Inside: Check out this comprehensive list of ideas for family friendly Christmas fun in Maryland.
The sugary evidence of Halloween has all but vanished. You just lugged a 20lb turkey home and indulged in your first Peppermint Chocolate Chip Milkshake of the year. You know the Christmas season is almost here. It is undeniable and pretty soon you won’t be able to escape the sights and sounds of the ‘most wonderful time of the year.’ If you have kids, you are probably thinking about how best to celebrate Christmas and the holidays. There are literally hundreds of events to choose from covering everything from sitting on Santa’s lap at the mall to over the top, destination events.
How in the world do you choose?
Well, there is no easy answer because there are only four weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas morning. Just researching events to choose from can be an overwhelming task. Fortunately for you, I have done a lot of the research for you. I am not going to pretend I have actually done everything on this list (my daughter is only 4 years old) but everything here comes highly recommended. So, check it out and start compiling your own Holiday Fun Things to Do With Kids list!
Ultimate Guide to Family Friendly Christmas Fun in Maryland
Before we sink into all the fun events and activities this area has to offer I just wanted to mention a few things:
- This guide focuses on Maryland events, but major events of interest from surrounding areas are also included because let’s be honest.. sometimes it is worth it to drive an hour or more for something particularly cool.
- This guide focuses on events that would appeal to families with kids 5 and under. That doesn’t mean everything is for young child families. However, most– if not all– the items in this guide would work for families with toddlers and preschoolers (with caveats).
- Many of these events have multiple things going on at once. I tried to stick them in the best category but there are some festivals that have craft bazaars, some lights displays that also have trains, etc…
- There are some notable events that are not on this list because they are high demand events that have already sold out (like the Polar Express Train). I did not want to frustrate you by including them in the guide.
- Before you commit to an event, think about your child/children. How well do they do with chaos? Loud sounds? How patient or easy going are they? This should inform a lot of your decision making. For instance, many folks love the Kennedy Krieger Festival of the Trees. It is a huge hit with families. However, it is also really chaotic.
Christmas Lights and Gardens
- 34th Street in Baltimore. Yes, there really is a Miracle on 34th Street.. and it is that this block in Baltimore puts on a dazzling lights display every holiday season: http://www.christmasstreet.com/
- Brookside Gardens. Brookside Gardens is holding its winter lights display this year after having to cancel it for renovations last year. They also have a nice train garden that is included in the cost of admission: http://www.montgomeryparks.org/parks-and-trails/brookside-gardens/garden-of-lights/
- Symphony of Lights in Columbia: http://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/howard_county_general_hospital/ways_give/howard_hospital_foundation/foundation_events/symphony_of_lights/
- Winter Lights at Seneca Creek State Park: http://www.gaithersburgmd.gov/leisure/winter-lights-festival
- Lights on the Bay at Sandy Point State Park: www.annapolis.com/events/lights-bay-illumination
- Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade– December 10th from 6-8PM: http://www.eastportyc.org/our-events/lights-parade
- Festival of Lights at Watkins Regional Park: http://www.pgparks.com/festival_of_lights.htm
- Annmarie Garden in Lights: http://www.annmariegarden.org/annmarie2/content/garden-lights-magical-light-show
- Homestead Gardens (ok, lights, Santa, trains, trees): http://homesteadgardens.com/explore-homestead/christmas-shop/
- Individual homes that have amazing lights (courtesy of Holly’s Tacky Christmas Lights)– the lights on Red Hill Way are totally awesome!: http://www.fairfaxchristmaslights.com/mtcl.php Also check out the Vogt House in Harford County! https://www.facebook.com/vogthouselights/
- Ocean City Winterfest of Lights: http://www.oceancity.com/winterfest/
- ZooLights at the National Zoo: https://nationalzoo.si.edu/ActivitiesAndEvents/Celebrations/ZooLights/zoolights.cfm
- National Christmas Tree and Pageant of Peace: http://thenationaltree.org/
- US Botanic Gardens: Read my review of the Christmas Display here.
- Bull Run Festival of Lights: http://www.bullrunfestivaloflights.com/
- Meadowlark Garden’s Winter Walk of Lights: http://winterwalkoflights.com/
- 100 Miles of Lights: http://www.virginia.org/100MilesofLights/
- Longwood Gardens. I have not been here yet, but have it on good authority that Longwood Gardens is absolutely magical at Christmas: https://longwoodgardens.org/visit/christmas-visiting-tips
- If you are driving to Longwood Gardens, you may want to also check out the Yuletide Celebration at Winterthur. It is in Delaware, but only about 10-15 minutes from Longwood Gardens. http://www.winterthur.org/?p=1189
- Koziar’s Christmas Village. The Koziar family has built up quite the holiday tradition with their illuminated Christmas village that can be seen for miles away: http://www.koziarschristmasvillage.com/
- Christmas Magic- A Festival of Lights. This drive through lights display was rated as one of the best by the Wall Street Journal: http://www.yorkpa.org/includes/calendar-of-events/Christmas-Magic—A-Festival-of-Lights/18067/
Trains, Planes, and a Water-skiing Santa!
- B&O Railroad Museum (Baltimore location):
- December 3-4 North Pole Adventures Weekend: http://www.borail.org/holiday/north-pole-adventures.aspx
- December 10-11 Winter Royal Adventures Weekend (Elsa and Anna!): http://www.borail.org/holiday/winter-royal-adventures.aspx
- December 17-18 Winter Frosty Fest Weekend: http://www.borail.org/holiday/frosty-fest.aspx
- December 19-31 Winterfest Wonderland: http://www.borail.org/holiday/winterfest-wonderland.aspx
- Holiday Festival of the Trains at the B&O Railroad Museum (Ellicott City location): http://www.borail.org/ecs-hfot.aspx
- Howard County Fire and Rescue Train Garden. Yep, this is a free event in a local firehouse that is just incredible: http://www.ellicottcityvfa.com/content/train/
- Arbutus VFD Annual Train Garden: http://www.arbutusvfd.org/train_garden.htm
- College Park Aviation Museum Santa Fly-In and Train Garden. December 3rd (Santa literally flies in between 12-1230PM) for the Santa fly-in and December 17-23 for the train garden: http://www.collegeparkaviationmuseum.com/Home.htm
- The private home of Don Myers in Edgewood. Apparently he has built a rollercoaster feature for his outdoor train display. Wow!: http://www.baltimoresun.com/explore/harford/ph-ag-christmas-lights-1225-20131222-story.html
- The Shops at Kenilworth- This mall, located in Towson, boasts a fantastic train garden plus many other family-friendly holiday activities, including Sensory Friendly Santa Photos and Breakfast with Santa plus a magic show! http://www.theshopsatkenilworth.com/category/holiday/
- Train Garden at Marley Station Mall- This lovely train garden runs from November 19th through New Year’s Eve: http://www.marleystation.com/event/train-garden-opens-nov-19th-12noon-nye-4pm/2145481589
- Water-Skiing Santa. December 24th at 1PM: http://www.waterskiingsanta.com/
Parades and Christmas Festivals
- Mayor’s Christmas Parade in Baltimore. December 4th at 1PM- Santa Claus and over 150 additional performing groups and floats: http://www.mayorschristmasparade.com/
- Monument Lighting in Baltimore. Thursday December 1st 5-8PM– Kid’s corner with Santa, crafts, and face painting, live entertainment, and fireworks: https://www.godowntownbaltimore.com/events/default.aspx?eid=1401E678-1756-E411-AF77-000C29C83DF1
- Christmas in St. Michaels December 9-11- a traditional Christmas parade, Gingerbread house competition and display, Breakfast with Santa: https://christmasinstmichaels.org/
- Kennedy Krieger Institute Festival of the Trees. November 25-27- A huge festival of decorated trees, train gardens, children’s activities, and live entertainment: http://festivaloftrees.kennedykrieger.org/
- Solomon’s Christmas Walk and Lighted Boat Parade. December 1-3- A lighted boat parade, puppet show, special children’s activities, and a Christmas Craft Bazaar: http://www.solomonsmaryland.com/events/signature-events/solomons-christmas-walk/
- Fell’s Point Old Tyme Christmas. December 3rd- Annual Parade of Lighted Boats, horse drawn sleigh rides, and breakfast with Santa: http://www.fellspointmainstreet.org/oldetymechristmas.htm
- Bethesda’s Winter Wonderland. December 3rd- live ice sculpting, student concerts: http://www.bethesda.org/bethesda/winter-wonderland
- Kris Kringle Procession in Frederick, MD. December 9th at 630PM. This is a small town Christmas parade that features kids dressed up as reindeer, snowflakes, and elves, live music and carol singing: http://www.celebratefrederick.com/events/holidays/events/kris-kringle-procession/
- Annapolis Chocolate Binge Festival: December 4th http://www.annapolischocolatefestival.com/
- Catonsville Peace A Pizza- There are so many fun holiday events planned at this unique family friendly pizza joint. Festivities kick off on Saturday November 26th when Santa Claus comes to the Catonsville Firehouse and Peace A Pizza holds fun activities beforehand. Then for the next month, Peace A Pizza will host tons of fun activities like Holiday Bingo, Holiday Movie Night, Ornament and Sock Monkey Making Parties, Christmas Cookie Night, and Holiday Pizza Pajama Party Night. The best event details are on their facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pg/CatonsvillePeaceAPizza/events/
- American Visionary Art Museum Sock Monkey Saturday- December 10th from 10AM-2PM: http://www.avam.org/news-and-events/events/sock-monkey-saturday.shtml
- Holiday Events at the Play Cafe in Baltimore- The Play Cafe in Baltimore is hosting a number of great family friendly events: http://www.playcafebaltimore.com/events.html
- December 2nd 4-6PM- Handmade in Hampden Happy Hour- Holiday Edition: A local Mom-driven craft market
- December 9th 4-6PM- Handmade in Hampden Happy Hour- Kid’s Edition: Neighborhood kids will be selling their own handmade crafts
- December 6th and 13th 6-8PM- Santa Claus comes to the Play Cafe!
- Be With Me Playseum in Bethesda- The Be With Me Children’s Playseum in Bethesda is pretty awesome anytime. From December 14-23 kids can enjoy Holiday Storytime and Christmas Cookie Decorating. http://playseum.com/calendar.html
- Christmas in New Market- December 9th 7PM through December 10th 4PM. Santa will come to town on a fire truck, there will be a tree lighting ceremony, Irish Dancers, caroling, a brass quintet, craft show, and the Original Playhouse will open its doors from noon-4PM on Saturday. See their Facebook page for more details: https://www.facebook.com/Christmas-in-New-Market-MD-2016-1804062456531888/?fref=ts
- The Great Lisbon Farmer’s Feed the Hungry Christmas Parade- December 10th at 330PM. A fantastic parade with saddled horses, carriages, and tractors kicks off this annual event. Then there is a Christmas Market with a Beer Garden, bonfire, pony rides, live music, craft vendors, and a Chicken and Ham Dinner at the Lisbon Fire Department. http://www.lisbonchristmasparade.com/
- Applewood Farm- located in Whiteford, MD, this family farm sells pre-cut Christmas trees and kids will be delighted that on weekends, November 26th-December 18th, Santa will be on hand for a visit. Christmas fun also includes hayrides, a 1773 Log Barn, train garden, and Santa’s workshop. http://www.applewoodfarm.org/christmas.html#illuminations
- Scottish Christmas Walk Parade in Alexandria. December 3rd at 11AM. Yes, kilts, bagpipes, and holiday cheer: http://www.campagnacenter.org/scottishwalkweekend/parade
- Christmas at the Farm: This delightful event includes cookie decorating, a wagon ride with Santa, crafts, and a holiday puppet show. Dates for 2016 are December 4th and 11th. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fryingpanpark/
- Busy Bees
Holiday Craft Festivals and Bazaars (ok, I admit it.. this section is mostly for Moms… just because)
- Maryland Christmas Show in Frederick, MD. November 18-20 and 25-27. http://marylandchristmasshow.com/cgi-bin/p/awtp-home.cgi?d=maryland-christmas-show
- Christmas Village in Baltimore. A new Christmas destination in the Inner Harbor. Festivities kick off on November 29th when Santa arrives via water taxi and they continue through the end of December. Fridays are focused on families and every weekend has a theme: http://www.baltimore-christmas.com/
- Anne Arundel County Farmer’s Market Holday Festival: http://www.aacofarmersmarket.com/event/holiday-festival/
- American Visionary Art Museum Bazaart!- A fun holiday art market that features hundreds of original creations from over 40 artists. This unique Christmas market will be held on Saturday November 26th from 10AM-5PM: http://www.avam.org/news-and-events/events/bazaart.shtml
- Sugarloaf Crafts Festival at the Dulles Expo Center. December 9-11. Not much smaller than the Gaithersburg festival (300 instead of 400 artisans): http://sugarloafcrafts.com/festivals/fall-tour/chantilly
- Frying Pan Park: Children’s Holiday Shopping. http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/fryingpanpark/
- Christkindlmarkt in Bethlehem, PA (dubbed Christmas City). This is held throughout the holiday season. There are other Christmas events as well (see below): http://www.christmascity.org/christkindlmarkt/event-info/
- The Pennsylvania Christmas and Gift Show. November 30-December 4 in Harrisburg, PA. This is a HUGE Christmas craft show (so I hear. I haven’t been yet): http://www.pachristmasshow.com/
Concerts and Musical Events
- Baltimore Symphony Orchestra ‘The Snowman’. December 3rd at 11AM: http://www.bsomusic.org/calendar/events/2016-2017-events/the-snowman.aspx
- Baltimore Symphony Orchestra Music Box Series (for 3 and under) Snowflakes on Parade– December 10th at the Meyerhoff: http://www.bsomusic.org/calendar/events/2016-2017-events/snowflakes-on-parade.aspx
- Swingin’ Nutcracker a la Ellington- A very jazzy and fun version of the Nutcracker featuring Step Afrika!. December 9-11 at the Meyerhoff and December 8th at the Strathmore: http://www.bsomusic.org/calendar/events/2016-2017-events/swingin-nutcracker-%C3%A0-la-ellington.aspx
- Moscow Ballet’s performance of the Nutcracker at the Hippodrome Theatre. December 16-17: http://www.nutcracker.com/your-city/get-tickets/baltimore
- The Nutcracker Ballet, performed by the Ballet Theatre of Maryland.
- The Bowie Center for the Performing Arts, November 26-27: http://balletmaryland.org/Performances/TheNutcracker/BowieCenterforthePerformingArts/tabid/113/Default.aspx
- The Modell Lyric, December 3-4 at 1PM and 5PM: http://balletmaryland.org/Performances/TheNutcracker/ModellPerformingArtsCenterattheLyric/tabid/112/Default.aspx
- Maryland Hall in Annapolis, December 10, 11, 17, 18: http://balletmaryland.org/Performances/TheNutcracker/MarylandHallfortheCreativeArts/tabid/111/Default.aspx
- The Nutcracker Puppet Show at the Glen Echo Puppet Company: November 25- December 30 http://www.thepuppetco.org/calendar.html
- The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe at the Adventure Theatre in Glen Echo Park- Snag your tickets for this lovely adaptation of the beloved children’s book. http://www.adventuretheatre-mtc.org/seeashow/professional/nowshowing.html
- Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long: December 3rd at 4PM http://www.wolftrap.org/tickets/calendar/performance/holiday-sing.aspx
- Six Flags America Holiday in the Park- November 19-January 2nd, weekends and select days https://holiday.sixflags.com/america/
- ICE! at the Gaylord National (this year’s theme is Christmas Around the World) and Christmas on the Potomac. If you have not checked out ICE!, you are really missing out. The ice sculptures are amazing. If you time your visit right, afterwards you can enjoy other Christmas activities like cookie decorating, a miniature train ride for small children, and indoor snowfall and lights shows in the evening: http://www.marriott.com/hotel-info/wasgn-gaylord-national-resort-and-convention-center/christmas-on-the-potomac/xyjvxiz/home-page.mi
You can also read my review of ICE here.
- Visiting Arlington National Cemetery to lay Christmas wreathes, or after they have been placed: http://www.wreathsacrossamerica.org/category/arlington-national-cemetery-2/
- Christmas at Mount Vernon. Events run from November 25th through January 6th. Special activities include meeting Aladdin the Camel, chocolate demonstrations, and Teddy Bear Teas: http://www.mountvernon.org/plan-your-visit/activities-tours/christmas-at-mount-Vernon
- Christmas in Williamsburg, VA. From Christmas Town at Busch Gardens to a Colonial Christmas at the Jamestown Settlement, there are many ways to enjoy the holiday magic at Williamsburg: http://www.visitwilliamsburg.com/seasons/christmas-Williamsburg
- Dutch Wonderland Winter Wonderland: https://www.dutchwonderland.com/winterwonderland
- Hersheypark Christmas Candylane: http://www.hersheypark.com/seasons/christmas.php
- Holiday events at Christmas City (Bethlehem, PA). In addition to the holiday market, all month long Bethlehem will hold Christmas events and activities such as holiday movies, horse-drawn carriage rides, cookie exchanges, and a Christmas pageant: http://www.christmascity.org/events/holiday-events/
I hope you found this guide helpful and I want to go ahead and wish everyone a very Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season!