Summer in the nation’s capital is packed with free and family-friendly festivals featuring everything from jazz music to the wonders of barbecue.
Washington, DC never lacks for can't-miss events and warm-weather festivals. In fact, there are so many amazing choices that it can be tough to figure out which to attend. No worries – we’ve got you covered with some of the season’s biggest events and festivals that are perfect for having the best summer ever. Make sure to check out our things to do this week, weekend and month as well.
Awesome Con: June 3-5
DC’s Convention Center turns into a massive celebration of geek culture during Awesome Con. More than 70,000 fans will be able to see their favorite stars from comics, films, TV, toys and games throughout Awesome Con, a three-day festival that is Washington, DC’s own Comic Con. Expect plenty of costumed attendees and an array of activities to enjoy during one of the city’s most vibrant annual events.
Capital Pride: June 3-12
The DC community comes together for the annual Capital Pride, a citywide celebration of LGBTQ rights and the continuing fight for them. This year, Capital Pride returns to in-person celebrations, including its official opening party, a block party, the popular Pride Parade and the Pride Festival and Concert. Make sure to read our piece on the events for more details.
Something in the Water: June 17-19
Renaissance man Pharrell Williams brings his Something in the Water Festival to the nation's capital over Juneteenth weekend. The festival will celebrate art, culture and music across the weekend. The list of can't-miss artists is a long one, but we'll throw some standouts at you: Jon Batiste, Lil' Baby, Lil' Uzi Vert, Ashanti & Ja Rule, Denzel Curry, Dj Domo, Moneybagg Yo, Pusha T, Rae Sremmurd, Run The Jewels, Teyana Taylor, Thundercat, T.I., Tyler, The Creator, Usher and of course, Pharrell & Phriends. Local go-go musicians Backyard Band, Rare Essence and Sound of the City will also perform.
Smithsonian Folklife Festival: June 22-27, June 30 - July 4
The free Smithsonian Folklife Festival salutes different international cultures every year on the National Mall with craft exhibits, live music, cooking demos and an expansive marketplace full of pottery, books, textiles, toys, sculptures, clothing and more. The 2022 edition will focus on the United Arab Emirates and feature Earth Optimism programming.
Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle: June 25-26
Rib roasters and sauce bosses show off their delicious wares during the Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle. Dozens of pit masters, local restaurants and live music shut down Pennsylvania Avenue between 3rd and 7th streets NW for a lively street party in late June. Cooking demos and free tastings make for a delicious (and filling) experience.
The Playhouse: July 1 - Sept. 6
The National Building Museum and the Folger Shakespeare Library, in association with the University of South Carolina, are partnering this summer to present The Playhouse. Visitors can step back in time with the Bard for the latest iteration of the Museum’s Summer Block Party. An exciting Festival stage will occupy the Museum’s immense—and air conditioned—Great Hall. By day, the installation will provide a venue for unique experiences related to theater—from behind-the-scenes tours to sword-fighting demonstrations and other hands-on activities. At night, The Playhouse transforms into a stage for Shakespeare’s most famous, fairy-filled comedy for Folger Theatre’s production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream.
Capital Fringe Festival: July 11-24
During the edgy Capital Fringe Festival, you can catch out-there performances from local creatives, including improv dramas, punk rock shows and colorful dance shows. Events take place at libraries, museums, galleries and other locations throughout the District. Make sure to check out the festival's website as it gets closer for programming information.
Otakon: July 29-31
Otakon is held at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center and just might be the dedicated event space’s liveliest function (emphasis on FUN) all year long. The family-friendly convention is run by and dedicated to fans of Asian media, entertainment and pop culture, including anime, manga, music, movies and video games. The festivities range from cosplay contests, skits and live music to panel discussions with comic book (super)heroes, for-sale artworks and more.
'Hamilton' at the Kennedy Center: Aug. 2 - Oct. 9
One of the most acclaimed productions in American history comes back to DC’s pre-eminent stage. 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 spotlight inside the Kennedy Center’s 2,362-seat Opera House. 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.
Kendrick Lamar: Aug. 4
The return of Kendrick Lamar to the global stage figures to be one of this summer's biggest cultural stories. With the release of his new album, Mr. Morale & The Big Steppers, the current poet laureate of hip-hop re-assumes his throne and is now launching a world tour with special guests Baby Keem and Tanna Leone. Tickets to this Aug. 4 show at Capital One Arena are going to sell quickly.
Summer Restaurant Week: Aug. 15-21
Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington hosts two annual celebrations of DC’s eclectic dining scene: one in January and a summer edition in August. For both seasonal editions, Restaurant Week offers diners pre-fixe menus for lunch/brunch ($25) and dinner ($40 and $55). We'll post the August dates once they're announced.
DCBX: Aug. 25-29
Ranked as the best Latin dance festival in the U.S. five times, DCBX takes over the nation’s capital for five days. Veterans and newbies of dancing bachata, the sexier-than-salsa dancing style from the Dominican Republic, will have plenty of chances to strut their stuff, from concerts to contests to workshops. In addition to its dance events, the corresponding Global Impact Film Festival celebrates different cultures and raises awareness about important worldwide issues.
DC JazzFest: Aug. 31 - Sept. 4
DC JazzFest brings national and local musicians to a range of venues all over the city, including The Wharf. Some concerts are free; most are ticketed. A lineup stacked with talent and free performances are just two of the many reasons why you should check out the 2022 edition.