When the tree in your back yard lights up the world, it calls like a beacon to all nearby to make this annual pilgrimage.
Living so close to DC, if you haven’t been to the National Christmas Tree, it means that you haven’t yet experienced the siren’s song. She has been quieter in recent years, (Where did Santa’s North Pole go? Fire? Hot Chocolate?) but she has been sending out her call for the past 99 years. This winter marks the big 100!
Four Things to Know When Visiting the National Tree
Pathway to Peace
The Pathway to Peace will be open to the public beginning December 2nd until January 1st. You can visit for free between 10 a.m. and 10 p.m. (until 11 p.m. on Fri/Sat). States and territories are each represented by a tree that is adorned with hand-made ornaments, usually made by children. In the center, proudly sits our National Christmas Tree. The lights come on at 4:30 p.m. until closing. Check out the trees, train display, and maybe catch some carolers filling in this year’s performance gap (hint-hint). Performances are normally scheduled to run through just before Christmas, but sadly, The Park Service and National Park Foundation is not hosting them this year.
Best Time to Visit the National Tree
As a local, the best time to see the tree is during the week, before schools let out for holiday break. This year will be a quiet one as there will not be any performances. If you happen to belong to an organization looking for an opportunity, this would be a good one for caroling.
Where to Park When Visiting the National Tree
Parking is limited so do yourself a favor and reserve a spot. My favorite place to park is at The Willard, then to take the elevator up into the hotel lobby. It is pretty direct walk and sets the stage beautifully for your adventure. Of course, you could always take a chance at finding a free spot on Constitution Ave after 6:30 pm on a weekday (free all day on Saturday and Sunday). Dress extra warm because no matter where you are coming from, it will be a hike.
Tree Lighting Ceremony
Every year there is a lighting ceremony in which the President of the United States pushes a button to light up the tree, activating her siren’s call. This year, the lighting ceremony will take place on November 30th. While everyone who is going already has their tickets, you can plan now to be at the 2023 lighting ceremony by either Volunteering or by signing up for the lottery. Set your calendar reminder to check the Recreation.gov website in late September for information. Generally, seats must be applied for by mid-October.
After the lighting ceremony, the tree becomes available to the general public on December 2nd.
The 2022 tree lighting ceremony will take place on November 30th.
- Who: Young and young at heart alike
- What: A walk among the lights, trees, train set, choirs, and yule log in front of the majestic White House setting
- Why: (1) You are really into Christmas (2) You’re going stir crazy and need to get out of the house (3) You must do this at least once (4) You don’t need a reason
- When: Open daily 10 am until 10 pm (11 Fri/Sat) beginning December 1st. Lights turn on at 4:30 pm until January 1st.
- How Much: Free (You will likely pay for parking.)
Interested in performing next year? Mark your calendars now for August planning and September application submission.
Christina Chee is a lifestyle and real estate consultant who loves to share insights that help others to live happy and empowered lives in Northern Virginia. Learn more about how you can make your Northern Virginia experience a great adventure — whether you’re new to the region or a life-long resident. Contact her here or visit www.virginialifestyles.com.