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Light ‘Em Up: The Best Holiday Light Displays in DC

By / December 5, 2018

One of the best things about the holiday season is all the glittering, twinkling lights around the city. You see them twisted around light poles, adorning front porches, and creating that North Pole vibe in the nation’s capital.

From holiday trees to interactive light displays, venues all around the District simply glow. Keep your own electric bill from skyrocketing and make the holiday season literally lit this year.

holiday light displays in DCNational Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree

The Ellipse

Not only can you gawk at the beauty that is the National Christmas Tree, but you can also enjoy live entertainment most days. Musical acts include choirs and chorus groups from local schools, churches, and arts organizations. The walkway leading to the tree is lined with 56 smaller trees representing different states and territories, decorated with hundreds of handmade ornaments. Your holiday isn’t complete without a visit to one of the most famous trees in the country, and you won’t regret braving the cold to witness it.

Cost: Free

Hours: 10am–10pm, Sunday–Thursday; 10am–11pm, Friday and Saturday through January 1, 2019

Festival of Lights

Festival of Lights

Kensington, MD

For more than 40 years, the Festival of Lights has taken place at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints temple. While the light displays here are incredible, there’s much more to this month-long celebration. The festival includes nightly concerts in a state-of-the-art theater, holiday trees decorated in various international themes, and a life-size outdoor Nativity scene. With over 650,000 lights, this dazzling scene is surely one to behold (and take tons of photos of).

Cost: Free, but tickets are required for concerts

Hours: 10am–9pm, daily, through January 1, 2019

holiday light displays in DCZooLights


Woodley Park

ZooLights is an annual winter staple at Smithsonian’s National Zoo, treating guests to live music, food and drink, and plenty of shopping at the GRUMP Holiday Market. Over 500,000 environmentally friendly LED lights transform the zoo into a magical winter wonderland, and this year, it’s bigger and better than ever. Watch animals come alive at the laser lights show, make your way through a holiday-themed obstacle course, or hop on the carousel for a ride on your favorite animal.

Cost: Free

Hours: 5pm–9pm, daily, through January 1, 2019 (except December 24, 25, and 31)

Winter Walk of Lights

Winter Walk of Lights

Vienna, VA

Every year, Meadowlark Botanical Gardens is transformed into a half-mile, animated walk of lights with perennial favorites like the Lakeside Lights, the Fountain of Lights, and the Holiday Nature Walk. Be ready to do some walking to make sure you see all the sights, and stop by the Snowflake Shop to grab a souvenir or holiday gift. End your night roasting marshmallows by the fire with a cup of cocoa or hot cider in your hand.

Cost: Free–$16.50

Hours: 5:30pm–10:00pm, daily, through January 6, 2019


Georgetown GLOW

Georgetown GLOW


Get your fill of sparkle this season at Georgetown GLOW, the region’s only curated exhibition of outdoor public light art installations. The exhibits are made by artists from all over the world, from the Netherlands to Italy to right here in DC. Take a GLOW-inspired walking tour based on a variety of themes, like food, history, photography, and art, and enter the GLOW contest by posting your best photo of the “Today I Love You” exhibit and sharing your favorite Georgetown memory.

Cost: Free

Hours: 5pm–10pm, daily, through January 6, 2019

Want more? Follow us on Instagram and Facebook for ticket giveaways and more of the best happenings around DC.


Brittany currently lives in Washington, DC with her husband and six rescue pets. When she’s not writing, you can find her in the middle of a reality TV binge or planning her next overseas adventure. Follow her adventures on Instagram at @brittany_kerfoot.

More articles by Brittany Kerfoot



  1. Karen farrington

    I want to attend Georgetown Glow-light Art Festival in Washington DC and understand that one must have a ticket although this event is free. Do U know if this is accurate and if so, can I get one thru Eventbrite for Sat 15 Dec?

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