Our nation’s capital, Washington DC, is known for many things: beautiful blooming cherry blossoms, our capitol building, a litany of monuments, and much more! But did you know it’s also an incredible place to spend Christmas and the holidays? From the unbeatable cruises on the Potomac River and decor-lined streets to the National Tree, ZooLights, ice skating, and more, Washington DC is one of the best places to be this December — whether you’re a local or just in town for the holidays. But, besides opening presents and soaking up all that Christmas cheer, it’s smart to have an itinerary of things to do while you’re in town. That’s why we took the liberty of putting together this short list of some of the best things to do in Washington DC this year on Christmas and Christmas Eve.


A group of people sitting at table with Christmas tree in background.


Get Merry and Bright This Christmas Eve with City Cruises

Washington DC Christmas Eve Premier Brunch Cruise – If you don’t already have plans for Christmas Eve, consider your ticket booked aboard the Washington DC Christmas Eve Premier Brunch Cruise. You’ll celebrate the magic of the season on the water, where you and your guests will enjoy a holiday brunch buffet freshly prepared by our chef, full bar service, and City Cruises’ distinctive hospitality. While onboard, get ready to experience exceptional views of Washington DC’s iconic landmarks, dance to lively DJ entertainment, and take in all of the festive décor. The City Cruises team will happily take care of the details, leaving you to celebrate the holidays on the Potomac River with your friends and family. For anyone looking to enjoy this experience a little later in the day, make sure to check out the Washington DC Christmas Eve Premier Dinner Cruise for that same incredible itinerary after dark.


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A post shared by Great Day Washington (@greatdaywash)

WUSA’s Great Day Washington featured City Cruises’ Chad Barth and Executive Chef Rebecca Rose showcasing some tasty holiday dishes from our fall dining and cocktail menus. Guests can delight in these scrumptious dishes while enjoying our holiday dining cruises and all the beauty that Washington DC and its famous landmarks offer. City Cruises offers Brunch and Dinner Cruises to celebrate the magic of the season like no other.


Dancing on a yacht


What’s Better Than Brunch on Christmas in Washington DC?

Washington DC Christmas Day Premier Brunch Cruise – It wouldn’t be Christmas without some holiday magic, and there’s no shortage of that on the Washington DC Christmas Day Premier Brunch Cruise. You and your party will embark on an unforgettable morning on the Potomac River as you savor the joy and enchantment of the holidays with loved ones over delicious craft cocktails; plated, chef-prepared menus; and top-notch service and hospitality. The onboard DJ will set the mood as you soak in Washington DC’s skyline from an intimate, climate-controlled interior and/or the open-air rooftop decks. Don’t forget to bring your camera, either, since you’ll delight in views of awe-inspiring sights, including the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial. This festive celebration filled with cheer and togetherness is sure to be one for the scrapbooks.

Other Fun Things to Do in DC for Christmas 2024

washington dcSee The National Christmas Tree-If you’re going to be in Washington DC over the holidays, you must make some time to see the National Christmas Tree. Each and every year, a massive live evergreen is propped up and decorated in President’s Park near the White House, where spectators can take pictures, hang out, and revel in the holiday cheer. The President’s official lighting happens during the first week of December, but if you won’t be in town until later in the month, feel free to pop by any day after 4:30 pm throughout December to see it lit in all its awesome glory.

ZooLights – It’s one of Washington, DC’s most beloved holiday traditions, and this year, it’s back — and brighter than ever! For the past 15 years, the Smithsonian’s ZooLights has taken thousands of visitors into a winter wonderland lit by more than half a million LED lights and illuminations. You and your guests will stroll through the “immersive lantern displays showing rainforest, grassland, desert, ocean, and polar habitats and the animals that call them home,” according to the website. There are also plenty of live musical performances, delicious holiday treats, and loads of opportunities for holiday shopping. This special, family-friendly event is the perfect way to enjoy the holidays for anyone with kids or who loves learning about nature.

Skate at Washington Harbour Ice Rink – As soon as it’s cold enough, The Washington Harbour Ice Rink opens for business! It holds the title of the largest ice-skating rink in the entire city, and skaters can enjoy scenic views of the Potomac River, Kennedy Center, Key Bridge, and historic Georgetown while skating. Plus, the holiday cheer comes into full effect at night, with twinkling snowflakes and decorations lighting up the rink. There are also a bunch of bars and restaurants in the area to enjoy before or after hitting the ice!

FAQs – DC Christmas Things to Do in 2024

What are some unique Christmas events in Washington DC  in 2024?

Washington DC hosts a variety of unique events such as Season’s Greenings at the US Botanic Garden, Handel’s Messiah Concert and Creche Exhibit at the National Cathedral, and Christmas at Mount Vernon with its historical reenactments and fireworks over the Potomac.

Are there any special Christmas light displays in DC?

Yes, the city is known for its festive light displays. The Smithsonian Zoo transforms into a winter wonderland with ZooLights, featuring millions of lights and animated animal silhouettes. There are also neighborhood light festivals like DC Holiday Lights, where main streets compete to be the most festively decorated.

Can I tour historical homes in DC during Christmas?

You can tour the White House, adorned with seasonal decorations, and visit Woodrow Wilson House to see Christmas as it was in 1922. Additionally, George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate offers candlelight tours and a special event, “Christmas Illuminations,” with winter lights and fireworks.

Are there any outdoor Christmas markets in DC?

Washington DC hosts several Christmas markets, like City Market at O Tree and Union Market Christmas Tree, where you can enjoy holiday shopping, festive decorations, and seasonal treats.

What are some activities for honoring the military during the holidays in DC?

Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery is a poignant event where wreaths are laid at each gravestone. Another unique event is the Illumination at Antietam National Battlefield, where lanterns are placed in honor of the lives lost during the Battle of Antietam.

What types of Christmas cruises are offered by City Cruises in DC?

City Cruises in DC typically offers festive holiday-themed cruises, which may include dinner cruises, sightseeing tours, and special event cruises that take in the spectacular city lights and holiday decorations along the waterfront.

Are there special activities or entertainment on these Christmas cruises?

Yes, these cruises often feature holiday-themed entertainment such as live music, carol singing, and even appearances by Santa Claus, along with delicious festive meals and drinks.

Do the Christmas cruises by City Cruises offer views of DC’s landmarks?

These cruises provide a unique perspective of Washington DC’s famous landmarks, beautifully lit up and decorated for the holiday season.

Are these cruises suitable for families and children?

Yes, City Cruises’ Christmas cruises in DC are typically family-friendly, offering a magical experience that can be enjoyed by guests of all ages.

How can I book a Christmas cruise with City Cruises in Washington DC?

Reservations for Christmas cruises can typically be made on the City Cruises website, where you can find detailed information about cruise options, schedules, and pricing.