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12 Must-See DC Events & Festivals
DC knows how to throw a party year-round
There’s something going on every week in Washington, DC. The wide variety of festivals and events are spread across the city’s many neighborhoods, providing a range of experiences for every visitor and local. Here are 12 to get you started:
In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his birthday, the nation joins together for a “Day of Service.” Celebrated on the third Monday every January, the Freedom Choir performs a free concert at the Kennedy Center. The African American Civil War Museum also hosts an annual wreath laying ceremony at the African American Civil War Memorial in the U Street Corridor. The day also presents a great opportunity to visit the MLK Memorial.
Love a parade? You will not want to miss the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade . The route runs 10 blocks along Constitution Avenue, showcasing bands, floats, dancers, singers and celebrities, many decked out in pink, the theme color in honor of the National Cherry Blossom Festival. The event usually runs from late March to mid-April, with dozens of cultural events, including fireworks at the Southwest Waterfront and the annual Blossom Kite Festival.
Hop on the U.S. National Arboretum’s open air Tram Tour during the two-week celebration of their azaleas in full bloom. The Arboretum has curated and cultivated the most expansive collection of these eye-popping shrubs in the country. The celebration is held on April 27, 29 and May 4 and 8 in honor of Mother’s Day.
Passport DC is a month-long festival celebrating DC’s diplomatic community. Weekend events include workshops, street festivals and exhibitions and take place from May 1-31. During the Around the World Embassy Tour on May 2, dozens of embassies open their doors to visitors interested in learning more about international cultures. Passport DC is hosted by Cultural Tourism DC.
Celebrating its 77th year, the Washington National Cathedral hosts its annual Flower Mart, a family friendly spring event from May 6-7. The Cathedral stairs become a stage for international dancers, talented choirs and craft making. Friends of the Cathedral sell flowering plants and teach gardening, and provide free tours of the stunning Cathedral and Tower.
On Memorial Day (May 30), the nation honors fallen heroes who have served in the U.S. military. Ceremonies take place at the Vietnam Memorial, Korean War Memorial and at the World War II Memorial, all on the National Mall. Across the Potomac River at Arlington National Cemetery, volunteers distribute roses to visiting veterans, guests and families who come to pay their respects. That afternoon, naval officers perform a 21-gun salute, and the President marks the day by laying a wreath on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier.
Every month, the Smithsonian Air & Space Museum (both locations) hosts Family Days. During these events, families are invited to experience the museum through hands-on activities, interactive demonstrations and interactions with aviators.
Citi Open runs from July 16-24 at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center, showcasing both established and emerging tennis stars from all over the world. Numerous ticket options are available, so you can customize your experience at one of DC’s most popular sporting events.
The H Street Festival in September is a high-energy block party with live bands and beer tents, but it’s best known for the dozens of ethnic eateries that participate in this friendly gathering. Neighborhood artists sell their DC-centric merchandise as well.
Washington City Paper is DC’s on-point news and information source. The newspaper conducts the annual “Best of DC” contest, and the culmination of the contest is a party held at the DC Armory.
The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show is held from Dec. 3-4 at the Washington Convention Center. With cooking demonstrations by celebrity and local chefs, along with vendors selling innovative food and design products, it’s an invaluable event for a home cooking enthusiast.
The National Christmas Tree Lighting is hosted by the National Park Service in President’s Park on the grounds of the White House. The switch is flipped for the first time in early December, followed by an opening concert. The tree is lit each night after that, with performances each evening. The “Pathway of Peace” surrounds the National Christmas Tree, with trees from every state and territory in the U.S. decorated with unique handmade ornaments.
Interested in more events and festivals? Check out our events calendar.