Driving Through A Winter Wonderland: Where To See Christmas Lights In The DC Area

Festivals of Lights are an opportunity for families across the DMV to enjoy some Christmas cheer together.

Light festivals and displays are an opportunity for families across the DMV to enjoy some Christmas cheer together.

Here is a list of where to see Christmas lights in the DC area:


Winter Light Festival in Gaithersburg

The Winter Light Festival in Gaithersburg welcomes visitors for another holiday season. The lights at Seneca Creek State Park open at night from November 25 through December 31, but close on Christmas Day. The last admission for Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve is 20:30

As you drive through Seneca Creek State Park, you’ll see over 450 bright displays and trees that light up the night. Visitors can purchase a ticket for each vehicle – $15 Monday through Thursday; $25 Friday through Sunday; and $30 for vehicles with 15 or more passengers.

Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Temple

The Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Temple and Visitors’ Center in Kensington will return this year after not hosting the event in 2021 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. There will be lights illuminating the grounds from sunset to 9pm every night from December 1st to January 2nd.

Visitors can see nativity scenes from around the world, as well as more than 400,000 lights, decorated Christmas trees, and a range of performances.

Performances are free, but tickets are required.

Lights on the Bay at Sandy Point State Park

The “Lights on the Bay” light show at Sandy Point State Park along the shore of Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County has over 60 animated and stationary displays that illuminate the street, according to its website. The event will take place from November 20 to January 1 from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. and is sponsored by the Anne Arundel County SPCA Animal Society.

Attendees can purchase tickets online for $20 per car, $5 for 3D glasses, and $30 for large passenger cars, minibuses, and trolleys.

Watkins Regional Park Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro welcomes visitors to its drive-through Christmas light show featuring over two million twinkling lights. It has many new displays this year, such as a 54-foot LED music tree.

This event will take place from November 25th to January 1st from 5:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m. Car tickets are $10 when purchased online and $15 at the gate. Tickets are $20 for a van or sedan and $30 for the bus.

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ZooLights at the National Zoo

The annual ZooLights at Smithsonian’s National Zoo take place on most dates between November 25 and December 30 from 5:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m. For this year’s event, participants need a special admission pass.

Passes can be reserved continuously two weeks in advance and allow entry from 8am to 3pm. There is a flat fee of $30 for parking and daily parking permits are not valid.

The National Zoo said attendees will see LED lights and a series of glowing animal lanterns that “transform the zoo into a winter wonderland.” There will also be warm winter treats, live music performances and Christmas shopping opportunities.

District Holiday Boat Parade

The Wharf in downtown DC will host the district’s 30th Anniversary Holiday Boat Parade on December 3rd from 6pm to 9pm. You can celebrate the holidays with this iconic event where over 60 beautifully decorated boats parade along the Washington Canal.

Last year’s parade caused significant congestion and event organizers recommend using alternatives such as ridesharing and taxis, the free Southwest Shuttle, water taxi and subway to get to the event.


Bull Run Festival of Lights

Centerville’s Bull Run Festival of Lights is open November 11th through January 8th. It’s an opportunity for families and friends alike to see more than two miles of Christmassy light shows.

Visitors can drive their cars through the festival, turn off the headlights and follow the magical glow. The festival advises those who want to stay away from crowds to come on the weekends. You can buy tickets on Eventbrite, ranging from $30 to $75.

Here you can listen to WTOP’s Jason Fraley preview the 2020 event.