40 FREE Christmas Events in Maryland (and DC) For Kids!
Updated for 2020!
Jingle bells and Santa’s elves, and everything is merry and bright. As a parent, you really want to make Christmas magical for your kids. However, the idea of shelling out gobs of money for every magical experience is enough to turn you into a Grinch! Fortunately, there are gobs of FREE Christmas events in Maryland (and DC) that are great for kids!
Oh 2020, you are such a cruel tease. So, Christmas events in Maryland for 2020 is a good news/bad news story… as you might have expected.
Bad news: Yes, many Christmas events are cancelled or have gone virtual this year due to COVID precautions. This is not a surprise but I know it doesn’t make it any less sad for you and your family.
Good news: There are still quite a few FREE and fun Holiday events happening (many with COVID precautions in place) in 2020!
For 2020 specifically, I modified this list somewhat. The first set of events are the ones that I have confirmed are actually happening this year. There are close to 15 events still happening. I did leave the rest of the events on the list though (purely self serving on my part.. I don’t want to have to hunt for them for 2021’s list!). As the season progresses if I learn that one of those events is actually happening, I will absolutely move it up to the top part of the list– the active 2020 events.
Note about this list: These events are FREE, as in there is no cost of admission. However, you might have to pay for parking or public transit and there will likely be an extra cost for food. Also, many of these events are FREE because they are vendor events or charity fundraiser events (so, donate a toy or food for a local cause). There will likely be options to purchase things at the otherwise FREE events (especially if they are located inside a store).
Finally, there are a few events on this list that are FREE but there are very low cost upgrade options for things like train rides or scavenger hunts. Those minimal costs are noted as needed.
Have a Holly Jolly Christmas and feel great about taking your kids to these FREE Christmas events!
1. Snowflake Alley
If you are in Annapolis for the Lighted Boat Parade, or the Chocolate Binge Festival.. or really any reason at all, definitely pay a visit to Snowflake Alley. It is very Instagram-worthy. (note: The Chocolate Binge Festival is not running in 2020)
2. Bass Pro
Santa Claus is coming to Bass Pro Shops at Arundel Mills! November 7th-December 24th: Everything about this event is FREE (of course Bass Pro wants you to shop, but you don’t have to shop). You have to get a Bass Pass (free but limited quantities each day) for a Photo with Santa, but there are also crafts and games each day that are all free. Free activities include crafts, laser or foam toy arcade, write a letter to Santa, Lincoln Log building, and remote control trucks.
For 2020, many of these activities are still taking place, but in a COVID/socially distanced safe way.
3. Eastport Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade
December 12th, 6-8PM: This Annapolis tradition was voted the #1 Holiday Parade by USA Today in 2016. Only this parade happens on the water! You can see the parade from various viewing spots along the waterfront.
4. Ellicott City VFD Train Garden
The 23rd Annual Train Garden will look a little different this year. Partnering with the Ellicott City Partnership (ECP), we are working on designing Holiday Displays in select Downtown Ellicott City Businesses.
5. Christmas in the Country
December 12th, 9am-1pm at Damascus Road Community Church:
MacKid’s “Christmas in the Country” will continue the Christmas fun this year but is a COVID-responsible way. Keep checking here or there Facebook page for more details as they are made available!
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/MacaroniKidMtAiry
6. Christmas in New Market
December 5th: Christmas In New Market 2020 runs from 4-8PM and will include a tree lighting, vendors offering holiday gifts, a visit from Santa, and live music. While this year’s event may look a little different, the Christmas spirit will be a guarantee!
Please check the Town’s FaceBook page for schedule updates.
7. Christmas in St. Michaels
Many of St. Michaels Christmas festivities will be virtual this year. However, they are holding a Light Up The Night Drive-By House Tour and Lighted Boat Parade on December 12th at 6PM.
Check out more details below, as well as tons of ideas for how to have a COVID-safe holiday celebration at home with your family!
8. Ice Berlin Art Sculptures Stroll & Holiday Shop Night
Most of Berlin’s Christmas festivities are also on hold for 2020, but they have added one event that is both festive and COVID-friendly. Friday, November 27th from 5-9PM, you can stroll and shop their downtown area, and enjoy ice sculptures!
9. Merry Main Street and Santa’s Arrival in Sykesville
December 5th 12-4PM: Enjoy nature related, and food crafts with our Green Committee volunteers and our favorites Girl Scouts!
10. Frostburg Storybook Holiday
December 5th and 6th– This will be a virtual and drive-through event in 2020 that promises to still deliver on Christmas magic!
11. Watkin’s Regional Park Winterfest on CHRISTMAS DAY
Bring a little twinkle to your holidays at the Annual Winter Festival of Lights. This spectacular holiday drive-through event features more than one million twinkling lights, wonderful themed displays, and one of the tallest tree displays in the state. Don’t forget to make a difference this season! Please bring canned goods/non-perishable items for donation to local food banks.
301 Watkins Park Drive
Upper Marlboro, MD 20774
On Christmas Day the festival is FREE.
Also, this lights display is FREE for Prince George’s County residents on a date TBD.
12. Charlie Brown Christmas in Williamsport, MD
The Charlie Brown Christmas is a FREE COMMUNITY EVENT that will not be able to run in it’s current form this year. However, Springfield Farm has organized a Charlie Brown Christmas Route instead. It looks incredibly festive. They are still workin out the details so check back at the link below closer to the holiday season.
13. Christmas in Easton
Discover Easton is planning to hold their Christmas parade on December 5th. They are still working out the COVID-safe details so check the link below for more information in November!
14. Ocean City Christmas Parade
Ocean City is also holding a Christmas parade on December 5th at 11AM. Like many other events, there are COVID restrictions in place, but the parade will still go on, and promises to be very festive!
These FREE Christmas events in the region are beloved family friendly events. However, due to COVID, they are not happening this year. Don’t worry though! They will be back in 2021!
15. 34th Street Lights
If you haven’t paid a visit to 34th St. in Baltimore yet, you are really missing out. This festive street is short and easily walkable, but the residents really go all out to ensure you leave their neighborhood a lot jollier.
16. Homestead Gardens
Starting with the Grand Illumination celebration on November 16th and then regular holiday hours from November 30th on the weekends. Homestead Gardens decorates what seems like a never ending showroom of Christmas trees with different themes and they are gorgeous. Santa Claus is on hand to meet with kids (also FREE!) and there is a very nice train garden operating during the holiday season!
17. Marley Station Mall Train Garden Grand Opening
Santa arrives at the Marley Station Mall for a FREE Holiday Themed Train Garden Grand Opening on November 23rd! Choo Choo! All Aboard the Marley Station Train Garden for a fun filled morning of FREE fun! Join Macaroni Kid Pasadena-Severna Park for our 4th Annual Grand Opening party! There will be children’s games and activities and of course check out what’s new this year in the Train Garden.
The Train Garden is open until December 31st and is FREE with suggested donations.
This event is sponsored by Macaroni Kid Pasadena.
18. Candy Cane Hunt
December 14, 2019
The 3rd Annual Macaroni Kid Candy Cane Hunt & Holiday Vendor Event is a great way for some Holiday Family Fun. The event is from 9am-12pm. The Candy Cane Hunt is a singular element of a larger event. At the Candy Cane Hunt & Holiday Vendor Event there will be:
Dozens of vendors to shop from
Snow Magic with Elsa
Pictures with Santa
FREE Hot Cocoa Bar
Sugar Cookie Decorating
Hidden Golden Candy Cane worth an AMAZING prize!
Candy Cane Train carnival style train offering rides for your kids with donations accepted for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital
& so much more!
19. Winter Wonderfest
Macaroni Kid Annapolis is excited to present the 2019 Winter Wonderfest! Date: December 7th. This event is free to attend, but we will be accepting voluntary donations for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital at the door.
Bring your kids to enjoy this huge winter celebration open to our community. We have revamped this year’s event to include even more space and exciting, free winter fun for your family!
~Free photos with Santa AND The Grinch!
~Coffee and hot chocolate
~Holiday crafts and games
~Plush snowball fights
~Marshmallow digging pit
~Letters to Santa
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/540967996636792/
20. Christmas in the Park (Centennial Park)
December 14th, 4-530PM at Centennial Park: Kick off the holiday season with Howard County’s Tree Lighting ceremony! Enjoy an evening of caroling and light refreshments, topped off by a magical tree lighting. https://www.facebook.com/events/457851254797066/
21. Christopher’s Train Garden at Broom’s Bloom
Broom’s Bloom hosts an annual train garden in memory of Christopher Cooper, a little boy who loved trains and Christmas. The train garden opens the day after Thanksgiving and runs through the first of January. The garden opens at noon and closes at 8 pm. Free admission, but donations collected go towards improving the garden.
22. Ellicott City Christmas House lights
This residence in Ellicott City, MD is amazing. Bryan Bartlett decks out his home and synchronizes the lights to an amazing soundtrack. You will oooh. You will ahhh.. you will want to dance. And you can because a lighted dance floor in part of the lights extravaganza! Check out the Facebook page below to get details of when these lights will kick off for 2019.
4802 Red Hill Way
Ellicott City, MD 21043
23. Arbutus VFD Train Garden
(likely but opening date hasn’t been announced yet) November 17th- January 1st: A traditional firehouse Christmas train garden at the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department. 5200 Southwestern Blvd. Arbutus, MD 21227.
24. Berlin Christmas
Called ‘A Victorian Christmas,’ the town of Berlin schedules fun (and mostly free) family friendly events throughout the holiday season. Here is a quick look for 2017.
November 29th- Join us for the annual tree lighting in front of The Atlantic Hotel featuring a ice sculptor, carriage rides and lots of family fun. Downtown shops and restaurants will be open late offering specials for your holiday shopping needs.
December 5th- Christmas Parade 7-9pm
November 29th – FREE Carriage Rides 11am-3pm
25. Solomons Christmas Walk
December 7th starting at 5pm. Solomons Christmas Walk is held annually the first weekend in December. It’s a fun-filled time of special children’s activities, a live puppet show, open house at many of our businesses, Santa’s arrival and the Lighted Boat Parade! Stroll through our luminaria streets as you enjoy the sights and the sounds of the season.
26. Santa Visits The B&O
December 7th and 21st at noon: Visit Santa at the B&O Ellicott City Station! Come ready to share your holiday wishlist with him during the holiday festivities in the historic district. Bring your camera; that perfect shot for your holiday greeting card is waiting!
27. Freight House Films: The Polar Express
December 8, 15, and 22 at 3pm. What better place to view your favorite holiday train film than America’s oldest surviving railroad station! Come early to view the holiday model trains throughout the museum. Pre-registration required but this event is FREE.
28. Mayor’s Christmas Parade
December 8th, 1PM: The attendance along the 2.5 mile route reached 25,000 people last year at the Annual Mayor’s Christmas Parade to view Santa Claus and about 160 marching units. The parade will feature floats, local TV and Radio personalities, over 100 Harley Davidson motorcycles, a steam calliope, great bands, Mummers of Philadelphia, Miss Yuletide and Jr. Miss Yuletide and of course Santa!
29. Kris Kringle Procession
December 13th, 630PM in Frederick, MD: The procession begins at the corner of South Carroll and West Patrick Streets in Frederick and ends in Baker Park with the lighting of the City Tree. The event reflects the small town charm that makes Frederick so endearing during the holidays. Local children dress as reindeer, snowflakes, angels, elves and frolic through Frederick’s downtown streets.
100 N Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701
30. Christmas on the Beach
November 29th and December 7th. The Town of North Beach begins the festive holiday season by Lighting Up the Town! Onlookers gather on the pavilion as we flip the switch to light up the town Christmas tree and holiday displays. The following Saturday, the Annual Pat Carpenter Holiday Parade draws spectators from afar! The boardwalk is lined with hundreds of people viewing the parade. The best part is when the jolly-old-fat man arrives by fire truck! Santa and Mrs. Claus visit with children and give them a special treat. Tell the kids to bring their wish list to share with Santa! Warm up around the campfire as you enjoy refreshments!
31. Howard County Conservancy Natural Holiday Sale
December 7th, 10AM-3PM: gifts, nature critter crafts, music and refreshments.
32. National Harbor Christmas Movies
Every Saturday 16 November through 21 December 2-4pm
16 November: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
23 November: Elf
30 November: The Grinch (2019)
7 December: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
14 December: The Polar Expres
21 December: A Christmas Story
150 National Plaza
Oxon Hill, MD 20745
33. Tuba Christmas
November 30th, 12PM at the Weinberg Center for the Arts in Frederick, MD: The popular tuba comrades of Frederick return with a variety of brassy Christmas hits, delighting audiences of all ages in an annual Weinberg Center tradition! Join us for an afternoon of holiday fun with as many as 80 regional tuba and euphonium players performing 4-part Christmas carols. This holiday favorite enters its 16th year this season, featuring players ranging from ages 9 to 70!
Admission is free with with any cash or canned food donation; items collected will benefit the Community Action Agency of Frederick City. No ticket required.
34. Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Mormon Temple
The Festival of Lights is one of the D.C. area’s great community traditions. The Festival features free performances nightly in the comfortable, state-of-the-art theater located in the Visitors’ Center.
A different performing artist or group is showcased each night, including bell ensembles, choirs, orchestras, and more! Each performance is presented twice nightly.
The Visitors’ Center of the Washington D.C. Temple of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m.
- Temple grounds glow with over 650,000 lights, November 30th through December 31st
- Nightly performances in indoor theater
- Christmas trees decorated in international themes
- Exhibit of crèches from around the world
- Life-sized outdoor nativity
Everything about this festival is FREE. However, some events are ticketed (still free).
35. Bethesda Winter Wonderland
December 7th from 1-4pm in Veterans Park in downtown Bethesda: Enjoy a variety of performances, live ice sculpting, a visit from Santa Claus and more!
36. Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
December 7th, 530PM: At sundown on the day of Alexandria’s Scottish Christmas Walk Parade, experience one of the region’s most beloved holiday traditions with the 20th Annual Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights.
Alexandria’s harbor shines as dozens of brightly lit boats cruise the Potomac River at the historic waterfront. Boats will be decked to impress a panel of judges who will award prizes in a dozen categories, including Best in Show, Thinking Outside the Christmas Box, and Hardiest Souls.
37. Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long
December 7th, 4PM at Wolf Trap’s Filene Center: This musical celebration hosts a performance by the United States Marine Band and a Sing-A-Long of Christmas carols and Hanukkah songs with local choir and vocal groups from the metropolitan Washington area.
Wolf Trap will be participating in Toys for Tots by collecting new, unwrapped toys at the entrance to the Filene Center before the Sing-A-Long. Donations are voluntary and not required. Admission is free and no tickets are necessary. Parking is free but limited. Plan to arrive early.
Bring a candle and join the tradition of exiting the Filene Center with a candlelight processional during the last verse of “Silent Night.” There will also be a ‘Jing-A-Long’ during the singing of Jingle Bells so remember to bring a bell and your holiday cheer!
38. Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
December 7th, 11AM, Old Town Alexandria: For the 47th consecutive year, The Campagna Center will hold their Scottish Christmas Walk Parade. Enjoy marching units filled with the magnificent tartans of Scottish Clans, the stirring sound of Scottish bagpipes and drums, Scottish dancers, reenactment groups, Scottie dogs, dignitaries, classic cars, Santa Claus, and much more. The parade begins at St. Asaph and Wolfe Streets and concludes at Market Square with a massed band concert. The parade will take place rain or shine.
39. Water-skiing Santa
December 24th, 1PM, Old Town Alexandria (for the best views): Yes. You read that correctly. Santa and his reindeer will water ski down the Potomac River on Christmas Eve. Ha!
40. US Botanic Garden
November 28th to January 5th, 10AM-5PM daily: Join us to explore botanic gardens from Hawaii to Maine in this year’s Season’s Greenings holiday show! Plant based recreations of conservatories, fountains, and sculptures will fill the model train room.
November 29th to January 1st (except 24, 25, 31 December): Join the thousands of visitors who make ZooLights a part of their annual holiday tradition. A free event, ZooLights includes live music performances, tasty winter treats and plenty of opportunities for holiday shopping. Also in 2019 More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with a dazzling light show set to music!
As a matter of fact, ZooLights is bigger and better than ever this year. Take a peek at this year’s attractions:
NEW: ENTRE LES RANGS, A LUMINOUS FIELD OF LIGHTS
This award-winning exhibit, featuring a field of lights that call to mind wheat swaying in the breeze, will be a permanent installation at ZooLights this year. Take a relaxing stroll through the field as the reflecting lights shimmer and sway.
NEW: ANIMAL LANTERNS
This year, dozens of large animal lanterns will put the “Zoo” (and “Lights”) in ZooLights. Pandas, monkeys, zebras, elephants and more — all crafted in China and beautifully lit from within — will be stationed around the park.
THEY’RE BACK: ZOOTUBES
The winter favorite returns! Hop into a tube and slide down the hill near the lion and tiger exhibits.Apparently you can get super fast on this ZooLights favorite.
LASER LIGHT SHOWS, SPONSORED BY PEPCO
Watch animals come to life in laser lights on the outdoor wall of the Elephant Community Center.
GRUMP HOLIDAY MARKET
Shop at a European-style outdoor market that will double in size this year, featuring more local artisans offering unique gifts for all ages. GRUMP visits the Zoo on Dec. 6, 7 and 8.
42. White House Christmas Tree and the Pathway of Peace
The tradition of the National Christmas Tree on the Ellipse began with President Calvin Coolidge over 90 years ago. A 48 foot Balsam Fir from Vermont decorated with 2,500 electric bulbs in red, white, and green served as the first National Christmas Tree which was lit by President Coolidge on Christmas Eve 1923. Today the tradition continues and is one of the most beloved holiday events in Washington DC.
The Pathway of Peace site is free to visit and open to the public from 10:00 am-10:00 pm December 5th through January 1st.
What to Expect
The walkway surrounding the National Christmas Tree features 56 state and territory trees decorated with hand made ornaments that are unique to each tree.
The National Christmas Tree lights turn on at approximately 4:30 pm and turn off promptly at 10:00 pm.
43. Deer Santa
December 8th 1-4pm at Fountain Rock Park, Frederick, MD
Join Fountain Rock Nature Center for a fun-filled afternoon. Enjoy delicious cookies, outdoor hikes, holiday crafts and a photo op with the big guy in the red suit!
This event is free and is sponsored by the Frederick County Nature Council.
44. The District’s Holiday Boat Parade
The District’s Holiday Boat Parade will take place at The Wharf on Saturday, December 7th from 6pm – 9pm. It is a sitewide event featuring a 40ft Christmas Tree, live music, a stunning fireworks finale and of course 60 decorated boats passing through The Washington Channel. Santa will be available for photos and kids can decorate their own ornaments. And it’s basically FREE.
Would you like more ideas? Click below for more fun ideas!