National Christmas Tree

There's Only One DC, but There's So Much for LGBTQ+ Visitors to Do this Holiday Season


Washington, DC is ready to make the yuletide gay.

Whether you're gift shopping, celebrating with friends and family, visiting museum exhibits and light displays, or attending a holiday performance with special queer appeal, this is the perfect season for a getaway to our nation's capital.

Stay for a single night or make it a long weekend – but don't miss the magic of winter in Washington.

Downtown Holiday Market

Off to a Great Start

Seasonal festivities in the nation's capital get underway even before Thanksgiving with the opening of the 19th annual Downtown Holiday Market on November 17. Showcasing the wares and handiwork of over 70 small businesses and artisans, it's a great place to find distinctive gifts for friends and family.

Queer-owned vendors at the market include the Toro Mata gallery, featuring colorful Peruvian art and crafts. There's also Naked Décor, where you'll find quirky home accessories like Ruth Bader Ginsburg tea towels and decorative cushions featuring dozens of dog breeds; and Capital Candy Jar, where you'll find beautifully wrapped confections ideal for gifting (If you can refrain from eating them yourself).

The market stretches for two blocks along F Street next to the National Portrait Gallery, home to The Struggle for Justice, an exhibition which includes paintings of key figures in the advancement of rights for women, racial and ethnic minorities, differently abled people and the LGBTQ+ community. Film director Dustin Lance Black and activist Kate Millett are among the many queer heroes whose portraits are included.

Elsewhere in the museum, don't miss the stunning portrait of Barack Obama, painted by queer black artist Kehinde Wiley (all of the Smithsonian museums offer free admission daily).

National Menorah

Holiday Light Highlights

The National Christmas Tree and National Menorah are seasonal must-sees in DC. You'll find them a-glimmer at President's Park on the White House Ellipse, which is free to visit and hosts nightly musical performances beneath the tree's twinkling lights each evening after its official lighting ceremony on November 30.

At the United States Botanic Garden, the massive annual Season's Greenings display opens on November 23. Among the highlights are illuminated model trains and replicas of DC landmarks made from bark, petals, leaves, seeds and other plant parts.

And the field at Nationals' Park, home to DC's beloved baseball team, sparkles like an altogether different sort of diamond, transformed into the winter wonderland called Enchant. A labyrinth of lights, an ice skating trail, and a miniature village full of gift shopping options, live entertainment, and snacks bring new life to the stadium in the off-season.

The business owners on major shopping streets in many of the District's neighborhoods have joined forces in a collective effort to spread the holiday spirit, illuminating their streetscapes and competing to win a citywide contest for the best storefront decorations.

Needless to say, the city's prominent gayborhoods are gung-ho participants: While marveling at the displays along U Street Northwest, you can stop in for a glass of queer holiday cheer at nearby hot spots including Bunker, a sleek underground dance club that opened just this year, and Licht Café, a light-filled European-style gathering spot that not only serves caffeinated beverages but also impressive craft cocktails.

There's more holiday dazzle along 14th Street in the Logan Circle neighborhood where you'll find welcoming watering holes like Trade, where Happy Hour runs until 8 pm, and the Little Gay Pub, the city's newest queer bar (and one of its friendliest). Heads up for mistletoe!

US Botanic Garden

Onstage Sensations

The nationally acclaimed Gay Men's Chorus of Washington, D.C. brings its annual holiday show to the Lincoln Theatre for four performances over the first and second weekends of December. In addition to traditional seasonal music, these concerts abound with pop panache and sassy good humor.

While the specifics of each year's program are kept wrapped as tightly as gifts beneath the tree until opening night, they're sure to surprise and delight. Last year's festivities included a campy rendition of "Holding Out for A Hero" (Bonnie Tyler meets Santa Claus?), a "Boogie Woogie Hannukah," and a seasonal revamp of the Weather Girls' "It's Raining Men" called – wait for it! – "It's Snowing Elves."

A perennial highlight is a spirit-lifting guest performance by GenOUT, the LGBTQ+ and allied youth chorus, featuring students from schools in the DC-Maryland-Virginia community.

Other performances of note in DC this holiday season include:

  • The Jinkx and Dela Holiday Show: Two of the funniest queens ever to grace the stage of RuPaul's Drag Race are back with a culture clash between BenDelaCreme's desire for a traditional old-fashioned Christmas and Jinx Monsoon's bawdy eggnog-spiking mischief. Capital One Hall, Dec. 7-8.

  • Chocolate City Nutcracker: The Black Leaves Dance Company has reimagined the classic Christmas ballet as the story of a young black man at an HBCU holiday party seeking his Prince Charming. The choreography is a fusion of dance styles from across the African Diaspora. Atlas Performing Arts Center, Dec. 9.

  • Matt Rogers: Have You Heard of Christmas?: Named one of "10 Comics to Watch" by Variety, Rogers–who co-hosts the Las Culturistas podcast with SNL's Bowen Yang–follows in the high-heeled footsteps of his idol, Mariah Carey. His seasonal songs are very irreverent and very gay. Lincoln Theatre. Dec. 8.

  • Madonna: The Celebration Tour: For certain members of the queer community, 'tis the season to be worshipping this Madonna. Capital One Arena, Dec. 18-19

    Give yourself the gift of a holiday season escape with a visit to our nation's capital.

    There's only one DC.

    Discover more great activities and events at

    by Jim Gladstone

    Jim Gladstone is a San Francisco-based writer and creative strategist.

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