Discover the best holiday lights in Northern Virginia and the Washington DC area including professional light shows, festive businesses, and private homes decorated for the holidays. Bookmark this guide to professional and neighborhood holiday lights in the DC area, and check back for new additions.
Tis the season to overdecorate with sparkly holiday lights. Luckily, the Northern Virginia and Washington DC region offer dazzling professional holiday light displays, plus several neighborhood extravaganzas to maximize your holiday spirit. The Griswolds got nothing on us!
We will continue to update listings as 2021 holiday light shows are announced.
Professional Holiday Lights in and near Northern Virginia
Professional holiday light displays in the Northern Virginia area are some of our favorite holiday destinations. Holiday light events are listed below in order of start date, with links to purchase tickets and plan your visit.
NEW in 2021! LuminoCity, Roer’s Zoofari, Reston, Nov 7 – Jan 2
Roer’s Zoofari hosts the Luminocity Festival throughout the 2021 holiday season. This walk-through experience features colorful holiday scenes and beautifully hand-crafted light sculptures. Visitors stroll past a vibrant collection of realistic and fantastic light sculptures, many featuring animals. Two previous light sculpture festivals, Roers Zoofari Chinese Lantern Festival and LightUp Fest Northern Virginia were on our must-visit list for holiday light shows. Timed entry tickets are $22/$32 for ages 3-12/adult.
Bull Run Festival of Lights, Bull Run Regional Park, Nov 11 – Jan 2
A perennial favorite, the Bull Run Festival of Lights dazzles with a 2.5-mile drive-through display of holiday and fairytale vignettes. New displays join old favorites every year. This is a fun way to see lights as a family staying warm and cozy as you slowly drive through the animated displays.
Weekdays and early season are the least crowded times to visit. In December, the drive ends at a Holiday Village with rides, merchandise and activities (village closed in 2021). Admission is $30 online per car, $40 at the door. Follow the link for a $5 weekday discount code. 5:30 – 9:30 weekdays, 5:30 – 10:00 weekends.
Meadowlark Winter Walk of Lights, Vienna, Nov 11 – Jan 3
Every year Meadowlark Botanical Gardens lights up for the holidays with over 500,000 lights and displays on a .6 mile outdoor walking trail. Purchase timed entry tickets in advance to ensure you get parking and avoid lines. Limited tickets are available at the door on non-peak nights.
Pick up a hot chocolate before your walk, then shop at the Snowflake Shoppe for holiday ornaments, flashing jewelry, and other goodies. Tickets are $16/$20 online/at the door for non-peak weeks (Nov 11 – Dec 9). Prices increase to $18 and must be purchased online for peak weeks (Dec 10 – Jan 2). Open nightly, including holidays, 5:30 – 10:00; last admission at 9:15.
Illuminate Light Show, Doswell Nov 12 – Jan 2
Head to Central Virginia to enjoy this beautiful drive-through light show at Meadow Event Park in Doswell. Relax in your car and see over 1 million sparkly lights, all synchronized to music. Displays include an 80-foot tunnel of lights, 50-foot Christmas trees, dancing snowmen, singing trees, and Santa’s festive decorations.
You can purchase tickets, $30 per vehicle, online or at the gate. Since drive-up ticketing is allowed capacity can be overwhelmed with long wait times on busy weekends. Open nightly, 5:30 to 10:00.
Lighting of the Lawn, UVA, Charlottesville, TBA
This beautiful Charlottesville tradition began after the September 11 attacks. In 2020, Lighting of the Lawn was a virtual gathering to celebrate friendship and community. Follow the link to watch the free virtual event via livestream. 7:00 – 9:00 PM.
Garden of Lights, Brookside Gardens, Wheaton, Nov 19 – Jan 2
The Garden of Lights is back in 2021! Brookside Gardens walk-through display includes more than one million colorful holiday lights shaped into hand-crafted, original art forms of flowers, animals, and other natural elements. Stroll from garden to garden enjoying twinkling tree forms, fountains, sparkling snowflakes, and more. Visit the garden for unique gifts. Timed-entry tickets must be purchased online and are $10 per person.
The village closes but the ice rink is open weekend days January 8 – February 27. Admission to the Village is $9.19, $22.03 with 1-hour ice skating (online tickets only).
WinterFest at King’s Dominion, Doswell, Nov 20 – Jan 2
WinterFest transforms the park into a winter wonderland adorned with millions of holiday lights, Christmas trees, and festive décor displayed throughout the park. Plus, the iconic Eiffel Tower is transformed into a 300-foot tall Christmas tree. WinterFest activities included a nightly lighting ceremony, live holiday shows, strolling performers, ice skating, family rides, a special holiday menu, and falling snow.
Lights on the Bay, Sandy Point State Park, Nov 21 – Jan 2
Sandy Point State Park hosts the annual Lights on the Bay. Enjoy a two-mile scenic drive along the Chesapeake Bay with animated and stationary displays illuminating the roadway. Popular displays include a colonial village inspired by historic Annapolis and one of the USNA midshipmen tossing their hats in the air. Purchase 3D glasses ($5) to make the displays come alive. $20/30/50 per car/van/bus; 5:00 – 10:00 nightly.
U. S. Botanic Garden, DC, TBA
Only the outdoor gardens are open so the U.S. Botanic Garden holiday festivities were scaled back in 2020. 2021 details have not been announced.
The Botanic Garden is one of our favorite holiday stops in DC. The holiday fun usually includes an elaborate model train display; a large display of DC memorials and monuments made from natural materials; and holiday topiaries and plants. The theme in the model train display changes every year. In 2019, the theme was “America’s Gardens.,” featuring iconic gardens from across the United States.
In 2020, the Terrace Gardens and Bartholdi Park will be decorated with festive lights and adornments. Free holiday concerts will be live streamed. The train display is canceled and the conservatory and gated gardens are closed. You can visit the outdoor decorations at The US Botanic Garden every day, including Christmas.
GardenFest of Lights, Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden, Richmond, Nov 22 – Jan 9
Lewis Ginter Botanic Garden sparkles with one million twinkling lights at the annual GardenFest of Lights display in Richmond Virginia. See hand-crafted botanical decorations, model trains, a warming fire pit with s’mores and hot chocolate, nightly family activities, and plenty of holiday fun. Tickets must be purchased in advance $14 – $18 depending on date with discounted tickets for members. 5:00 – 10:00 nightly, closed Thanksgiving, Dec 24 + 25.
Extend your holiday fun with a Weekend Getaway to Richmond Virginia.
Christmas at Gaylord + ICE! 2021, National Harbor, Nov 26 – Dec 31
Marvel at more than 2 million twinkling lights, amazing nightly snowfall, and beautiful dancing fountains at Gaylord National’s Christmas on the Potomac. ICE! returns with the theme “I Love Christmas Movies”, featuring 2 million pounds of ice sculptures and 4 ice slides. You can also enjoy a cup of hot cocoa, photos with Santa, and more family-friendly activities. Follow the link for ticket prices and hours for more photos and details.
Thrill the family and make your visit a National Harbor weekend getaway.
Enchant Christmas, Nationals Park, DC, Nov 26 – Jan 2
Nationals Park is transformed into a winter wonderland complete with the world’s largest Christmas light maze and market. Join The Great Search, where giant light sculptures take guests on a journey to find Santa’s missing reindeer. Glide along the ice skating trail surrounded by lights as snow gently falls. Explore a Christmas Market with over 60 local and international artisans plus seasonal food and drink. Relax to live entertainment and seasonal films. And bring the kids to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and play in the Kid Zone.
General admission tickets to Enchant Christmas are $39/$29 for adults/children 3 and up with some special and group discounts available. 4:30 – 10:30 weekdays, to 11:30 weekends and Dec 13 – 30.
Winter Lights Festival, Gaithersburg Maryland, Nov 26 – Dec 31
Take a 3.5-mile drive through Seneca Creek Park and pass 450 displays and trees sparkling with beautiful holiday lights. Purchase tickets online for your chosen night; there are no tickets at the gate. Weekend traffic is very heavy for this festival so visit on a weekday if possible. Tickets are $15/$25 per vehicle for weekday/weekend admission. Larger vehicles (15 – 30 passengers) are $30. 6:00 – 9:00 (last entry) weekdays, 6:00 – 9:30 weekends. Closed Dec 25.
DC Temple Festival of Lights, Kensington Maryland, Closed in 2021
The DC Temple Festival of Lights is closed in 2021 due to construction. Usually, you can drive through the Festival of Lights and see over 400,000 illuminating the Temple grounds. Christmas music on FM 101.7 sets the mood for your drive. There are two outdoor life-size nativities on the route. Admission is free and the lights are on from 6:00 to 9:00 nightly.
Holiday Lights on the Farm, Frying Pan Park, TBA
Stay cozy in your car while you enjoy a dazzling drive through the fields at Frying Pan Park. Thousands of lights and colorful characters will decorate a mile-long route through the park. Drive your vehicle or book a private group wagon tour for up to 20 people. $20 per vehicle up to 15 passengers; $50 per tractor group. Register for your 30-minute drive time at the link. 5:30 – 8:30.
Mount Vernon by Candlelight, Nov 26 – Dec 11 Weekends + Dec 19
Looking for a place to walk off your feast surrounded by history? George Washington’s Mount Vernon is open daily, including Thanksgiving and Christmas. Did you know that George Washington first proclaimed a day of thanksgiving in 1789? This is a great time to tour the grounds and the Mansion.
On candlelight evenings, soft lights and holiday patterns illuminate the grounds, Christmas carolers sing, and you can visit an 18th-century winter encampment. Open weekends, Nov 26 – Dec 11 and Dec 19. Follow the link for details and to purchase timed-entry tickets.
Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, Alexandria, Dec 4
The annual Alexandria Boat Parade of Lights is held on the first Saturday of December, at sundown on the day of the annual Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. Alexandria’s harbor lights up as dozens of illuminated boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront. The boats are always dressed to impress a panel of judges who will award prizes in a dozen categories including Best in Show, Thinking Outside the Christmas Box, and Hardiest Souls. Free, 5:30.
District’s Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, The Wharf, Dec 4
On the same night, The Wharf joins the tradition with it’s own boat parade. Arrive early for the tree lighting, decorate gingerbread cookies, make s’mores at the fire pit, and get a photo with Santa. The boat parade begins at 7:00 with finale fireworks at 8:00. Admission is free; follow the link for details on boat registration and cash prizes. 6:00 – 9:00.
Holiday Lights at Northern Virginia Towns and Businesses
Please check back for 2021 updates.
While big Christmas tree lighting events are canceled in 2020, we still expect to see beautiful and festive decorations at these locations. These are fun, free spots for holiday photos whether you visit by day or night.
Great Falls Holiday Decorations. Like many of our favorite small towns in Northern Virginia, Great Falls homes and businesses sparkle in December. Take a scenic drive on Georgetown Pike to check out all of the fun displays.
Village at Leesburg Christmas Tree, The big rainbow-colored tree is a great backdrop for holiday photos.
Reston Town Center Holidays, No announcement yet on whether the annual Thanksgiving parade will return in 2021. You can still enjoy the magic of the season at the Christmas tree on the plaza and ice skating in the pavilion.
Old Town Alexandria: You’ll find some of the prettiest holiday decorations in the DC region on the shops and streets of Old Town Alexandria. The Black Friday experience kicks off the holiday shopping season with a whole season of great local deals.
Mosaic District Christmas: We love the quirky holiday decorations at Mosaic District and they’re perfect for a unique Christmas photo. Check out cool reindeer, giant stars, and a walk-through tree while you shop for the perfect holiday gift.
U.S. Capital Christmas Tree: In December, visit the lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building to see the huge Capital Christmas tree. The 2021 “People’s Tree” comes all the way from California and is decorated with handmade ornaments. The tree is lit from dusk to 11:00 PM nightly and makes a great photo with the U.S. Capitol building in the background.
Old Town Fairfax: Festival of Lights and Carols, Enjoy holiday music and carols and the lighting of the Christmas tree at Old Town Square on Dec 4, noon – 6:00.
The Wharf DC, Watch the annual boat parade on December 4, and the the lighting of the 45-foot Christmas tree on District Pier (date TBA). The Wharf also hosts the Lighting of the Menorah for each night of Hanukkah at 5:00 pm, beginning Nov 28.
Holiday Tree Lighting: Head to One Loudoun on December 4th for the annual Holiday Tree Lighting celebration from 5:00 – 7:00. Enjoy live entertainment, Santa photos, ice sculpture carving, and more.
Del Ray Holiday Season: In 2020, Alexandria’s Del Ray neighborhood was festooned with pretty “Home for the Holidays” window decorations. This neighborhood is always a fun place to shop for unique gifts and enjoy seasonal decor.
Business and Neighborhood Holiday Lights in Northern VA
A holiday lights drive is one of our favorite December activities, and we’re always on the lookout for new and favorite light displays. Below we’ve listed favorite holiday lights displays at businesses and private homes in 2020. We expect many of these will be back with festive holiday decorations in 2021.
The Holly’s Tacky Christmas Lights website updates yearly and is an excellent resource for finding holiday lights in the NoVA area.
Bluemont Vineyard illuminates over 10,000 vines at special Light up the Vines events. The lights are illuminated throughout the holiday season. Follow the link to reserve your visit and enjoy holiday lights as you sip Virginia wine. Plan your visit with our guide to fun things to do in Bluemont Virginia.
Lawyers Road, Vienna
The Christmas lights at 10203 Lawyers Road in Vienna are a fun and beautiful site to see. Park across the street on Galloping Way and very carefully cross Lawyers to see this display. There is a sidewalk in front of the house that lets you easily see the full display (never enter private yards). Different sections of holiday lights feature an ocean scene with dolphins and fish, cute polar bears, woodland creatures, and more. Love the eagle carrying a present hanging from one of the trees!
Here’s a closer look at this fun holiday lights display:
A bit further south on Lawyers, watch for a large property set back from the road decorated with yellow lights (10033 Lawyers). This one is easiest seen from the car.
Cottage Street Southwest, Vienna
If you prefer to view Christmas lights from the car we highly recommend a drive on Cottage Street Southwest in Vienna. There are enough houses decorated on this and intersecting streets to dazzle your group. We especially love the large, yellow-lit homes at 801 and 802 Cottage Street.
Marshall Pond Road, Burke
This little cul-de-sac in Burke really gets into the Christmas spirit. Seven houses are decorated for the season, creating their own Christmas Village. Park at the top and walk through the pipestem to enjoy all of the displays. Santa will make some appearances during the 2020 holiday season. Get the latest updated on their Facebook page.
Multiple Locations, Herndon
Here are some of the sparkly Herndon houses that we like to check out:
11904 Paradise Lane has a yard full of fun vignettes including an inflated jack-in-the-box and a pond with jumping fish.
Nearby Lake James Street includes two houses with lots of wrapped, colorful trees. Drive to the end of the cul-de-sac to see more decorated houses.
Enter the Fox Mill neighborhood on Viking Road and you’ll see lots of nice light displays like the one below. The neighborhood is having a decorating contest so people are really going all out.
Make your way to 12708 Kettering Drive to enjoy a house with several lit holiday boxes. The boxes include a dancing snowman, a running model train, and a singing and dancing Santa (press the button to start the show).
Millwood Square, Sterling
One of our readers alerted us to this fantastic, over-the-top townhouse in Potomac Falls (aka Sterling). Our photo of 21244 Millwood Square below is from 2016, and it’s even more packed with holiday fun in 2020.
East Juniper Street, Sterling
Nicknamed Candy Cane Lane, we’ve been visiting East Juniper Street in Sterling since our children were small. There are usually several houses decked out with kitschy, traditional, or modern holiday decor. Lately, there are fewer decorated houses and they are more spread out through the neighborhood.
Canceled or TBA 2021 Holiday Lights
These popular annual holiday lights displays were canceled in 2020 and have not announced plans for 2021. Check back for updates as we get closed to December.
Zoo Lights at the National Zoo, DC, TBA
Holiday lights, animals at night, tubing runs, and chop-choo fun. More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland. A free event, ZooLights includes live musical performances, tasty winter treats, and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. The National Zoo packs a lot of activities and a little education into its holiday light show. Admission and shuttle buses from Woodley Park metro are free, but parking and some activities have a fee. Open daily except Dec 24, 25, and 31. 5:00 – 9:00 nightly.
Chanukah Celebration and Menorah Lighting, Mosaic District, TBA
Head to Mosaic District’s Strawberry Park to celebrate Chanukah with the annual Menorah lighting. Join JCC of Northern Virginia to light the candles, sing songs, enjoy entertainment, feast on sufganiyot (donuts), spin the dreidel, and more. Free; 4:30 – 6:00.
We love the holidays and we love to drive around looking at lights, tacky or not. It’s wonderful to see many Washington DC area area holiday light shows back in 2021. Happy holidays to you!
If you like holiday lights, you’ll find more fun in these guides:
- 12 Holiday Favorites from Northern Virginia Experts
- Favorite Holiday Markets in Northern Virginia and the DC Region
- Santa Photos and Holidays at the Mall in Northern Virginia
- Day Trip to Enjoy DC Holiday Fun