55+ Free Christmas Events in Maryland and DC for Families (2023)

We’ve spent lots of time in Maryland and are sharing some of our very favorite Free Christmas events in Maryland to help you plan the perfect trip.

The holiday season is full of amazing things to do for everyone, especially families. Bring in the holiday cheer, joy, and laughter with all the magical Christmas events this year. Don’t stay at home this year; go out and explore all the different things to do during this fun holiday time.

I don’t know about you, but I love cost saving solutions and sometimes Christmas events can be pricey. The great thing about this season is that there are also many budget-friendly and Free Christmas Events in Maryland, activities you won’t have to break the bank for.

Note, some of these may be free to get in, but you may have to pay a small fee for purchasing items, toys, food, souvenirs etc. You may also need to pay for some activities like train rides, carousel, Ferris wheels etc.

Here are some of the best free Christmas events in Maryland for families!

free christmas events in maryland and dc

Free Christmas Events

If you’re looking for a quick list of my favorite Free Christmas Events in Maryland and DC, here you go:

  1. 34th Street Lights in Baltimore
  2. Eastport Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade
  3. Sailing Through the Winter Solstice by Color on the Creek
  4. Bel Air Christmas Parade
  5. North Harford Lighted Walkthrough

Now your Christmas events exploration is almost planned without breaking the bank!

But don’t stop here…

Want more ideas? Well, you are in for a treat, my friend, because this article is absolutely PACKED with my favorite free Christmas events in MD and DC plus all sorts of insider tips! 

Free Christmas Events in Maryland and DC for Families

1.   Go See Christmas Holiday Lights

An easy Free Christmas Event in Maryland that we love to do as a family is to drive around neighborhoods and enjoy the beautiful, sparkling Christmas lights. We typically wait till closer to Christmas so lots of people have their lights set up and then drive round several communities.

Most neighborhoods will be filled with them, but some streets, homes, and businesses are all decked out as well.

The best thing about going to see Christmas lights is that you can do it anytime during the week, on your schedule! Because there are so many amazing Christmas light shows, be sure to go around multiple times this season.

Here is a list of some great holiday Christmas lights in Maryland and DC. Although most of them are not free.

free christmas events in maryland and dc

2. Center Plaza’s Candy Lane

This free event in Center Plaza Park is full of life-sized candy decorations all throughout the park. From a huge candy forest to 24-foot ice cream cones, this is one of the most magical Christmas events for the family, and it is absolutely free!

3.   Snowflake Alley Annapolis

Snowflake Alley in Annapolis is a simple yet beautiful place to take your family for free. Walk under the twinkling snowflakes all along the street and just soak up the holiday spirit that comes from this sweet town.

4.   34th Street Lights in Baltimore

This is one of our favorite free Christmas events in Baltimore! You can head over to Hampden, Maryland, to see the Miracle on 34th Street lights. This event has been going on for over 70 years. Your kids will love to see all the fun lights on this street.

Parking can be tight, but there is free street parking on 34th street and surrounding blocks and then paid parking lot next to Liberty Cannabis on Keswick Road. This year it runs from November 24th and run through the New Year.

free christmas events in maryland and dc
Photo of Baltimores Hampden Neighborhood at Christmastime

5. Miracle on main street

Enjoy the miracle on main street holiday event for the entire family. There are activities for kids to do and also a visit to Santa.

This year it’s happening Sat, Nov 25, 10 PM – Sun, Nov 26, 1 AM

6. Brad Paulsens light show (No longer running)

I absolutely love the Brad Paulsens light show, especially because its not crazy big but its amazing! I love watching the lights display move to the music being played. The story of how this display started is also amazing as he started with so little lights not even expecting this to become anything grand.

The Light Show by Brad Paulsen is a favorite family tradition that your kids will want to visit every night! It’s easily one of the best Free Christmas Events in Maryland. This man syncs all of his colorful Christmas lights to music on the radio. Turn on the channel and sit in your car as you watch his house dance all night long!

7.   Eastport Yacht Club Lighted Boat Parade

Another favorite for us on the free Christmas things to do is to see the Eastport Yacht Club’s Lights Parade. Your kids will love seeing the boats all lit up with Christmas lights. This is a unique holiday tradition to do every year!

free christmas events in maryland and dc

This year it will take place December 9, 2023, from 6 – 8 p.m.!

free christmas events in maryland and dc

8.  Sailing Through the Winter Solstice by Color on the Creek

We really love this event as a family. It begins in November, when a number of boats are decked up and transformed through the creative minds of people living in Frederick and set sail on the Creek.

Be sure to check the boats from both sides of the water to catch unique views.

The event is free, but donations are accepted since it’s a fundraiser. $1 donation also equals one vote for a boat to win.

Dates: November 18th- early March 2024

9. McCurley Magical Christmas lights

If you get lucky at this particular lights display you may get to see Santa or even the Grinch. It’s a nice small community lights display set up for both walking and driving. Although sometimes due to the weather, walking alone may be permitted.

10. Christmas in New Market

Christmas in New Market, Maryland, is full of fun holiday events. Your children can go and visit Santa Claus, eat some delicious food, see beautiful Christmas decorations, and watch an awesome Christmas parade.

11. Cambridge, Dorchester County Christmas Parade

On the first Saturday of every December, the Cambridge Dorchester County puts on a spectacular Christmas Parade. This is an evening parade that usually begins around 4:00 pm. Each year there are new lights, floats, and fun Christmas activities! 

Dates for 2023: Saturday, December 2, 2023
Lineup at 4 p.m.
Parade at 5 p.m.

12. Bel Air Christmas Parade

During the Bel Air Christmas Parade, you will be able to enjoy a concert, watch the parade, and go to the tree lighting at the town hall, all for free! This is a great way to join in the holiday cheer with the entire family.

This year the event will take place on December 3rd.

3:30 p.m. for the Parade
4:15 p.m. for Holiday Music, Food Trucks, and more in Shamrock Park
5 p.m. for the Tree Lighting

13. Winter Wonderland

Also in Bel Air is the Winter Wonderland Christmas event. Here you can take a ride on horse-drawn carriages, get a picture with Santa, eat yummy treats, and drink delicious hot chocolate. There will also be beautiful holiday displays all along Main Street.

This year it will take place From November 25, 2023 – January 6, 2024.

14. Storybook Holiday

At Storybook Holiday, your family will love all the amazing Christmas activities, including letters to Santa, storybook readings, breakfast with elves, elf Olympics, and so much more. You will have a blast at this family-friendly free Christmas event.

This year it is taking place on December 2nd, 2023, and the featured author/illustrator will be Will Hillenbrand. He will be sharing his new book, Little Red. My kids love Christmas books, so we are excited for this one.

15. Festival of Lights

The Festival of Lights is only free for two days, so mark your calendars to go on those days! Here you will find 3 miles of driving through gorgeous Christmas lights. There is even a fun I Spy game for your kids to play while you drive.

This Christmas lights event is honestly one of our favorites when it comes to drive through experiences. This year I am more excited because our twins are now forward facing so they get to experience it even more.

16. Winter Festival of Lights at Watkins Park

This is usually a paid drive through Christmas lights display but you get free admission on December 25 in appreciation of the residents of Prince George’s County. So, plan accordingly to get a free drive through session.

Its one of our favorite lights displays and a decent amount of time too, although we usually go on Christmas eve or the day after Christmas.

Watkins Chritsmas Winterfest is also one of our favorite and one of the most breathtaking Christmas events in Maryland and DC.

17. Holiday Train Garden

In Howard County, you can explore all the fun trains at the Holiday Train Garden. You and your kids will love seeing all the trains set out in holiday decorations. This interactive exhibit will be so much fun for the entire family!

This year it will take place on November 27, 2023.

18. Ocean City Christmas Parade

For another fun Christmas parade, you should head over to Ocean City on December 2nd, 2023. Each year you will find a simple and enjoyable parade for the whole family. After the parade, take your kids on a carousel ride for more family fun. This parade has been on for 39 years and they are not stopping.

It starts early at 11am so come early to grab a good location to view the parade. After the parade there is the Carousel for family-friendly fun and an awards presentation.

19. National Harbor Nightly Tree Light Show

Head over to the National Harbor any evening for a fun tree light show. Watch as a 54-foot Christmas tree lights up along with a short 30-minute show. The show repeats every half-hour so you can visit whenever you can!

Plus, on Saturday nights from November 11 – December 30 at 5:30pm, they will have a spectacular fireworks display. 

free christmas events in maryland and dc national harbor christmas light
Christmas tree and buildings at night in National Harbor, Maryland.

20. Free Movies

Every year, you can enjoy free Christmas movies on the Potomac at the National Harbor. Family movies are every Sunday at 6:00 pm. Feel free to bring your snacks and a picnic blanket to enjoy watching a holiday movie under the stars.

This year, the holiday movies will play on Sundays from November 12 – December 17

free christmas events in maryland and dc
View of the Christmas tree and lobby of the Gaylord National Resort, in National Harbor, Maryland.

21. Water Skiing Santa

 Head over to the Old Town Alexandria Waterfront and see Santa water ski! Afterward, see if you can go and meet Santa, Mrs. Claus, and their crew of helpers. You might even see the Grinch water skiing too!

Kids especially love this Christmas activity the most. You definitely don’t miss going this year!

22. Annual Middle River boat parade

This is another fun Christmas boat parade you need to check out. We lived in Middle River, Maryland for over 5 years and loved it. This year it will start on November 25th. You can see nearly 100 boats that participate in this annual tradition along the route. The boats sail at sunset till the parade ends and then do a small cruise round Middle River.

Note, no outside food or drinks are allowed but they have some to purchase onboard.

23.  North Harford Lighted Walkthrough

If you live in North Harford, you have to check this place out! It is a free Christmas lights display but donations are appreciated. It is not too long of a walk and perfect for little kids.

The displays are so fun and there are animated light displays, a Christmas village, Christmas movies to watch, music and Santa’s display.

Also, double check the dates that you might be able to catch Santa and Mrs. Claus which is typically on Saturdays.


24. Baltimore Parade of Lighted Boats

This will be the 34th Annual Parade of Lighted Boats in Baltimore. It is held in December at the Anchorage Marina on Boston Street.

25. Jeff’s Christmas light show

Another favorite is the Jeff’s Christmas light show which includes a Light Show on the front of the house and a full-blown walk-through Christmas Light Experience around the back of the house!

Last year, they included some more projectors, a 16-foot-tall Ferris Wheel, an Animated Gingerbread House, Santa’s Sleigh and multiple snow machines!

This year it will take place on Saturdays and Sundays in December with each weekend having a different theme.

26. Christmas Village in Baltimore

We love this event and its one of our top Christmas Markets in Maryland! It’s a great place to stroll round the Inner harbor with your kids. My kids enjoy going on the Ferris wheel and carousel and then grabbing some yummy treats afterwards.

This will take place this year from Nov 18 till Dec 24, 2023. It is a mix of both outdoor and indoor holiday Christmas markets at the Inner Harbor West Shore Park. It models authentic and traditional Christmas markets in Germany.

It’s a great place to find a large variety of holiday gifts, ornaments, arts and crafts and more. They also sell baked goods, waffles, gingerbread and more from the food vendors.

If you have some time, check out some of the other things to do in the Baltimore harbor area.

Baltimore Christmas village

27. Annual city center DC holiday tree lighting

This is a personal favorite as there is so much to do around here. It includes lots of musical performances and fun activities for families to enjoy.

There is the lighting of the 75-foot-tall tree and then two 25-foot-tall reindeers, its indeed a sight to behold! Your kids can even get their faces painted and have a ton of fun too.

This year it will take place on November 25, 2023, from 5:00pm – 7:00pm.

After this event you can check out some great things to do in DC at night.

free christmas events in maryland and dc

28. Bass Pro Santa

Stop by at Bass Pro to experience a free family Christmas event. Your kids can take pictures with Santa and also receive a free 4 x 6 photo. It typically begins early November with their entire store decked out in Christmas décor. I believe you also get a free video after the photos with Santa.

It will begin November 5th and end on December 24th this year.

29. Ellicott City Holiday Train Garden

This is an amazing model train garden display in Ellicott City where your kids especially any train lovers can watch the trains move through the garden display.

This year it will take place from Saturday, December 2 until Monday, January 1 

 30. Ellicott city lights

For most of December, Bryan Bartlett and family put on a great holiday display to share the holiday joy with the Ellicott City community. The displays are also synced to the music being played which makes it even more fun watching the lights move.

31. The Smithsonian National Zoo zoolights

This one is not completely free as you need to pay $6 per person for the Zoo lights at the national zoo but admission to the Smithsonian zoo is always free. It’s a great experience enjoying the Christmas season and lights while learning more about the animals around.

During the Zoolights, you can see the zoo light up in a magical way at night with tree lights. Since its an outdoor events, you should probably dress warmly to avoid freezing. Its held from middle of november through New year.

32. Christmas in St Michaels

Now this is one heck of a Christmas event! There is a lot to do for everyone. Christmas in St Michaels features breakfast with Santa, although this comes at a small cost of $10.

There is also the lighted boat parade for free and a Light Up the Night Drive-By House Tour. Next you can enjoy the free Talbot Street parade complete with marching bands, antique cars and boats, fire engines, horses, kazoo bands and llamas. St, Michaels always has so many great things to do!

This year it will be held December 8-10, 2023.

33. Mayor’s Annual Christmas Parade

This parade features floats, giant balloons, marching bands and Santa. In addition, this year you will see neighborhood and high school bands, the Morgan State Magnificent Marching Machine, Calvert Hall Marching Band, and the Marching Ravens.

This year the parade will start at 1 p.m. on Sunday, December 3.

34. Solomons Christmas Walk

This year the Solomons Christmas walk will celebrate its 42nd year of Christmas Walk with the fabulous Lighted Boat Parade on Saturday, December 9th.

There is the Gazebo tree lit at 5pm, then the Santa parade at 5pm as well where Santa comes in riding on a sleigh on a fire truck giving out candy canes. Afterwards, there will be the lighted boat parade where the best decorated boat gets a prize.

35. US Botanic Garden

It features an outdoor Christmas holiday display of lights with winterberries, lighted trees and more. It typically takes place late November around thanksgiving to New year. The highlight for us is usually the popular outdoor train display with farming scenes from US and other parts of the world.

The garden has sculptures of all the main buildings and monuments in Washington D.C made of organic materials which is amazing.

Finally there is the huge Christmas tree at the botanic gardens which is completely lit up with Christmas decorations to blow your kids minds.

If you have a few days in DC, you can add this to your itinerary in DC to make it even more fun.

36. National Christmas Tree Lighting ceremony

In Washington DC, you can watch the National Christmas Tree Lighting that has been around for over 90 years. It is a free event in front of the White house although you do need tickets to watch in-person, or you could also watch it on TV. The tickets are awarded through a lottery system by the National parks service, and it opens in mid-fall every year.

There will be Christmas music, special performances, and the giant Christmas tree lighting. This is a tradition you’ll want to see each year. Along the paths of the National Christmas tree are 58 state and territory trees decorated with uniquely designed ornaments by students.

This year, it will take place on November 30th in President’s Park in Washington, D.C. From December 2 through January 1, if you were not invited for the actual lighting event, you can visit the National Christmas Tree.

christmas events in maryland and dc

37. Cecil county Christmas parade

This is an annual Christmas parade held in Cecil county where the entire county comes together to celebrate the Christmas season. There are lots of marching bands, vintage and modified cars, firetrucks and more. It also brings merchants, restaurants and more so you can grab some goodies and treats.

It will take place on December 2nd, 2023.

38. Grand illumination

The Grand Illumination and annual tree lighting will take place this year on November 18th from 5pm to 8pm. It features about 250,000 lights illuminating the enchanting properties of Homestead Gardens. You can be sure to enjoy lots of music, dancing, Christmas carols by school groups from the area.

Santa Claus will also be present so your kids can get into the Christmas spirit!

39. Tuba Christmas

Held in Frederick, MD, Tuba Christmas features the tuba comrades of Frederick where they come together to put on delightful Christmas music for all ages.

Dates: SAT NOVEMBER 25, 2023 at 12:00 PM

40. Light yards

The light yards ceremony features 22 feet tall trees decked with Christmas décor and lights which then display lots of colorful patterns.

There is also the Light yards Express on November 29th, where you and your kids can ride on the holiday-themed trains and ride through the enchanting Light Yards wonderland.

Dates: November 20 through January 7

41. Berlin Christmas parade

Enjoy the floats, dancers, Santa, firetrucks and more in the Berlin Christmas parade on Eastern Shore. Its an amazing parade at the Berlin welcome center and it goes all the way to the Berlin fire company.

Date: December 7th, Parade starts at 7pm 

42. Ice Ice Berlin and Tree Lighting

The Ice Ice Berlin and tree lighting is a unique Christmas event as it features beautifully carved Ice sculptures, several holiday themed lighted sculptures and more.

There is also a tree lighting that happens at 6pm.

Date: November 24th.

43. Christmas in Ridgely Winter Festival

There are several things at this event that may be paid such as carriage rides but the festival itself is free. There is also a free ice-skating rink and ice sculptures plus an inflatable amusement park with slides, bounce houses etc.

44. Dickens of a Christmas

During the Dickens of Christmas parade, downtown is converted into 19th century London with lots of window displays, food carts, performers and more. There are several things to do here like the horse drawn carriage rides, shopping, 5k run/ walk.

They also have a variety of activities for kids like caroling, pictures with Santa, petting zoo, pony rides and more. If your kids love animals, check out some of the best petting zoos in Maryland.

Dates: December 9 @ 10:00 am – December 10 @ 5:00 pm

45. The District’s Holiday Boat Parade

This event is held early In December where you and your kids can enjoy activities through the Wharf like visits with Santa, live music etc. You can even roast the s’mores by the fire pit and visit the lighted 40ft Christmas Tree on District Pier.

If you love ice skating, you can try it out on the Transit Pier and sample some of their winter drinks. There is also a fireworks salute around 8pm.

Date: December 2, 2023

46. Christmas on the beach

Christmas on the beach is an event where the Town of North Beach gets transformed for the season with twinkling lights and Christmas displays. There is caroling and campfires, a movie and the magic that Santa brings and a lot more.

Date: Friday, December 1, 2023, at 6 pm on Bay Avenue.

47. Glenarden Polar Express

The Glenarden Polar Express is finally back again and will be held on December 2nd. Previous years had Movie viewing, sweater contest, caroling, FREE hot chocolate, smores, prizes & more!! Plus, they also had Santa and his elf for families to stop by for a few photos! 

48. Silver Spring Christmas Market and Holiday Craft Fair

This is the perfect opportunity to start your holiday shopping and grab the perfect gift for your loved ones at the Veterans Plaza’s Silver Spring Christmas Market and Holiday Craft Show!

It comes with over 80 artisans, crafters, independent consultants and other local small businesses. You can also check out arts and crafts, jewelry, baked goods and more.

Date: Sun, Dec 3 at 12:00 PM

49. Glen Burnie Gingerbread Festival at Marley Station Mall 

This is another exciting one for us. There will be a gingerbread contest, arts and crafts and more when you visit.

Date: DECEMBER 1st, 2nd, and 3rd 2023

gingerbread model at gingerbread festival

50. Carols by Candlelight

This is a free event in Talbot County filled with Choral groups, bell ringers, and musicians. They also give out complimentary candle, Hot cocoa and holiday treats. If you need some last-minute Christmas gifts, there will be a holiday marketplace filled with local craft and food vendors. 

Date: Saturday, November 25, 2023

51. Winter’s Eve at Piscataway Park

At this event, they light up the hay wagon and deck the halls of the livestock barn. It’s a great experience especially because you get to ride on the hay wagon.

Date: December 2, 2023

Bonus Free Christmas Events in Maryland and DC for Families

Here are some additional free Christmas events you can check out!

52. Family Holiday Open House at Piney Point Lighthouse on November 26

53. Christmas on the Square at Leonardtown, Friday, November 24, 2023

54. Hagerstown City Park Lighting plus a Drive Through Christmas Lights!

December 1st, 2023, for the Lighting and then the Drive through lights go on till December 31st. You can enjoy free Hay wagon rides.

55. Grand Illumination Annapolis, November 26th from 4 to 5:30pm

56. Annual Tree Lighting Ceremony at Waugh Chapel Towne Centre, November 29th

Conclusion: 50+ Free Christmas Events in Maryland and DC for Families

This list of free Christmas events in Maryland for families is just a start. There are plenty of other great things you can do with the entire family to have fun this special holiday season. You can also begin a new tradition of visiting Christmas tree farms in Maryland to cut down your own trees. Try to see as many of these activities as you can do this year. You might even create a new family tradition!

There is also Enchant DC which is another nice Christmas activity but its quite pricey, read about our experience at Enchant DC.

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