Merry & Bright: The Best Christmas Light Displays in DC

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Nothing warms a cold night like the sparkle and glow of a holiday light display. Get out the hats and gloves and prepare to bundle the babies for an illuminating night of Christmas wonder. Take in the largest light maze in the world or stroll through the free display at the National Zoo. Read on for the best places to be LED-dazzled in the DMV.

photo: Dani Burnett via Immortal Beloved Photo

Billed as the largest light maze in the world (the. world!), this holiday spectacular boasts over 90,000 square feet of sparkling lights. Get lost in a labyrinth of holiday cheer while you search for Eddie the Elf and his sidekick, Sparky! While you’re there, take a moment to snap a pic with Old St. Nick at Santa’s Landing, cross off your holiday shopping to-do list at Christmas Market and don’t forget to take a spin on the Ice Skating Trail.

Cost: $14.99-$33.99; kids 3 & under are free.
Date: Daily from 4:30-10:30 p.m. now through Dec. 29
Where: Nationals Park, 1500 S. Capitol St SE

Ice & Lights: The Winter Village at Cameron Run
Take a stroll through a tunnel of rainbow lights, walk under sparkling arches and around illuminated trees and—if you catch a chill—be sure to pop in a heated igloo. After you walk through the 20′ tree, be sure to test out your skating skills at the near-by rink.

Cost: $5
Dates: Daily 5-10 p.m. now through Jan. 5
Where: 4001 Eisenhower Ave., Alexandria, VA


photo: William Folsom via NovaParks

Winter Walk of Lights
This Vienna garden becomes a twinkling wonderland at dusk when a half-mile walk becomes illuminated with animated lights. After you’ve toured the property, be sure to roast marshmallows by the fire. Timed tickets are required for entry.

Cost: $8-14.50
Date: Daily from 5:30-9:15 p.m. now through Jan. 5 (including holidays)
Where: Meadowlark Botanical Gardens, 9750 Meadowlark Gardens Court, Vienna, VA

photo: Brookside Gardens/Montgomery Parks 

Garden of Lights at Brookside Garden
While there are plenty of places to see lights for free, the dazzling display of over one million bulbs makes the entry fee at Brookside totally worth it in our book (you pay per vehicle, so bring the minivan and pack ‘em in!). In keeping with the botanical theme, Brookside offers a colorful parade of animals, flowers and more. After you’ve enjoyed strolling from garden to garden, be sure to check out the model train display inside the Conservatory.

Insider tip: on weekends the wait time can exceed an hour, so try to go during a weekday.

Cost: $25 per car ($30 on Fri.-Sat)
Date: Daily from 5:30-9 p.m. through Dec. 31 (closed Nov. 25-28 and Dec. 24-25)
Where: 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, MD

photo: Smithsonian’s National Zoo

ZooLights at the National Zoo
For eco-friendly festivities, head to the National Zoo where more than 500,000 LED lights are on display along side a new exhibit of glowing lanterns depicting everyone’s favorite zoo animals. Each evening, guests can also visit the Small Mammal House and the Reptile Discovery Center.

Cost: Free
Date: Daily from 5-9 p.m. now through Jan. 1 (closed December 24, 25 & 31)
Where: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW

Lights on the Bay
Grab your footed pajamas and a thermos of hot chocolate; this light display is a drive-thru attraction that features over two miles of lights along the Chesapeake Bay. Lights on the Bay boasts over 70 animated and stationery exhibits. For an additional fee, guests can purchase 3-D glasses for a truly unique experience.

Cost: $20 per car
Date: Daily from 5-10 p.m. now through Jan. 1
Where: Sandy Point State Park, 1100 E College Pkwy, Annapolis, MD


photo: LaDonna G. via Yelp

Festival of Lights at the DC Mormon Temple
Over 650,000 lights illuminate the grounds of the temple, making this one of the largest light displays in the DC area. Guests can also view internationally-inspired Christmas trees and nativity scenes. Nightly performances require a free event ticket, which are handed out on a first-come basis starting 60 minutes prior to performances.

Cost: Free
Date: Daily 10 9 through Jan. 1
9900 Stoneybrook Dr, Kensignton, MD

photo: Georgetown Glow DC 

Georgetown Glow DC
You won’t find illuminated snowflakes or walk-thru Christmas trees at this light art exhibit. For one month, bright lights and neon colors brighten up the streets of historic Georgetown with a curated outdoor installation that is sure to dazzle and delight. If you’re looking for some Santa-free time that still has some seasonal sparkle, be sure to take a stroll down M St.

Cost: Free
Date: Dec. 6 through Jan. 5
Where: Throughout the commercial district of Georgetown

Baltimore’s 34th Street 
Fondly referred to as the Miracle on 34th Street, the residents of the 700 block (between Chestnut Avenue and Keswick Road) of 34th Street in Hamden have been decorating their homes since 1947 (the same year the movie by the same name was released). Decoration themes this year include: compassion, unity, love and kindness.

Cost: Free
Date: Daily from 5:45 now through Dec. 31
720 West 34th Street (Baltimore, MD)

—Meghan Yudes Meyers


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