My 2018 D.C. Holiday Season To Do List

Last year, Tammy Gordon of Florida Girl in DC made this awesome #DCChristmasChallenge Holiday To Do List. I crossed off many items on her list but thought I’d make my own this year!

1. Attend a Christmas Tree Lighting
I didn’t enter the lottery for tickets to the 2018 National Christmas Tree Lighting so it won’t be that one but there are lots of options like City Center (November 24 at 6PM), the Norwegian Christmas Tree at Union Station (November 29 at 6PM) or the Capitol Christmas Tree (December 5 at 5PM) or  to list a few. Have a fave? Let me know!! This year I’m leaning towards attending the Canadian Embassy’s La Soirée – A Holiday Tree Lighting Celebration on December 5th which benefits the United Way of the National Capital Area. 

2. Visit Zoolights at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo

 

3. Try Every Cocktail on the Menu at Drink Company’s Miracle on 7th Street 
Stealing that one straight from Tammy’s list because it’s a good one! I cannot wait to see how Derek Brown and his Drink Company pop-up elves decorate the bars this year… and try all the festive cocktails of course! And speaking of Derek, don’t forget to pre-order his book Spirits Sugar Water Bitters: Cocktail: An American Story on amazon. I know  it only comes out in March, but it’ll still make a great belated Christmas gift! Of course this isn’t the only bar doing something special for the holidays. There’s also “Chai-vy and Cohen-y” that will host menorah lightings at 7:30 p.m. on each night of Hanukkah (December 2-9) with dreidel-spinning and latkes and Archapelago that’s going tiki for the holidays. 

4. Cuddle up and watch a Christmas Movie
What’s your favourite? I’m biased towards Love Actually for English-language movie and Le père Noël est une ordure, of course, for french films (check out this hilarious scene!) but there are lots of great options on Netflix now too. 

5. Buy Someone (or myself!) a gift at one of D.C.’s Christmas Markets
SO. Many. Christmas. Markets. From the more traditional Downtown Holiday Market to the Heurich House Museum Christkindlmarkt, the Swedish Christmas Bazaar or DC Brau’s 5th Annual Holiday Market, there are LOTS of options. 

 

6. Sing Christmas Carols at the Willard 
No hotel does Christmas quite like the historical Willard InterContinental. The Pennsylvania Avenue hotel (which also plays hosts to the White House Thanksgiving turkeys during that holiday!) has the best decorations and every night in December, a different vocal ensemble performs in the lobby between 5:30 and 7:00PM. Bonus: grabbing drinks afterwards at the Round Robin Bar and there’s usually a really fabulous gingerbread house to admire too! You can check out the full schedule here.

7. Go say hello to Old Ebbitt’s Giant Nutcrackers
Maybe have some half priced oysters during happy hour while I’m there 😉 

8. Go on a holiday themed run 
I had a blast last year’s at Pacers’ Holiday themed run. I only did the three miles route, but of course, I’m a more experience runner now so I hope to make it to the 5 miles route that goes to more Christmas trees now! Also, I hope to have a better costume this year 😉

 

9. Check out how Alexandria, VA does Christmas
Last year, I really wanted to check out the Holiday Boat Parade of Lights, when dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront in Alexandria. The timing just didn’t work out… and I’ve also never seen the Scottish Christmas Walk Parade 😦 Luckily, Port City Brewing Company is giving me an extra incentive to go this year with a Pop-Up Beer Garden During Parade of Lights on December 1 (4:00-8:00PM). Sounds super fun. The Scottish Christmas Walk Parade is also earlier that day (11:00AM) so hopefully I’ll make it to one or both! But Alexandria’s Boat Parade of Lights has some competition since the District is also having one at The Wharf later that day… (6:00-8:00PM) and let’s be honest, it’s the same boats and that’s a lot more convenient (and there are some fab restaurants I haven’t checked out yet!)

10. Do Something Good for Others
As much as I love soaking up the festive spirits of the holiday season, Christmas can be a stressful or downright sad time for many families and people. Whether it’s volunteering some of my time, donating food or gifts or all of the above, it’s important to do something for the less fortunate this time of year. 

11. Stroll along the streets of Georgetown during Georgetown GLOW
This year, the neighborhood-wide public art exhibition will take place from December 1, 2018, to January 6, 2019, and feature the work of local, regional, and international light artists in public and privately-owned spaces. Glow is one of my favourite public art display in D.C. I can’t wait.

 

12. Get my photo with Santa
Just throwing that one in there because why not? Also, Santa will be at Wundergarten’s Winterfest December 8 from 2-4PM so that might be a good time to catch him… 

13. Get all Dressed up for a Christmas Party
Someone invite me to a fancy Christmas party please!! Bonus: wear an ugly sweater. I bought a pretty neat one last year, would love to find an opportunity to wear it 😉

14. Check out Mr. Holidays and the Barbie Pond on Q Street Holiday Displays
Christmastime is Greg Nelson’s favourite time of year and he goes all out decorating his house on 16th street. And I love it! The Barbies don’t disappoint either usually.

 

15. Find a Small Way to celebrate Hanukkah
While my mother’s heritage is Jewish, I wasn’t brought up in that faith (or any actually) and I never really celebrated Hanukkah. I do like to find little ways to mark the festival of lights, from going to a menorah lighting (public or someone’s home), cooking latkes (Gather DC has a great round-up of recipes), attending Sixth & I Synagogue’s My So Called Jewish Life (great event event if you’re not Jewish! This year it’s on December 5) or donating to a Jewish charity. And if all that fails, I can also head to “Chai-vy and Cohen-y” or  attend Cassarole’s Second Annual People’s Hanukkah Party 😉 

Let’s see how many of these I can cross off during the holiday season (which I will generously start the day after Thanksgiving!) What’s on YOUR holidays to-do-list? 

8 Ways Washington, D.C. Rocks the Holidays

IMG_0889Washington does Christmas pretty well! Here are some of the holiday displays I look forward to year after year.

CHRISTMAS WREATHS AT UNION STATION

Union Station all decked out for the holidays

In addition to the three large wreaths hanging in the three main archways in front of Union Station, there’s other decorations including a giant Model Train exhibit inside in the West Hall and a 32 feet tall Christmas tree outside, both courtesy of the Norwegian embassy. In 2013, the tree was decked out with 700 shining replicas of Edvard Munch’s famous painting The Scream. In 2014, the tree made a statement on the environment and was decorated with polar bears. I can’t wait to see what the Norwegian embassy comes up with this year! (<– CDs!)

 

OLD EBBITT GRILL’S NUTCRACKER SOLDIERS 

Nutcracker Soldiers Standing Guard outside Old Ebbitt grill

These guys are guarding the best oyster happy hour in the city – half price raw bar Monday-Thursday between 3-6PM, so swing by before heading to the National Christmas Tree (coming up at number 3!)

 

NATIONAL CHRISTMAS TREE (AND NATIONAL MENORAH) 

National Christmas Tree and Menorah

BOTANIC GARDEN CHRISTMAS DISPLAY

During the holidays, replicas of Washington, D.C.'s most famous monuments made entirely in tree products are displayed at the Botanic Garden.

During the holiday season, the U.S. Botanic Garden presents “Season’s Greenings”, a unique exhibit featuring model trains and replicas of Washington, D.C.’s most famous buildings and monuments, made entirely in tree products. In 2013, there was even an Eiffel Tower replica! Check out all the landmarks on display in 2015 in my Season’s Greenings at the US Botanic Garden post

 

DOWNTOWN HOLIDAY MARKET

Downtown Holiday Market offers seasonal shopping in the heart of Washington’s Penn Quarter. Don’t miss Vigilante Coffee to get your caffeine fix before going on the shopping spree, Migue’s Mini donuts and Cherry Blossom Creative and Grey Moggie‘s booths for awesome letterpress cards and prints. 

Downtown Holiday Market in Washington, DC

ZOOLIGHTS

Zoolights in Washington, DC

The annual winter celebration at the National Zoo runs from November 27 to January 2nd this year, with more than 500,000 LED lights brightening up the zoo from 5-9 p.m. each night (other than December 24-25 and New Year’s Eve when the zoo is closed.)

GINGERBREAD HOUSES EVERYWHERE

Gingerbread house at the Ritz Carlton in Washington, DC

If you’re a pastry chef in Washington, D.C. around the holiday season, you better know how to make a gingerbread house. In France, sweet Christmas creativity is typically channeled into bûche de Noël (some are real works of art!) but here it’s all about the gingerbread houses. Each holiday season, former White House Pastry Chef Roland Mesnier creates a gingerbread replica of George Washington’s mansion displayed at Mount Vernon. There’s always stunning gingerbread creations as part of the Christmas decor at the White House too, but many of the city’s hotels will also feature fun and festive creations in their lobbies or restaurants too, like the Ritz Carlton version of the Smithsonian Castle pictured above.

 

CITY CENTER’S TWO 25-FOOT REINDEERS & CHRISTMAS TREE

Holiday display at city center

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

These are a new tradition started in 2014 and I certainly hope they’re here to stay!  

 

BONUS: MANDU’S DUCKS AND THEIR ADORABLE SANTA HATS

Mandu's duckies all decked out for the holidays

Chantons Noel Concerts at National City Christian Church

Fa Oh la la la la la ~ The celebrated Children’s Chorus of Washington will be touring France this summer (lucky them) and in anticipation of their trip, they are giving their Christmas concerts a french twist this year. The award winning chorus will be joined by the Amadeus Brass Quintet for two concerts of French Christmas music at the National City Christian Church at Thomas Circle.

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The two concerts are December 20 and December 21, both at 4PM. Tickets are $50 for adult premium sitting, $25 regular and $10 for children under 12. Save the date and purchase your tickets here.

♫ Mon beau sapin ♪ roi des forêts… ♬

Macaron Christmas Tree at the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte

I’ve been a fan of the Ritz-Carlton in Charlotte, NC since they unveiled their Bar Macarons last June, just in time for the Democratic National Convention. I, sadly, was not staying at the Ritz-Carlton during the DNC. Instead, I stayed at the Drake Hotel and then at another rather sketchy hotel just outside of the city. But I spent a lot of time at the Ritz-Carlton because it was right downtown (well, uptown… ) where all the convention activity was and I wanted to spend as little time as possible at my sketchy hotel. Also, the Ritz-Carlton has a fabulous bar, a Bar Cocoa AND a BLT Steak. And yes, macarons!

Well, the Ritz-Carlton Charlotte officially won Christmas in my books with their fabulous Macaron Holiday Tree.

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Macaron Holiday Tree at the Ritz-Carlton, Charlotte . Picture courtesy of the Ritz-Carlton

The whimsical 8-foot tree is made of 8,000 white, green and red macarons and took 58 hours to assemble. It will be on display in the hotel lobby through December 29th and complements a colorful showcase of seasonal confections, sweets and pastries offered at Bar Cocoa dessert boutique, as well as an upcoming series of Holiday Afternoon Teas, offered by the hotel throughout December. I love it!! No pressure, Ritz-Carlton, Washington DC, but what’s in your lobby this holiday season? lol