So, you are in DC on Christmas Day and everything is oh so silent (during the day too--not just at night), but do not despair, we at DC Like a Local have some suggestions for you.
If you have a car, enjoy the free and abundant parking downtown. Yeah, Christmas is the one day of the year the Smithsonian is closed—which might account for the abundant parking—but enjoy parking without having to have a roll of quarters ever present or paying for parking via those annoying ticket machines. Ugh!
We are going to assume that you are reading this because you do not want to do the religion thing. If you wanted to do the religion thing, you would just go to church. Here we look for things you could do that do not involve church services.
First of all, the monuments do not close. No, neither the Tourmobile nor any of the other tour companies running tours to the monuments will be operating, but get yourself a good pair of shoes and walk it. Don’t tell anyone, but you could be standing in front of Lincoln without the maddening hordes just gazing up at Daniel Chester French’s statue by your lonesome. In the evening, check out the National Christmas Tree on the South Side of the White House (the side that faces Constitution Avenue, NW, behind the Treasury). Unfortunately, the seasonal entertainment wraps up(pdf) on the evening of December 23rd, but the tree will still be up and lit for you to enjoy. You could even take your photo among all the Christmas lights.
If you’ve done the monuments and/or don’t fancy walking all over the Mall, Arlington Cemetery is open 365 days a year. The Tourmobile will not be running, but the guard at the Tomb of the Unknowns will still change every hour on the hour and walking up there is not so bad if you take your time. The Tomb Guards do that 24/7. Christmas does not stop the show. Before or after the Changing of the Guard, stop by the Kennedy graves. You will see where Edward Kennedy was recently buried next to his brothers John and Robert. It is recommended that you take the Metro; the subway will be on a holiday schedule, so allow extra time.
Hands down favorite for me, however, on Christmas Day is Mount Vernon. Yes, Mount Vernon is open 365 days a year. For some families a Christmas Day visit there is annual tradition. According to the website, the National Treasure tour should even be up and running for Christmas Day (you see areas where the popular film was made). As usual during the holidays, the rarely seen third floor of the mansion will be open to visitors. Unlike The Smithsonian (where you don’t have to pay to get in because you’ve already paid on April 15th), Mount Vernon is privately run and you must pay an admission fee. Mount Vernon is open 9:00am to 4:00pm Christmas Day on its regular winter schedule.
If you want to have a more relaxing day, there is always the “Jewish” solution to Christmas—eat Chinese and see a film—you can do that as well. DC has a small Chinatown on H Street, NW, between 5th and 8th Streets, NW, and H and I Streets, NW. No, it is nothing like Chinatown in San Francisco, but DC does have the world’s largest Chinese Arch. Have the kids count the dragons on the arch; there are 272 of them. So what if they get the number wrong, the purpose is to amuse them, right? Then go get a bite to eat in one of the area’s many Chinese restaurants.
At 604 H Street, NW, in Chinatown take a look at the plaque outside the building. In the 19th century it was the Mary Surrat boarding house--where the Lincoln assassination was planned. Yes, it's open to the public, but only if you want Chinese food. It has morphed into a Chinese carry out called the Wok 'n' Roll. Great name!
Before or after your Chinese meal, drop into Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th Street, NW (despite the address actually on E Street between 10th and 11th Street, NW). The Landmark shows a lot of independent and foreign films.
Of course, there is nothing to prevent you from spending a nice relaxing day at home on Christmas preparing for the sales on the day after Christmas!