Christmas is a magical time of year and there’s something about spending it in our nation’s capital that makes it even more so. 

If you find yourself in Washington, D.C. for the holidays, check out my tried and true list of a full day’s worth of activities perfect for the whole family.

First stop, head to Le Bon Cafe located at 210 2nd St SE for a light breakfast and a delicious cup of hot chocolate. Or if you’re like me and allergic to chocolate, there are also various coffee options. Le Bon Cafe is a local favorite and feels like your quintessential European cafe. With the cold chill in the air this time of year, you’ll want to order a coffee to-go for your walk over to the next stop. 

Next up is the U.S. Botanic Garden, which features a beautiful holiday arrangement each year in its Season’s Greenings holiday show. Located at 100 Maryland Ave SW, it’s just a short 10 minute walk from Le Bon Cafe. This year’s theme features famous gardens from Hawaii to Maine, including iconic spots like the Brooklyn Botanic Garden’s red Japanese torii gate and Franklin Park Conservatory’s flamingo topiaries. This exhibit is free and open from 10am-5pm. Get ready for some Insta worthy photos! Plan to spend about 2 hours here to see everything.

After oohing and aahing over thousands of flowers on display, you’ll be ready for lunch. Stop by my favorite place: Good Stuff Eatery located at 303 Pennsylvania Ave SE. It’s about a 15 min walk from the gardens. You can’t go wrong ordering Colletti’s Smokehouse Burger, which comes piled high with applewood bacon, Vermont cheddar, fried vidalia onion rings and chipotle BBQ sauce. YUM! No visit to Good Stuff Eatery is complete without one of the hand-spun shakes. My favorite is the Toasted Marshmallow but my husband recommends the Soursop Hop Strawberry shake. Either way, you’re sure to leave re-energized and ready for the next stop. Check out the menu here

Now that you’ve re-fueled, take a 10 min car ride over to the Downtown Holiday Market located at 8th and F Streets NW. Here you’ll find vendors selling everything from sweet treats to handmade jewelry. If you’re looking for unique Christmas gifts for your loved ones, this is the best place in the district. I especially love coming here to find a new ornament for our tree each year. The market is open from 12pm-8pm each day. Budget about an hour here.

By now it’s getting dark outside (oh winter) so it’s the perfect time to enjoy the National Christmas Tree. No trip to D.C. at Christmas time would be complete without a stop here. It’s a 20 minute walk to get from the market to the White House Ellipse. The tree is lit each day from 4:30pm-10pm. It’s decorated with handmade ornaments from the 56 US states and territories. And if you have kiddos, make sure they check out the model train village that’s setup around the tree. 

Each year, my husband and I have dinner at Old Ebbitt Grill. The good news: it’s about a 7 minute walk from the National Christmas Tree. But it is a bit pricey so budget accordingly. Here is my ordering recommendation: Split the fried calamari for an appetizer, order the Cannelloni di Casa for a main (you won’t be disappointed) and finish it off with the butterscotch blondie sundae for desert. While you’re there, check out the holiday decorations adorning the Victorian-style interior and life-size nutcrackers out front. Fun fact, Old Ebbitt Grill opened in 1856 and is the oldest restaurant in DC. Check out the menu here.

After dinner, we like to walk around Capitol Hill and enjoy the lights and decorations across the district. Some of our personal favorites to visit include: the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree, Union Station, and The Willard Hotel lobby.

Merry Christmas and happy exploring!