There’s never a shortage of family-friendly events happening in the DMV, and that’s especially true during the holiday season. From festive lights and icy adventures to enchanting ballets and (believe it or not) a waterskiing Santa, December around the district is a magical time for children of all ages. Whether you celebrate Chanukah, Christmas, Kwanzaa or any combination of the above, here are some exciting holiday happenings — a mix of traditional and non-traditional events — you and your kids won’t want to miss.
Winter Lights Festival
Experience the wonder of 450 illuminated displays and enchantingly lit trees from the warmth of your car on a 3.5-mile drive through Seneca Creek State Park. Tickets required. Seneca Creek State Park, Gaithersburg, MD, through Dec. 31, Sunday-Thursday: 6-9 p.m.; Friday & Saturday: 6-10 p.m.
New additions to the National Zoo’s dazzling annual holiday tradition include animal-shaped lanterns, an Instagram-worthy interactive art installation and no-snow-required tubing. Free. National Zoo, Washington, D.C., through Jan. 1, 5-8 p.m.
Bull Run Festival of Lights
Follow the magical glow of holiday lights on this 2.5-mile drive through Bull Run Regional Park. Santa will be waiting in the holiday village on select nights for family photos. Tickets required. Bull
Run Regional Park, Centreville, VA, through Jan. 5, Monday-Thursday: 5:30-9:30 p.m.; Friday-Sunday (and holidays): 5:30-10 p.m.
The 6th edition of this curated exhibit of outdoor public light art installations shines a light on D.C.’s oldest neighborhood. Free. Georgetown, Washington, D.C., through Jan. 5, 5-10 p.m.
Bethesda’s Annual Winter Wonderland
Local school choirs sing songs of the season while talented sculptors carve blocks of ice into holiday masterpieces on the streets of downtown Bethesda. Keep your eyes open for a visit from Santa. Free. Veterans Park, Bethesda, MD, Dec. 7, 1-4 p.m.
Chanukah on Ice!
Lace up your skates and celebrate the first night of Chanukah on the ice, which kicks off with the lighting of a 6-foot menorah. Latkes and kosher hot dogs are available to purchase. Tickets required. Pentagon Row Outdoor Ice Rink, Arlington, VA, Dec. 22, 6-8:30 p.m.
Gaylord National’s ICE!
Two million pounds of hand-carved ice sculptures depict favorite scenes from Dr. Seuss’s “How The Grinch Stole Christmas.” Dress warmly for your stroll through icy Whoville. Tickets required. Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center, National Harbor, MD, through Dec. 30.
Gates open at 2:30 p.m. for a performance by the U. S. Marine Band and a sing-a-long of Christmas carols and Chanukah songs with local choir and vocal groups. Bring a bell for the “Jing-A-Long,” a candle for the traditional candlelight processional and your holiday cheer! Free. Wolf Trap, Vienna, VA, Dec. 7, 4 p.m.
Kwanzaa Celebration at Dance Place
Join Coyaba Dance Theater, Coyaba Academy and special guests as they celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa through dance. Tickets required. Dance Place, 3225 8th St., N.E., Washington, D.C., Dec. 14, 7 p.m.; Dec. 15, 3 p.m.
The Hip Hop Nutcracker
A remixed and reimagined version of the Christmas classic, this holiday mash-up updates Tchaikovsky’s classic score with a DJ, an electric violin and awe-inspiring contemporary and hip-hop dancers. Tickets required. The Music Center at Strathmore, North Bethesda, MD, Dec. 17-19, 8 p.m.
The Center for Ballet Arts Presents: Nutcracker in a Nutshell
At one hour and 15 minutes, this abridged version of the beloved classic is the perfect length for the whole family to enjoy. Tickets required. Rachel M. Schlesinger Concert Hall and Arts Center, Alexandria, VA, Dec. 20, 7:30 p.m.; Dec. 22, 3 p.m.
Seasons of Light
Now in its 20th season, this interactive event for elementary-aged children celebrates the history and customs of Diwali, Chanukah, Las Posadas, Ramadan, Santa Lucia Day, Kwanzaa, Christmas and the First Nations’ tradition of the Winter Solstice. Tickets required. Discovery Theater, Ripley Center, Washington, D.C., through Dec. 20, 10:15 a.m. & 11:30 a.m.
A Family Christmas
Presented by the Choral Arts Society of Washington, this one-hour sing-along of favorite children’s holiday songs includes a visit from Frosty, Rudolph and Santa. Tickets required. The Kennedy Center, Washington, D.C., Dec. 24, 11 a.m.
Nationals Park becomes a winter wonderland with a 90,000-square-foot light maze in the outfield and an ice skating trail in the infield. Shop for gifts in the Christmas market and enjoy holiday-themed food and drink. Tickets required. 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C., through Dec. 29.
74th Annual Greater Manassas Christmas Parade
Grab a spot on the sidewalk for one of the largest holiday parades in Northern Virginia, featuring marching bands, floats, high-flying balloons and more. Free. Historic Downtown Manassas, Manassas, VA, Dec. 7, 10 a.m.
National Menorah: Chanukah on The Ellipse
The annual lighting of the National Menorah includes musical performances from the U.S. Marine Band and Dreidelman and the Maccabees, delicious Chanukah treats and free dreidels and menorah kits. Free, but tickets required. The White House Ellipse, Washington, D.C., Dec. 22, 4 p.m.
For the 34th year, Santa swaps his sled for water skis as he and his merry crew take to the Potomac River for a most unusual Christmas Eve tradition. Free. Old Town Alexandria, Alexandria, VA, Dec. 24, 1 p.m.
Christmas at Mount Vernon
Costumed characters tell stories of Christmases past at George Washington’s estate. Holiday-themed tours and programs take place throughout the month, including chocolate-making demonstrations and ornament decorating. Tickets required. Mount Vernon, VA, through Dec. 31, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. ■
(image via Enchant Christmas)