The Most Magical Christmas Events In Maryland Region To Experience With Kids (updated for 2021)
Inside: These Christmas events in Maryland are pure magic and you will definitely make awesome memories to last a lifetime with your kids!
There is arguably no time more magical for kids than the holiday season. From the moment peppermint milkshakes make their annual debut until Santa’s arrival on Christmas Eve, kids and adults are delighted by all the amazing Christmas events and activities.
It can be overwhelming though because, especially in the Maryland-DC-Virginia area, there are sooooo many fantastic ways to celebrate the holiday season. The good news is that the most important part of the holiday season is not the endless holiday ‘must-do’ to do list. Nope. The one thing that makes Christmas so magical is the time spent with family, doing the activities your family most treasures and just being together.
But if you are looking for some really fantastic options for magical Christmas events in the Maryland Region, these 10 ideas are fabulous… and they will all check the only box that really matters– time spent together as a family.
The 10 Most Magical Christmas Events In Maryland Region To Experience With Kids
1. Drive Through Christmas Lights Displays
There are so many drive through Christmas Lights Displays to choose from. However, two of the best are the Symphony of Lights in Columbia, MD and the Watkins Regional Park Festival of Lights in Upper Marlboro, MD.
Symphony of Lights (click link for tickets)
2. Ride on a Santa Claus Train
Santa Claus trains were not a thing when I was a kid. Maybe it was because we didn’t live near an iconic steam train hub. Or maybe no one had thought of the idea yet (I imagine it was a combination of both). But hanging out with Santa Claus on an old steam train has got to be one of the best things we do every Christmas season. If you have a young train lover or you want an activity that appeals to all generations (we always bring Grandpa too!), these Christmas-themed trains are your best best:
- Walkersville Southern Railroad (read my in-depth review here). This train is perfect for younger kids in particular. It is a gorgeous ride through the countryside and Santa Claus spends ample time with each kid.
- Strasburg Rail Road– Santa’s Paradise Express is pretty fantastic for kids of all ages. We love the ‘Night Before Christmas’ train ride as well!
3. ICE! at Gaylord National (ICE will not being running in 2021 BUT there are other fun activities!)
You might balk at the price (it is a little pricey), but I seriously could not imagine a holiday season without a trip to the Gaylord National Harbor hotel to see ICE! and all the other festive activities. ICE! itself is truly impressive. Each year the ice carvers out do themselves with incredibly life like ice sculptures of Christmas favorites such as the Grinch, Rudolph, Frosty, and more.
This part is definitely still happening in 2021!– After you finish sliding down that ice slide, stick around (you will want to warm up anyway) for the other fun activities. There are a few kiddie rides, cookies and storytime with Mrs. Claus, cookie decorating, etc.. The absolute best add-on though (and this one is FREE which makes it even better) is the nightly fountain and laser light show– This nightly Christmas tree lighting event will literally knock your socks off. There is even an indoor snowfall!
4. Make a special trip to an Amusement Park at Christmas
Speaking of a holiday indulgence, many of the area amusement parks go all out to deck the halls and celebrate Christmas with you. Your best bets for Christmas amusement parks are probably:
- Hersheypark Christmas Candy Lane and Sweet Lights
- Dutch Wonderland’s Winter Wonderland
- Six Flags America Holiday In The Park
- King’s Dominion Winterfest
5. Visit a walk through lights display
There are some truly phenomenal Christmas lights displays you can walk through in Maryland area too. The most over the top one is probably Koziar’s Christmas Village in Bernville, Pennsylvania.
If you don’t want to drive that far though, there are some really fantastic options between the beltways. These are the ones that are most often recommended:
- 34th Street Lights in Baltimore
- Meadowlark Botanical Garden Winter Walk of Lights (we visited this for the first time last year and it was totally awesome!)
- Brookside Gardens Garden Of Lights
- Annmarie Sculpture Garden Garden In Lights
- Maryland Zoo Lights
- DC Zoolights (will not be running in 2021)
6. Spend the day at a local Christmas Festival
Some of the local towns really know how to bring out the community and put on a super fun family friendly Christmas celebration.
- Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend in Alexandria, VA
- Christmas in St. Michaels
- Bethesda Winter Wonderland
7. Check out a Family friendly holiday concert or play
- Columbia Orchestra Family Holiday Concert. Ok, I am slightly biased because I am in this orchestra BUT this is easily the best holiday concert to take your kids to in the area. The concert is short, there are dancers, parking is free, the tickets aren’t expensive, and there is a sing-a-long. How awesome is that?
- The holiday play and puppet show by Glen Echo’s Adventure Theatre MTC and The Puppet Co.
- Washington Ballet’s Nutcracker performance
8. Go see a botanical garden or conservatory Christmas displays
The two best options in this category are awesome for different reasons.
- Longwood Gardens: A Longwood Christmas. For over the top awesomeness this is the place to go. Seriously, you will not believe how gorgeous the Christmas decorations are inside the Conservatory. There is a super cool (and cold) holiday fountain show, a great Christmas lights walk, and more!
- U.S. Botanic Garden. (The US Botanic Garden will not be open for this event in 2021). This amazing garden has cornered the market on holiday coolness. Why? Because every year they base their train garden and decorations on a theme and then everything– and I mean everything– is created out of only organic materials. It is simply awesome. Every year they also make replicas out of all the US Government monuments and landmarks.. again, all organic material. It is truly impressive. The lines for this annual holiday event can get super long when school is out, so if you can swing a weekday (or early in the season) trip, do it.
9. Make plans to eat breakfast with Santa Claus
There are a number of options here and you will want check your local area for the best low-cost options. We love the pancake breakfast put on by our local fire station. If you want a super fun and unique experience, every year the Maryland Zoo holds a Santa breakfast with penguins. It is really super cute and a ton of fun (and it always sells out super fast).
10. Give back!
If you have younger kids, it is surprisingly difficult to find great opportunities to serve (with an organization) over the holidays. However, here are some great options that will make a lasting impression on you and your kids:
- Laying wreaths at Arlington National Cemetery or another veteran’s cemetery
- Volunteering (with Mom or Dad) to assist with programs at a local nursing home like Winter Growth, Inc
- Days End Farm Horse Rescue
- Meals on Wheels