As I put the finishing touches on this blog post, I hear the weatherman say that is going to be close to 70 degrees this weekend! All the more reason you should consider visiting DC during the colder months. Most tourists, as well as locals, tend to visit between March and October. But December and January are often wonderful times to see some of the more popular attractions like the National Archives Museum and the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum because the crowds are much smaller (excluding the week between Christmas and New Year’s). With that said, the weather is never predictable, with 70 degrees temperatures one week and snow the next, so be prepared. You should always check before you go for any closings or late openings due to weather. Besides staying warm in all the free museums, here are five fantastic reasons to head to DC during the colder months.
1. Spend some time shopping for gifts at the museum gift shops. With free admission at the Smithsonian Museums, you can easily visit the gift shops. Find great art supplies and books for your budding artist at the National Gallery of Art, or unusual toys for builders at the National Building Museum Shop. Outside of the Smithsonian, the International Spy Museum offers a diverse collection of spy gadgets and mission kits for all ages, and you can enter the gift shop without paying admission to the museum. Finally, don’t forget about the 10th Annual Downtown Holiday Market, November 27th - December 23rd, 2105. The market is located on F Street, between 7th and 9th Streets, N.W. and will have over 150 exhibitors during the course of the market.
2. Enjoy a Winter Perspective at the National Zoo. Bundle up and walk through Zoolights at the National Zoo, which runs every night from 5-9 p.m. until January 2nd (except December 24th, 25th and 31st). It’s a fun way to see the zoo in a whole different light. You can visit your favorite nocturnal animals. Note that the Panda House will be closed until January 16th, which is the day of the public debut of the new panda cub Bei Bei.
3. Ice Skate Outdoors Next to the Potomac River. While most tourists stay on the National Mall and skate at the Sculpture Garden, head over to Georgetown to the Washington Harbour Ice Rink. It’s 11,800 square feet, larger than the rink at Rockefeller Center, with great views and fantastic food and shopping choices in nearby Georgetown. The rink opens in mid-November for skating every day until March.
4. Visit Arlington National Cemetery. Begin in the Welcome Center, where you can learn more about the significance of the cemetery. Witness the Changing of the Guard Ritual which happens every hour on the hour between October and March. If you visit between December 12th and January 23rd, you’ll see the thousands of white grave stones adorned with wreaths that were placed by volunteers from Wreaths Across America. Visitors can download the free app, ANC Explorer, which will help locate grave sites as well as provide general information and points of interest throughout the cemetery grounds.
5. Bundle Up and Take a Walking Tour. Even though the weather may be colder, DC by Foot still offers many of its popular tours during the winter. This highly-rated “name your own price” tour company provides walking tours of landmarks like the National Mall and Capitol Hill, along with specialty tours like the Lincoln Assassination and the Ghosts of Georgetown tours. Some of the tours are limited, so be sure to check the calendar on their website for specific tour information.
So grab your hat and scarf and enjoy all the fun that winter in Washington, DC has to offer. Who knows, you might get to enjoy one of those rare 65 degree days in January.