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 18th and then regular holiday hours from November 25th 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
Join Macaroni Kid Pasadena-Severna Park after Santa’s arrival at Marley Station Mall for a FREE Holiday Themed Train Garden Grand Opening! There will be crafts and children’s activities, visits and activities from theAnne Arundel County Fire Department, Sprout to Sprinkle LLC , a photo booth sponsored by Megan Baker Photography,LLC and MORE!
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 11th-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 9th, 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
December 2nd, 10AM-1PM at the MACC in Gambrills, MD: Macaroni Kid Bowie has put together a fantastic events, with most activities free of charge. The few activities with a small charge are sponsored events and the suggested donations/charge will be donated to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. Dozens of holiday vendors, crafters, small businesses to shop from. Each with a craft, game, activity or special treat for your child.
* Snow Making with ELSA our favorite snowy princess.
* Pictures with SANTA!
* FREE Hot Cocoa Bar presented by Once Upon A Child Gambrills.
* Candy Cane Hunt TICKETS AVAILABLE NOW ($1.75 per child ticket)- 3,000 candy canes ready for your kids to find. Bring a stocking to hold your goodies! (suggested age is 8 and under)
* Candy Cane Train Ride! A carnival style train offering rides for your family. Suggested donation of $2 per rider, proceeds for St. Jude’s.
8. Winter Wonderfest
Event will be a HUGE winter celebration open to our community. We will have:
~A candy cane scavenger hunt
~Free photos with Santa
~Coffee and hot chocolate
~Holiday crafts and games
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/1719517845009895/
9. Christmas in the Park (Centennial Park)
December 5th, 6-730PM 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.howardcountymd.gov/christmasinthepark
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 10th, 1-5PM at Green Meadows Petting Farm: Together, Macaroni Kid Frederick and Macaroni Kid Mt. Airy-Damascus-Urbana bring you “Christmas in the Country!” Bring the whole family and join us for a sweet, old-fashioned Christmas event. This 100% FREE event will include:
– Pictures with Santa
– Holiday Hayrides
– Hot Cocoa Bar
– Christmas Cookies
– Ornaments and Crafts
– Cards for the Troops
– Feed and Pet the Animals
For more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/473151403071370/
12. Clayville Railroad Outdoor Train Garden
The train garden will open to the public this year for 2 weekends Thursdays thru Sunday 4pm-9pm from November 30th -December 3rd and December 7th – December 10th 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. We will collect donations for #Justinstrong and give out 1 free hot beverage and a smore pack to each guest to enjoy at our Bon fire after viewing this year’s display. All members of our staff will be wearing bright green hoodies with our logo and staff on the back.
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 1-2: Christmas In New Market 2017 begins Friday, December 1, 7 pm, with New Market’s annual Christmas Tree lighting at the Community Park located on East Main Street.
Saturday, December 2, festivities will take place beginning at 10 am and end at 4 pm. Please check the Town’s FaceBook page for schedule updates.
Christmas Parade: 10 am on Main Street. To join the parade, please visit the Village Potter’s website at thevillagepotter.net navigate to More, then New Market Events.
15. Christmas in St. Michaels
December 9th 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 2017.
4802 Red Hill Way
Ellicott City, MD 21043
18. Arbutus VFD Train Garden
November 19th- January 2nd: 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 24th- Tree Lighting with Ice Carving and Rehoboth Beach Orchestra performance.
December 9th- Christmas Parade
December 9th-10th- FREE Carriage Rides
December 16th- Santa visit
20. Solomons Christmas Walk
November 30th to December 2nd- 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. Santa’s Arrival in Sykesville Main Street
December 2nd from 6-9PM. Celebrate Santa’s annual arrival on Main Street. Santa will arrive between 6-6:15pm by firetruck, accompanied by his elf and our friendly volunteer firefighters. Once Santa arrives, he will join our local officials at Centennial Fountain Park for the annual Christmas Tree lighting. 7547 Main St, Sykesville, Maryland 21784
22. Columbia Lakefront: Festive Fridays Family Fun Night
December 8th, 6-8PM: Bring the whole family. Music. Holiday Arts and Crafts. Strolling characters. Free hot chocolate and cookies courtesy of Whole Foods. Snacks from Clyde’s. Free Holiday-themed Photobooth. Characters from Frozen and Star Wars.
23. Jingle Bell Fun in the Park (Angel Park)
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 3rd, 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 2nd (all day) Downtown Frostburg: Join the elves outside to cheer on your favorites during the traditional Elf Olympics, followed by a magical parade down Main Street. Then, come see City Place turned into a winter wonderland, filled with family fun activities for all. Throughout the day, elves will be hosting storybook readings, followed by the annual cookie contest. Note: There is a Breakfast with Elves and a Holiday movie showing that are not free, but it appears that the rest of the events for this festival are free.
26. Kris Kringle Procession
December 8th, 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
December 1-2: 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! December 1st at 7PM: Light Up The Town; December 2nd 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.
29. Howard County Conservancy Natural Holiday Sale
December 2nd, 10AM-3PM: gifts, nature critter crafts, music and refreshments.
30. National Harbor Christmas Movies
Every Saturday 18 November through 23 December. Showtimes are from 2-4PM: Yes, you have to be willing to watch the movie outdoors, so bundle up! Here is the 2017 schedule:
November 18th: Jack Frost
November 25th: How the Grinch Stole Christmas
December 2nd: A Christmas Carol
December 9th: Elf
December 16th: A Christmas Story
December 23rd: A Year Without Santa
150 National Plaza
Oxon Hill, MD 20745
31. Tuba Christmas
November 25th, 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 30th, 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 2, 2017 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 2nd, 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 18th 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.
Santa Claus will arrive by fireboat at the Alexandria City Marina before the parade at 3 p.m. and will walk to the Torpedo Factory Art Center where he will meet with children until 6 p.m.
Parade-goers are invited to step in to the Torpedo Factory Art Center which will be open until 9 p.m. with its annual Holiday Festival from 2 to 6 p.m. Shop for handmade artful gifts while exploring open studios and meeting artists. Kids can also scout for art with a building-wide scavenger hunt before and after taking photos with Santa.
35. Wolf Trap Holiday Sing-A-Long
December 2nd, 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 2nd, 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 23rd to January 1st, 10AM-5PM daily: This year, take a trip across America as our annual holiday show Season’s Greenings showcases Roadside Attractions! In our model train show, trains will chug around, below, through, and above plant-based recreations of iconic sights from across the United States. Explore classic attractions like Texas’ Cadillac Ranch, Colorado’s hot-dog-shaped Coney Island Hot Dog Stand, South Dakota’s Corn Palace, New Jersey’s Lucy the Elephant, and many more. View thousands of blooms 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 new addition–an inspired botanical version of the National Museum of African American History and Culture. Join us as we celebrate the holidays and America’s natural and cultural treasures.
November 24th 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!
New for 2017! Glow Zone | Every night: A free, glow-in-the-dark play zone for children features light-up LED games and activities located in the Zoo’s Great Meadow.
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.
Would you like more ideas? Click below for your Ultimate Guide to all things Christmas in Maryland, DC, and Virginia!