Winter Adventure Day Trips in the DC Area

Symphony of Lights. Image courtesy of Howard Hospital Foundation.
Symphony of Lights. Image courtesy of Howard Hospital Foundation.

Written by Kara Hunt

This winter, brave the cold and check out some of the great winter adventures to be had from the DC area. Escape the winter blues, and learn how to enjoy the snow and ice in a totally new way. The listings below can be experienced on a tank of gas or less, which means you can start your adventure this weekend.

Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center
National Harbor, MD

Why Go? 
You’ve never experienced the classic tale ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas like this before. Relive this Christmas Eve poem with hand-carved, life-sized ice sculptures during this annual event. Walk through to experience 20-foot tall creations of your favorite Christmas characters, carved from 2 million pounds of ice. The best part? You can zip down five two-story ice slides.

Must Do: 
Don't miss the bonus scenes at the end: Christmas in New York City. "These scenes depict iconic images from New York, all carved out of ice," said Gaylord National Resort and Convention Center spokesperson Rachel Dinbokowitz. "All are colorful and fun, and you can even sit in a life-sized ice taxi!" 

Insider Tip:
 Dress warm! You will be given a long parka to wear in the exhibit, but it will still feel very cold in the 9 degree temperature. Closed-toed shoes and long pants are required, and hats, gloves, winter coats, and scarves are recommended.

The Fine Print: 
Ticket prices vary on peak and non-peak days. Discounts are available for children and military. ICE! is open seven days a week through Jan. 5, 2014, including holidays.

Symphony of Lights
Symphony Woods
Columbia, MD

Why Go?
Drive or walk through a spectacular light display, featuring colorful, larger-than-life, animated and stationary light creations that will wow the entire family. "This is a treasured holiday event for the community," said Special Events Associate Emily Shreve. "One hundred percent of the proceeds benefit Howard County General Hospital." 

Must Do: 
Check out some of the special events during Symphony of Lights. Walk with a group, take your little ones through in their strollers, bring your dog dressed in a festive costume for Tail Lights, or ring in the New Year with a family-friendly celebration and fireworks amidst the lights at the Midnight at 7 event. 

Insider Tip:
Credit cards are not accepted. Take advantage of the $5 off coupon on drive-through admission Monday through Thursday on the Symphony of Lights website

The Fine Print: 
Symphony of Lights drive through is open through Jan. 5, seven days a week from 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. It is closed Dec. 31 for the "Midnight at 7" event. The cost is $20 per car, $45 per commercial van or bus seating 9 to 24 passengers, and $125 for a bus seating more than 25 passengers.   

Georgetown Ice Rink
Washington Harbour
Washington, DC

Why Go? With an ice rink larger than Rockefeller Center, and plenty of holiday lights, restaurants, and shops around, Washington Harbour hosts the best place in the DC area to skate outdoors.

Must Do: 
"On Saturday mornings, cartoon characters are on the ice to skate with kids, and hit music is played Saturday nights," the rink's skate host Charlisa Lewis said. Thursday is College Night from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m., and students can receive $2 off admission with their student ID.

Insider Tip: 
Private events are scheduled Sunday through Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Be sure to call ahead to ensure the rink is open to the public if you wish to skate during these times.

The Fine Print: 
The rink is open through March. Public skate times are Monday through Thursday, 12 p.m. to 9 p.m., Friday, 12 p.m. to 10 p.m., Saturday, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Sunday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cost for adults is $10, and $8 for children, seniors, and military. A skate rental is $5.

Wisp Resort
296 Marsh Hill Rd.
McHenry, MD 21541

Why Go? Wisp Resort has it all—from skiing and snowboarding, to snow tubing and a mountain coaster, there’s something for everyone in the snowy mountaintops. Lessons are offered for beginners, and equipment is available to rent.

Must Do: 
In addition to great slopes for skiers and snowboarders, Wisp Resort also has a mountain coaster that should be experienced by all. This two-seater car will zip you down the mountain through twists, turns, and dips. The cars come with self-controlled handbrakes, so even the wary rider can enjoy the trip down the slope.

Insider Tip: 
Check out the Wisp Resort activities at night. Typically less crowded than popular day times, the slopes are more slippery for daredevils, and the snow tubing tracks aren’t as slushy once the sun goes down.

The Fine Print: 
Open year-round and holidays. Winter activities are available through March 10, 2014. Hours of operation vary depending on demand.


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