I lived in New York City through two different Christmas seasons. I thought that was the only town that knew how to do the holidays right. And then I went to experience the holidays Washington, D.C., checking into the Fairmont for the weekend, and the city’s grandeur threw down a steaming marshmallow-and-chocolate-filled gauntlet to the Big Apple.
It’s been five years since my last visit to the nation’s capital, which is shocking to me even, as it’s constantly on my travel radar. SVV and I both have close friends there and are big fans of the city’s walkability and tons of free attractions that capture our nation’s history. But after last weekend, I must say: If you haven’t gone to Washington, D.C. during the holidays, you’re missing out—it’s a whole different level of magic. Here are a few holiday offerings you simply can’t miss, whether traveling as a couple, with your family or by yourself.
See the National Christmas Tree
We arrived the morning following the annual tree lighting, so she was up in all her glory but still getting the final touches on scaled railroad tracks, gingerbread houses and stacks of presents. Our Georgetown hotel was conveniently located as everything we wanted to do was within a mile’s walk. We didn’t go inside the dressed-up White House for a tour, but we poked around the well armed grounds to look at the decorations before checking out the train sets that snaked their way around the National Christmas Tree.
Afterward, we took an hour to stroll along the gorgeously laid out National Mall, paid a visit to Lincoln and—of course—did a little acroyoga in front of the Washington Monument. As one does.
Ice Skate at the Fairmont Washington
So maybe it’s not real ice, but the Fairmont found a way to build a rink made out of synthetic plastic so that it’s sustainable (note: the hotel is working its way toward a LEED certification). For $5 an hour, you can rent a pair of skates and twirl around the rink. But the true stars are the mulled wine, fire tornadoes and hot chocolate service, both of which you should definitely take advantage of, particularly if it’s brisk outside.
Stroll Around Georgetown
We lucked out and hit D.C. during a warm patch, and it was perfect weather for walking around the neighborhood in which we were staying. We window-shopped, ate lunch and drank sour Belgian beer at Sovereign, channeled our inner Kennedy by sipping martinis at Martin’s Tavern, then filled our stomachs with delicious fare from Juniper Restaurant later in the evening (after Beetinis at our hotel, of course!).
Pay a Visit to CityCenterDC
My oh my, I wanted me a Christmas tree, and did I find one—right in the heart of CityCenterDC! We met up with my childhood friend, her baby and my NYC pal and had a delicious brunch at DBGB (also, decorated quite brilliantly!) before walking around and seeing downtown in all its glitz and garland.
Have Afternoon Holiday Tea
Did you miss the afternoon tea spread I consumed in gleeful gluttony on a lazy Saturday afternoon? It was one of the best tea services I’ve had, with custom tea blends made exclusively for the property by Lot 35 and an array of holiday-themed cakes and pastries all plunked down in a modern and classy lounge. The champagne service was the icing on the (tea) cake. Even if you aren’t a guest at the hotel, do yourself a solid and make a reservation for the modern afternoon tea.
Market Hop Around Town
There were so many Christmas markets taking place all around D.C. that I got a tad bit overwhelmed; the Downtown D.C. Holiday Market in front of the National Portrait Gallery, the German Market (Heurich House Museum Christkindlmarkt) at Dupont Circle, the Swedish Christmas Bazaar at House of Sweden—I wanted to do them all! Alas, we had limited time, so we prioritized. We met up with my cousin at the pet friendly and hipster filled Wunder Garten, which seemed the most “us” of the markets (German beer garden and brick oven pizza? yes, please!), and spent a blissful afternoon trying local brews beneath twinkling lights in this magical pop-up event space outside the REI that also has vendor booths, Christmas trees and crafts.
Going into the weekend, our list was lengthy, and I knew we’d have no time to check it all off. Other spots we didn’t get to but you might enjoy around the holidays in particular include: ZooLights at Smithsonian’s National Zoo, Union Station, the Wharf and U.S. Botanic Garden.
D.C. folks, what did I leave off this list of holiday magic in your town?
This project was in partnership with Travel Mindset and Fairmont Hotels.