Guide to Visiting Washington DC During Holiday Season
Welcome to Washington, D.C. during the festive winter season. There is much to see and do in the capital during this festive time.
Welcome to Washington, D.C. during the festive winter season. There is much to see and do in the capital. Shopping, restaurants, activities: for a city not known as a winter getaway, we sure do love this time of year! My name is Terry. I am a tour guide in Washington, DC, and have lived in our nation’s capital city for many years. I am excited to show you around with tips on how to take advantage of DC during the winter in my Washington DC Holiday Season Guide!
First, The DC Holiday Market has returned for its 17th year and is open daily from noon to 8 pm. Over 70 merchants participate – local artisans, vendors, musicians, and fresh food and treats can be found.
The market’s location is a block from the two of the Gallery Place metro station exits. It is on the block of F Street, between 7th and 9th Streets Northwest. The National Portrait Gallery/American Art Museum is in the same building – open Wednesday – Sunday from 11:30 am to 7:30 pm.
The market’s location is a block from the Gallery Place metro station on F St NW. The market stretches right in front of the beautiful National Portrait Gallery. Located only 2 blocks north of the U.S. Navy Memorial, where our tours begin, the holiday market is a great experience for those heading to our night tour or for those just finishing our popular full-day VIP tour.
You can also mix shopping and holiday lights once more at City Center DC. https://www.citycenterdc.com/ This luxury shopping district offers the very best of what Washington retail has to offer along with fine dining and other fun activities for all ages.
If you like to ice skate, Washington, D.C. has several rinks. One I recommend is the National Gallery Sculpture Garden rink. It is open every day until March 6. You can bring skates or rent them. The fee is $10 and skates rental is $5. Enjoy the beautiful location across from the National Archives, next to the Natural History Museum, and along the National Mall. Hours are 11 am – 9 pm Sunday through Thursday and 11 am – 11 pm Friday and Saturday nights. The café is open until 5 pm most days. The nearest metro station is Archives/Navy Memorial.
The Wharf Ice Rink is more limited in its hours. It is open Wednesdays – Fridays: 4 pm – 10 pm, Saturdays: 12 pm – 10 pm, and Sundays: 12 pm – 8 pm. The location at 970 Wharf Street SW, Washington, DC 20024 is convenient for all the dining and shopping at the Wharf. Pricing is similar: $12 for admission and $6 to rent skates.
You can also ice skate at Georgetown Harbour. The rink is open daily: 11:30 am to 9 pm Sunday – Thursday and 11:30 am to 11 pm Friday and Saturday. Pricing is as follows: Adults: $10, Under 12 and Seniors/Military: $9/ Groups $13. Skate rental is $7. Skaters are encouraged to book a reservation online to help promote social distancing.
Now that I helped you explore the big attractions in the District of Columbia, it’s time to discover how Washingtonians live! Washington is home to over 750 thousand people and the city is not residentially zoned by the Smithsonians (it is a National Park!). So if you want to see where people live, you have to go away from capitol hill and away from the National Mall and the White House. Come explore my neighborhood: Van Ness/Forest Hills – usually called Van Ness!
It is located approximately 4 miles north of downtown Washington. It has a charming mix of urban convenience and woodsy charm with a somewhat more relaxed vibe than downtown. It extends north of the Van Ness metro station on the metro’s red line; it is the neighborhood just south of Chevy Chase.
Many Jewish people settled here in the 1940s and 1950s since there were no house zoning restrictions levied against them. The late writer Gore Vidal also grew up in this neighborhood.
Van Ness includes the University of the District of Columbia (alumni include legendary Georgetown basketball Coach John Thompson and former DC Police Chief Cathy Lanier). Also nearby is the Howard University law school. The National Institute of Standards and Technology was founded in this area, before its move to Gaithersburg, Maryland in the 1960s. Van Ness includes a “mini Embassy Row” with over a dozen embassies, located on International Drive.
Also, there are a few shops and local restaurants for its residents to enjoy. The following are some of my favorites.
Since I live in this neighborhood, an important stop on my holiday shopping list is Politics & Prose bookstore. It opened in 1984 and while the location at 5010 Connecticut remains the flagship location, there are other branches at the Wharf and at the Union Market. Politics and Prose has a variety of holiday shopping needs – books for all ages, stationery, music, and movies. Rest in the café and have a drink or a nosh as you plan the rest of your shopping. Many well-regarded authors, including politicians and figures on the world stage, make certain to include Politics and Prose on their itinerary, be it in the form of an event in the “brick and mortar” store or in now-common virtual events.
You may have heard about “Pizzagate” a few years ago. Comet Ping Pong survived this conspiracy, with the community of Forest Hills rallying to support the restaurant through false rumors. They have received many awards for their pizza and the restaurant provides a fun atmosphere with indoor and outdoor dining as well as tasty takeout food and drink. Comet hosts like music on certain nights; check their website for details about upcoming shows. If I’m not in the mood for pizza, I love eating their spaghetti squash with Bolognese sauce and meatballs. Their chickpea salad is also very tasty. They have rich red wines, an assortment of craft beers, and many types of pizza.
Little Red Fox is in the same block as the previous establishments. You can buy a meal or buy specialty goods for those on your list. Their menu features hot and cold staples as well as specialty items such as a holiday brew. I always enjoy the maple-glazed ham & cheddar biscuit. They have other meatless options including a vegan burrito.
Stop by I’m Eddie Cano. This Michelin-awarded restaurant has been in the neighborhood since 2018 although its owners began their experience in the restaurant business in New York in 2013. Enjoy their “just like Nonna made” pasta and entrees including my favorite Pappardelle Cinghiale, featuring wild boar ragu. Save room for dessert including naturalmente and tiramisu!
Sfoglina – another Michelin “Bib Gourmand” award-winner, has 3 branches in Washington, D.C. and Rosslyn. The Van Ness branch provides a bright, warm, elegant, upscale atmosphere for enjoying a glass of wine or Campari while having a sumptuous, filling Italian meal. Options include squid ink lobster linguine as well as traditional pasta such as tagliatelle, rigatoni, and tortelloni. Be sure to make a reservation in advance.
Bread Furst was established by James Beard award-winning Washington baker, Mark Furstenberg. Each day, a different freshly-baked bread is featured. These include lavish, milk bread, fruit & nut bread, challah, and more. Enjoy their bright space with their friendly service. Lunch includes hot and cold meals such as roasted chicken breast accompanied by a freshly-baked roll. On nicer days, it is fun to enjoy a meal or a cup of coffee on the sidewalk. Bread Furst makes an assortment of cakes and pies on-site. Mark and his staff wear hats made in Sri Lanka. He was inspired to choose these hats while visiting his son, who was posted at the Embassy in Colombo on a Foreign Service assignment.
Calvert Woodley Wines & Spirits have a wide range of food and drink for every palate. Their expert staff give excellent suggestions for food and drink choices.
Van Ness is not far from both the National Zoo and the National Cathedral. The Cathedral Is not easily metro-accessible but it is a short bus or Uber ride from the Van Ness metro. The Cathedral, site of many funerals of dignitaries and leaders, including 2021 Gen. Colin Powell and Sen. Robert Dole, is a Gothic building finished in 1990. The Cathedral is still rebuilding from the 2011 earthquake. Tours will resume for groups in spring 2023. The outside is breathtaking. You can walk through the Bishop’s Garden and stop for a drink at the Open City café at the Cathedral.
Terry Cordaro | Washington, DC Tour Guide