gn cotp 04 lg Best Bets For Outdoor Winter Fun In And Around DC

Christmas on the Potomac at Gaylord National

Andy Williams said it best: winter is the most wonderful time of the year. With endless amounts of holiday events, winter festivals, parades and other exciting activities, the D.C. area is definitely a “best bet” when it comes to outdoor wintertime fun. There is another winter wonderland just a short drive away with Maryland having plenty of cool-weather options as well. Whatever direction you go, just make sure it is outside, because with all this goodness just a short distance from downtown D.C., there is no reason to stay indoors.

Head over to the Reston Town Center and spend the day shopping the after-holiday sales while the kids enjoy the outdoor ice skating pavilion. Reston Town Center is home to more than 50 retail shops, 30 restaurants, a 13-screen multiplex, a hotel and more. The ice skating pavilion features special events on Fridays and Saturdays and offers private ice skating lessons by appointment only.

Related: Best DC ice skating rinks. 

Enjoy numerous displays of more than 40,000 animated lights from the comfort of your own car while driving the windy roads of Bull Run Regional Park. Set to festive holiday music, kids and adults alike can awe at dancing snowmen, penguins, reindeer and even a surprise guest — Santa Claus. For more than a decade, Bull Run Regional Park has been transforming its curvy roads into a winter wonderland, which attracts more than 130,000 visitors each year. The festival is open every night until January 8, 2012. At the end of the show, visit the Holiday Village which features food, rides, games and shopping .

Suggested donation of at least $25

When the temperatures drop, the action doesn’t stop in Ocean City, MD. You may not think “beach” and “cold temperatures” belong together in the same sentence, yet hundreds of men, women and children join in a popular annual event known as the Penguin Swim each year. Participants raise funds to help support Atlantic General Hospital then, on New Year’s Day, everyone jumps into the Atlantic Ocean for a swim. After the icy plunge, there’s an awards ceremony where the brave swimmers get the chance to win prizes, including a two-night stay in Ocean City. Too scared to take the chilly dip? Feel free to watch from the safety (and warmth) of a blanket on the sand.

Related: Best city escapes from DC.  

Hours:Tuesday – Sunday 10 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Price: Varies

DC Chinatown Stroll
Ring in the Chinese New Year with live music, face painting and a vibrant parade in Chinatown on February 6, 2012. Colorful Chinese dragons and mythical beasts take over H Street NW, between 6th and 8th streets, with traditional dances said to bring serenity and prosperity. Continue the celebration at the Chinatown Community Cultural Center, where you can enjoy dance performances, poetry readings, Chinese art, plus prizes and other giveaways. This year, the Chinese New Year begins on January 23, 2012 and celebrations last for 15 days.

Go to the Gaylord National Resort where you can marvel at a colorful winter wonderland made entirely out of ice. Art enthusiasts can enjoy skating among beautiful works of art at the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden Ice Rink. Afterwards, warm up with some hot chocolate at the Pavilion Cafe. Or, check out one of the many winter resorts, including Liberty MountainRoundtopWhitetail and Wisp, located just a few hours’ drive away. Be sure to visit before the ice melts on January 8, 2012.

In the mood for something a little more active? Check out the best ski reports around the DC area.

Susan Diranian is a freelance writer and relationship sexpert living in Ashburn, VA. When she’s not dishing out awesome tips and
advice on love and relationships, she’s working hard to achieve her dreams as a published author. Her work can be found at


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