Discover why Washington D.C. is  a great place for a family vacation.


Kids love sparkly lights – and who are we kidding grown-ups do too. This time of year there are lots of spots to choose from to take in the festive holiday light displays. These are a few of our favorites.

The National Zoo

Start your visit at the the visitor’s center closest to the main zoo entrance on Connecticut Avenue. Here you will see the model train displays made of lego and the gingerbread zooscape competition. You can also pick up a cup of hot chocolate (or a glass of wine!) to enjoy as you stroll through the lights at the zoo.

There are lights throughout the main walk-ways of the zoo and although the outside habitats are closed, the zoo houses featuring the small mammals and apes, etc. are open.

Walking through the lights was great, but my daughter declared the best part of the night the ride on the new carousel and I have to admit it is a very special carousel. Be sure to walk down the hill from the main entrance towards the tigers and take a spin before you leave.

Down at the same end of the zoo as the carousel is a zoo-tubing track (think burlap sack slide at the fair) and a toy train kids can ride on. The carousel, tubing and train are all $3.00 a ride.

  • Getting There: 3001 Connecticut Avenue NW. The closest metro stops are the Woodley Park or Cleveland Park Metro Stop, both on the red line. Parking is available for $9.00 for zoo members and $16.00 for non-zoo members.
  • Hours and Tickets: The Zoo Lights will be on from 5pm – 9pm on December 7-9, 14-23, 26-30 and on January 1. There are no tickets necessary as it is free. Extra activities such as the carousel, tubing or train are $3.00 per ride.

Brookside Gardens

Enjoy the lights as you walk through the gardens and the indoor conservatory each evening from 5:30 pm – 8:30 pm.  There are musical performances each evening from 6:30 pm – 8:00 pm in the visitor’s center and if you arrive early be sure to visit the free train display which is open from 10:00 am – 5:00 pm. Although this is a walking exhibit, ticket prices are charged per car. Monday – Thursday each car is $20 and Friday – Sunday each car is $25. The gardens are open from 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm Sunday – Thursday and 5:30 pm – 10:00 pm Friday – Saturday. This spot is not metro accessible.

Drive Through Light Displays

Want to stay in your car and let the kiddies enjoy the lights in their pj’s while listening to Christmas music on the radio? Try one of these area spots.

The Winter Festival of Lights runs through January 1st from 5:30 pm – 9:00 pm at the Watkins Regional Park in Upper Marlboro. $5 per car.

Lights on the Bay also runs through January 1st from 5:00 pm – 10:00 pm at the Sandy Point State Park in Annapolis. $14 per car.

Winter Lights Festival runs through December 31st from 6:00 pm- 10:00 pm at the Seneca Creek State Park in Gaithersburg. Visit their website to get detailed information on days and hours of operation. $12-$15 per car.

No matter where you decide to go, I hope these tips will help you put a little sparkle in your December.


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