D.C.'s Top Festivals


D.C.'s Top Festivals

For a comprehensive look at what's happening throughout the year, check out www.washington.org, the website of Destination DC, the local tourist bureau.


National Christmas Tree Lighting/Pageant of Peace (202/208–1631 www.thenationaltree.org Dec.). Each year in early December, the president lights the tree at dusk on the Ellipse, with concerts, a Yule log, and Nativity scene held later in the month.

Restaurant Week (www.washington.org/restaurantwk Jan. and Aug.). More than 200 top restaurants offer lunch and dinner menus for around $20 and $35 respectively—often a steal.


National Cherry Blossom Festival (877/44–BLOOM www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org Late Mar.–early Apr.). Washington's most eye-catching annual festival opens with a Japanese lantern-lighting ceremony at the Tidal Basin. Some years, the cherry trees actually cooperate with the festival's planners and bloom on schedule.

Georgetown French Market (202/298–9222 Late Apr.). Shop, eat, wander, and enjoy strolling mimes and live musicians in one of D.C.'s most beautiful neighborhoods.


Capital Pride Festival (202/719–5304 www.capitalpride.org Early June). This weeklong festival, the nation's fourth-largest celebrating gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgendered citizens, features a parade with eye-catching floats.

Washington Shakespeare Theatre Free for All (202/547–1122 www.shakespearetheatre.org June). For two weeks, the theater company mounts free nightly performances at the Sidney Harman Hall, near Chinatown. Tickets are required.

Smithsonian's Folklife Festival (202/633–6440 www.folklife.si.edu Late June–early July). This engrossing two-week festival includes traditional dance and music performances, storytelling, and ethnic food of all sorts.

Independence Day Celebration (202/619–7222 July). July 4 at the nation's capital begins with a grand parade along Constitution Avenue and culminates in awe-inspiring fireworks over the Washington Monument. At dusk, the National Symphony Orchestra plays from the Capitol's west lawn.


National Book Festival (202/707–1940 Late Sept.). Sponsored by the Library of Congress, this two-day event attracts some of the world's top authors, poets, and illustrators to the National Mall, where visitors can get books signed, snap photos with their favorite scribes, or just swim the seas of literature. It's a great place for kids.

Veterans Day (703/607–8000 Cemetery Visitor Center, 202/619–7222 National Park Service Nov. 11). Services take place at Arlington National Cemetery, the Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and the U.S. Navy Memorial. A wreath-laying ceremony is held at 11 am at the Tomb of the Unknowns.

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