Washington DC is a fun and family-friendly city to visit year-round. There are plenty of fun and free things to do all around the city, and this is your guide to enjoying the best of DC this winter.
TOP 10 THINGS TO DO IN DC IN WINTER
Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.
1. Take a Tour!
DC offers some amazing tours all around the city, especially our walking tours! Our pay-what-you-like tours are a great way to explore the city on a budget, like Capitol Hill, the National Mall, and Arlington Cemetery. We have tours for all ages and interests, including ghost and scandal tours!
Explore DC by Boat, Bus, Segway, and Bike
If you’re not up for walking, there are many ways to explore the city.
2. Join a Race!
DC loves hosting races, and you can join one this winter to warm up and work off those holiday treats! All ages and abilities are encouraged to attend, and below is a list of some you can join:
- Reindeer Romp 5K/10K- Dec. 21, 2019
- JFK 20K & 5K- Jan. 18, 2020
- Love the Run You're With 5K- Feb. 9, 2020
3. Visit the Newseum Before it Closes
The Newseum, the museum all about the news, is closing its doors December 2019. We're sad to see it go, but that means you still have a chance to visit it and learn about the evolution of journalism in the United States. It's one of the few ticketed museums in DC, costing $24.95 (plus tax) for adults 19-64, $19.95 (plus tax) for seniors 65 +, $14.95 for youth 7-18, and FREE for children 6 and under.
For other museums to see while in DC, check out our guide to the best museums.
4. See a Show!
DC has a number of great shows throughout the year, and winter in no exceptions. As the weather dips and afternoons and evenings get a little chilly, retire into a theater for an incredible show. With a number of amazing venues around the city, there are plenty of shows for every taste. Here are some performances visiting Washington, DC this winter:
- Diana Ross- Jan. 9-11
- Temples- Jan. 20
- Dancing with the Stars Tour- Jan. 24
- Armin Van Buuren- Jan. 25
- Fitz and the Tantrums- Feb. 14
- Celine Dion- Mar. 11
- Jersey Boys
- The King's Speech
For a list of more things to do at night in DC this winter, check out our Things to Do at Night post.
5. Celebrate the Holidays
DC lights up for the holidays! We have a number of fun things to do around the city for all ages, no matter what holidays you're celebrating this winter. Below are some other ways to spend the holidays in DC:
- See the National Christmas Tree and Menorah lit up.
- The District’s Holiday Boat Parade on Dec. 7.
- Attend a kid-friendly New Year's celebration at First Night Alexandria.
- Ring in the New Year with the Chinese New Year Parade on Jan. 26.
6. Enjoy a Game
Washington, DC has a number of great sports teams so there's one to cheer on no matter when you come to visit. There are a number of winter sports that take place in DC, so grab a ticket and get out there and cheer them on!
Our Washington Capitals hockey team and Washington Wizards basketball team play a number of games this winter at the Capital One Arena. You can also catch a Washington Redskins football game while visiting DC this winter!
7. Hit the Ice
DC doesn't get too cold in the winter, unlike more northern places like New York and Chicago. This makes it the perfect place to ice skate during the winter! There are a number of ice skating rinks around DC to enjoy this winter:
- National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink
- Canal Park Ice Rink
- Washington Harbour Ice Rink
- The Wharf Ice Rink
- The Watergate Hotel’s Top of the Skate
8. Visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture
The latest Smithsonian museum, the National Museum of African American History and Culture, opened its doors in 2016 and has been flooded with visitors every since. Due to its immense popularity, timed tickets (which are free) are required to enter during the busy season. Luckily this winter there is no need for a pass on weekdays! From September-February guests can simply show up and avoid the usual crowds for a more leisurely, enjoyable experience.
For a more intimate experience exploring the museums, check out our private museum tours!
9. Explore a Market
DC has a number of great markets to explore. Some are year-round, like Eastern Market and Union Market, and some are holiday pop-up ones. These are great for getting holiday shopping done, trying delicious foods, and warming up with some hot chocolate or cider!
- Eastern Market is near the Capitol, making it the perfect market to visit before or after your Capitol Hill tour.
- Union Market is largely indoors, with lots of food options, the perfect place to grab lunch!
- Downtown DC Holiday Market is located near the National Portrait Gallery and will showcase over 180 vendors.
10. Look into a Tourist Discount Pass
Even though there are so many free things to do in Washington DC, some of the highlights do have admission costs. To save money, we recommend purchasing a tourist discount pass.
Some of the best things to do in this winter are included in at least one if not more of the passes:
- Hillwood Estate & Gardens
- Potomac River Cruise
- Mount Vernon
- Bike Rentals
Get free admission to our tours and many top DC attractions with a Tourist Discount Pass.
Georgetown GLOW takes place for an entire month from December 6- January 5th and is a mix of art, exhibitions, and tours. DC's oldest neighborhood lights up and invites guests to enjoy the art and learn some history. We will also be offering our own GLOW tours!
PACKING GUIDE FOR WINTER IN DC
- Does it rain a lot in the winter? DC sees few rainy days in the winter and only a few inches of snow. We recommend packing an umbrella in case you're caught outside on one of the few rainy days.
- What to pack: We recommend packing a winter coat, like a peacoat, and comfortable, warm shoes like boots. You won't be seeing a lot of snow so no need for snow boots. We also recommend hats, scarves, and gloves! We have a post on weather in DC if you'd like to read more in-depth.
- Be sure to bring a reusable water bottle with you. Most memorials on the National Mall have bathrooms and water fountains that are perfectly safe to drink. Museums also have special fountains to make filling up reusable bottles easier. This is a much cheaper alternative to buying bottles of water wherever you go, as sometimes the kiosks on the Mall charge up to $3/bottle!
- Going out for a drink or nice restaurant in the evening? If you've been walking around outside all day it might be best to pack along a nice change of clothes, although most dining establishments DC are pretty casual. Still, if you're going to a more swanky place, dressing up a bit is best.
We have a monthly post section below if you want to read up more on the specifics of the weather to better decide what clothes to bring on your winter trip to DC.
HOLIDAYS & FESTIVALS
Winter in DC is full of festivals and holiday celebrations. There's a festival for everyone, for all interests and ages. Below are a list of our most popular winter festivals as well as links to Things to Do for winter holidays:
- Christmas in DC
- Hillwood Russian Winter Festival- Dec. 23
- New Years
- Christmas at Mount Vernon
- DC Chocolate, Wine, & Whiskey Fest
- Official DC Cocktail Festival- Feb. 29
To learn more about what do to in specific months here in Washington, DC, click the links below: