Christmas in the Capital

Union Station in Washington, D.C., photographed by Dan Chung Photography.

Christmas in the nation’s capital city can be magical. With some of the country’s most recognizable landmarks decked out in their festive best, it’s an ideal destination for anyone seeking out some holiday cheer. Here, three of our Editors share recommendations for travelers who will be spending time in and around Washington, D.C. during the holiday season. From can’t-miss light displays to delicious cocktails to welcoming hotels, consider this a Christmastime cheat sheet for D.C. and the city’s surrounding areas.

Washington, D.C.

“There is nothing quite like Christmas in the capital,” says The Scout Guide Washington, D.C. Editor Erin Fuge. “D.C. has a little bit of something for everyone, young and old, and all of it is extraordinary.” Here are a few of her favorite spots to visit during the holidays:

Holiday Highlights:
Union Station (pictured above; 50 Massachusetts Avenue NE). “You won’t miss the giant wreaths adorning the entrance to this stunning D.C. landmark, and once inside, make sure to check out the enormous Christmas tree. Each year Norway gives the tree as a gift symbolizing the country’s gratitude for our support during World War II.”

Georgetown Glow. “This light installation in the commercial district of Georgetown showcases works by local, regional, and international artists. The lights along the C&O Canal are especially fascinating. Start the evening with drinks and dinner at Chez Billy Sud (1039 31st Street NW) and hop on the canal to witness this glowing exhibit. The event runs from December 2 through January 1, from 6 to 10 p.m. daily.”

ZooLights at the Smithsonian National Zoo (3001 Connecticut Avenue NW). “Bring the kids along for a fun-packed night at the zoo, which is transformed into a magical winter wonderland by 500,000 LED lights and features a holiday train to transport you through the zoo, snowless tubing down a 150-foot slide, a carousel, and holiday treats. Grab coffee at Little Red Fox (5035 Connecticut Avenue NW) before to keep you warm and toasty, as most of ZooLights activities are outside.”

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry:
Miracle on 7th Street (1843 7th Street NW). “Think Rolf’s in New York, but the D.C. version. This year, the capital’s ‘Christmas Cocktail Bar’ has taken over Derek Brown’s watering holes Eat the Rich, Southern Efficiency, and Mockingbird Hill to provide ample space for festive punches, spiked cocoa, and plenty of holiday cheer. Miracle on 7th Street opened November 25 and will end on New Year’s Eve with a giant bash. Beware, lines can be a bit long for this popular holiday spot, which is open from 5pm-12:30am (1:30am on weekends). If you can, grab a table at The Dabney (122 Blagden Alley NW) for dinner beforehand.”

Alexandria, Virginia

“Our area really turns on the charm during the holiday season,” says The Scout Guide Alexandria Editor Alison Teer. Here’s how to enjoy everything Alexandria offers during Christmastime to the fullest:

Holiday Highlights:
George Washington’s Mount Vernon (3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon, Virginia). “Celebrate the holiday season with tours of the estate (don’t forget to check out the camel!), and enjoy the landmark all aglow in holiday décor until January 6th.”

Old Town. “Old Town is one of the only shopping districts in all of the greater Washington, D.C. area that is made up of predominately locally owned, independent businesses. We have loads of craftsmen, artists, and boutiques that make shopping there truly unique. Plus, it is gorgeous, particularly when the cobblestone streets are lined with Christmas tree lights and holiday decor.”

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry:
Bar PX (728 King Street). “Enjoy the holiday decor and take your pick of the four new custom crafted cocktails by Todd Thrasher at this cozy establishment, which is open Wednesdays and Thursdays from 6 p.m. to 12 a.m., and Fridays and Saturdays 6 p.m. to 1:30 a.m.”

Junction Bakery (1508 Mount Vernon Avenue). “The Del Ray neighborhood is home to lots of independent businesses, making it a fun shopping destination. If you’re in need of a meal or a tasty snack while browsing, stop in here. Another great place to grab a quick bite is Society Fair (277 South Washington Street). They serve up the perfect breakfast, lunch, and dinner, or go for ‘The Big Bad’ meat and cheese board with a glass of wine.”

Spend the Night:
The Lorien (1600 King Street). “The Lorien has an excellent spa, and Brabo Tasting Room (the more casual dining option at the hotel) is one of my favorite spots for lunch or dinner. Plus, the location can’t be beat—it’s situated at the top of King street in Old Town, near Del Ray and next to a Metro station where you can hop onto a train to D.C.”

Baltimore, Maryland

“There are plenty of reasons to bundle up and explore the Baltimore area this time of year,” says The Scout Guide Baltimore & Annapolis Editor Oriet Milmoe.  Here are her holiday-inspired recommendations:

Holiday Highlights:
Inner Harbor. “For a festive experience, head to the Inner Harbor for skating at the Ice Rink (201 East Pratt Street) and a visit to the Christmas Village (West Shore Park), which is open until December 24th and packed with vendors selling everything from ornaments to Austrian strudel.”

Baltimore Museum of Art (10 Art Museum Drive). “Christmas break is a great time to get some culture, and now through January 29, the BMA is hosting a Matisse/Diebenkorn exhibit that is not to be missed. While there, be sure to visit Gertrude’s, chef John Shields’s fabulous restaurant that overlooks the sculpture garden.”

Green Spring Station (10803 Falls Road, Lutherville). “For last-minute shopping (or post-Christmas sales), head to this shopping district, which is home to Baltimore’s largest collection of locally-owned boutiques.”

Eat, Drink, and Be Merry:
Loch Bar (240 International Drive). “The Loch Bar is the perfect place to whet your appetite for an evening out and about over the holidays. Order a dozen oysters and your favorite cocktail and take in the views of the Inner Harbor at this cool new Harbor East spot located in the Four Seasons hotel. Afterwards, head to Charleston (1000 Lancaster Street) for dinner, where James Beard Award-nominated chef Cindy Wolf prepares incredible seafood dishes perfect for pairing with a selection from the extensive wine list.”

Spend the Night:
The Ivy Hotel (206 East Biddle Street). “Whether you’re in town visiting or a local in need of a staycation, consider booking at this Relais & Chateaux boutique hotel. The lovely Mount Vernon location, luxurious spa, and beautifully appointed rooms make it an ideal home away from home in Baltimore.”

For additional local recommendations, browse The Scout Guide Washington, D.C., The Scout Guide Alexandria, and The Scout Guide Baltimore & Annapolis.