Festive Light Displays Around Washington DC

Terri Carr

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New Year celebrations will surely have an unusual flavor this year. As some people are saying, “I’m staying up til midnight on New Year’s Eve - not to welcome the New Year, but to make sure the old one leaves!”

While many holiday gatherings have been cancelled, one tradition we can still enjoy is festive holiday light shows. After one of the most stress-filled years most of us can remember, we can all use some light-hearted, child-like entertainment.

There is something primal and timeless about festive holiday lights. The white and yellow lights remind us of a candle flame and offer a subtle nudge to remember the eternal flame ever aglow within our hearts. The beautiful multi-colored displays awaken joy in our spirits.

There are several fabulous holiday light shows around the DC/MD/VA region worth a visit. Many are designed to be driven through instead of walked through. You can stay safe and warm in your vehicle and enjoy the show.

Drive through light shows:

Watkins Regional Park (Upper Marlboro, MD) - $10/vehicle until January 1, 2021, hours 5:00 - 9:30 p.m. every night

Just a 25 minute drive east of Washington D.C., this park is host to a fantastic holiday light show from 5:00 - 9:30 p.m. nightly, 7 days a week until January 1, 2021. It’s not a bad deal at $10 per vehicle for a solid 30 minute drive through light show.

This one features an abundance of Santa images as well as Wizard of Oz and other characters. It’s a playful, dynamic light show with many of the images appearing to be in motion. Look for basketball Santa, a weightlifting Gingerbread man and Santa shooting gifts out of a cannon.

Note: once holiday season is over, parents with children aged 10 and under may want to revisit this park for its outstanding Wizard of Oz themed playground and nature center.

Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints Washington D.C. Temple - FREE - through Monday, December 28th, hours 6:00 - 9:00 p.m.

This is a short drive through light show featuring over 400,000 lights and 2 outdoor nativity scenes. While driving through the property, tune your car radio to 101.7 FM for accompanying Christmas music and messages from the church.

This display is simply an astounding explosion of brightly lit trees. As you might expect from LDS church, Santa Claus is not featured, nor are there any non-religious symbols sometimes associated with the season. The magic here is all in the beautifully lit trees, some with multi-colored lights, but most monochrome, in bright red, green, varying shades of blue, pink and purple.

All in all, this is a compact display, especially viewed by car. Once you get into the grounds of the church, you will coast past the entire display in about 10 minutes, at most. Allow extra time as you may wait a half hour or more to get inside the church property.

Bull Run Festival of Lights (Centreville, VA) - $30/ vehicle until 12/31/20; $25/vehicle through January 10th, hours 5:30 - 9:30 p.m. (10 pm on weekends and holidays)

Ticket purchases online only at: https://www.novaparks.com/events/bull-run-festival-of-lights

This 2.5 mile long light show requires visitors to obtain timed entry tickets online. Since it’s running until January 10, 2021, you might prioritize some of the other displays first if you’re going to more than one.

Organizers allow plenty of extra time for late visitors to see the entire show, so don’t worry if your ticket entry allows entrance close to closing time. They’ve thought of that and they’ll make sure you aren’t short changed.

Walkable exhibits

Ice & Lights at Winter Village at Cameron Run (Alexandria, VA) - $9.35 ($24.00 with skate time) through January 3, 2021, hours 5:00 - 10:00 p.m.

Tickets online at: https://www.novaparks.com/events/ice-lights

At Ice & Lights, visitors can lace up their skates and take to the ice at one of the few area ice rinks open during Covid-19. But if gliding on thin blades on a slippery surface is not your idea of fun, stay on dry ground and stroll through a dazzling display of lights, there’s still much to enjoy.

Find last minute gifts or grab a bite to eat while enjoying live music and watching the skaters fly past. Village concessions include hot chocolate, pizza, hot dogs and other yummy refreshments.

People of all ages will get a kick out of the fun photo backdrops throughout Winter Village. There’s a walk-through tree, a giant wreath, glowing stars and other holiday-themed displays.

Skaters will have 1 hour sessions with limited entry to the rink to allow for social distancing. Extensive guidelines are in place to keep everyone safe.

Meadowlark Winter Walk of LIghts (Vienna, VA) - $11.25 - $20.00, hours: 5:00 -10:30 p.m. through Jan. 3rd; Bonus week hours: 5:00 - 8:30 pm through Jan. 10th

Advance tickets only at: https://www.novaparks.com/events/winter-walk-of-lights

Another stunning display with great photo backdrops. Refreshments are sold at Sips, Sweets & Sparkles.

Tickets are sold with staggered entries to allow for social distancing.

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