3 Festive DC Destinations to Visit Year-Round

This month, I thought about booking a flight out of town. The travel bug almost bit me again. But then I thought about the fact that I live in the nation’s capital. And there are tons of things to do here—many of them free—and I can keep myself busy at home. Every. Single. Day. And save my money for another big trip abroad. (More on that later.)

The good thing about the destinations I visited this December? They’re also good bets year-round. Though, as you’d probably guess, the events and décor will vary.

CityCenterDC
For instance, in mid-December I dropped by an ice sculpture exhibit at CityCenterDC. This complex of 10 acres in downtown DC includes a plaza, luxe shopping, restaurants, pedestrian walkways, and a hotel, along with living spaces for those who want to make a home there.

Channeling Cruella de Vil at CityCenterDC’s visiting ice exhibit. (The coat, however, is faux!)

We had to wait in line to get into the event tent, but the reward was seeing sculptures that rose up to 12 feet tall and that were carved from 50,000 pounds of ice. The exhibit has since departed, but it’s an example of the cool events that sweep into this space. (Literally and figuratively cool, in this case.) Not seeking any event in particular? The shopping and dining options are worth a stop, too.

A pedestrian walkway by CityCenterDC shops. The archway look changes during the year.

The Warner Theatre
I also bought a ticket to The Nutcracker ballet at DC’s Warner Theatre, which first opened in 1924. The theater design is lovely and intricate, and the location is metro accessible. So convenient. If you want to visit at other times of year, check out the events calendar, which includes everything from comedy to concerts.

Look at this ceiling at the Warner Theatre. Gorgeous.

The stage before The Nutcracker started. No photos were allowed during the show, but I can tell you the scenes were whimsical.

The Willard InterContinental Hotel
As Christmas approached, I decided that I wanted to have a grand décor experience. So I ventured over to The Willard InterContinental hotel, which is just blocks from The White House and also accessible via metro. Since 1818, this hotel has welcomed U.S. presidents, foreign dignitaries, and celebrities. But my focus was on the decorations—including the super tall, decked out tree in the lobby.

At The Willard, pretending like this tree belongs to me. 😉

This year’s décor also included a gingerbread display that weighed almost 400 pounds and contained more than 100 LED lights, 306 pieces of gingerbread, and 30 pounds of fondant for the runway. The hotel’s pastry team is serious. 

Construction on this gingerbread display honoring Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport (DCA) began in November 2018. It took more than 350 hours to complete.

Planning a stop outside of the holidays? You can go to Café du Parc, the hotel’s restaurant, and dine on traditional French food (including pastries by those hardworking chefs) at any time of year. Or have tea or a cocktail on the lobby level.

On the way to Café du Parc.

The Take-Away, Plus More on Instagram
These are truly entertaining times in DC. I haven’t even mentioned the museums I’ve visited and all of my dining and social activities. (I heard live music, too, and I definitely followed my own tips for hearing protection.)

Want to see more of my adventures, including scenes from my last big trip to Taiwan, Japan, and Hawaii? Come follow me on Instagram: I’m @lesliequander.

And, no matter where you are, I hope you’ve enjoyed the holiday season and that you can look ahead to happy moments in the new year.

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