s Eve

December 31
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Washington, DC
On December 31, 1862, enslaved people stayed up until midnight waiting for the freedom granted by the Emancipation Proclamation. From 11am until 3pm, the Museum will offer guests the opportunity to honor this past and the present with a variety of family-friendly activities. Guests will learn about the past, be challenged to consider their own future hopes, and learn about foods that bring luck and good fortune. This event is free, but you must register online for museum entry.

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