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20+ Exciting Reasons to Visit Washington, DC in 2020
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. Just ask Lonely Planet, which named DC its top U.S. city to visit in 2020, or The New York Times, which put DC at the top of its list of 52 Places to Go in 2020. You could also consult Bloomberg, which honored DC as the most exciting food city in America, as well as CNN, which put the nation's capital on its rundown of the 20 best places to visit in 2020. And while you can guarantee an amazing adventure any time you visit, the upcoming year 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.
Things are heating up for one of the nation’s largest auto shows. Car lovers can expect the 2020 edition to dazzle with more than 600 new makes and models from 35-plus manufacturers. 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.
DC’s status as an international city is only emphasized by the numerous Chinese New Year celebrations that the city hosts. Smithsonian museums, the Kennedy Center and some of the city’s most exciting neighborhoods will get into the action.
The XFL returns, this time bringing with it a team that will represent DC. The Defenders will play their home games at the beautiful Audi Field, which provides one of the best stadium experiences in the area. Head coach Pep Hamilton will look to lead the team to a postseason appearance in their inaugural season. Game 1 is a home tilt against the Seattle Dragons at 2 p.m. on Feb. 8. Additional home games will be held on Feb. 15, March 8, March 15 and March 28.
Old Glory DC Rugby was founded in 2018, but 2020 marks the first time that the team will compete in Major League Rugby. Their season begins in New Orleans on Feb. 8, with the first home game at Catholic University's Cardinal Stadium falling on Feb. 16, when the Seattle Seawolves come to town. Check out intense rugby action all the way through Old Glory's final home game on May 24.
The year 2020 marks the 100-year anniversary of the ratification of the 19th Amendment, which gave women the constitutional right to vote in the U.S. DC offers a plethora of programs that showcase and educate on this monumental occasion. Participating organizations include the National Archives, the Library of Congress, the National Park Service and the Smithsonian Institution.
The Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) brings its annual men's basketball championship tournament to the nation's capital. The conference features near-to-DC universities, including James Madison, William & Mary and Delaware, so expect local alumni to be in full throat at Entertainment and Sports Arena, the city's newest, 4,200-seat sports venue. The winner of the tournament (last year's was Northeastern) is granted an automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament, so competition will be fierce.
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 20), the Opening Ceremony (March 21), the Blossom Kite Festival (March 28), the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 4) and Petalpalooza (April 11).
The hometown Nats will play their first game at Nationals Park since winning the first World Series title in franchise history with a matchup against the New York Mets on April 2. Nationals Park will be abuzz as the franchise embarks on its title defense. Juan Soto, Trea Turner, Victor Robles and an outstanding pitching staff that includes Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin will begin a quest to successfully defend their championship, led by manager Davey Martinez.
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.
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 2 and the European Union Embassies' Open House on May 9. Don't miss these fascinating events that grant you unprecedented access.
The date of May 8, 2020 marks the 75th anniversary of V-E Day, when the United States celebrated victory in Europe, concluding World War II there. One of the most celebrated commanders in U.S. military history, Dwight D. Eisenhower, played a major role in the conflict, supervising the allied assault on the beaches of Normandy on D-Day. Eisenhower went on to the become the 34th President of the United States, and now a major, state-of-the-art memorial dedicated to the patriot is set to open on the day of the milestone anniversary. The four-acre urban park in Capitol Hill will feature steel tapestry depicting the beaches of D-Day, stone bas reliefs and bronze sculptures.
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.
In 2019, the Washington Mystics climbed to the top of the mountain. Led by WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne, the team won the first championship in franchise history on their homecourt at Entertainment and Sports Arena. With the ultimate goal already accomplished once, why not make another run at it in 2020? The Mystics have reached the WNBA Finals in each of the last two years, so the star-studded squad will likely again be the favorite to not only represent the Eastern Conference at the end of the season, but win the whole dang thing again. However, there's a ton of excitement before we even get to that point. We advise signing up for a 2020 season ticket membership, like, now. A full 2020 schedule is still to come.
Visitors will be able to immerse themselves in the power of language at this exciting and highly anticipated museum. Planet Word will feature an array of galleries, including Words Matter, which will showcase how language can have an incredible impact on lives. The Spoken World will amaze visitors by highlighting the diversity of language around the globe through speakers and signers of 31 different languages. The museum will also feature Speaking Willow, an interactive sound installation by artist Rafael Lozano-Hemmer. The tentative opening date is May 31.
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. This year will be especially remarkable, as the event celebrates its 45th anniversary.
Washington, DC’s star-studded jazz history reigns on with the DC Jazz Festival, an annual showcase of national and local musicians. The citywide celebration invites guests to venues including The Wharf, The Anthem, City Winery, Hamilton 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, intimate meet the artists conversation, and popular Jazz in the 'Hoods series.
Halcyon’s By the People arts and dialogue festival will return in 2020. Expect a repeat of last year’s full-on arts takeover of DC, including massive art installations and free pop-up performances at popular locations. This edition of the festival will run for more than two weeks, so expect enticing new programming and performances.
If you follow America’s arts and culture scene in any way, there’s a good chance you’ve heard of Hamilton. Maybe you’ve even seen it! If you haven’t, no worries: Lin Manuel-Miranda’s momentous play is coming to back Washington, DC. After an outstanding run in 2018, the smash hit will come back to the Kennedy Center for more than two months in 2020. Tickets to the cutting-edge, hip-hop inspired production will be in high demand once they go on sale in the spring. Also, be sure to check out all the ways you can engage with the history of Alexander Hamilton in DC.
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 2020? Attendees will be immersed in the domains of cultural knowledge, including religion, design and science. Programs will highlight cultures in Brazil and the United Arab Emirates.
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.
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, usually 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 District’s signature professional tennis tournament returns to Rock Creek Park for its 52nd 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 most of the competitors have yet to be announced, teenage sensation Coco Gauff has officially agreed to participate. Expect many more stars to take the court during this DC sporting tradition.
The central library for the District of Columbia will debut its jaw-dropping, $211 million modernization in the coming year. The new Martin Luther King, Jr. Library will offer a new entryway, a large auditorium and conference center, a rooftop event space with a reading terrace, a ground level café with a patio, newly designed research space and more.
Perhaps the DC skyline's most distinctive feature, the Washington Monument was closed to the public for three years before re-opening last fall. A new state-of-the-art elevator efficiently moves hundreds of visitors up to the observation deck daily. The minute-long ride up 50 stories to the top of the world's tallest free-standing stone structure includes a video from the National Park Service about what to expect. From the observation deck, you can see nearly 25 miles into the horizon in every direction, including landmarks like the U.S. Capitol, the White House, Arlington National Cemetery and the Washington National Cathedral.
The first major expansion in the history of the illustrious Kennedy Center is now open to the public. The REACH takes the Center further into the DC community, providing a learning center and gathering place. The campus combines three pavilions, landscaped paths, outdoor seating and dining options, forming a mix of art and nature rarely seen in DC. The REACH also features an outdoor stage and video wall that simulcasts live performances and hosts movie nights, three adaptable studios and two new event venues.
So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to Washington, DC today.