One of the great things about growing up in Washington, DC, is the wealth of activities to enjoy — and the holiday season is no exception. Here are just a couple of our upcoming favorite activities, and corresponding dining suggestions too.
Trains at the Botanic Garden
Little boys seem genetically predisposed to love trains, but my son literally has it in his blood: his great-grandfather started a short line railroad in Maryland. There are many, many different train displays (and rides with Santa) around town this time of year, but our favorite is the one at the U.S. Botanic Garden. The holiday greenery on display is impressive itself, and there are replicas of DC landmarks made entirely of plant-based materials. You can also walk out front and catch a view of the Capitol Christmas tree. (And if you head further down the mall, there’s a model train that runs beneath the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse.)
Where to Eat: The Botanic Garden is just across the street from the Museum of the American Indian, where the cafe offers native foods from across the Western Hemisphere. Or, head up Pennsylvania Ave. for burgers and shakes from Good Stuff Eatery (yes, Chef Spike’s place for you Top Chef fans).
Water-Skiing Santa at National Harbor
Yes, really. Santa, his reindeer, elves, Frosty the Snowman, the Grinch and even some pandas perform on the Potomac each year on Christmas Eve (1 pm). The show moved over to National Harbor a couple years ago, which lacks the cool backdrop of the monuments but has significantly more parking than the prior location. You could even take the Water Taxi over from Old Town Alexandria.
Where to Eat: We haven’t explored many of the dining options at National Harbor, which mainly caters to convention/tourist crowds. But you can’t go wrong warming up with chowder at McCormick & Schmick’s. There’s also an Elevation Burger there, which we love for their grassfed beef and real cheese.
Merriment in Georgetown
Picturesque Georgetown is especially charming this time of year. And this Sunday, Dec. 5, 2-5pm, is “Merriment in Georgetown” — There will be a performance by Milkshake, American Girl book signing, hot cocoa tastings, photo opps with Santa and more. Kids can even decorate cupcakes with Georgetown Cupcake.
Where to Eat: Georgetown is known for its college bars, but there are a few family-friendly options too. Clyde’s is always a safe bet; a small local chain that was sourcing local foods even before doing so was trendy. They have a solid kids menu, and free toy vehicles. Not too far away at Dupont Circle is Firefly, where Chef (and dad) Danny Bortnick takes pride in his kids menu options, which are divided into big kid and “lil’ kid” offerings. (And, they’re serving a latke tasting trio now through December 9.)
And lastly, don’t miss Zoo Lights at the National Zoo — now through January 1. It’s free!