“O Christmas tree” feels more like “Oh. Christmas tree.” if you don’t wisely choose which conifer to visit. There are enough lavish trees on display in the District to fill a well-stocked lot, but some exceed others based on such important factors as height, decoration and proximity to good food and drink. Here are five worth going out of your way to see — besides those in front of the White House and the Capitol.
The Library of Congress’s striking 22-footer is, fittingly, on display in the Great Hall. It’s supplied and decorated by Plantasia, a woman-owned plantscaping and holiday decorating firm in Frederick, Md. In addition to around 8,000 warm white lights, the tree is decked with more than 300 colorful, hand-painted wooden book ornaments. For its bicentennial in 2000, staff of the library and Congress were asked to make artistic ornaments that celebrated Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa, and those trimmings are also featured. When you’ve had enough tree-gazing, choose from one of the nearby Capitol Hill eateries within walking distance: Bullfrog Bagels, say, or Ted’s Bulletin. 101 Independence Ave. SE.
If your idea of a good tree is a tall tree, behold CityCenter’s 75-foot conifer — one of the tallest in the District. It’s adorned with more than 150,000 lights and 4,500 ornaments, and you’ll want to crane your neck to see the glowing tree topper. Nearby, there are two 25-foot reindeer crafted out of 37,000 manzanita twigs. On your way to one of the plaza’s various restaurants, such as Momofuku CCDC or Centrolina, stroll through the Instagram-friendly “Dream Closet,” an installation by artist Maggie O’Neill that features a canopy of 400 ornaments cut from sheets of metal, over Palmer Alley. 1098 New York Ave. NW.
Every half an hour starting at sunset, National Harbor’s 54-foot Christmas tree puts on a four-minute light show. As “Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy” plays, 46,000 lights flash and whirl. The tree becomes red, then purple; green fades to gold before the whole thing darkens, save for bright snowflakes that pulse to the music. At 5:30 p.m. Saturday, the light show will be followed by fireworks. Watch the celebration as you sit aside the fire pit at Redstone American Grill, or hop into one of the Capital Wheel gondolas wreathed with mistletoe. 165 Waterfront St., Oxon Hill, Md.
There’s a serious “White Christmas” vibe surrounding Old Town’s 40-foot tree in Market Square, tucked among the old brick-lined streets and 18th-century buildings. The tree is wrapped in nearly 40,000 classic white lights and circled by a white picket fence; its charm is in its simplicity. Seize the festive photo op, then stroll down King Street underneath a canopy of twinkling lights. There are plenty of places to warm up over a drink or snack: Duck into Magnolia’s on King for a Southern cocktail or Mia’s Italian Kitchen for a brick-oven pizza. 301 King St., Alexandria.
Each year for more than a decade, the Embassy of Norway has gifted Union Station with a towering Norwegian Christmas tree to symbolize its appreciation for the two countries’ friendship. The tree is decorated with U.S. and Norwegian flags, plus radiant fish ornaments made out of old CDs — a nod to Norway’s passion for recycling, ocean conservation and eliminating single-use plastics. There’s also a train display that features the Norwegian landscape. “God Jul,” as they say in Norway to express Christmas wishes — but before you depart the station, grab a cupcake or mini cheesecake from Magnolia Bakery. 50 Massachusetts Ave. NE.