Celebrate the season with not-to-miss holiday lights shows and welcome 2020 with lively music and dance events at arts venues close to home. Here are some of the most shimmering options.
See the Lights
Winter Lights Festival
The City of Gaithersburg’s Winter Lights Festival welcomes visitors for its 24th spectacular season. The 3.5 mile drive through the woodland setting of Seneca Creek State Park, 11950 Clopper Road, takes visitors past more than 450 illuminated displays and beautifully-lit park trees that brighten the night.
Festival favorites include a Fairytale scene, Winter Woods, Teddy Bear Land, Toyland, Victorian Village, and Mermaid Lagoon, one of the festival’s most recent additions..
Winter Lights will be open nightly through Dec.31, Sunday through Thursday, from 6 to 9 p.m., and Friday and Saturday, from 6 to 10 p.m. (closed Dec. 25). Advance online admission is $12 per car Monday through Thursday and $17 per car Friday through Sunday. Admission at the gate is $15 per car Monday through Thursday and $20 per car Friday through Sunday.
In the spirit of the holidays, a portion of the proceeds from the 2019 Festival will benefit local nonprofit organizations including Casey Cares Foundation, College Tracks and Equipment Connections for Children.
For complete details and admission rates for large vehicles, visit www.gaithersburgmd.gov.
Garden of Lights
Brookside Gardens, 1800 Glenallan Ave., Wheaton, has been transformed into a magical winter wonderland for the 21st year, with. twinkling lights and glimmering displays dotting its 50 acres of paths and flowerbeds. More than one million dazzling and colorful LED lights are handwoven into original works depicting animals, flowers and other natural elements.
The dragon, the gazebo and the model train display have been the most popular features. New this year is the exhibit’s first computerized light display matching lights with music, fog bubbles and selfie stations to get perfect family holiday photos.
The exhibit is open every night through Dec. 31 except Dec. 24 and 25. Hours are 5:30 to 9 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, 5:30 to 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday.
Tickets — $25 per car or van off-peak (Sunday through Thursday), $30 per car or van peak (Friday and Saturday, plus Monday and Tuesday Dec. 30 and 31) — will be available at the gift shop from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily or upon entry.
It is also well worth checking out The Washington, Virginia and Maryland Garden Railway Society’s G-Scale model trains in the Gardens’ Conservatory. Trains wind their way through seasonal greenery and miniature reproductions of local landmarks, including the Red Door Store in Sandy Spring, the Kensington MARC railway station, Glen Echo Park, complete with Bumper Car Pavilion, 1921 Dentzel Carousel — and even Brookside Gardens’ Conservatories.
The Visitors Center will feature live nightly musical performances – including jazz, folk, orchestra, harp and flutes. To warm up, refreshments, cider and hot cocoa, are available to purchase.
New Year’s Music & Dance
Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert
Time: 3 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 29
Location: Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda
Information: www.strathmore.org, 301-581-5100
Waltz into 2020 with Salute to Vienna New Year’s Concert, a performance that evokes a golden age of Viennese music, a glorious recreation of the beloved Neujahrskonzert that has welcomed the New Year for more than 80 years in Vienna and around the world – 19 in the D.C. area.
Led by conductor Alastair Willis leading the Strauss Symphony of America, Salute to Vienna brings the music of Johann Strauss to life with soprano Peggy Steiner and tenor Michael Heim and dancers from Kiev Aniko Ballet of Ukraine and International Champion Ballroom Dancers.
New Year’s Eve with Philadelphia’s City Rhythm Orchestra
Time: Tuesday, Dec. 31: Beginner swing lesson 8-9 p.m., dance 9 p.m.-12:15 a.m.
Location: Spanish Ballroom at Glen Echo Park, 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo
Tickets: Advance tickets $30 (available until 11:59 p.m. Monday, Dec.30). At the door $40, $20 ages 11-17, $10 ages 10 and younger. Photo ID required for age verification. https://campscui.active.com/orgs/GottaswingLLC#/selectSessions/2726605/filter/session=44660305
BlackRockin’ New Year’s Eve Party
Time: 9 a.m. to 1 a.m. Tuesday, Dec. 31
Location: BlackRock Center for the Arts, 12901 Town Commons Drive, Germantown
Tickets: $90 Single, $150 Couple
Information: 301-528-2660, www.blackrockcenter.org.
An evening of festivities includes casino tables, all-night disco dancing, cozy reel-to-reel movies, and a scrumptious selection of heavy hors d’oeuvres and desserts, all capped with a champagne toast leading to our very own midnight celebration.