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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!
40 FREE Christmas Events in Maryland and DC For Kids!
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. 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.
2. Homestead Gardens
Starting with the Grand Illumination celebration on November 17th and then regular holiday hours from November 24th 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!
3. Marley Station Mall Train Garden Grand Opening
Santa arrives at the Marley Station Mall for a FREE Holiday Themed Train Garden Grand Opening! Choo Choo! All Aboard the Marley Station Train Garden for a fun filled morning of FREE fun! Join Macaroni Kid Pasadena-Sevrena 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.
4. 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.
5. Bass Pro
Santa Claus is coming to Bass Pro Shops at Arundel Mills! November 10th-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.
6. Eastport Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade
December 8th, 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.
7. Candy Cane Hunt
The 2nd 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!
8. Winter Wonderfest
Macaroni Kid Annapolis is excited to present the 2018 Winter Wonderfest! 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
~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/1392899230840449/
9. Christmas in the Park (Centennial Park)
December 8th, 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/291329718310973/
10. Ellicott City VFD Train Garden
Likely opening the first week of December: Every December a group of volunteers from all over Howard County: career volunteer, retired and some citizens come together to put on an annual Train Garden at Station 2. The members of this group take alot of time and pride in the train garden. Hours and dates will be listed below. Feel free to stop by and check out this event that is fun for the whole family.
11. Christmas in the Country
December 15th, 10AM-2PM at Damascus Road Community Church:
MacKid’s “Christmas in the Country” was so fun last year, and this year promises to be even better! With plenty of indoor space, you can enjoy all this FREE old-fashioned Christmas fun without all the bitter cold!
– Pictures with Santa
– Live Music
– Hot Cocoa Bar
– Christmas Cookies
– Ornaments, Crafts & Activities
– Cards for the Troops
– Fun Door Prizes
– plus a Holiday Hayride (outside, obv!)
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/180112206253823/
12. Clayville Railroad Outdoor Train Garden
The train garden will open to the public this year for 3 weekends
Thursdays thru Sunday 4pm-9pm– November 29th -December 2nd, December 6th-9th, and December 13th-16th. Located at 8269 Baltimore Annapolis Blvd Pasadena MD 21122:
All of our guest can expect a amazing experience this holiday season at Clayville Railroad. There is plenty of parking in our well lit lot with parking attendants on hand directing guest on where to park. A portable restroom is on the premises, 3 outdoor heaters and a fire pit to help keep warm. We have also added a new larger greeting tent with additional lighting where members of are staff will be on hand to answer any questions about our train garden.
Clayville Railroad would like to introduce the second little warrior Emma we are taking donations for at this year’s train garden. Her mother and father sent us this brief tale of the journey Emma and her family are going through. Please take a moment to like and share our page and their story so we can have the best turn out yet this year!!
Emma Was diagnosed with Pre-B-Cell Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia on May 23rd 2016 at just 3.5 years old. She has been fighting ever since and has gone through many, many obstacles and complications from the treatments and medications.
13. 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.
14. Christmas in New Market
December 1st: Christmas In New Market 2017 begins at 10 AM with a Christmas parade complete with a Fife and Drum performance. New Market’s annual Christmas Tree lighting at the Community Park located on East Main Street.
Please check the Town’s FaceBook page for schedule updates.
15. Christmas in St. Michaels
December 8th in St. Michaels, MD: The Talbot Christmas Parade begins at 1030AM and includes marching bands, antique cars and boats, fire engines, horses, kazoo bands and llamas?! Santa and Mrs. Claus will arrive on an antique sleigh. Other free events during Christmas in St. Michaels include visiting the Gingerbread House Display, various live Christmas music performances (including a Celebration of Choirs with area choirs singing holiday music), and the Tree Lighting from 5-730PM.
For a small cost ($2 per child), kids can enjoy Santa’s Wonderland after the parade until 230PM.
16. Mr. Christmas: Greason Christmas
Every night from Thanksgiving through December 30th. There are over 50,000 lights on display at this residential home in Parkton, MD. There are lights in the front and back of the home, along with a fire pit, refreshments, and swings for kids. Visitors are asked to donate non-perishable food (there are donation buckets at the residence) for the Maryland Food Bank.
17. 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 2018.
4802 Red Hill Way
Ellicott City, MD 21043
18. Arbutus VFD Train Garden
November 18th- January 1st: A traditional firehouse Christmas train garden at the Arbutus Volunteer Fire Department. 5200 Southwestern Blvd. Arbutus, MD 21227.
19. 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 23rd- Tree Lighting with Ice Carving and Rehoboth Beach Orchestra performance.
December 6th- Christmas Parade
December 1st (starting) – FREE Carriage Rides
20. Solomons Christmas Walk
December 7th-8th- 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.
21. Merry Main Street in Sykesville
December 8th from 12-4PM. Enjoy painting rocks & making nature, paper, and food crafts with our Green Committee volunteers. Write a letter to Santa and listen to a Christmas story by Miss Claus!
22. Children’s Christmas Party Sponsored by American Legion Laurel Post 60
December 16th, 1-3PM: This annual Children’s Christmas Party that includes arts and crafts, games for the kids and a special visit from Santa Claus. We also have prizes and free lunch for children 12 and under. Adult lunches are available for purchase. Lunch includes hot dog, chips, dessert and beverage. All children must be accompanied by an adult. FREE admission (each person entering the hall must have a ticket. Advanced ticket Distribution only. NO tickets available at the door.
23. Jingle Bell Fun in the Park (Angel Park)
As of the publication of this post there is not updated information about this event for 2018. Please check back in a week or so for updated info. Thanks!
December 10th at 1PM: Join us as we welcome in the Holiday Season with Caroling, Gingerbread Cookie Decorating, Hot Cocoa and a special guest visit by Santa Claus!
9685 Honeygo Blvd.
Perry Hall, Maryland 21128
24. Mayor’s Christmas Parade
December 2nd, 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!
25. Frostburg Storybook Holiday
December 1st (all day) Downtown Frostburg: Ho ho ho! Santa Claus is coming to town! Mark December 1st, 2018 on your calendar as a day you won’t want to miss, as we host the 15th Annual Storybook Holiday in Frostburg. An action-packed day of festive fun for all the family, featuring: Breakfast with the Elves, Secret Elf Workshop, Photo with an Elf, the parade, the Storybook Holiday Author/Illustrator Presentation, Letters to Santa, Mountain City Cookie Contest, Tail-Wagging Tutors Readings, the Tree Lighting Ceremony, and a classic holiday movie at the Palace Theater.
26. Kris Kringle Procession
December 7th, 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
27. Christmas on the Beach
November 30th-December 1st: 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 next day, 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! November 30th at 7PM: Light Up The Town; December 1st at noon: Holiday Parade/Christmas and Santa on the Beach.
28. 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 December 3rd.
29. Howard County Conservancy Natural Holiday Sale
December 1st, 10AM-3PM: gifts, nature critter crafts, music and refreshments.
30. National Harbor Christmas Movies
Every Saturday 10 November through 22 December.
4:45 pm Holiday Movie: Frosty’s Winter Wonderland
5:30 pm Tree Light Show and Fireworks Presented by DARCARS
150 National Plaza
Oxon Hill, MD 20745
31. Tuba Christmas
November 24th, 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.
32. Festival of Lights at the Washington DC Mormon Temple
The Festival of Lights is one of the D.C. area’s great community traditions. Beginning November 29th, 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).
33. Bethesda Winter Wonderland
December 1st from 1-4pm in Veterans Park in downtown Bethesda: Enjoy a variety of performances, live ice sculpting, a visit from Santa Claus and more!
34. Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights
December 1st, 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 19th 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.
Schedule at the Alexandria City Marina (0 Cameron Street)
2 to 8 p.m. Festivities inside the Torpedo Factory Art Center
4 to 8 p.m. Pop-up Beer Garden from Port City Brewing Company featuring Tidings Ale
4 to 8 p.m. Pop-up Vola’s Dockside Grill
4 to 7 p.m. Lyft giveaways
4 to 7 p.m. Penny Post Letters to Santa Postcard Pop-up
4 to 7 p.m. AR Workshop Alexandria DIY Holiday Wood Ornament Craft Activity
4 to 7 p.m. Dolci Gelati Hot Chocolate Bar
5:30 p.m. Alexandria Holiday Boat Parade of Lights begins
35. Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long
December 1st, 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 so please plan on arriving 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!
36. Scottish Christmas Walk Parade
December 1st, 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.
37. 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!
38. US Botanic Garden
November 22nd to January 1st, 10AM-5PM daily: This year, take a train ride across America as our annual holiday show Season’s Greenings showcases train stations! Plant-based recreations of iconic train stations from across the United States will be represented in the train room. Explore classic stations like New York City’s Grand Central Terminal, St. Louis’ Union Station, and many more. Thousands of blooms will be on display throughout the Conservatory, including a showcase of heirloom and newly developed poinsettia varieties. Our collection of D.C. landmarks made from plant materials will return to fill the Garden Court, this year including a botanical version of Washington, D.C.’s Union Station. Join us as we celebrate the holidays and America’s railroad history. Please note: Due to the ongoing roof and facade project in the Conservatory, waiting time to enter this year’s holiday show may be longer than usual.
November 23rd 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. More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights transform the Zoo into a winter wonderland complete with a dazzling light show set to music!
This season, ZooLights is bigger and better than ever. Take a peek at this year’s attractions:
New: Gingerbread Village
Follow the twinkling lights to the Gingerbread Village at Elephant Outpost. This magical land is complete with frosted cookies, lollipops and a gingerbread throne that’s perfect for a photo opp. Enjoy food, holiday shopping and live music, too!
New: Reindeer Games Fun Zone
Head to Lion-Tiger Hill to zip down giant inflatable slides, try a holiday-themed obstacle course and twirl on illuminated rides.
New: Symphony of Lights
Explore an interactive light canopy that responds to music, creating a unique sound and light show as you listen to the festive sounds of holiday performers on the Great Meadow.
Laser Light Shows, sponsored by Pepco
Watch animals come to life in laser lights on the outdoor wall of the Elephant Community Center. Now with two shows!
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. 7, 8 and 9.
40. 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 through January 1, 2017.
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.
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