Locals know the best thing to do in DC in December is soak up holiday events while trying to avoid crushing crowds as much as possible. Here’s some choice picks – along with options to catch some cheer in a less crowded atmosphere.
Scottish Christmas Walk and Holiday Parade, DECEMBER 3, 11am. This is really an all-day event, starting with the parade at 11am and ending with the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights on the Potomac at 5:30pm. Crowd-avoiding advice: Metro in from either Crystal City or Braddock Road to the King Street station and hoof it down to the waterfront., DON’T come hungry: restaurants will be filled, especially around midday. Instead, try visiting the Whole Foods on Duke Street early afternoon to catch a nosh. Or Uber over to the Del Ray area (10 minutes away) and enjoy Mt Vernon Avenue restaurants instead.
Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show, Washington Convention Center, DECEMBER 3-4. A great chance to taste samples from 50 local restaurants AND get some great cooking school-style tips. Crowd-avoiding advice: buy tickets online. And, it starts at 10am both days, get there before noon when the beer/wine/spirits gardens open.
DECEMBER 8: visit the Holiday Exhibit at the National Botanic Garden on Capitol Hill The holiday exhibit this year features models of monuments and landmarks of the National Park Service to celebrate its 100-year anniversary. There’s no line to get into the general exhibit rooms, walk right in. There IS a line to get into the model train exhibit room; it’s worth seeing. Crowd-avoiding advice: go on Tuesdays or Thursdays since the Garden is open until 8pm and features live music on those nights. Another note: this doesn’t take a lot of time, so after your visit walk over to Union Station for a bite and the holiday decorations there.
If holiday lights are your thing but you want to avoid getting around the city, take a drive to the Bull Run battlefield outside of Manassas. During the holiday season, the park hosts the biggest Festival of Lights in the area. Crowd-avoiding advice: don’t go on weekends, the park is open from 5:30-9:30pm and is a perfect pre-weekend event on a Thursday night. Stay in the park afterwards to enjoy the holiday village, some good hot chocolate, and a visit with Santa.
In-town option: if you can’t get to Manassas, take a quick trip to Vienna and the Meadowlark Gardens, which has a ½ mile Winter Walk of Lights tour. Crowd-avoiding advice: crowd management is good here BECAUSE you buy your tickets online and they’re timed-entry. This also helps everyone enjoy enough free parking.
Finally, some crowd-avoiding advice for New Year’s weekend: if you want to go out this weekend, BOOK NOW. Most restaurants and more than a few clubs will require you to make (and in some cases, guarantee with a credit card) a reservation, so get going. Or you can make camp at the new MGM Grand Casino and check out the concert venue retro-celebrating with Duran Duran Dec 31 or Jan 1. The MGM complex officially opens December 8 (check out restaurants and concert schedules here. Bookmark the page: the 2017 concert schedule is filling out and the page updates often.
Have fun, be safe, and report back how your holidays are going, it's always great to hear from you! It's been a real pleasure working with you this year and those to come.