You are here

16 Must-See DC Events & Festivals

Free and family-friendly National Cherry Blossom Festival Blossom Kite Festival on the National Mall - Must-see Washington, DC events

You won’t want to miss these signature events and festivals – many of which are family-friendly and free to attend – that take place every year in Washington, DC.

You can find amazing festivals and events taking place all year long in Washington, DC. With a wide variety of things to do spread across the city’s many neighborhoods, visitors and locals can enjoy everything from annual festivals and holiday celebrations to new museum exhibits, concerts and so much more. Discover DC’s must-see events and festivals and start planning your trip today.

1 National Cherry Blossom Festival

Tidal Basin paddle boats with the cherry blossoms - Where to photograph the cherry blossoms during the National Cherry Blossom Festival this spring in Washington, DC

Nothing signifies the arrival of spring in DC quite like the blooming of the cherry blossom trees and the National Cherry Blossom Festival to celebrate the occasion. More than 1.5 million visitors descend upon the nation's capital each year to admire the 3,000-plus trees. The annual festival held in March and April is full of events that honor both American and Japanese cultures and represents a close bond forged between the two countries that began with Tokyo Mayor Yukio Ozaki’s gift of the trees back in 1912.

2 Passport DC

Tour an embassy for free during Passport DC - Free spring activities in Washington, DC

Passport DC is a month-long festival in May that pays tribute to Washington, DC's thriving international culture. As part of the festival, the first two Saturdays in May are devoted to embassy open houses. Thanks to this only-in-DC experience, you can step inside a foreign embassy with the Around the World Embassy Tour and the EU Open House.

The Best Events and Festivals Happening in Washington, DC

3 DC Jazz Festival

Concert on The Wharf during DC JazzFest - Can't-miss summer festival in Washington, DC

The DC Jazz Festival is a can't-miss event on the District's cultural calendar, inviting visitors of all ages to celebrate all things jazz each summer. As the city's premier jazz festival, the event serves up a diverse selection of national and international masterclass jazz artists, performing in a wide array of venues reaching every quadrant and corner of the city. Like much of DC, many concerts during the festival are free, so there’s no need to worry about costs piling up to catch a great show!

4 Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall - Family Friendly Summer Festival in Washington, DC

Each summer, the National Mall plays host to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, a massive, kid-friendly celebration of cultures across the globe. This free festival is a can't-miss event in the nation's capital filled with only-in-DC activities and offerings.

5 Capital Pride

Capital Pride Parade - Summer Parades and Festivals in Washington, DC

Each June, the Capital Pride Alliance curates Capital Pride, which features a popular collection of events including the Pride Parade, Festival and Concert. These events – and many others that take place during the week – celebrate Washington, DC's dynamic LGBTQ community.

6 Fourth of July

@transplantedindc - Independence Day fireworks over Washington, DC from the Netherlands Carillon in Virginia - Best spots to watch July 4th fireworks near DC

Each year, DC celebrates the Fourth of July with a bang. Along with viewing the dynamic fireworks show on the National Mall and attending the free A Capitol Fourth concert, visitors can celebrate America’s birthday in dozens of venues and in a multitude of ways. Don't miss the chance to savor summer’s biggest holiday in the nation's capital.

7 Memorial Day

National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC - Things to Do This Summer in DC

There’s no better place to spend Memorial Day weekend than Washington, DC. Memorials are our specialty, and the city celebrates with unique and meaningful events and exhibits designed to recognize the selfless service of our active duty military and veterans. Experience the country’s largest Memorial Day parade and more during this start-of-summer holiday.

8 National Christmas Tree Lighting

@wwwchris - Visitors at the National Christmas Tree on the National Mall - Free winter things to do in Washington, DC

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 late November or 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.

9 Citi Open

Fans in stands at Citi Open tennis tournament - Summer sporting events in Washington, DC

One of DC’s finest sporting traditions – the Citi Open – takes place at the Rock Creek Park Tennis Center each July and August. Top-tier talent from all over the world will compete for a prestigious trophy, leading to action that you do not want to miss.

10 Washington Auto Show

Crowd at Washington Auto Show - Winter event in Washington, DC

Even if you’re not a car aficionado, there are still plenty of reasons to enjoy the springtime extravaganza that is the Washington Auto Show, which happens to be the city's largest annual indoor event. Discover new car models, drive on stunt courses, meet celebrities and even win a car – all within the confines of the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

11 By The People festival

By The People Festival in Washington, DC - Free summer festival in DC

This free summertime affair attracts some of the modern art world’s top talents, who will put on performances and display works spanning various forms of media – paintings, projection, sculpture, drawings, design, dance and more. It also includes collaborations with local museums on and off the National Mall, as well as points of interest throughout the neighborhoods. Visitors can expect plenty of free ways to celebrate the festival, Instagram-friendly displays and interactive installations.

12 Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week

Momofuku at CityCenterDC - Where to Eat in Downtown Washington, DC

Savor delicious deals throughout the District during Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, a biannual event that takes place in the winter and the summer. Throughout the promotion, over 100 restaurants across the DC area offer three-course, prix-fixe meals for brunch, lunch and dinner.

13 DC Bike Ride

DC Bike Ride - Spring family-friendly event in Washington, DC

If you’re looking for family-friendly fun in the District, you’ve found a gem with DC Bike Ride, which occurs each May. Get outdoors and enjoy DC’s iconic sights, sounds and tastes on this car-free 20-mile bike ride that is sure to create lasting memories.

14 H Street Festival

H Street Festival - Fall neighborhood street festival in Washington, DC

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.

15 Adams Morgan Day

Band performing during Adams Morgan Day on 18th Street - Free summer festival in Washington, DC

The longest-running neighborhood festival in the District celebrates with live music, food vendors, for-sale artwork and family-friendly activities. Celebrate one of DC’s liveliest, most diverse neighborhoods with this day-long extravaganza that is led by volunteers and showcases the businesses, artists and organizations that make up Adams Morgan.

16 National Book Festival

National Book Festival - Washington, DC

Every year, the Library of Congress hosts the National Book Festival, a free celebration of all things books, from authors to readings to hardcovers. Join fellow lovers of the written word at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and you'll find activities that are sure to make your literary heart sing.

Discover the Real DC - Your guide to seeking out the unexpected in Washington, DC