From the Forum – DC neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights this year

Photo by PoPville flickr user brunofish

DC neighborhoods with the best Christmas lights this year:

“Zoo Lights is great and all, but the Christmas lights on houses in Cleveland Park – my bit of the District – are disappointingly few and far between. Can anyone recommend DC neighborhoods/streets that have a concentration of lights? Gaudy, over-the-top suburban cul-de-sac stuff is not really my thing, but I do love a historic neighborhood with lights that highlight our city’s great architecture.”

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40 Comment

  • Aglets

    Your best bet is a trip to Baltimore for the houses along the avenue in Hapden. And then get the brussel sprouts at The Golden West

  • DC is a more educated city than most, and as such the high concentration of atheists means you’re less likely to find while neighborhoods that are celebrating Christmas. Better to head far out into the suburbs.

    • epric002

      do you have the stats on percentage of DC residents that are atheist? our house is agnostic/atheist but we still enjoy and celebrate christmas non-religiously.

      • We’re agnostic (me) and Buddhist/Hindu (her) but still put up lights and a tree. Why not?
        But I think people are less likely to put up decorations if they don’t have a lot of storage space, are busy with work and socializing, or plan on leaving town for Christmas. Lots of people in the city fall into at least one of those categories.

      • justinbc

        I basically only acknowledge that it exists because my partner makes me. I think I like Christmas even less than Halloween.

    • I really don’t think that’s the reason.

    • justinbc

      When I lived out in McLean those McMansion neighborhoods were definitely all decked out.

    • Yeah, I don’t think that’s the reason. A whole lot of us go elsewhere at Christmas time. I celebrate the holiday, but usually don’t have anything up because the tree/decorations/etc. are at my family’s house in the Midwest. If anything, the lack of holiday displays confirms that most of us are from somewhere else and are not tied to this place like, say, generations of Chicagoans, etc… My local church isn’t nearly as busy, because all the parishioners head back home (which is not DC). Give it time, though, and that might change.

    • I LOVE MY CHRISTMAS LIGHTS. Our house is ridiculous.

    • I think your line of reasoning is close, but not quite there.
      DC proper doesn’t have a lot of Catholics or Orthodox. The neighborhoods that go all out for Xmas are always the ethnic white Catholic and Orthodox ‘hoods – Polish, Italian, Greeks, Irish, etc. DC has a tons of atheists, agnostics, and non-Christian religious folks (Jewish, Muslim, Hindu, etc). So yeah, they might put up some decor but they are not going to go completely batsh#t crazy like the Catholics and Orthodox. I can’t speak to the prevalence of Christmas decor among DC’s African-American baptist and pentecostal population, but it definitely seem more restrained than other places. The white Christians of NW DC have historically been blue-blooded WASPs, so they would find Christmas decor to generally be tacky and gauche (in my experience – there’s exceptions to every rule).
      So yeah, it’s a lack of Catholics and Orthodox in DC. They tend to be more fervent, especially when concentrated in the same ‘hood.

      • I am an Anglo-Catholic. I don’t do lights too much. But let me tell you, if you want to see lights, go to any town just over the Pennsylvania line. Your Gettysburgs, your Hanovers, your McSherrystowns. Those people know how to do Christmas, and I think they are all Protestants for the most part :^) I think it’s their German heritage. Only an hour or so by car!

    • FSM in Mount Pleasant. Praise him!

  • I Dont Get It

    I think there are many people like me who would love to put out big over-the-top displays but have no electrical outlets out front.

    • I wouldn’t go for an over-the-top display, but with the lack of electrical outlets I currently can’t put up ANY display.
      IDGI, I need to look up those battery-operated LED timers you were mentioning. I am also trying to figure out if the LED lights that IKEA carries might be a viable solution — they have to be plugged in, but they can be extended with cords that are really thin (like speaker wire), and would thus be much easier to run from a GFCI kitchen outlet through the front door and onto the porch than a regular extension cord.

    • If you’re a homeowner, it’s not too hard to have an outlet installed on the front of your house, particularly if your electrical box is also located at the front. We had it done for about $75.

      • Anon, would you recommend your electrician, and if so, who was it?
        My electrical box is at the back of the house, which might make it more complicated — I remember they had to remove several rectangles of drywall when I had outlets added to the front portion of the basement, in order to thread the wires through.

      • That was my original plan, but since the lights are outdoor, they’re supposed to be plugged into a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) outlet rather than a regular one.

    • saf

      Adding one is not hard.

  • The “Miracle on 34th Street” in Baltimore is a lot of fun. I have come up with many unsatisfying hypotheses as to why there is not at least similar strip in DC. But, I have noticed this year that a lot of houses between Georgia and 13th Street, from Quincy up to Taylor are fairly decked out compared to other neighborhoods in the city. Do people on the Hill go all out like they do for Halloween?

    • justinbc

      I have seen a few individually decorated homes on the Hill, but no streets done in unison thus far.

    • Blithe

      My guess, having lived in both cities, is simply that there are fewer neighborhoods in DC where people do ANYTHING in unison, either deliberately or not. Baltimore is still a neighborhood-y city in many areas, while, for a variety of reasons, those traditions in DC are fading. I’m imagining a letter to the PoPville forum that starts:
      “Dear PoPville, someone knocked on my door yesterday and offered to put lights up on my house — as part of a neighborhood “thing”. They said that they had some extra lights and that they’d do it for free — unless I had my own plans to decorate. I’m agnostic, think lights are tacky, and never saw this guy before. It’s a scam, right? ?
      There was a post in the last week or so about the house on North Portal off of 16th street that’s historically been wonderfully and exuberantly decorated for Christmas. Definitely worth a visit if you haven’t seen it.

      • justinbc

        For some reason it seems like many of the “named” streets in NW around Logan (Corcoran, Riggs, Swann, etc) and similarly in NE/SE around Capitol Hill (Corbin, Duncan, Emerald, etc) still maintain that neighborhood vibe you describe. I see lots of street wide post-school-pick-up informal happy hour / gatherings / inflatable pool parties going on around my block, the types of things I’ve never seen on the “lettered” streets. Not sure why that is, but it’s kind of hard to miss when you walk around, especially during summer time.

        • Blithe

          That’s great to know! I never noticed a “named” streets vs “lettered” streets difference though . That’s an interesting observation! I’ve thought less vs. more transient, more school age children, porch-culture vs. non-porch culture, and size of the street as possible factors. Dunno. People still “speak” to each other on the street in many neighborhoods in Baltimore as well, which is a good step in being comfortable with your neighbors — that can then lead to stuff like neighborhood traditions. I totally miss that!

        • I’d ascribe this to the fact that most named streets are smaller/one way streets, making it easier/more convenient/etc to meet one’s neighbors.

          • Yeah, I was wondering about this too (the one-way block-by-block aspect).
            I wonder to what extent it’s related to proportion of homeowners vs. renters — not that either group is necessarily more social, but presumably there is more turnover among renters.

    • saf

      Our block used to be SOOOOO decorated. So many of the new folks don’t decorate. It’s sad.

  • I saw some very pleasant light displays and beautiful trees in the picture windows of Bloomingdale over the weekend! Not quite the drain on the power grid as some of the neighborhoods in my hometown 🙂

  • I noticed after I added plants to my front yard that it seemed to have a contagious effect — all of a sudden other neighbors seemed to be adding plants, or taking better care of their existing landscaping. I wonder if maybe it’s the same thing with Christmas lights?
    I probably would have been thinking about Christmas lights more before now, except that relatively few of my neighbors bother to put up any lights.

  • Linc Park SE

    EM area of Capitol Hill and East Capitol seem to have some nicely decorated houses – good for a stroll around

  • they are spread out but there are several houses east of Grant Circle in Petworth–Upshur between 3rd and 4th, 4th street between Upshur and Webster, 3rd Street, etc.

  • The community on the 900 block of French Street NW always puts up a tree midway down the northside of their cozy one-sblock-long street. To my tastes, it is beauitful. A well let bedizned tree with nothing else to get in the way in terms of decoations. Your jaw will drop and you will want to visit many times.

  • If you are in Mt. Pleasant, check out the 1800 block of Kilbourne Place. There are a bunch of good houses in a row that are decorated. Then continue to walk down to the backside of the zoo (maybe a five minute walk) to take in Zoo Lights.

  • The houseboats down on the SW Waterfront are all decked out in Christmas lights. Definitely worth checking out if you can look past the construction.

  • On NJ near RI NW there’s a house with lights and music. Random but made me smile.

  • saf

    Don’t miss the amazing 4th and Varnum house.

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