Washington, DC embodies the best of the past and present: it?s steeped in national history and alive with modern culture. The city celebrates heritage, patriotism, and the arts with a year-round parade of unforgettable events. Book a bus today?there?s always something going on in DC. Here are some of the best annual offerings in the nation?s capital:
The renowned National Cherry Blossom Festival is a three-week city-wide extravaganza that starts in late March and continues into early April. Billed as “The Nation’s Greatest Springtime Celebration,” this festival honors Tokyo mayor Yukio Ozaki gifting 3,000 cherry trees to the United States in 1912. Enjoy traditional Japanese performances, parades, kite-flying, fireworks, and more – all against a backdrop of breathtaking pink blossoms.
Is there an American family event more iconic than the White House Easter Egg Roll? Join the President and the First Family for egg-centric fun, story time, and games.
Commemorate the birthday of one of the world’s most beloved scribes at Shakespeare’s Birthday Celebration in late April. The party is thrown by Folger Shakespeare Library, home of the largest Shakespeare collection in the world. Expect innovative interpretations of the Bard, live music, and even birthday cake.
Passport DC is a great way to travel the world–without ever leaving the city! Throughout the month of May, DC’s streets come alive with traditional music, art, food, fashion, and dancing from over 100 countries. Take advantage of open houses at 70 different embassies in the capital. And you can’t miss the tremendous National Asian Heritage Festival, which covers three blocks of Pennsylvania Avenue.
Washington, DC is the ideal place to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend in late May. Unsurprisingly, the city’s National Memorial Day Parade is the largest in the country, drawing crowds of more than 250,000 people. The parade is put on by the American Veterans Center and includes veterans, military units, and youth groups.
The two-week Smithsonian Folklife Festival explores cultural heritage and memory as it thrives in the present. Visit the National Mall in late June and early July for an incredible display of the knowledge, creativity, and resilience of communities from around the world. From cooks and builders to artists and storytellers, there are so many people to learn from at this festival.
The capital hosts plenty of music festivals, but none quite as big or as grand as the DC Jazz Festival in June. Artists from all over the world flock to the city, putting on more than 200 performances in more than 80 different DC venues. Enjoy the many diverse forms of jazz on historic U Street, where artists like John Coltrane and Miles Davis captivated crowds.
Indulge your carnivorous nature at the Giant National Capital Barbecue Battle on Pennsylvania Avenue in late June. The nation’s best BBQ-ers put forth their tastiest demonstrations, interactive displays, and best of all–free samples!
Independence Day Festivities in DC are a spectacle to behold. The National Independence Day Parade on Constitution Avenue features marching bands, floats, and military units. Bring a blanket and stake out your spot on the National Mall for a one-of-a-kind, 17-minute firework show you’ll never forget.
July is dominated by the Capital Fringe Festival, where you’ll see every kind of art you can imagine–and quite a few you can’t. Capital Fringe is an excellent way to support an amazing community of independent artists, dancers, musicians, comedians, etc.!
September is Hispanic Heritage Month. Take a trip to the Smithsonian National Zoo for ZooFiesta, a tribute to the art and cuisine of Central and South America–with a twist. You’ll love the food, crafts, and entertainment that double as education about Latin American cultures. But you’ll also have the chance to learn about Latin American native species like sloths, anteaters, and golden lion tamarins.
Bookworms unite! In late September, the Library of Congress rounds up readers and writers for the National Book Festival. Notable past attendees include Walter Mosley, Claudia Rankine, Buzz Aldrin, and David Baldacci.
Reel Affirmations: Washington DC’s International LGBT Film Festival celebrates and affirms LGBT people in a weekend of documentaries, shorts, and feature films. There are also panel discussions and Q&A sessions with filmmakers. The festival takes place in mid-October.
You don’t need a passport to enjoy the Kids Euro Festival in late October and November. This multi-cultural celebration provides an enriching, hands-on experience for the whole family. Kids can attend workshops and performances from 28 European Union nations; they’ll learn about mask-making, acrobatics, puppetry, and so much more!
It’s easy to see why the Marine Corps Marathon has been nicknamed “The People’s Marathon” and voted “Best Spectator Event.” Thousands of volunteers–marines and civilians alike–come together to make this epic race run smoothly. It doesn’t hurt that the 26.2-mile race course passes some of DC’s most famous attractions.
In 1923, First Lady Grace Coolidge authorized the installment of a towering Christmas tree on the Ellipse south of the White House. President Calvin Coolidge lit the tree to much fanfare. Since then, the National Christmas Tree Lighting has evolved into one of America’s most beloved holiday traditions. Witness the sparkling ceremony in early December.
On the first night of Chanukah, the 30-foot tall National Menorah is lit during the Chanukah on the Ellipse ceremony. But that’s not all! Chanukah on the Ellipse features live performances of Chanukah songs and hot latkes and doughnuts for the crowd.
Take a nighttime train tour of the Smithsonian National Zoo during ZooLights, when it’s transformed by more than 500,000 colorful LED lights. Visit indoor animal exhibits and take in live band performances on The Meadow. ZooLights is 34-day spectacular, starting in late November and concluding in early January. You have plenty of time to incorporate this awe-inspiring event into your holiday schedule!
What’s the best way to ward off the late January blues? Delectable prix fixe feasts at more than 200 of DC’s best restaurants, of course! Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week takes place in January and again in August.