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Winter is arguably the most romantic time of the year — merry, cozy evenings, steaming beverages, twinkling lights everywhere — and there’s no shortage of outings in the city that suit the season. Whether it’s with a long-time love, a new fling, or a platonic soulmate, there’s something merry and bright waiting for you.
Wander Through the Lights at CityCenterDC
If you’re looking for a slower-paced, dreamy evening, head to CityCenterDC to stroll underneath thousands of shimmering holiday lights. The shopping corridor is strewn with glittery snowflakes, fairy lights, and elegant exposed bulbs, all leading up to one of D.C.’s most impressive Christmas trees. In addition to the light installation that is up throughout the season, a slew of wintery activities are making the rounds through CityCenter, including an ice-maze, live violin music, and alfresco holiday dining. Bonus: Enjoy a luxurious Mediterranean meal at Fig & Olive while you take a break from exploring. Free. Multiple dates and times. CityCenterDC: Palmer Alley NW, DC; citycenterdc.com // @citycenterdc
Botanical Gardens Holiday Trains
Model trains return to the US Botanic Gardens for the first time since 2019, this time wrapping around the gardens’ outdoor spaces. The themed attraction features “farms around the world” this year, from a Massachusetts cranberry bog to a Nepalese lentil terrace. With whimsical details and sprawling installations, the model train exhibit is the perfect place to embrace your inner child. Bonus: Take a day of youthful enjoyment to the max by grabbing a bite from GCDC Grilled Cheese Bar. Free. Multiple dates and times. US Botanic Gardens: 100 Maryland Ave. SW, DC; usbg.gov
Get Competitive with Christmas at The Gaylord
Start your date night with some good old-fashioned playful competition on the ice bumper-carts at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center. When you’ve had your fill of fun and games, you can head down to Gaylord’s spa for a relaxing holiday spa treatment, chock full of unique holiday specials. With festivities abound, both you and your date are sure to find the experience you’re looking for. Bonus: Visit the Holiday Sweet Shoppe for artisanal desserts and homemade eggnog after you’ve had your fun. $25+. Multiple dates and times. Gaylord National: 201 Waterfront St. National Harbor, MD; christmasatgaylordnational.marriott.com // @gaylordnational
See “The Nutcracker”
The ultimate holiday tradition, Washington Ballet puts on Tchaikovsky’s classic “The Nutcracker” with no frills spared. Marvel together at magical backdrops, elegant ballet, and glittering period costumes all set in 1882 Georgetown. Bonus: Head down to Filomena Ristorante in Georgetown after the show for a taste of the Christmas magic you saw onstage, off-stage. $48+. Multiple dates and times. The Washington Ballet: 3515 Wisconsin Ave. NW, DC; washingtonballet.org // @thewashingtonballet
Say “Frohe Weihnachten” to Baltimore’s Germanic Christmas Market
If you’ve already exhausted your options at the D.C. Downtown Holiday Market, take a sleigh ride over to Baltimore to visit their authentic German Christmas Market & Village. More than 50 local vendors will sell traditional European food, drinks, and sweets from within individual wooden booths. Waffles, gingerbread, and bratwurst are all sweet treats to share from within the festival’s cozy heated tent while you browse the stalls for artisan goods. Bonus: Sip traditional mulled wine by the Market’s centerpiece, the Gluhwein Pyramid. Free. Multiple dates and times. German Christmas Market & Village: 501 Light St. Baltimore, MD; baltimore-christmas.com // @bmorechristmas
Enjoy the Anti-Holiday Spirit at The Passenger
For those looking to escape everything holiday, the cocktail bar The Passenger will be serving up a Seinfeld-inspired “Festivus” menu all December. They’ll include an “airing of grievances,” which allows you to complain about everything and anything by writing it on the bathroom wall. Their “Festivus Miracle” drink special has no eggnog in sight; ordering it will get you a beer and a shot to take as unceremoniously as possible. Bonus: For those really looking to let loose, you can ring the bell in the bar and shout your grievances to the high heavens (re: all your co-patrons). Free entry. Until December 23. The Passenger: 1539 7th St. NW, DC; passengerdc.com // @passengerdc
Ice Skating at The National Gallery
A D.C. classic, ice skating at the National Gallery is hard to beat. For just $10 a pair, you and your date can hit the ice under the moonlight and skate to the scenic backdrop of a Smithsonian museum lit up at night. Bonus: head over to the pop-up cafe for seasonal favorites like spiked hot cider. $9-$10. Multiple dates and times. Sculpture Garden at National Gallery of Art: 7th Street and Constitution Avenue NW, DC; nga.gov // @ngadc
Cozy Up at Camp Wharf
Woodburning fires, s’mores flights, and a vintage airstream trailer create the perfect cozy holiday ambiance for you and yours at The Wharf DC. Hot apple cider is also in abundance, and for the price of your dessert, you’re given all the necessary tools and ingredients to grill marshmallows by the open fire. This weekend-only escape is open late into the night, so you won’t have to share your sweet treats with any kiddos. Bonus: Enjoy the views of the D.C./Virginia skyline at night while you roast. The Wharf: 760 Maine Ave. SW, DC; wharfdc.com // @thewharf
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