An ice sculpture at the National Harbor's holiday celebration. Image by greyloch licensed under Creative Commons.

December is a special time in our region. Many people celebrate holidays, but even if you don't, there's usually time off and a nice little slowdown. If you're looking to make plans, our contributors recently named some of their favorite things to do during this time of year.

You can’t have the holiday season without lights. No matter where you live, there’s a dazzling display nearby.

Gray Kimbrough is into ZooLights, where the National Zoo strings bright lights all over its campus and invites the public in for an evening stroll:

With a kid, it's a ton of fun, and without kids but with friends, it's a great chance to drink a beer while walking around the zoo.

ZooLights runs at Smithsonian’s National Zoo through January 1 from 5 to 9 pm daily.

One of the entrances to the National Zoo during ZooLights. Image by Martin Ringlein licensed under Creative Commons.

Dan Reed suggests The Garden of Lights at Brookside Gardens, near Glenmont. The Montgomery County Parks event runs from 5:30 pm to 9 pm Sunday through Thursday and until 10 pm Fridays and Saturdays until January 1.

Tracy Hadden Loh points us to the Mormon Temple in Kensington. They host concerts and a spectacular lights display.

Kensington's Mormon Temple, all lit up. Image by Victoria Pickering licensed under Creative Commons.

Jenifer Joy Madden and Svet Neov both endorse The Winter Walk of Lights in Vienna. The ticketed event runs through January 8.

Vienna's Winter Walk of Lights. Image by Svet Neov used with permission.

Kevin Posey likes Del Ray’s holiday light bike ride in Alexandria, which he estimates had over 100 participants last year. This year, the ride takes place on Saturday, December 17th (if it rains or snows, it will be on December 29th).

Up for a holiday ride in Alexandria? Image by scorchedearth licensed under Creative Commons.

Kristy Cartier suggests Roer's Zoofari in Reston and the ongoing Chinese Lantern Festival, which features 800 hand-sculpted Chinese lanterns in the form of animals, Chinese artisans and nightly martial arts-themed stage shows.

Need to do some shopping? Several folks mentioned the Downtown Holiday Market. Noon to 8 pm through December 23.

The Downtown Holiday Market. Image by Joe Flood licensed under Creative Commons.

Alexandria has it’s own holiday market. It’s open now through December 22 from 11 am to 7 pm.

For those looking for something to do inside, Union Station has it’s massive Christmas train display.

Katie Gerbes enjoys Christmas on the Potomac at the National Harbor:

We always go to the Gaylord in National Harbor. The whole hotel is decorated, but in the atrium they put on a light show every hour that has lasers, a suspended glass Christmas tree, fake snow and water foundations synchronized to music. It's family friendly, free and can easily be one part of an entire afternoon of activities in National Harbor.

Jessica Raven says she’s planning on attending the Family Christmas Pageant at All Souls Church in Columbia Heights. It starts at 7 pm on Christmas Eve. Participants are encouraged to bring a bell.

Abby Lynch encourages us not to overlook our year-round attractions:

Lots of people in DC travel to other places to visit relatives this time of year, so those of us who stick around get easier access to the big tourist attractions. It's a great time to visit the various Smithsonians, or the Library of Congress, National Archives, etc.

While you’re at it, Kyle Arbuckle points out that the new African American History American has expanded hours and will start distributing same-day passes December 19.

Also, the United States Botanic Garden near the Capitol has expanded holiday hours, including live seasonal music on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

Really feeling adventurous? Michael Perkins likes Quantico Orienteering Club, a sport that combines trail running and map reading/navigation. As competitive as you want it to be and doesn't cost a lot. There’s an event this Sunday.

Did we overlook an event or display you enjoy? Tell us about it in the comments.