Enchant Christmas at Nationals Park
World Series-winning athletes, step aside: Nationals Park belongs to Santa this holiday season. The D.C. debut of Enchant Christmas brings a sensory-overload holiday extravaganza — imagine glowing trees that stretch taller than 80 feet, a 90,000-square-foot light maze and holiday photo ops galore.
At Santa’s Landing, created by set designer Adrian Broom, take a professional photo with Santa for a fee, or snap one with your own camera at no charge. Then join Mrs. Claus, who’s nestled into a reading nook nearby, for story time in front of the fireplace. Additional merriment includes an ice-skating trail laced with lights; live entertainment, like carolers; scenes from holiday films; and plenty to eat and drink.
Through Dec. 29. 1500 South Capitol St. SE. $14.99-$33.99 general admission, $54.99-$88.99 season passes.
Christmas Corner Market at Cox Farms
If you’ve been to this sprawling Centreville farm during its popular fall festival, you’re in for a surprise: Cox Farms transforms into a winter wonderland around the holidays and is “way more low-key,” says co-farmer in chief Aaron Cox. Expect smaller crowds and no admission fee.
On four weekend days, Santa will drop into Christmas at the Corner Market, trading his sleigh for a tractor. Even when he’s otherwise occupied, there’s still merriment: The market is open from Nov. 29 to Dec. 23, offering fresh-cut fir trees, homemade wreaths and other holiday decor, as well as seasonal treats (think hot chocolate, cinnamon roasted almonds and spiced cider).
“It’s a really fun, magical experience,” Cox says, noting that visitors can also greet the farm animals, warm up near a bonfire or take a hayride shuttle to Foamhenge, which is a life-size copy of Stonehenge made out of Styrofoam. (A consolation prize, perhaps, for those not being gifted plane tickets to England.)
Santa will be at Cox Farms from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Nov. 30, Dec. 1, Dec. 7 and Dec. 8. 15621 Braddock Rd., Centreville. Free.
Santa Suite at the Fairmont
You could try to snag a last-minute deal to the North Pole, but those are hard to come by this time of year. Instead, visit Santa in his suite at this West End hotel — a convincing reproduction of the Clauses’ permanent residence. The suite is extensively decorated and detailed: There’s garland and an abundance of twinkling lights; Santa’s extra suits hang in the closet; and the table is set for him and his guests. In other words, photo-op quality is high.
The hotel’s canine ambassador, a sweet yellow Labrador, frequents the suite, and visitors who drop a letter into Santa’s big, red mailbox will receive a handwritten response via the Postal Service. Look for the elves handing out gingerbread and other treats made by the hotel’s pastry team, and on the way out, stop by the Fairmont’s hot chocolate bar — or grab a cocktail at the actual bar.
Saturdays and Sundays from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. in December, through Dec. 22. 2401 M St. NW. Reserve a 15-minute visit via Eventbrite. Free.
Santa Fly-In at College Park Aviation Museum
Which is faster: a helicopter or a reindeer-fronted wooden sleigh? Add that to the list of things to ask Santa when he arrives at the College Park Aviation Museum, which is home to the world’s oldest continuously operating airport. The College Park Airport was founded in 1909, and Wilbur Wright used it to teach two military officers how to fly the government’s first airplane.
At the annual Santa Fly-In, kids make holiday crafts while awaiting Mr. Claus’s arrival. The unique photo op is one of the museum’s most popular events of the year, acting director Trenda Byrd says — she starts fielding phone calls months in advance from concerned citizens who want to make sure that the airport is still on Santa’s flight path.
Dec. 7, noon to 4 p.m.; Santa arrives around 12:30 p.m. 1985 Corporal Frank Scott Dr., College Park. $5.
Holly Trolleyfest at the National Capital Trolley Museum
Wesley Cox’s kids grew up believing that the Santa who rode the historic streetcars at the National Capital Trolley Museum each year was the real Santa. During Holly Trolleyfest, visitors join St. Nick aboard decades-old streetcars and travel a one-mile demonstration railway that borders the Northwest Branch Recreational Park. It’s not unusual to spot turkeys, deer and foxes along the route, says Cox, the nonprofit’s president.
Post-trolley ride, visitors can explore a streetcar hall that houses the museum’s fleet of around 10 vehicles, or check out an impressive model train display in the festively decorated visitor’s center.
Dec. 7, 8, 14, 15, 21 and 22 from noon to 5 p.m. (The Holly Trolleyfest continues, sans Santa, on Dec. 28-29.) 1313 Bonifant Rd., Colesville. $10 adults, $8 kids.
Have to wait in line? Drink some wine! That, Asli Baki says, is the motto at Hillsborough Vineyards’ annual photos-with-Santa day, which counts Disney’s Elsa among its attendees. Baki, the tasting room manager at the Loudoun County winery, was inspired to create the event after taking her oldest daughter to see Santa at the mall — an experience she described as expensive and “kind of fake.”
Hillsborough’s event is all about authentic-feeling family photos with Santa, set against a classic backdrop: a Christmas tree and flickering fire. Register online for an hour-long time slot; there will be face-painting and balloon animals to occupy kids, plus a station to write letters to Mr. Claus. And parents, of course, can pass the time sampling Hillsborough’s wine and craft beer.
Dec. 8. 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. 36716 Charles Town Pike, Hillsboro. $12 in advance or $15 at the door.
Water-skiing Santa at Waterfront Park
Fifteen minutes before show time, the outlandish characters appear: highflying elves doing backflips as they rip down the Potomac River; snowmen zigzagging on Jet Skis. And the Grinch, angling to oust Santa as the crowd favorite. The 34th annual water-skiing event in Alexandria is perhaps the region’s wackiest holiday tradition. When Santa appears, soaring on his water skis and accompanied by nine “reindeer,” the crowds on Alexandria’s docks inevitably go wild. A team of more than 50 volunteers consists, largely, of daredevils: Participants wear dry suits but consider that the river is often choppy, with a temperature hovering around 33 degrees Fahrenheit.
The event’s director, who goes by Papa Noel and spent nearly 10 years as a reindeer — in addition to a stint as Jack Frost — recalls a time when the frigid water made his fingers curl. After coming ashore, Santa and his buddies spend about 30 minutes greeting the crowds before retreating inside in search of warmth.
Dec. 24 at 1 p.m. Waterfront Park, 1 King St. and 1A Prince St., Alexandria. Free.