Lights and holiday scenes in D.C.

As the cold and dark days of winter start, there are fortunately some great lights and scenes to see around the city. Here are some of our favorites:

The Capitol and National Christmas Trees

The two iconic Christmas trees in D.C. are the Capitol Christmas Tree on the Capitol grounds, and the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse near the White House.

Capital Christmas tree. ©Angela N.
National Christmas Tree. ©Angela N.

If you go up the Washington Monument near sunset, you can look down and spot the National Christmas tree and the surrounding state trees.

©Angela N.

Indoor trees

The major hotels and museums all have Christmas trees, but if you are going to see only one, we’d recommend the tree at the Library of Congress for its beautiful setting.

©Angela N.


The popular ZooLights is back for the first time after the start of the pandemic. It runs through December 30th and requires free tickets.

©Angela N.
©Angela N.
©Angela N.


CityCenterDC is the place for high-end shopping, and the decorations are over the top too, with a giant Christmas tree and Tiffany’s ornament.

©Victoria Pickering
©Victoria Pickering

The Wharf

The Wharf is full of holiday cheer as people eat and drink at the restaurants and bars. A traditional Christmas tree is on one of the piers.

©Victoria Pickering

On another pier, there’s a giant tree of Jack Daniel’s barrels. It’s a partnership between Jack Daniel’s and the Washington Capitals for a charitable purpose – you can buy one of the barrels (with whiskeys selected by Capitals alumnus Alan May), which helps fund Operation Ride Home – a charity that brings junior military members home for the holidays.

©Victoria Pickering


If you want a great nighttime walk, go to Georgetown.

It’s the 8th annual Georgetown GLOW, a “light art experience.” It runs until January 22nd, and there are five installations this year.

Butterfly Effect by MASAMICHI SHIMADA ©Angela N.
The Cloud Swing by LINDSAY GLATZ & CURIOUS FORM. ©Victoria Pickering
Picto Sender Machine by FELIPE PRADO ©Angela N.
Light Falls, by LEANDRO MENDES-VIGAS ©Victoria Pickering
All the Light You See by ALICIA EGGERT ©Victoria Pickering

After you’ve seen the GLOW installations, walk along Wisconsin Avenue or M Street, where the streetlamps are festooned with wreaths and many trees are lit.

©Rob Klug
©Angela N.

There’s a large Christmas tree nearby at Washington Harbour.

©Victoria Pickering

Walk down to the canal by Wisconsin to see the lights around Georgetown Park.

©Rob Klug

And end there with the perfect selfie location:

©Rob Klug


  • Santarchy: Santarchy is on Saturday, so you may see Santas all over the Mall and Ellipse on Saturday afternoon
  • Hanukkah: Hanukkah starts on Sunday night. There’s a 30-foot National Menorah on the Ellipse, near the National Christmas tree. The menorah is open any night of Hanukkah, except for the first night when there is a lighting ceremony that requires free tickets, or any time the Ellipse is unexpectedly closed for security reasons.
  • Kwanzaa: Kwanzaa runs from December 26th to January 1st. On December 17th and 18th, there’s an Umoja holiday market at the Anacostia Arts Center.
©Rob Klug

Whether it’s a holiday trombonist in Lafayette Square, or other holiday sights, we hope you come upon something cheerful in the city.

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