Monday, November 17, 2014

Why winter is a great time visit Washington, D.C.

Washington, D.C. is a fantastic place to visit any time of the year, but most people tend to visit during the spring and summer months. Although, despite the frigid days of winter, the U.S. Capital is also a great city to visit during the colder months.

In spite of the chilly temperatures, even the winter months offers plenty to do in the region. Some sites to visit are year-round attractions while others are seasonally specific. Traffic is a lot lighter and you won't have to battle crowds to see many of the popular sites. Here are a few great ideas to consider putting on your itinerary when you visit Washington, D.C.:


The museums are a terrific activity to consider in an itinerary for a winter visit. The District of Columbia is home to a multitude of museums. Popular attractions reside in places such as the Air and Space Museum, American History Museum, National Museum of Natural History, National Portrait Gallery, International Spy Museum and many more.

One of my favorite winter activities is to go to the National Museum of Natural History and spend some time in the Butterfly Pavilion

Most of the museums are open year-round. The best part about it is most of the museums are free; although, there are some exceptions such as the International Spy Museum and Newseum. It is recommended you plan these visits as early as possible because even though winter months are slower, tickets for specific tour times do occasionally sell out. The free museums are the ones which comprise the Smithsonian Institute and National Parks Service.

The winter is a great time to take in many of the fantastic exhibits because the lines and wait times are often significantly lower.


The Capital District is home to several wonderful theatres. Ford's Theatre is both a historic site and a working theatre. Reopened as a professional theatre in 1968, the restoration of Ford's Theatre is really something to see. The upper level is the theatre where each season several high-quality shows are run. The lower level is a museum dedicated to President Lincoln and contains many artifacts relating to President Lincoln and his assassination by John Wilkes Booth. 

Across the street lies the Petersen House where President Lincoln spent his final hours. Entry is free to these historical exhibits. The theatre season at Ford's usually begins in the fall season and runs through May. There are many holiday shows and other fantastic historical or politically-themed musicals to enjoy.

The Kennedy Center of the Arts is another wonderful place to take in a good show. Performances range from dance, music, and theatre and many good shows are offered in the winter months. You can purchase tickets for specific shows, or if budget is an issue, they do offer a free show every day at 6 p.m. as an initiative to give everyone a chance to attend; these shows take place on the popular Millennium Stage.

Stroll the sites 

Walking along the paths surrounding the National Mall is a great activity any time of the year. In the winter months, you'll likely need to bundle up a bit more, but you might get lucky and experience one of the warm days in the winter months the metro region is occasionally known to have.

A great time to stroll the sites and landmarks in D.C. is the week of Christmas because traffic within the boundaries of the District is extremely light. It is much easier to find parking during this time frame and finding a parking spot close up to the sites you want to see is highly likely. Visitors who come during this week should keep in mind, it normally is rather nippy in temperatures, so it is a good idea to dress warmly, just in case.

Throughout the month of December, you can also view the National Christmas Tree Lighting. There are annual seasonal displays at the base of the tree and run daily. If you have kids, this is a site they'll likely love. Another great stop is the United States Botanic Garden, which is always decorated beautifully during the holiday season with a special train display.

Mount Vernon 

Located just due south of the District, but in the boundaries of Northern Virginia, sits Mount Vernon, the majestic home of George and Martha Washington. This site is open year round and the holiday season is a wonderful time to visit. The lines to view the inside of the main house are much shorter than the rest of the year.

All of the Christmas trees at Mount Vernon are "themed". This one is about the General himself.

The mansion is decorated to reflect early American history of how homes were decorated in the colonial era and as a bonus, the rarely seen third floor is opened up to the public because crowds are lighter and the home's structure can handle tours. It's a bit of a squeeze up there, but it is something to see if you get the opportunity. Activities during the Christmas months include caroling, a chocolate demonstration and more.

In addition, the Donald W. Reynolds Museum and Education Center located on the grounds is a terrific way to spend many hours during the cold winter months since everything to see is indoors. The center opened in 2006 and offers plenty to see and do. There are also a couple of theatres which offer educational viewings of history.

Old Town Alexandria 

Just across the Potomac River from D.C. proper sits the historical City of Alexandria in Virginia. This city holds a lot of early American history, famous landmarks, and there is overall much to see and do. During the holidays Old Town is decked out wonderfully with a simple elegance which is amazing to see in itself. There is also a fun annual Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend, which includes a parade. 

There are also plenty of chic restaurants and shops to visit and you can also explore the shore of the Potomac River from here. The Torpedo Factory Art Center is another great place to visit while you are down by the riverside.

Notwithstanding the frigid days of winter when traveling to Washington, D.C. is a great time to visit. Even though the air may contain a bit of a chill, the atmosphere, especially during the holidays, is wonderful. The flurry of activity will warm you up in no time!

1 comment:

  1. I am thinking a trip down on the train may just be in order. Great information.