10 ways to celebrate the holidays in Washington, DC

The nation’s capital knows how to deck the halls. Here is a handful of ways to find the holiday spirit in every corner of the city.

Photo courtesy of Enchant Christmas

Traditions are traditions, especially those related to the holiday season.

Maybe your family enters the National Tree Lighting lottery every year, or has a few home showings of Elf during cozy nights in. Whether you’re singing loud for all to hear, or just looking for some extra holiday cheer, here are 10 ways you and your family can celebrate the holiday season in the nation’s capital.

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A Magical Cirque Christmas
Nov. 22, 8 p.m.
From the producers of the Broadway hit The Illusionists, the one-of-a-kind Magical Cirque Christmas is making a one-night stop in Washington, DC, to dazzle with their breathtaking acrobatics, magic performances and holiday-inspired live music. You might have caught the group’s performance on America’s Got Talent last year, but nothing compares to catching it in person. Grab your tickets now, because the show is filled with fun for the whole family to enjoy. // Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, Washington, DC; $47.50-$157.50

15th Annual Downtown Holiday Market
Nov. 22 through Dec. 23, noon to 8 p.m. daily
Holiday shopping is in full swing. But before Black Friday comes around this year, you’ll want to head to the Downtown Holiday Market to find handcrafted, artisan items from over 150 rotating vendors. The pop-up shopping event is celebrating its 15th year and will offer hundreds of unique gift items, such as jewelry, pottery, paintings, textiles, ethically sourced goods and more. It’s the nation’s very own shopping “village” in the heart of the city! // Centered at 8th and F Streets, NW, Washington, DC; free

Enchant Christmas
Nov. 24 through Dec. 29, 4:30 to 11:30 p.m.
If you haven’t heard of Enchant yet, then it’s about time! The traveling holiday event is making its first appearance in Washington, DC, and is setting up shop at Nationals Park. It’s known as “The World’s Largest Christmas Light Maze,” with a bustling Christmas market, an ice skating trail and visits from Mr. and Mrs. Claus. Catch the behind-the-scenes info here, and be sure to get your tickets early for this magical event (fit with a 100-foot-tall Christmas tree and over 250,000 holiday lights throughout, too!). // Nationals Park: 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, DC; $15-$90 

Season’s Greetings: America’s Gardens!
Nov. 28 through Jan. 5,
There’s just something about watching model trains take to the tracks during the holiday season, and the United States Botanic Gardens will be celebrating accordingly. Stop by to enjoy gardens from Hawaii to Maine in this year’s Season’s Greetings holiday show, where iconic gardens will be represented and decorated, from Brooklyn’s Botanic Gardens red Japanese torii gate, to Huntsville, Alabama’s garden with NASA space nodes and rockets. The garden court will be filled with the collection of DC landmarks, and in the west gallery, you’ll find the decorated tree with its very own model train. // United States Botanic Garden Conservatory: 100 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, DC; free

ZooLights at the National Zoo
Nov. 29 through Jan. 1, 5-9 p.m.
There is something magical about the National Zoo transforming into a world of over 500,000 LED lights, fit with live musical performances, tasty winter treats and gift-worthy shopping spots. New for this year, the zoo is introducing dozens of large glowing animal lanterns, as well as a permanent reflective light exhibit “Entre Les Rangs.” Be sure to slide the hill down to the tiger and lion exhibits or take a merry tour of the zoo on the Smithsonian National Zoo’s Choo-Choo which features great views of the light displays throughout the park. Plus, attend the GRUMP Holiday Market on Dec. 6, 7 and 8, which features dozens of local artisans. // Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC; free

The Nutcracker at Warner Theatre
Nov. 30 through Dec. 18, various times
The Nutcracker is a yearly tradition for many. The show itself, although a classic, varies location by location, and the nation’s capital show is no exception. The Washington Ballet’s show is set in historic Georgetown and features George Washington and King George III, among other historical figures. Be sure to catch this ballet favorite when it takes the stage throughout the holiday season. // Warner Theatre: 513 13th St. NW, Washington, DC; $50-$205

Georgetown Glow
Dec. 6 through Jan. 5, 5-10 p.m.
For the sixth year in a row, Georgetown’s free light art experience will take over the historical city once again. The art installations for 2019 have yet to be announced, but the event calendar is already filling up. Aside from snapping Instagram-worthy photos and listening to live music performances through the month of December, attendees can also catch “A Book Hill Holiday” in the Book Hill section of Georgetown with festive sips and bites, as well as Washington’s largest outdoor ice skating venue, ice-dome dining at the Four Seasons Hotel and the Swedish Christmas Bazaar on Dec. 7. // Various locations in Georgetown, Washington, DC; free

Heurich Christkindlmarkt
Dec. 6-8, 4 to 6 p.m.
For the seventh year, Dupont Circle is set to celebrate with holiday shoppers for a German-style holiday market. Craft makers and artisans from Washington, DC, Maryland and Virginia will be selling their goods in the Heurich House Museum’s Castle Garden. Look out for products from jewelers, ceramicists, bakers, makers of housewares and more. Attendees can also tour the historic home of the Heurich family, which will be decorated for the holidays. // Heurich House Museum: 1307 New Hampshire Ave. NW, Washington, DC; $10-$20

The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
Dec. 7, 6-9 p.m.
It’s one thing to drive around and see decorated homes in NoVA, but Alexandria and the District take that yearly tradition just a few steps further. The holiday boat parade is a must-see, where boat owners decorate with colorful lights, inflatable animals and more, and parade down the Potomac for everyone to enjoy. At The Wharf, attendees can visit the waterfront beer and wine garden, enjoy s’mores around the Camp Wharf fire pit, and catch the fireworks salute over the water at 8 p.m. Live music will fill the night while the decorated boats spread their plentiful holiday cheer. // The Wharf: 760 Maine Ave. SW, Washington, DC; free

National Menorah Lighting Ceremony
Dec. 22, 4 p.m.
Sharing the message of warmth and light of Chanukah, the National Menorah will be lit on the first night just steps away from the White House. This year’s ceremony includes a live performance from “The President’s Own,” U.S. Marine Band and “The Three Cantors.” Attendees can also get free dreidels and menorah kits starting when the gates open at 3 p.m., while enjoying hot latkes and donuts. Tickets are required but they are free, so be sure to register before attending. // The Ellipse of the White House, Washington, DC; free

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