Despite the busy-ness of the holiday season for graduate students, taking time to enjoy some holiday festivities is important. Here is a partial list of some holiday happenings in the D.C. area.
National Christmas Tree: A longtime D.C. tradition, the National Christmas Tree, located on the Ellipse near the White House, is decorated this year with decorations from each state and adorned with an impressive display of lights. In addition to the large tree, there are 56 other smaller decorated trees. Each of these smaller trees represents one of the 50 states, the five U.S. territories and D.C.
ZooLights at the National Zoo: ZooLights is a free holiday program at the National Zoo that features thousands of environmentally-friendly LED light displays illuminating trees and walkways in the zoo as well as outlining life-size animal silhouettes. Several of the exhibit buildings, including the Small Mammal House and the Great Ape House, will be open to visitors for viewing the animals at night. ZooLights is held from 5 to 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday nights until Dec. 11 and every night from Dec. 16 through Jan. 1.
Iceless ZooLights Skating Rink: The zoo is also offering, an environmentally-friendly synthetic ice skating rink. The “ice” is composed of non-toxic, recyclable acrylic material and has been specially engineered to allow skate blades to move as easily on it as they would on real ice. Admission to the skating rink is $5 for a half hour time block, and skates are available for rent for $2. Other holiday activities at the zoo include a new trackless train that gives visitors a unique view of both the Great Cats Circle and some of the ZooLights. Additionally, there will be performances from student groups ranging from jazz bands to chorus groups throughout the holiday season.
The National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Skating Rink: If you fancy modern art and can balance on a pair of ice skates, the Ice Rink in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden is a perfect winter combination of the two. Surrounded by modern and contemporary sculptures, skaters can enjoy the rink while listening to holiday music. Admission is $7 for a two-hour session for students with valid IDs. The rink is open from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Thursday, 10 a.m. to 11 p.m. Friday and Saturday and 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Sunday. Weather permitting, the rink will be open through mid-March.
The National Hanukkah Menorah: Each year on the Ellipse near the White House the candles on the National Hanukkah Menorah are lit, one each night of Hanukkah. There will also be holiday festivities on Dec. 20 at 4 p.m., which will include speeches, music, food and the actual lighting of the National Menorah by Rabbi Levi Shemtov. Tickets are required, though the event is free.
Season’s Greenings at the U.S. Botanic Garden: In celebration of the winter solstice and the entirety of the holiday season, the U.S. Botanic Garden has a spectacular holiday display. The exhibit features plants such as conifers, mistletoe and poinsettia that have been traditional staples of holiday celebrations for centuries. Highlights include the model Garden Railway with plant material buildings in the East Gallery, the “Who Lives Here?” exhibit featuring dwellings ranging from an opossum house to models of American presidential homes, one of the largest decorated indoor trees in D.C. and models of city landmarks such as the Capitol Building and the White House made of plant materials. The exhibit and admission to the Botanic Garden are free. The garden is open from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily, including all weekends and holidays.
Holiday Shopping in the D.C. Area: The Downtown D.C. Holiday Market, located on the sidewalk on F Street between 7th and 9th streets in front of the National Portrait Gallery features gift possibilities ranging from fine art and jewelry to pottery, clothing and more. The open air market is open from 12 to 8 p.m. and will feature live music. For students looking for other places to buy gifts, the D.C. museums, including the Smithsonian, feature a variety of gift shops with unusual gifts and souvenirs.
The Kennedy Center: The Kennedy Center offers wonderful performances throughout the year, but some holiday traditions include: American Ballet Theatre’s performing The Nutcracker, The National Symphony Orchestra plays Handel’s Messiah, the NSO Pops: The Perfect Gift with the Canadian Tenors, and New’s Year Eve at the Kennedy Center.
The Washington Ballet: For 50 years, generations of Washingtonians have grown up loving—and introducing loved ones to—TWB’s The Nutcracker. This one-of-a-kind Nutcracker, set in 1882 Georgetown, stars George Washington as the heroic Nutcracker, King George III as the villainous Rat King, Anacostia Indians, frontiersmen, and many other all-American delights.