Where to Catch the Brightest Holiday Light Displays in the Area
These seriously stellar pop-ups and venues have everything you need for a night of wintry revelry.
Remember Lite Brite? There’s something magical about watching all those colorful pegs transform into an illuminated masterpiece—and at these holiday light displays in and around Arlington, you can recapture that sense of wonder on a grand scale. Bring your children (and/or your inner child) to these spaces during the next few weeks to see awe-inspiring light shows.
Wednesday, Dec. 1 – Saturday, Jan. 1 | 6-10 p.m.
Stroll past ornately decorated, 22-foot trees covered in holiday lights any night of the week at this light display along the Anacostia waterfront, designed by Sydney, Australia-based artist studio Amigo & Amigo. It’s an ideal spot for getting some fresh evening air on your own, getting the kids out of the house, or stealing away for a date night. // Free. The Yards, 1300 First St. SE, Washington, D.C.
Thursday, Dec. 2 | 6-8:30 p.m.
Watch the Village at Shirlington shine during this one-night-only event, complete with an illuminated Christmas tree. As you make your way past (and into) shops, enjoy caroling from local students, performances from nearby Signature Theatre, Santa sightings and horse-and-carriage rides. And if you’d like to travel the streets by carriage, bring cash or a nonperishable item to donate to the Arlington Food Assistance Center. //Free. Village at Shirlington, 2700 S. Quincy St., Arlington
Saturday, Dec. 4 | 2-8 p.m.
Make some room in your weekend schedule for this holiday extravaganza. In the afternoon, rock out to holiday tunes and snag giveaways from 97.1 WASH-FM, craft a holiday ornament with AR Workshop, check out Torpedo Factory’s holiday festival and watch Santa roll in by fireboat at the Alexandria City Marina. (Did we mention there’s a Port City beer garden and Dolci Gelati hot-chocolate bar?) Then, at 5:30, catch a holiday boat parade that will travel one mile down the Potomac waterfront. //Free. Waterfront Park, 1A Prince St., Alexandria
Friday, Dec. 17 | 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Saturday, Dec. 18 | 5:30-8:30 p.m.
Get your holiday light fix by land, sea and sky this year, with a stop at George Washington’s Mount Vernon. In addition to its illuminated mansion, the venue will light up the atmosphere with two fireworks shows over the Potomac. To help brave the cold, grab a warm drink (tip: they offer amaretto in their hot chocolate, as well as other wintry adult beverages) and snacks from the Mount Vernon Inn Food Truck. And stop by their winter market for gifts with a distinctively 18th-century vibe. // $26-$58. George Washington’s Mount Vernon, 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon
Daily through Dec. 31
Enjoy evening views of the Potomac and Roaches Run Waterfowl Sanctuary at this park along the water in National Landing. The nearly mile-long path will sparkle each night with more than 6,000 white and blue lights. // Free. 475 Long Bridge Drive, Arlington
Daily through Dec. 31 | Sunset-9 p.m.
Forget Charlie Brown’s tiny-yet-adorable Christmas tree. The National Harbor variety stands 54 feet tall and is illuminated nightly, with a light show running every half hour from dusk to 9 p.m. // Free. 150 National Plaza, National Harbor, Maryland
Daily through Jan. 2 | 5-10 p.m.
Maybe you can’t skate through life, but you can skate through this winter wonderland. The winter village is equipped with a sizeable ice skating rink, loads of photo ops and light displays, and an “interactive orb field” (…we’re intrigued). While you’re there, you can also grab a slice of pizza, some hot chocolate and doughnut holes. The only problem is you may never want to leave. // $9.19 for village admission ages 2+ (free under 2); $22.03 for village plus skating admission. Cameron Run Regional Park, 4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria
Daily through Jan. 2
Set out on a winding path through glimmering gardens at Meadowlark, now celebrating a decade of winter light displays. Along the way, you’ll stumble on a sing-to-me tree that responds to your voice, a “garden of light” filled with glimmering flowers, and an illuminated Korean bell garden. Order a beverage or a treat from the Snack Shop to keep your energy up while enjoying the holiday lights. // $16-$20, age 2+ (free under 2). Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna
Daily through Jan. 2 | 5-11 p.m.
Catch large-scale holiday light displays, appearances from Santa and Mrs. Claus, and a good workout at this self-guided walking trail in Leesburg. If you’re feeling peckish, food trucks will be on hand, as well as a holiday bar. And move your holiday shopping list further along with an on-site gift store. // $29.99-$59.99 age 3+ (free for 2 and under). Morven Park, 17195 Southern Planter Lane, Leesburg
Daily through Jan. 2
Monday-Thursday | 5:30-9:30 p.m.
Friday-Sunday and Holidays | 5:30-10 p.m.
If the thought of bearing the cold while ambling down a dimly lit path sends you into the fetal position, here’s another option: the Bull Run Festival of Lights is designed for vehicles only. For 2.5 miles, cruise past glittering light displays without ever leaving the comfort of your heated car. And if you’ve got some passengers in tow who need a bit more adventure, send them to the holiday village and carnival, where patrons can enjoy bonfires, s’mores and ticketed rides. // $30 per vehicle, visit website for carnival ticket pricing. Bull Run Regional Park, 7700 Bull Run Drive, Centreville
Daily through Jan. 2
This holiday season, Nats Park won’t look like Nats Park. The baseball stadium has been overtaken by a world of shimmering holiday lights and 100-foot sculptures. Wander through the wintry maze or take a turn on the ice-skating trail, and say hi to Santa if you like. And there’s no need to eat beforehand—more than a dozen local vendors will be on deck to offer sweet and savory items, as well as gifts for the special people in your life. // $29-$39 ages 3+ (free for 2 and under). Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St. SE, Washington, D.C.
Through Jan. 22
Sundays and Thursdays | 5-9 p.m.
Fridays and Saturdays | 5-10 p.m.
Mix things up at Tinsel!, a lit-up land of light displays, crafting stations, Santa selfie ops, Washington Capitals-themed activities and plenty of food and beverage options. Each evening’s entertainment varies but may include cider and wine tastings, storytime or kid karaoke. And if you’re a Caps fan, be on the lookout for autograph opportunities—Slapshot, the mascot, as well as onetime players, are known to roam the property. // $22 ($1 from each donation benefits the Inova Health Foundation). 45425 Holiday Drive, Sterling