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 97 years.

Four Things to Know When Visiting the National Tree

Pathway to Peace

The Pathway to Peace will be open to the public beginning December 9th 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 a performance.  Performances are scheduled beginning December 11th until the 22nd (no performances on the 16th).

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 the holidays. There will be nightly entertainment, some of which will be provided by our very own local schools and organizations, such as the Parkside Cambridge International Show Choir from Manassas who will be singing on December 19th at 7 p.m.  Check the schedule to see who will be performing. 

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 December 5th. While everyone who is going already has their tickets, you can plan now to be at the 2020 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 9th.

The 2019 tree lighting ceremony will take place on December 5th. 

  • 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.)

Website | 202-208-1631 | Ellipse Rd NW and 15th St NW, Washington DC, 20006

Interested in performing next year? Mark your calendars now for August planning and September application submission.


Christina Chee

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.