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
This is a Top 10 list of things to do in DC this Winter. For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our posts on bus tours and walking tours of the city.
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:
3. See the Lantern Festival
In 2023, Tyson's Corner will host a Winter Lantern Festival.
This free display will feature over 100 lanterns made up of over 10,000 LED lights, all made by Chinese artisans. Featuring pandas, flamingos, sea creatures and of course a Tiger for Year of the Tiger, this is fun event for all ages.
Until Feb. 12, 2023
4. See a Show!
DC has a number of great shows throughout the year, and winter is no exception. 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:
- Ricky Skaggs | January 6th, 7th
- Judy Collins | January 8th
- Vonda Shephard | January 11th (Annapolis)
- America | January 14th
- Chaka Khan | January 15th
- Kenny Lattimore | January 15th
- Ben Rector | January 24th, 25th
- Ne-Yo/NSO Pops | January 27th, January 28th
- Slenderbodies | January 26th
- Mandy Patinkin | January 28th (North Bethesda)
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
- Attend a kid-friendly New Year's celebration at First Night Alexandria.
- Ring in the New Year with the Chinese New Year Parade
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 Commanders 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, on our map and post.
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.
For more ways to honor Black culture and history in DC, read our post about Black History Month.
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.
PACKING GUIDE FOR WINTER IN DC
Packing to go to a city you've never been to can feel daunting- how much is too much? There's also the fear of meeting unexpected weather and not having packed something essential. Below are some FAQ about packing we want to answer for you:
- 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
- New Years
- Christmas at Mount Vernon
- Lunar New Year
- Official DC Cocktail Festival
To learn more about what do to in specific months here in Washington, DC, click the links below: