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Peace, unity and harmony in Washington, DC? Hard to believe with an election year upon on us, but with the holidays quickly approaching, good tidings are everywhere in the nation’s capital. Here are the best ways to celebrate.

RELATED: 5 weird Christmas traditions from around the world, from pickles to poo logs

Lights! Camera! Selfie!

Washington DC

The holiday season officially kicks off in Washington when the National Christmas Tree is lit. The ceremony happens this year on December 5, after which visitors can swing by President’s Park any day between 4:30pm and midnight as part of the America Celebrates display. The 30-foot National Menorah will be lit for eight nights beginning December 22.

On the right track

Train your attention over to the U.S. Botanic Garden this holiday season. Pollination Station is a model train exhibit running through a lush holiday jungle. Stops include plant-based replicas of the city’s iconic landmarks. Also check out the showcase of poinsettias and one of the city’s largest Christmas trees.

A nut worth cracking

A classic holiday tradition is The Nutcracker. The Warner Theatre puts a local twist on the timeless tale, hosting Septime Webre’s version November 23 through December 29. Performed by the Washington Ballet, this version is set in Georgetown circa 1882. George Washington and King George III are among the historical figures portrayed in ballet tights.

Let is GLOW, let it GLOW, let it GLOW

Photo: Courtesy of Georgetown Business Improvement District

Meanwhile, in 21st century Georgetown, GLOW lights up the enclave nightly December 6–January 5. After exploring this exhibition of unique illuminated artworks, head to Washington Harbour for a spin on the seasonal ice skating rink.

Zoo story

zoo lights, DC

Photo: Skip Brown, Smithsonian’s National Zoo

Speaking of animals, back in the city proper, Zoo Lights at the National Zoo is a holiday freebie featuring live performances, edible winter treats and animals, animals and more animals. More than 500,000 environmentally-friendly LED lights transform the zoo into a dazzling light spectacle between November 29 and January 1.

By George (and Martha)

Mount Vernon, DC

Martha and George Washington’s home, Mount Vernon, offers daytime and candlelight tours of the dolled-up house on weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The Alexandria, Virginia, estate showcases 18th century holiday traditions, including chocolate-making, dancing and caroling. Don’t miss visiting Aladdin the Camel, who pays homage to Washington’s 1787 Christmas celebration when he entertained his guests with a dromedary.

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Laura Powell

Laura Powell

Laura is a 20-year veteran travel journalist. She was CNN's first travel reporter, and has written for publications ranging from Alaska Airlines Magazine to The Washington Post. Find her at the or on Twitter: @dailysuitcase

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