Washington DC Winter Fun: 28 Wonderfully Seasonal Things to Do

The National Christmas Tree lit up in Washington DC.

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! What better gift to give yourself than a Washington DC winter trip?

Winter is the perfect time for fun activities indoors; check out our suggestions for enjoying Washington DC at night for even more indoor suggestions.

You might also like our guide to the most iconic things to do in DC that you need to try while you’re in the city.

Fun Things to Do in Washington DC in Winter

National Christmas Tree at the Ellipse

To start your eventful winter trip in Washington DC, it is a must to visit the National Christmas Tree at the Ellipse (Constitution Ave).

This public park south of the White House hosts communal activities and gatherings of all kinds all year round.

But during the winter, the iconic National Christmas Tree is illuminated to the delight of visitors and locals alike.

There are also individual trees decorated for each state that surround the National Christmas Tree, so there’s plenty to enjoy in the festive spirit of the season.

This is a free and open space to stroll at any time, so don’t worry if you miss the official tree-lighting ceremony as you can enjoy it throughout the month of December.

The National Christmas Tree lit up in Washington DC.

Holiday Lights Tour

If you want to see as many holiday lights as possible, you’ll love this 3-hour nighttime bus tour.

Let the festive lights wash over you as a local tour guide takes you through the displays and tells you stories about this festive tradition.

You’ll also stay warm and cozy on the bus between stops, no matter the winter weather outside.

Washington Monument

There’s something magical about Washington DC in the wintertime when iconic buildings and monuments like the Washington Monument (15th St. & Constitution Ave) can be surrounded by a blanket of soft snow.

The monument, which is a towering tribute to George Washington, is the world’s tallest stone structure at 554 feet, looking over the nation’s capital at 169 meters tall.

Free, same-day, timed tickets are distributed on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Tickets can also be ordered and reserved in advance online.

Be sure to review the tickets and booking information to plan ahead.

View of the Washington Monument lit up at night in Washington DC

Book an Igloo

Head to the Top of the Gate (2650 Virginia Ave NW) rooftop bar at The Watergate Hotel to sit and sip inside a cozy igloo.

While Top of the Gate is a popular summer spot, you don’t want to skip this view in the winter in DC!

Lights sparkle and the sunset is earlier so you can enjoy the views before you even head home after happy hour.

Sign for The Watergate south entrance in Washington DC

Georgetown GLOW

Washington DC in December is merry and bright, thanks to Georgetown’s unique winter art exhibit, Georgetown GLOW.

Since starting in 2014, this outdoor public art exhibition has attracted visitors and locals to walk through the light installations throughout the month of December.

It’s one of the events you shouldn’t miss while on a winter vacation in DC.

You can even take a themed yoga or pilates class!

Rooftops view of Georgetown in Washington DC at night

Gastronomic Georgetown Food Tour

Learn more about Georgetown’s historical roots as you go through the neighborhood’s best culinary offerings with this food tour.

There’s a wide variety of food you can sample from Korean tapas to French cuisine to keep you warm and full for hours.

This small-group tour guarantees an intimate experience which is a surefire way to deal with Washington DC winter blues.

Entrance to Call Your Mother in Georgetown Washington DC

Firepits at Bourbon Steak

Can’t wait for patio season? 

Head to Bourbon Steak (2800 Pennsylvania Ave NW) at The Four Seasons to enjoy drinks alfresco beside their cozy outdoor firepits.

Dress for the weather, but keep your hands toasty warm over the tame flames.

There’s something a little extra special about quiet patio drinks on a crisp winter night in DC.

Lodges at Bresca

Book a cozy lodge at Bresca (1906 14th St NW) and enjoy a sumptuous meal in your little private space outdoors.

Michelin-starred Bresca is a modern Parisian-style bistro, so you can imagine you’re on a romantic getaway to the city of love while cozying up with your special someone.

Hot Toddies at Hi-Lawn

Grab some hot cocktails to enjoy alfresco at Hi-Lawn (1309 Fifth St NE) and you’ll stay nice and warm.

Hot toddies, hot ciders, hot cocoa… it’s all here.

Plus, you can use their fire pits for making s’mores to get a little extra sugar in your system to warm you up on a cold winter’s night.


Wind down at yet another one of the capital’s restaurants awarded with a Michelin Star.

Cranes (724 9th St NW), a restaurant and sake lounge, offers a fusion of Spanish and Japanese food that’s sure to heat up a winter night in DC.

The chef over at Cranes discovered similarities between Spanish and Japanese cuisines, which inspired him to highlight and celebrate them in their menu.

Book your reservations and get ready to experience a blend of cultures.

Hot Chocolate at Urban Roast

Seek out those nostalgic vibes with a delicious hot chocolate that’s guaranteed to hit the spot!

At Urban Roast (916 G St NW), they take their hot cocoa seriously, with an adult twist on classic flavors and memories.

Start with a hot cocoa, add Jameson cold brew, Kahlua, or Bailey’s and then choose your favorite flavors… think peppermint, coconut, white chocolate and more.

If you visit around the holidays, Urban Roast is a top destination for Instagrammable festive decor!

Downtown DC Holiday Market

Looking for a winter market in Washington DC?

For all your holiday shopping needs, go to Gallery Place/Chinatown to do some seriously local shopping.

The Holiday Market (8th & F St. NW) is a DC favorite — and you’ll know it when you see how busy it can get.

Stroll the stalls, shop local, support artists and artisans, and grab a bite to eat from whichever food truck or stall is wafting the most delicious scent your way.

At the very least, soak up the festive vibes and atmosphere!

Christmas decorations at the Downtown Holiday Market in Washington DC

Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery

One of my favorite Smithsonian Museums in DC is the National Portrait Gallery (8th St NW & G St NW).

It’s actually connected to the Smithsonian American Art Museum, so you get an awesome 2-for-1 museum deal!

Of course, all the Smithsonians are free to enter, so it’s already the best deal around.

During a cold DC winter day, dipping into these museums to stroll the halls and galleries is a warm escape, but my favorite part of this building is the covered atrium.

When the winter days are cold and dreary, this space connecting the two museums lets in whatever natural light might be available without letting the cold in!

Warm up with some wonderful artwork before you head back out to brace the winter weather once again.

The atrium in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington DC

Winter Sports at the Capital One Arena

Keep yourself heated and energized during the winter in Washington DC by going to Capital One Arena’s (601 F St NW) sports, music, and other entertainment events!

If you’re in town during the season, don’t miss the chance to catch a Washington Wizards NBA game or the Washington Capitals take to the ice in the NHL.

The arena hosts a variety of activities all year round.

Always check their calendar to watch some of the world’s biggest acts.

Capital One Arena building in Washington DC.

Shakespeare Theatre Company

What better way to spend winter in Washington DC than to watch a play by the Shakespeare Theatre Company?

STC is one of the leading theater companies in the country.

The theater company gives audiences a more unique, inventive, and contemporary look at Shakespeare’s classical works.

STC performs in two theaters: The Michael R. Klein Theatre (450 7th St NW) and Sidney Harman Hall (610 F St NW).

Make sure to check out their calendar of events and get your tickets early so you don’t miss out.

minibar by José Andrés

Chef José Andrés has a number of restaurants in Washington DC, but his two-Michelin-starred minibar (855 E St NW) stands out.

Experience out-of-this-world dining in this restaurant which boasts an avant-garde menu that aims to mix art and science.

Spice up your winter night in their adjoining cocktail lab called barmini.

Reservations for both places are separate, so be sure to check out their website and book your preferred experience.

José Andrés is an icon not just in the restaurant industry, but for his extraordinary efforts in humanitarian work, so he’s one we always love to support!

Jose Andres painting in the National Portrait Gallery Smithsonian museum in Washington DC

If your budget doesn’t quite allow for minibar or barmini, head to Jaleo or Zaytinya instead.

Jaleo (480 7th St NW) serves up drool-worthy Spanish tapas and wine while Zaytinya (701 9th St NW) covers Eastern Mediterranean cuisine in the most delicious way.

Both restaurants are regulars in my DC restaurant favorites — and they have been for many years now!

Tapas and wine at Jaleo in Washington DC

Ford’s Theatre

Ford’s Theatre (511 10th St NW) is known for being the site of Abraham Lincoln’s assassination.

It eventually reopened as a national historic site.

Not only does it offer theatrical productions, it also has museum exhibits and education programs, all of which are perfect indoor winter activities in DC.

Similar to the Washington Monument, free same-day tickets are available on a first-come, first-served basis, but tickets can still be reserved in advance for convenience.

Fords Theatre building in Washington DC

Hard Rock Cafe

If you’re a rock-and-roll fan, you’re in luck, because the iconic Hard Rock Cafe (999 E St NW) is right in the nation’s capital.

Hearty meals are perfect for cold winter nights and the chain restaurant does not disappoint with their menu full of American classics like burgers, wings, and chicken sandwiches.

In its historic tradition of keeping music a part of the dining experience, music memorabilia embellishes the restaurant’s walls.

There’s also live acoustic music and DJ sets.

You can also get merchandise, including the legendary Hard Rock Cafe t-shirt or mug.

Check out their website for more information on events and reservations.

Warner Theatre

If you’re a live performance buff, here’s another theater in the district for you.

The historic Warner Theatre (513 13th St NW) hosts music concerts, comedy shows, and theatrical productions.

It still has the same Art Deco style that it had when it was first opened in the 1920s, which in itself is an artistic vision.

It’s also home to DC’s unique Walk of Fame with signatures from artists and entertainers who performed there since its reopening in 1992.

Buy your tickets for your favorite acts.

The building of the Warner Theatre in Washington DC.

National Children’s Museum

Cultural and educational attractions are not just reserved for adults, kids can enjoy a winter day out in Washington DC, too!

The National Children’s Museum (1300 Pennsylvania Ave NW) offers interactive exhibits in the arts and sciences to inspire curiosity and creativity for kids up to 12 years old.

The museum also hosts a coffee shop called Bluestone Lane that offers a wide range of food and drinks for people of all ages to enjoy.

Tickets are required so be sure to book in advance, especially if you’re visiting during the winter holidays when kids’ activities will be busier.

The museum is located at the Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center with convenient access to various Metro lines.

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center in Washington DC

National Museum of American History

As one of the most-visited museums in the US, the National Museum of American History (1400 Constitution Ave) is certainly one of the best places to go in the winter in DC to stay warm while immersing yourself in all things America.

Wander through a wide range of exhibits including early colonization, the American Presidency and First Ladies, pop culture and entertainment, transportation, industrialization, food, and so much more.

As part of the Smithsonian Institution, admission is always free and the museum is open every day except December 25th.

Want a closer, more exclusive look at the collections?

For a more personalized experience, check out this 2.5-hour private guided tour.

Ice Skating at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden

At the heart of the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden (Constitution Ave NW & 7th St) lies a fountain that transforms into an ice skating rink in the winter.

Ice skating outdoors, surrounded by modern sculpture, is one of the best winter activities in DC.

Keep yourself toasty after an ice skating session with a hot cup of coffee or a warm meal in the Pavilion Cafe, which is conveniently located within the Sculpture Garden.

Ice rink in the Sculpture Garden in Washington DC

National Gallery of Art

Right next to the Sculpture Garden is, of course, the National Gallery of Art (Constitution Ave NW & 6th St), which is the ideal indoor space to warm up after ice skating.

The museum is home to more than 150,000 works of art that showcase the development and diversity of Western art from past to present.

It is open to the public and admission is always free.

If you’re looking for more things to do in Washington DC in winter, there are exhibitions, lectures, and other events in this museum as well.

Instead of going on your own, take this museum tour to learn even more from an expert guide.

The fountain and National Gallery of Art building from the Sculpture Garden in Washington DC


Take a break from museum-hopping and treat yourself to a Michelin-starred dining experience.

Fiola (601 Pennsylvania Ave NW) offers regional Italian food based on authentic traditions and made with farm-fresh ingredients that’s sure to warm your heart no matter the temperature outside.

The Michelin Guide calls it one of the best Italian restaurants in Washington DC.

Reserve a table through their website.

United States Botanic Garden

Are winter temperatures getting you down?

Go to the warmest place in DC no matter what time of year it might be: the United States Botanic Garden (100 Mayland Ave SW).

If you go during the holiday season, you can enjoy the fabulous festive train setup outdoors.

But go anytime during winter in DC and you can bask in the warmth of the greenhouse with its vibrant flowers and lush greenery.

Ignore the bare trees outside in the depths of January’s cold; it’s always the tropics in here!

The holiday trains display at the US Botanic Gardens in Washington DC.

Enchant DC

Held annually from around Thanksgiving until Christmas, Enchant DC (1500 S Capitol St SE) takes over the Nationals Stadium in Navy Yard to offer a festive holiday market, ice skating, twinkling lights, and even a visit with Santa and his helpful elves!

Fun for the whole family or perfect for a date idea, Enchant is just that: utterly enchanting for all ages.

Get your tickets in advance and don’t forget to check out their special theme nights and plan ahead.

Ice Skating at The Wharf

The Wharf (970 Wharf St SW) transforms into a winter wonderland each year, including an ice skating rink over the river.

Rent skates or bring your own, but there are no reservations required (or accepted).

The rink is open from November through February, just note that it’s closed on Mondays and Tuesdays.

This is a perfect DC date night idea, too!

The Wharf stage at District Wharf in Washington DC

S’mores at Camp Wharf

S’mores might feel like a summertime treat, but at Camp Wharf (101 District Square SW), you can enjoy them all year round.

Sit by the fire and toast marshmallows all winter long at this favorite spot.

No matter how cold it may be outside, a toasted marshmallow squished between chocolate and graham crackers will always warm the heart.

Washington DC Winter Weather

Put on your most cozy winter attire because temperatures in Washington DC during winter may range from an average of 23°F to 46°F.

Despite the cold, you can expect general light snowfall only.

January is the month with the most snowfall and usually accumulates up to an average of 2.17″ of snow.

Final Words

A trip to Washington DC in the winter is guaranteed to be magical, and we hope this guide can help you have a more memorable experience in the city during this season.

Share your favorite winter attractions and activities in DC in the comments below.

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