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Where to see Christmas lights in DC

From the National Tree to neighborhoods decked in twinkling bulbs, these are the best bets to see Christmas lights in DC

Photograph: John Harrington
National Christmas Tree Lighting

Gawking at twinkling Christmas lights is one of the essential things to do in Washington, DC (and the rest of the world) over the holiday season, so gather the troops and head to the National Tree or other eye-popping arrangements around town. Follow this guide, in which we tell you where to see Christmas lights in DC, then swing by a few Christmas events in DC before cozying up on the couch to watch one of the 20 best Christmas movies ever.

RECOMMENDED: Christmas in Washington, DC guide

Where to see Christmas lights in DC

ZooLights

This family-friendly tradition draws big crowds for its thousands of twinkling lights, live musical performances, nighttime carousel rides, gingerbread habit decorating competition and yummy eggnog and holiday cookies. This year’s event also features snowless tubing down 150-foot-long tracks and tours of the zoo via the trackless choo-choo train. November 25 through January 1 (closed Dec 24 and 25); 5–9pm; free. 3001 Connecticut Ave., NW Washington, DC, 202-633-4888

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Woodley Park
Merry Mosaic

Merry Mosaic

Mosaic, an open-air retail and restaurant mecca in Fairfax, houses a mix of international and locally owned boutiques. For the holidays, in addition to the illuminated tree in Strawberry Park, it is hosting holiday-themed events, including selfie opportunities with Santa (weekends through the end of Dec, daily Dec 19-24), holiday craft workshops (Dec 11, 4-7pm) and a menorah lighting ceremony (Dec 29, sundown). 2905 District Avenue, Fairfax, Virginia, 703-992-7832

National Christmas Tree

National Christmas Tree

Don’t fret if you weren't able to nab a ticket to the lighting ceremony. You can catch the illumination of the National Christmas Tree—a holiday tradition since 1923—online or on the Hallmark Channel (Dec 5, 7pm). This year’s event will feature performances by Chance the Rapper, Kelly Clarkson, Yolanda Adams and James Taylor. The twinkling titan will stay lit until January 1. President’s Park, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave between 15th and 17th Sts NW

Georgetown Glow

Georgetown Glow

As if Georgetown wasn’t stunning enough, the historic neighborhood goes all out for its light spectacular .For its third year, Georgetown Glow has expanded from a 10-day event to a month-long exhibition. Look forward to eight dazzling, interactive light art-installations from local and international artists including one inspired by the National Building Museum’s fantastical Icebergs exhibit. Nightly from Dec 2- Jan 1; 6-10pm; free. Various locations in Georgetown along C&O Canal, Grace Church, and Wisconsin Avenue

City Center DC

City Center DC

The City Center DC is lighting up the holidays with its third annual tree lighting ceremony. The center’s towering 75-foot tree, the largest holiday tree in DC, will glitter with over 150,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments. The evening also features NBC4’s Eun Yang as emcee, a performance by The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington and yummy treats from RareSweets and Milk Bar. If you can’t make it to the lighting ceremony, swing by to check out the live sculpture gallery (Dec 10) and the Hashtag Mailbox installation (weekends of Dec 2, 9, and 16), which prints out festive postcards on the spot. November 26, 6pm; free. 825 10th Street NW

Parade of Lights

Parade of Lights

This colorful yearly celebration, now in its 25th year, features more than 50 twinkling boats sailing across the Potomac River as well as Wharf-side holiday activities for the whole family, including photos with Santa, live holiday music and sailboat crafting. Save room for treats because there will be plenty of s’mores to make over the bonfire, gingerbread cookies to nosh on and hot chocolate to sip on. December 3, 6-8pm; free. From the docks of Alexandria to the District’s Southwest waterfront. 600 Water Street SW

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