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With an iconic ice rink, festive flower displays, wintry works of art, seasonal treats, and special programs, the National Gallery is a classic destination this time of year.

Is bringing your family a holiday tradition, or are you joining us for the first time? Or just trying to find a few moments of holiday cheer for yourself? Here’s our guide to making the most of your visit.

1. Ice skate at the Sculpture Garden

Take a spin on the ice while taking in views of grand national museums and monuments. You’ll also see splendid large-scale sculptures from artists such as Alexander Calder, Louise Bourgeois, and Roy Lichtenstein. From skating lessons to special events, there’s plenty to enjoy at the ice rink. The season begins on Saturday, November 26.

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2. Stop and smell the flowers

During the holidays, our grand West Building Rotunda transforms into a winter wonderland with poinsettias, evergreen trees, and other seasonal decor. But our horticultural team doesn’t stop there: festive arrangements deck the halls of the East Building, too.

3. Bring art to life for kids of all ages

Our Animation Fest on November 25 is the perfect post-Thanksgiving activity for all ages. Watch animated films, make animations of your own, and don’t miss a special performance with artist Eric Dyer. On December 4, enjoy a reading of Snowy Day in English and Spanish at Storytime, a monthly program for our littlest visitors.

Busy week? Join us from home! Practice sketching in our virtual after-school Sketchbook Club or discuss a work of art with special guests during Artful Conversations.

Don’t miss our full family guide to the holidays.

4. Find the perfect gift

With three onsite shops and thousands of items available online, we have your holiday gifts covered. Shop for everyone on your list with locally made products, children’s toys, modern home decor, exceptional books and catalogs, and more. Plus, National Gallery members always enjoy 10 percent off.

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5. Explore our exhibitions

Take a winter trip to the sunny Spanish island of Majorca in Sargent and Spain. Marvel at feats of human creativity in Called to Create: Black Artists of the American South. And go behind the scenes to uncover Vermeer’s Secrets.

Pro-tip: Come early to see the popular Vermeer’s Secrets. On weekends and busy days, you may have to join a virtual line, which can fill up before 5:00 p.m. and take an hour or more. But don’t worry, you can explore the museum while you wait.

Then, explore the stories behind the dramatic paintings of Vittore Carpaccio: Master Storyteller of Renaissance Venice, which opens on November 20.

All current exhibitions


6. Discover a work of art, then make one

Every other Friday, take a lunch or coffee break with The Art of Looking. These virtual, interactive conversations will focus on seasonal works of art. 

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7. Hear the “Christmas Story in Art”

This illustrated Christmas lecture explores the birth of Christ through our permanent collection. This holiday tradition is back in person on December 14 and December 21. Registration is required and opens December 7.

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8. Enjoy a free concert

One of the nation’s longest-running concert series fills our West Garden Court with music each Sunday through December 18. On December 4, New York Opera Society presents Gian Carlo Menotti’s Amahl and the Night Visitors, an opera about an encounter with the Three Kings.

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9. Sample seasonal flavors

Looking for a delicious meal? Enjoy freshly made soups, sandwiches, salads, pizza, and more at our five cafés. On a cold day, warm up with hot cider or mulled wine from the Sculpture Garden’s Pavilion Café. Or satisfy your sweet tooth with seasonal gelato flavors like peppermint bark and pumpkin at our Espresso & Gelato Bar.

On Thanksgiving Day and the day after, the Cascade Café will offer a feast of roasted turkey, stuffing, green beans, and more.

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10. Strike a pose

From an ever-changing light tunnel to a giant blue rooster on the roof, we’ve got plenty of photo ops. Whether it’s a selfie or your next family photo, don’t forget to tag us @ngadc and #myngadc.

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Discover more ways to spend the holidays at the National Gallery.

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Enjoy our top 10 favorite food paintings including still lifes and pop art by Paul Cézanne, James Rosenquist, Robert Seldon Duncanson, and more.

Family Guide: 2022 Holiday Season at the National Gallery
Whether you’re bringing your kids or your grandparents, art lovers or art learners, this guide can help you make the most of your visit.

November 10, 2022