I love living in the DC area in the winter. Generally, the weather is cold, but bearable, so it’s a great time to get downtown without the huge numbers of tourists that we see during the summer. We tend to hit a lot of the museums during this time period, but it’s also a great time to visit some outdoor attractions that only come around once a year.
1. Visit the National Christmas tree – Not only is this a beautiful tree to visit after dark every year, but it’s also a great location to visit during the day. The Pathway of Peace that winds around the tree has 56 trees representing all of the US states and territories. It’s open from 10am-10pm, December 15-January 1 and is well worth the visit.
2. Go see ICE at the Gaylord or the Zoo Lights at the National Zoo – The Gaylord ICE exhibit is in National Harbor (the finish line of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Half Marathon if you’ve run that) and consists of 2 million pounds of carved ice sculptures. This walk through exhibit, kept at a chilly 9 degrees, includes four slides and multiple rooms depicting the story of Frosty the Snowman. The National Zoo’s ZooLights offers the opportunity to see the zoo decorated with thousands of lights, as well as the chance to see the nocturnal animals awake. (That’s my kids’ favorite part!)
3. Visit the train display at Union Station or at the Botanic Garden – Union Station is an amazing building to visit any time of year with it’s high ceilings and grand interior, but it’s even better in the winter when the Norwegian Christmas tree is up (donated to the US from Norway each year) and the train is on display. Another train option is the Botanic Garden (can you tell I have boys?). This display includes model trains and some amazing replicas of Washington DC monuments, as well as a separate display of seasonal plants.
4. Attend a 1st night event – One of the closest to DC is First Night Alexandria. This is a fun family event that offers musical entertainment, kid activities like moon bounces, face painting, and singalongs, and concludes with fireworks. Since it takes place in Old Town Alexandria, there are plenty of restaurant options and nearly everything is walkable
5. Run a New Year’s eve or New Year’s day race – One of the favorite races in the area is the Fairfax Four. Held at 6pm, so that you can still go out for the evening, this hugely popular race offers a hoodie as the race swag. If you’d rather run off your hangover, there are plenty of “resolution” runs. My favorite is the Predictions & Resolutions 5k that starts in Virginia near the Key Bridge. Why is this my favorite? It starts at noon.