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Summer Festivals for Families

Celebrate summer with these festivals for all ages.


With the kids out of school, summer calls for a slate of activities for the whole family to enjoy, indoors and out. DC hosts numerous summer festivals that offer fun for children, adults and even adults that want to behave like children. Build your DC family itinerary with the events below.

Safeway National Capital Barbecue Battle: June 21-22
Safeway sponsors the 22nd annual National Barbecue Battle, in which thousands of people gather to celebrate (and eat!) the American South’s favorite cuisine. Kids can get their ya-yas out at the JumpWorks & NBA Nation displays, while the adults chow down on barbecue and sip on cold beer. The event will also feature two stages, the Pepsi-Lays Sound Stage and Famous Dave’s Music Stage, with plenty of groovy tunes for the whole family to get down to.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival: June 25-29, July 2-6
The annual Smithsonian Folklife Festival, held outside on the National Mall, is one of the best ways to get a close-up look at different cultures from around the world. The festival is the ideal summertime event for the entire family to enjoy and features a range of global cuisines, music and fun activities for kids. Like all of the surrounding Smithsonian museums, it is open to the public and free to enter.

Outdoor Movies
While the National Mall’s Screen on the Green is by far the most famous of the outdoor movie series held in DC each summer, neighborhoods across the city offer numerous showings of a wide variety of films. NoMa hosts its own SummerScreen, while folks near U Street can attend that neighborhood’s Movie Series: Harrison Field Under the Stars. The ever-evolving Capitol Riverfront also gets in the act, showing films in Canal Park every Thursday at sundown. Check websites for times and films, and you’re guaranteed to find movies for all ages.

Maryland Renaissance Festival: Aug. 23-Oct. 19 (Children’s Weekend: Aug. 23-24)
Hear ye, hear ye! It’s the time of year again to climb the tangled web known as “Jacob’s Ladder” without falling on your face, and drink beer out of a mead horn with a smoked turkey leg in hand. Now, you may say that those activities aren’t exactly kid-friendly, but no worries. The Renaissance Festival has the little ones covered with their Children’s Weekend. On Aug. 23-24, kids 11 and under are admitted free, and treated to Pumpkin Theatre of Baltimore, including Three Little Tales, a show about The Three Little Pigs, Goldie Locks, dancing, music, audience participation and more.

Library of Congress National Book Festival: Aug. 30
Authors, poets, graphic novelists and the like will set up camp at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in honor of this annual festival that speaks to every audience. Every year, thousands attend for book signings, to meet and mingle with poets and authors and hear readings and interviews. There will be a slew of children’s activities to get kids engaged with the written word, as well as a new International Pavilion featuring authors from around the world.

DC Blues Festival: Aug. 31
Rock Creek Park will be rockin’ from noon to 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 30 with a bevy of blues at the 26th annual DC Blues Festival. Gather up the family for this free event at the Carter Barron Amphitheatre, which offers up non-stop blues music on the main stage. The workshop stage has a children’s instrument play area and children’s harmonica workshop to get your little blues musicians started.