Washington D.C. Local Life

The 6 Best D.C.-Area Neighborhoods to Celebrate the Holiday Season

In the D.C. area there are plenty of neighborhoods and suburbs that give off that holiday vibe—like the cobblestone streets and quaint shops of Georgetown or charming Alexandria and its festive main street. Other communities host tree and menorah lightings, holiday markets, or arts and lights festivals. Here are the best D.C.-area neighborhoods to get in the holiday spirit.

Washington, D.C.

U.S. Capitol building photo by Shutterstock

Capitol Hill

The magic of Capitol Hill, with its historic row houses in the shadow of the U.S. Capitol building, makes for a spectacular holiday season. In 2007, the Capitol Hill Business Improvement District planted a 20-foot evergreen nicknamed “Big George,” after founding BID President George Didden (who has since passed away). Every year since it was planted, George’s wife Kathy flips the switch to light the tree. Afterwards, neighbors get together for caroling, hot chocolate, and holiday treats. 

There’s also a menorah lighting in December; the BID partners with the Hill Havurah to light a menorah at the Eastern Market Metro Plaza. There are potato latkes, jelly doughnuts, hot chocolate, and coffee on hand, too.


Art lovers flock to Georgetown’s GLOW, an annual outdoor light art exhibition. There are 11 installations from local and international artists running from Dec. 6 through Jan. 5, 2020.

In addition to GLOW, the shops along M Street decorate their store windows for an old-time vintage charm. The Four Seasons Hotel decorates just as beautifully, showing off their ornaments with an annual Christmas brunch. The brunch includes a carving station, omelets, seafood, Southern-style barbecue, and more.

Woodley Park

Home of the Smithsonian National Zoo, Woodley Park is a cozy community perfect for strolling along on a chilly night. Start with Zoo Lights, a free event during the holiday season with over 500,000 LED lights transforming the zoo into a magical utopia.

After that, visit Tryst in neighboring Adams Morgan. This coffeehouse, bar, and lounge serves Counter Culture Coffee and comfort food like “Death by Chocolate” waffles and apple pie. Their relaxing couches give off a feel of being in your own living room over the holidays.


Buildings along the Potomac River in Alexandria photo by Shutterstock


Residents love how Alexandria is full of holiday cheer this time of year. Not only is King Street, the main street in the area, decorated with thousands of twinkly lights, there are lots of independent boutiques full of unique finds along the thoroughfare.

Children and families adore the Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade Festival of Lights. Dozens of boats decorated for the holidays cruise down the Potomac along Old Town’s Alexandria’s waterfront for approximately a mile. This year, the parade will begin at 5:30 p.m. on Dec. 7. There are plans for a pop-up Port City Brewing Company beer garden and various activites sponsored by local businesses. 


Bethesda Lane photo by Shutterstock


Bethesda is also home to lots of high-end boutiques for Christmas shoppers. There’s a Kate Spade, Lilly Pulitzer, and a new Anthropologie complete with a cafe in case you need to stop and grab a bite in between holiday shopping.


Those who live in the D.C. suburb Gaithersburg don’t have the travel far for holiday happenings. The shopping and retail center the Rio Washingtonian hosts lots of holiday events, including horse and carriage rides and an appearance from Santa and Mrs. Claus themselves. Spend an afternoon at the Rio anytime from Nov. 22 through December to enjoy holiday performances from area singers.

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