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20+ Exciting Reasons to Visit Washington, DC in 2018

National Mall during the National Cherry Blossom Festival Kite Festival - Top reasons to visit Washington, DC

‘Hamilton’ in DC, MLB All-Star Week festivities, hot exhibits and festivals galore all highlight DC’s big, buzzworthy year ahead

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, 2018 is brimming with must-see events 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.

1 Women’s Voices Theater Festival – Jan. 15 – Feb. 15

The month-long festival celebrates the incredible impact that women have on theater, from behind-the-scenes roles to set design to stars on the stage. More than 20 theaters in the metro area will stage a new play by a woman, including Folger Theatre, Ford’s Theatre and Shakespeare Theatre Company. Check out what to expect at this year’s hotly anticipated event (and even more women-focused things to do in DC) and get your tickets today!

2 ‘Hamlet’ – Jan 15. – Feb. 25

@adam_brockett - Shakespeare Theatre Company in Penn Quarter and Chinatown - Performing arts in Washington, DC

The Shakespeare Theatre Company takes on quite possibly the greatest tragedy of Western literature and ushers it into the modern age this January. Hamlet comes home from college after his father’s sudden death to find his mother remarried, his uncle in power and, in turn, his entire world turned upside down. After being visited by the ghost of his father, Hamlet must decide whether to accept this new reality … or not. You don’t want to miss your chance to witness one of Shakespeare’s masterpieces at one of the area’s best theaters.

The Best Events and Festivals Happening in Washington, DC

3 Winter Restaurant Week – Jan. 22-28

Doi Moi 14th Street Washington, DC

Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington curates two Restaurant Week promotions per year, and you’re in luck: one is right around the corner. Dozens of DC restaurants will participate, offering up multiple-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.

4 Washington Auto Show – Jan. 26 – Feb. 4
Washington Auto Show – Jan. 26 – Feb. 4 Washington Auto Show

One of the nation’s largest auto shows calls DC home, and the 2018 edition will be quite the spectacle. Car lovers will be dazzled by over 600 new makes and models from more than 35 manufacturers. Local sports stars and mascots will be on hand, to go along with a fascinating ART-of-Motion exhibition, VIP tours led by leading automotive writers and chances to Ride ‘N Drive vehicles at the show. Grab your tickets quickly: The Auto Show draws large crowds every year.

5 Date Nights DC – Feb. 1-28

H Street NE Neighborhood - Atlas Performing Arts Center & H Street Country Club - Washington, DC

For the romantically challenged, we present Date Nights DC, your chance to prove you’re not only Cupid-like on Valentine’s Day, but all February long. Take advantage of DC’s romantic side with deals and discounts from attractions, hotels and restaurants, and put together a great date night as you peruse romantic, adventurous, luxe and budget-friendly date ideas. You can also discover some unexpected and can’t-fail first dates, too.

6 ‘Brand New: Art and Commodity in the 1980s’ – Feb. 14 – May 13

@teamgrayduck - Exterior of Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum on the National Mall - Free Modern Art Museum in Washington, DC

The Hirshhorn Museum hosts the first exhibition to examine the appropriation of late-20th-century commercial products. This highly anticipated display will feature seminal artists who worked in New York City’s East Village, including Cindy Sherman, Jeff Koons and Richard Prince. Throughout the exhibit, you’ll witness pieces that played with the language of packaging to brand both the work and the creator in distinctive ways.

7 Lunar New Year 2018: Shenzhen Symphony Orchestra/Tan Dun, conductor – Feb. 15

@endave - John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Foggy Bottom - Theater in Washington, DC

World-renowned artist and conductor Tan Dun returns to the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts to lead one of China’s most outstanding orchestras in celebration of the Lunar New Year. The program will include classics by Stravinsky, as well as works by Guan Xia and Tan Dun himself.

8 The 200th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ Birth – Feb. 17-18
The 200th Anniversary of Frederick Douglass’ Birth – Feb. 17-18 Frederick Douglass National Historic Site

The National Park Service and Cedar Hill, also known as the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, commemorates the 200th birthday of legendary African-American abolitionist Frederick Douglass. The celebration will include signature events that honor his life and connect his legacy to communities in the historic Anacostia neighborhood.

9 ‘Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings’ – March 4 – May 28
‘Sally Mann: A Thousand Crossings’ – March 4 – May 28 National Gallery of Art

Arguably the most influential American photographer currently investigating the South, Sally Mann has captured images of family, landscape, battlefields, mortality and legacy over 40 years in Lexington, Va. The National Gallery of Art hosts this epic collection of 125 photographs, many not previously exhibited. The beautiful and haunting images showcase Mann’s artistic significance and the influence that the South and its history have had on her work.

10 ‘Direct Current’ – March 6-16

A ten-day festival of contemporary American art, music, film, dance, drag and activism converges at the Kennedy Center with fascinating presentations that will be new to Washington audiences. The programming taps creative luminaries such as Taylor Mac, Bang on a Can All-Stars, Mark Rylance and Phillip Glass.

11 2018 Atlantic 10 Men’s Basketball Championship – March 7-11

Atlantic 10 Conference Men's Basketball Tournament Championship Game

Capital One Arena hosts the postseason tournament for the Atlantic 10 for the first time. The NCAA conference features notable local teams such as the George Mason Patriots, the George Washington Colonials, the VCU Rams and the Richmond Spiders. Expect plenty of spellbinding action during the five-day tournament as teams battle for a conference title and a chance to play in the NCAA Tournament.

12 National Cherry Blossom Festival – March 20 – April 15

@markeisenhower - Paddleboats by Jefferson Memorial cherry blossoms - Washington, DC

The nation’s largest 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 15); the Opening Ceremony (March 24); the Blossom Kite Festival (March 31); the Southwest Waterfront Fireworks Festival (April 7) and the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade (April 14).

13 ‘No Spectators: The Art of Burning Man’ – March 30 – Sept. 16

@nittanypanda - Smithsonian American Art Museum's Renwick Gallery in Downtown - Free museum in Washington, DC

The Renwick Gallery hosts the first major national exhibition to focus on the large-scale participatory work from the annual gathering of bohemians who construct a city of 70,000 in Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for one week every year. No Spectators will take over the entire building, even extending outdoors, with sculptures positioned throughout the surrounding neighborhood in parks and on streets in a collaboration between the museum and the Golden Triangle BID. Overall, this extensive exhibit will showcase room-sized installations, costumes, jewelry and more.

14 Washington Nationals Home Opener vs. New York Mets – April 5

@bevyncassidy - Summer Washington Nationals Baseball Game in Washington, DC

MLB’s hometown Nats will begin their season and their 2018 quest to bring the first World Series title to DC since 1924 with trips to Cincinnati and Atlanta before returning to the District for their home opener against the rival Mets on April 5. Nationals Park will be abuzz as Bryce Harper, Anthony Rendon and the rest of the Nats look for their fifth division title in seven seasons, led by new manager Davey Martinez.

15 ‘Pictures of the Year: 75 Years of the World’s Best Photography’ – April 6 – Jan. 20, 2019

Newseum Great Hall - Museums in Washington, DC

The Newseum will display seven decades of award-winning, iconic, necessary images that capture the major moments, people and events that have defined our times. In a collaboration with photojournalism program Pictures of the Year International, the exhibit is sure to provide viewers with a full range of the human experience.

16 ‘Snow Child’ – April 13 – May 20

Arena Stage in the Southwest Waterfront Neighborhood - Theaters in Washington, DC

Be a part of the world premiere of a bluegrass musical based on Eowyn Ivey’s debut novel, a finalist for the 2013 Pulitzer Prize at Arena Stage. The lesson, things are rarely as they seem, is told in a tale about a childless couple who are visited by a mysterious girl and her fox companion in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness. In 2015, Arena incubated Dear Evan Hansen and Lynn Nottage’s Sweat in advance of their Broadway debuts.

17 Smithsonian Craft Show – April 26-29

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. A preview night reception gives guests first dibs on shopping, and will be held on Wednesday, April 25.

18 Passport DC – May 1-31

Passport DC - Tour Embassies in Washington, DC - Things to Do This Spring

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 just that with the Around the World Embassy Tour on May 5 and the European Union Embassies' Open House on May 12. Other unique and popular events during the cultural festival include a Flower Mart at National Cathedral, May 4-5 and the Fiesta Asia! Street Festival, May 19.

19 ‘Outbreak’ – May 16 – Spring 2022

@michellefortephotography - Atrium at Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History on the National Mall - Free Museum in Washington, DC

Whether you fear the zombie apocalypse or you’re a hypochondriac, you’ll discover heaps of helpful information in the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History’s exhibition, Outbreak. An examination of disease in the modern world prompted by the Ebola outbreak, heightened by the Zika epidemic and coinciding with the centennial of the Spanish influenza pandemic, the program is designed to raise public awareness by considering the interconnectedness of human health.

20 DC Bike Ride – May 19

DC Bike Ride - Outdoor Activities in Washington, DC

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.

21 Capital Pride – June 7-10

Capital Pride Events in Washington, DC - Capital Pride Parade

Attendees spanning local neighborhoods to the ends of the world 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 attracts A-list stars, such as last year’s VIP, Miley Cyrus. A range of signature events – a rooftop pool party, a block party, Pride Parade – round out the festivities.

22 DC Jazz Festival – June 8-17

DC Jazz Festival at Yards Park on the Capitol Riverfront - Outdoor Summer Music Festival in Washington, DC

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 Yards Park, Howard Theatre and the Kennedy Center, as well as some of DC’s most intimate jazz clubs. While some concerts are free, most shows are ticketed.

23 ‘Fabergé Rediscovered’ – June 9 – Dec. 31

Fabergé Rediscovered Exhibit at the Hillwood Estate, Museum and Gardens - Historic House and Museum in Washington, DC

Twentieth century American collectors, including breakfast cereal heiress Marjorie Merriweather Post, played a major role after the Russian Revolution in popularizing the exquisite miniatures crafted for the Russian royal family by Karl Fabergé. Hillwood Estate, Museum & Gardens is home to 90-some works including two Easter eggs, the Tsar’s gifts to his immediate family, in addition to extensively manicured gardens known as “outdoor rooms.”

24 ‘Hamilton’ – June 12 – Sept. 16
 
 

A post shared by Hamilton (@hamiltonmusical) on

The Tony Award-winning sensation about the Founding Father who came to the U.S. as an immigrant from the British-colonized West Indies to become George Washington’s trusted advisor takes the stage at the 2,362-seat Opera House for a 14-week run in the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical blends jazz, rap and hip-hop, and transforms the tale of America’s first Treasury Secretary with a diverse cast. Single tickets go on sale to Kennedy Center Members in February 2018 and to the general public in March 2018.

25 By the People Festival – June 21-24

By The People Festival - Can't-Miss Summer Arts Festival in Washington, DC

An inaugural citywide arts festival with free and inclusive activations, By the People celebrates the creative culture of the arts, and the empathy and inclusivity they engender. During the four-day extravaganza, expect a full-on arts takeover of Washington, DC, with innovative music and dance performances, interactive and collaborative displays, art installations in every DC quadrant and late-night museum openings from the National Mall to the neighborhoods. Additional programming includes a civic dialogue series aimed at demonstrating progress between people on opposite sides of an issue, and an augmented reality city-wide art hunt.

26 Smithsonian Folklife Festival – June 27-July 1, July 4-8

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

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 2018? Attendees can experience human towers by way of Catalan, Armenian craftsmanship and cuisine, as well as other unique experiences originating on the African continent.

27 2018 MLB All-Star Week – July 13-17

@amgarciaindc - Sunset at Nationals Park during Nationals baseball game - Sports in Washington, DC

Calling all baseball fans, make your plans to visit DC for the first MLB All-Star Game in the nation’s capital since 1969. Experience the full week of festivities, including the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game™ (July 15), the T-Mobile Home Run Derby® (July 16) and 89th MLB All-Star Game® presented by Mastercard (July 17). The 2018 All-Star FanFest® (July 13-17) will be hosted at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center.

Speaking of big years, re-live the year of dining that was in 2017 with the hottest restaurants, Michelin-starred reservations and top DC chefs' favorite dishes.