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20+ Exciting Reasons to Visit Washington, DC in 2019
New museum openings, cultural festivals, can’t-miss exhibits, sports action and spectacular events highlight what promises to be an exciting year in the nation’s capital.
Home to countless free things to do, world-class events and a Michelin-approved dining scene, the nation’s capital is among a short list of can’t-fail travel destinations. And while you can guarantee an amazing adventure any time you visit, 2019 is brimming with must-see events, exhibits and festivals for you to plan a trip around. Check out the full list of big things in the year ahead below, and whenever you’re ready, book your stay with these great deals at DC hotels.
Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington runs two Restaurant Week promotions each year, and you’re in luck: one is right around the corner. Dozens of DC restaurants will participate, offering up multi-course and prix fixe meals ($22 for lunch and brunch, $35 for dinner). Sign up for RAMW’s Restaurant Week mailing list to stay in-the-know on participants, deals, booking a table and chances to win special diner rewards.
DC’s status as an international city is only emphasized by the numerous Chinese New Year celebrations that the city hosts. In the past, Smithsonian museums, the Kennedy Center and some of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods have all gotten into the action.
Rise Up details the modern gay rights movement through artifacts, images and print publications. The Newseum exhibit celebrates the 50th anniversary of the catalyst of the movement, the Stonewall riots, which occurred in June of 1969. Other key moments of the fight for LGBTQ rights will be covered, including the AIDS crisis and the assassination of Harvey Milk. The exhibit will also look at the role of popular culture in changing attitudes about the LGBTQ community.
The nation’s greatest springtime celebration returns to fill four weeks with free family events, many with Japanese influences, a nod to the gift of the trees in 1912 from the Mayor of Tokyo to the citizens of Washington, DC. Among the signature events: the Pink Tie Party (March 22); the Opening Ceremony (March 23); the Blossom Kite Festival (March 30); Petalpalooza (April 6) at The Wharf and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 13).
The hometown Nats will begin their season and their 2019 quest to bring the first World Series title to DC since 1924 with a matchup against the New York Mets on March 28. Nationals Park will be abuzz as Max Scherzer, Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Anthony Rendon and the rest of the Nats look for their fifth division title in eight seasons, led by manager Davey Martinez. Looking for a good time to catch a game? In 2019, the team will host home stands around the three major summer holidays, Memorial Day, Fourth of July and Labor Day.
The National Portrait Gallery honors the centennial of the ratification of the 19th Amendment with this highly anticipated exhibit. You’ll learn about the radical women that fought slavery, the women activists of the late 1800s, the “New Woman” of the 20th century and the relentless suffragists of the 1910s through a series of portraits, cultural artifacts and biographies. The exhibit will also examine the struggles that minority women still face today, 100 years after the 19th Amendment passed. Find even more ways to celebrate the achievements of women in DC.
Capital One Arena hosts March Madness on two separate days this coming March. America’s favorite postseason tournament annually features jaw-dropping upsets and breathtaking buzzer beaters. DC is fortunate to host the Sweet Sixteen this year, when the tournament’s true juggernauts and Cinderellas begin to emerge. Expect plenty of spellbinding action during this set of games. Tickets are available now.
The Freer|Sackler galleries present the first-ever, in-depth exhibition on the women of the Qing dynasty, which lasted roughly 260 years. Empresses will elaborate on how Qing women were vital to the success of the dynasty and were in no way passive – the empresses rode horses, performed royal duties, traveled and exerted influence in the arts, religion and politics. The exhibit will feature numerous relics, including paintings, royal portraits, Buddhist sutras, costumes, jewelry and furniture, many of which came from the imperial complex used by the empresses known as the Forbidden City.
Things are heating up for one of the nation’s largest auto shows, which will take place in spring for the first time ever, compared to its usual January run. Car lovers can expect the 2019 edition to dazzle with more than 600 new makes and models from 35-plus manufacturers. Attendees will be able to take part in three different indoor ride and drive experiences, and also take a car out for a test drive on the streets of D.C. Throughout the show, there will be artists painting cars live on-site, VIP tours led by automotive writers, appearances from local sports stars and mascots, and much more. Grab your tickets quickly – the Auto Show draws large crowds every year.
While the Stanley Cup Playoffs are not an absolute certainty for the Capitals as of this writing, the defending Stanley Cup champions are dominating the Metropolitan division and look to be well on their way to their 11th postseason appearance in the last 12 years. Once there, the nation’s capital will be abuzz with Cup Fever yet again, as Alex Ovechkin, T.J. Oshie, Braden Holtby and the rest of the Caps will look to raise the Stanley Cup for a second consecutive June.
Crafters across the country descend on the National Building Museum each year for this show that shares its profits with the Smithsonian Institution. A four-day craft arts extravaganza, attendees can expect to see a full spectrum of works from 120 juried craft artists, including basketry, ceramics, decorative fiber, furniture, glass, jewelry, leather, metal, mixed media, paper, wearable art and wood.
The International Spy Museum, one of the District’s most popular museums and the owner of the largest collection of espionage artifacts currently on public display, will make L’Enfant Plaza its new home this year (exact date still to be announced). The 140,000-square-foot building will double the floor space of the original museum site and will offer four all-new exhibits, expanded classroom spaces, a new lecture hall/theater and a multifunction, rooftop event space, complimenting all of the awesome interactive fun that the museum features.
Have you ever wanted to step foot inside an embassy? During this month-long journey through DC’s international pathways, you get two incredible chances to do just that with the Around the World Embassy Tour on May 4 and the European Union Embassies' Open House on May 11. Don't miss these fascinating events that grant you unprecedented access.
Bike 20 miles on a scenic, closed-road (read: no cars!) ride throughout Washington, DC. The family-friendly race encourages participation by bicyclists of all ages, as you cruise past the nation’s iconic landmarks. Waiting for you as you end your 20-mile journey is the Finish Festival, with live music, fun activities and food and drink.
Local, national and international attendees join together for DC’s annual Capital Pride festival, celebrating the LGBTQ community and the fight for equal rights. If there’s one thing to catch, make sure it’s the Pride Festival and Concert, which often attracts A-list stars. A range of signature events – a rooftop pool party, a block party, the Pride Parade – round out the festivities.
Washington, DC’s star-studded jazz history reigns on with the DC Jazz Festival, an annual showcase of national and local musicians which commemorates its 15th anniversary in 2019. The citywide celebration invites guests to venues including The Wharf and the Kennedy Center, as well as some of DC’s most intimate jazz clubs. Concerts are both ticketed and offered free of charge. Top reasons to hit this year's festival include its unique VIP experiences, headlining shows and popular Jazz in the Hoods series.
The National Museum of Natural History will debut its new 31,000-square-foot fossil hall with this epic exhibit that will connect our planet’s very distant past to the present and future. Visitors will be transported to ancient ecosystems, navigate through the evolution of life across 4.6 billion years and encounter roughly 700 fossil specimens along the way, including a T-rex and a woolly mammoth.
Halcyon’s By the People arts and dialogue festival will return in 2019. Expect a repeat of last year’s full-on arts takeover of DC, including massive art installations and free pop-up performances at popular 2018 locations (think Smithsonian Arts and Industries Building and Union Market) as well as new locations. With the addition of a second weekend, the festival will run June 15-23.
Rib roasters and sauce bosses show off their skills during the Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle. Pit masters from all 50 states, local restaurants and live music shut down Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 7th streets NW for a lively, two-day street party. Cooking demos and free tastings make for a savory (and filling) experience.
The Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a free international cultural festival spotlighting various nations and communities every year. Held on the National Mall, the festival features immersive exhibits, live music, cooking demos and plenty more. So what’s in store for 2019? Attendees will be immersed in the social power of music.
Each summer, the National Building Museum hosts a larger-than-life, captivating exhibit in its Great Hall. The installation, which always generates an enthusiastic Instagram response, always opens on July 4 and runs through Labor Day. While details about this year’s architectural marvel have yet to be released, you can sign up to receive e-mail updates.
The National Gallery of Art celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing with this exhibition of rarely seen lunar images that beautifully blend science and art. Across roughly 50 works, you’ll see photographs from unmanned missions leading up to Apollo 11, stenographs taken on the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin and lunar shots that date back to the 19th and early 20th centuries.
While the National Air and Space Museum will highlight the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 landing all year long, the summertime celebration on the National Mall will be the capstone event. The five-day extravaganza promises an abundance of space-related fun – more details to come. Also, note that beginning in July, the Air and Space Museum will display Neil Armstrong’s Apollo 11 spacesuit for the first time in 13 years.
The District’s signature professional tennis tournament returns to Rock Creek Park for its 51st edition. Top-tier talent from all over the world will compete for a prestigious trophy, leading to action that you do not want to miss. While the competitors have yet to be announced, expect a star-studded lineup of players to take the court during this DC sporting tradition.
Perhaps the DC skyline's most distinctive feature, the Washington Monument has been closed to the public for repairs since 2016. Its re-opening will be one of 2019’s biggest highlights. A new elevator system is expected to improve the experience traveling up to the top of the 555-foot Monument. More specific details on the date of the re-opening and surrounding festivities will be shared as they become available.
After a four-year hiatus, the National Children’s Museum will reopen on Pennsylvania Avenue in downtown DC. Kids will be amazed by the museum’s array of interactive exhibitions, which will showcase engineering, technology and science, inspiring the little ones to learn and play like never before. An exact opening date is still to come.
The first major expansion in the history of the illustrious Kennedy Center will open next fall. The REACH will take the Center further into the DC community, providing a learning center and gathering place. The campus will combine three pavilions, landscaped paths, outdoor seating and dining options, forming a mix of art and nature rarely seen in DC. The REACH will also offer an outdoor stage and video wall that will simulcast live performances and host movie nights, three adaptable studios and two new event venues.
So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Washington, DC today.