Washington DC

2022 Georgetown GLOW: DC’s Free Outdoor Light Show

2022 Georgetown GLOW returns to Washington, DC after a two-year closure due to the pandemic. Established in 2014, this is the 8th edition of Georgetown GLOW. This free curated outdoor public light show is located in Georgetown, which is DC’s oldest neighborhood. It ranks in my Top 13 Christmas Things to Do in Washington DC.

The event opened on Saturday, November 26 and runs through Sunday, January 22, 2023. Georgetown GLOW lights the art installations each night from 5 to 10 p.m. There are five light art installations available to view over eight weeks.

Produced by the Georgetown Business Improvement District, Georgetown GLOW is marketed as the region’s only free curated exhibition of outdoor public light art. You can start at any of the five illuminations. They are scattered across historic Georgetown, a must-see neighborhood on any visit to Washington D.C.

Clockwise (top): Grace Church, Kennedy Center, Washington Harbor Holiday Tree

Known as “DC’s Signature Winter Event,” Georgetown GLOW offers an interactive art discovery journey through this colonial seaport town during the darkest months of the year. Georgetown is DC’s oldest neighborhood.

Picture yourself walking up M Street at sunset. Holiday lights glisten like sparkling diamonds on the evergreen trees in the plaza. Retailers decorate their storefront windows with wreaths, ribbons, and ornaments. You can hear holiday music drifting out of an open door as buyers leave stores.

#1 Light Falls

As you saunter up M Street past the Four Seasons Hotel, you stop startled to see a multi-color waterfall. The light illumination stretches two stories high. The 16-foot-tall “Light Falls” illumination (#1) is located at 2918 M Street NW. A Brazilian artist (Leandro Mendes) created the artwork.

Light Falls installation

A two-sided digital signboard is located near the art sculpture. The artist used a series of illuminated tubes that cascade downward, which creates the effect of the water hitting rocks. The multi-sensory experience includes the ambient sounds of the Amazon rainforest.

“Light Falls represents the importance of our connection to nature and water, and our role in preserving this life-giving resource.”

Source: Georgetown GLOW

The reactions of pedestrians fascinate me. Couples walk past the illumination cautiously. Children dance right up to the sculpture, pulled like a magnet. Some choose to stand off to the side and quietly meditate.

Information display signs for self-guided tour

I am so glad that the organizers decided to place Light Falls in such a prominent location. The occupants in every car which drives down M Street can enjoy the spectacle even while stopped at the street light. And I can imagine the small girl with her nose pressed against the window of the Circulator bus hypnotized by the sight.

#2 Picto Sender Machine

My next stop is located several blocks away. I need to walk down 29th Street NW and cut across K Street. Shivering from the wind that blows up off the Potomac River, I set out to find Picto Sender Machine. Located at 3000 K Street NW, it is the nearest illumination at the lower end of M Street. Felipe Prado created the artwork.

Dancer’s image displayed on Picto Sender Machine

Picture an enormous low-resolution screen of 1200 enlarged pixels. The blinking lights flash red, blue, green, and yellow. Visitors congregate in the park venue so they can get a chance to perform. Expect a show!

“You can’t use words to express your message; only your silhouette, dance steps, and gestures will be translated into blocks of light, displayed live on the screen.”

Source: Georgetown GLOW

Even though the artwork transports the visitor back in time, the interaction is the ultimate selfie opportunity. You can hold your iPhone in the air to videotape your digital self who is dancing across the screen or flinging your arms or legs in the air.

The artist’s goal is to force the viewer to express oneself in the simplest way, without thinking too much.

Picto Sender Machine is located near Washington Harbor, which is a mix of Art Deco, Art Nouveau, Gothic Revival, Greek Revival, and other architectural styles. Arthur Cotton Moore Associates designed the mixed-use development, which opened in 1987. Walk past the giant Christmas tree to see skaters whirling on ice.

#3 All The Light You See

My third stop is located at Georgetown Waterfront Park (near the intersection of Wisconsin Avenue and K Street NW). It is strategically located on the waterfront so thousands of pedestrians and commuters can see it every evening as they cross Key Bridge. Alicia Eggert from Texas created the artwork in collaboration with Light Art Collection.

All The Light You See installation

“The installation is a reflection on mortality, reminding us that in no time at all, we, too, will belong to the past.”

Source: Georgetown GLOW

The artist created a poem in light bulbs. The message is constantly changing. Although the complete sentence is All The Light You See is From The Past, the illuminated words rotate. The intention is to create a “poetic statement written in light that changes meaning with a small intervention.”

I found myself hypnotized by the visual poem that scrawled across the black suede sky. The gigantic wire installation framed the view of Theodore Roosevelt Island located across the Potomac River. The haunting words beg reflection—“All You See is Past.”

#4 Butterfly Effect

As I depart the waterfront, I head up Georgetown’s skinny streets toward 1041 Wisconsin Avenue. My destination is the I will see my next Georgetown GLOW light installation at Grace Church (a mission church founded in the 1850s). Self-described as “a big-hearted parish in lower Georgetown,” this Episcopal Church sponsors outreach programs for the homeless. This includes “Grace’s Table” and a congregation-based shelter.

Butterfly Effect installation

The courtyard of the Gothic church is the site for Butterfly Effect. Masamichi Shimada created this large-scale art installation. Picture six gigantic butterflies landing on the church lawn. The mosaic light sculpture resembles an antique Tiffany light. Sculpted glass sections compose each wing. They glow sapphire blue, powder blue, and lavender.

While the butterfly sculptures create a pastoral effect, they symbolize the powerful effect of humans’ actions. Reading the digital signboard, I learn that the artwork’s title—Butterfly Effect—refers to American scientist and meteorologist Edward Lorenz’s 1961 lecture:

“ . . . a seemingly insignificant action, such as a butterfly flapping its wings, can activate a chain of events that can result in much bigger changes, such as the emergence of a destructive tornado in Texas.”

Source: Georgetown GLOW

Sadly, this light sculpture malfunctioned on the first weekend of Georgetown GLOW. Only one of the five butterflies glowed. So, I only imagine the sensation of flitting around the darkened space.

#5 The Cloud Swing

My final stop (The Cloud Swing-Lindsay Glatz & Curious Forms, New Orleans) is located off M Street NW at East Market Lane (3276 M Street NW). This “alley” is frequently a venue for public events. It is located next to the former Dean and Deluca gourmet grocery store (which permanently closed its doors during the summer of 2019).

The Cloud Swing installation

The Cloud Swing is my favorite artwork in 2022 Georgetown GLOW. But this is probably because I loved to swing for hours in my backyard as a little girl. Kicking my feet hard, I imagined that I fly right up into the clouds. Sometimes I scared myself because I almost lost control. Sometimes I jumped off the swing in mid-flight.

“The goal of The Cloud Swing is to provide a sense of nostalgic joy and connect participants to childhood delights and the wonders of simple play.”

Source: Georgetown GLOW

The Cloud Swing presents a series of three swings floating from a glowing cloud structure on East Market Lane. They glow white. But the interactive installation changes color as people interact with the artwork and swing through the air. The colors become more saturated as the swing moves faster.

I thought this analogy also fit my experience of visiting the 8th edition of Georgetown GLOW. After desperately missing this holiday ritual for two straight years, I felt engulfed by the wave of gratitude and appreciation for life to return to normal this holiday season. Georgetown GLOW colors my world in a deeply personal way.

GLOW Walking Tours

Now I highly recommend registering for one of the three GLOW walking tours. In addition to seeing all five Georgetown GLOW art installations, you’ll also learn about the history of this prominent DC neighborhood.

According to Georgetown BID, “several local tour companies will be offering more than 30 GLOW-inspired walking tours, tying the exhibition to history, photography, and art themes.”

Below is the list of operators:

DC By Foot

DC Design Tours

Washington Walks

I can guarantee that you will learn a lot about Georgetown’s architecture, famous residents, and even spies.

You Might Also Like

  • Lisa
    December 3, 2022 at 8:02 am

    This looks like a fantastic event! Thanks for sharing your photos!

    • Terri
      December 3, 2022 at 3:54 pm

      I wish I took more photos. But I kept videotaping all the artwork.

    • Jenn P.
      December 4, 2022 at 7:24 am

      This sounds cool! I’d love to do one of these walking tours!

  • Mayi
    December 3, 2022 at 8:44 am

    I love seeing illuminations and light shows. These are fabulous. It nice that Washington DC has walking tours specially for illuminations: that would be something I’d sign up for so I would be sure to see all the great ones. Thanks for sharing

    • Terri
      December 3, 2022 at 3:54 pm

      The walking tours help you learn about the neighborhood as well as the artists who created the light installations.

  • Sara Essop
    December 3, 2022 at 9:07 am

    I really enjoy visiting light shows and I would love to visit this one too. It looks amazing!

  • Sara Essop
    December 3, 2022 at 9:09 am

    I really enjoy visiting light shows and I would love to visit this one too. It looks so amazing!

    • Terri
      December 3, 2022 at 3:53 pm

      Georgetown GLOW is really a blast.

  • Katy
    December 3, 2022 at 12:59 pm

    This looks really fun! I’d defo have a go on the cloud swing!

    • Terri
      December 3, 2022 at 3:52 pm

      Fly high! It is such a fun ride!

  • simplyjolayne
    December 3, 2022 at 5:03 pm

    I love that all of this fun is FREE. Seems as though most Christmas experience providers charge big fees.

    • Terri
      December 4, 2022 at 5:45 am

      I agree. There are so many holiday experiences where you just pay now. Everyone can enjoy Georgetown GLOW for free.

  • Andrea Cannon
    December 3, 2022 at 5:45 pm

    This looks like such a cool experience! Glad that it is back after a hiatus! Thanks for sharing.

    • Terri
      December 4, 2022 at 5:45 am

      I am so glad that our city’s holiday Georgetown GLOW is back.

  • Alma
    December 4, 2022 at 4:35 am

    Love visiting light shows and Georgetown Glow just adds to the festive cheer. It looks worth spending a couple of hours there.

    • Terri
      December 4, 2022 at 5:44 am

      The artists’ work is so impressive.

  • tiffy roxxx
    December 4, 2022 at 4:23 pm

    Looking forward to checking this out!

  • Brittany
    December 4, 2022 at 5:51 pm

    Wow, this seems like such a fun, festive event! I love that it’s free. The Cloud Swing is so cool and looks like a great photo opportunity. Thanks for sharing this, I’ll keep it in mind if I am in Georgetown around the holidays!

    • Terri
      December 10, 2022 at 12:13 pm

      I hope you get to visit DC during Christmas. The city is aglow! Parker loves his holiday walks.

  • Danielle
    December 4, 2022 at 6:30 pm

    Fun! I’m heading to DC between Christmas and New Year’s and am super excited for the big display at Nationals Park, but will have to add this to the list. <3

    • Terri
      December 10, 2022 at 12:12 pm

      You absolutely must visit Georgetown GLOW during your visit to the city. It will not disappoint you. Have fun!

  • Goya Galeotta
    December 9, 2022 at 9:56 am

    How beautiful.. I wish I could see Picto Sender Machine and the Cloud in person!! Thanks for sharing!

    • Terri
      December 10, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      I am so glad that you enjoyed!

  • Krista M Plociennik
    December 10, 2022 at 11:17 am

    There are a lot of great lights here to take a look at! I would love to walk around them in person and take some photos.

    • Terri
      December 10, 2022 at 12:11 pm

      It is so magical to walk the historic streets of Georgetown, drinking a hot mug of cafe latte and admiring the outdoor artwork.