16 Popular Festivals In Washington, DC

festivals in dc

As the capital city of the United States, Washington DC has a unique ambience. A visit here is incomplete without a trip to its towering historical monuments such as Lincoln Memorial, Washington Monument, and Capitol Building. One should definitely drop by its collection of premier museums including National Air and Space Museum, National Museum of Natural History, and National Gallery of Art. Washington DC is culturally vibrant with trendy neighbourhoods, buzzing nightlife, and an active arts scene. It is also among the most diverse cities in the country, which adds more colour to its milieu. A wide range of accommodations, including affordable Airbnbs and kid-friendly hotels, are also available. One of the best ways to experience and explore the city’s eclectic culture is to check out the many festivals held throughout the year. We have here a comprehensive guide so read on for a list of the popular festivals in Washington DC.

1. Francophonie Cultural Festival

Flag Map of France (La Francophonie)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user DrRandomFactor used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

For a month, Francophonie Cultural Festival celebrates all things French. Held annually in March, this festival puts the spotlight on the francophone cultures of all French-speaking countries worldwide. In Washington DC, over 40 participating embassies, consulates, and other organisations hold a bevy of cultural events showcasing the cuisines, films, literature, music, art, as well as customs of these French-influenced countries. The festival ends with the Embassy of France holding a mega gala event called La Grande Fête.

Francophonie Cultural Festival

Address: Various venues, Embassy of France - La Maison Française, 4101 Reservoir Road, NW, Washington, DC

Website: Francophonie Cultural Festival

Takes place: March

2. DC State Fair

DC State Fair
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ted Eytan used under CC BY-SA 2.0

DC State Fair is dedicated to giving a platform to the talents of the district’s residents across different aspects such as farming, cooking, crafts, arts, and athletics. The fair lasts for a day and it is typically held in a local neighbourhood. Competitions, live demonstrations, and workshops on a variety of topics are organised. A popular feature here is the pet parade and pet competitions. A huge number of stalls are usually set up where local vendors put up their wares.

DC State Fair

Website: DC State Fair

Takes Place: September

3. National Cherry Blossom Festival

FDR Memorial - cherry blossoms
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user AgnosticPreachersKid used under CC BY-SA 4.0

Every spring, more than 3,000 cherry trees that line the Tidal Basin in Washington DC start blooming, resulting in a breathtaking spectacle. The trees were a gift from Japan and even today, National Cherry Blossom Festival honours the friendship between the two countries. The gorgeous pink flowers are a marvellous sight and the festival celebrates this through a whole host of Japanese-themed events such as cultural presentations and performances. Since the peak blooming date of the trees differs each year depending on weather conditions, the festival lasts for four weeks. Some of the events held include a kite festival, a fireworks display, concerts, a parade, and a fundraiser party.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

Address: 1275 K St NW, Washington, DC

Website: National Cherry Blossom Festival

Takes Place: March to April

4. Chinese New Year Parade

Chinatown Lunar New Year Parade (25007245146)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user erikccooper used under CC BY 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

In celebration of the Lunar New Year, the Chinese community in Washington DC organises a grand parade that features traditional Chinese lion and dragon dances, artistic displays by community members, Kung Fu demonstrations, marching bands, and live music. The parade usually ends with a spectacular fireworks display.

Chinese New Year Parade

Address: 6th Street & Eye Street NW to 6th Street & H Street NW, Chinatown, Washington, DC

Website: Chinese New Year Parade

Takes Place: February

5. Gelato Festival America [Last event in 2019]

16.7thHStreetFestival.NE.WDC.17September2011 (6160137867)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Elvert Barnes used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Gelato Festival America is part of a worldwide and annual event organised to find out the best new gelato flavour. Putting the spotlight on artisanal gelato, competitions are held in several countries to unearth the finest flavours conjured up by gelato chefs. Visitors to the festival get the opportunity to taste the yummy new flavours and vote for their favourite one. Apart from the competition, several other activities are organised including live demonstrations or workshops, fun games, and a scoop-stacking competition.

Gelato Festival

Address: City Market at O, 800 P Street NW, Washington DC

Website: Gelato Festival

Takes Place: September

6. Cinco de Mayo Festival

National Cinco de Mayo Festival (17172941797)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user S Pakhrin used under CC BY 2.0

Cinco de Mayo Festival in the United States is all about enjoying what Mexico’s rich culture has to offer even though the original reason for the festival is to commemorate the win of the Mexican Army over the French. Spread over a day, the festival in Washington, DC includes a whole array of events including live Latin music and dance performances, arts and crafts workshops for children, cultural presentations, games, and art exhibits. The highlight of the festival is the wonderful selection of authentic culinary delicacies from local participants.

Cinco de Mayo Festival

Address: 9th & 12th St. SW, National Mall, Washington DC

Website: Cinco de Mayo Festival

Takes Place: May

7. Fiesta Asia

Asia Heritage Foundation - Fiesta Asia Street Fair DC 2014 (14040355798)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user S Pakhrin used under CC BY 2.0

May is celebrated as Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month across the United States to mark the contributions of Asian-Americans. Held as a part of it, Fiesta Asia Street Fair is a day-long affair that offers a multitude of activities including live music shows, artistic performances such as martial arts demonstrations and lion dance, kids activities, movie shows, art exhibitions, cultural displays, and interactive workshops. Here, you’ll find a marketplace with stalls showcasing arts and crafts. Visitors also get a chance to explore Pan-Asian cuisine presented by local participants.

Fiesta Asia

Address: Pennsylvania Ave between 3rd and 6th, Washington, DC

Website: Fiesta Asia

Takes Place: May

8. Virginia Scottish Games

Caber Toss
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Steve used under CC BY-SA 2.0

This two-day weekend festival pays tribute to the region’s Scottish and Celtic heritage. The fest comprises numerous competitions and entertainment events characteristic of the culture. Competitions here include traditional Scottish games known as heavy events where participants test their strength by lifting items such as box weights, logs, and quarry hammers. There are also bagpiper-playing contests, a British car and bike show, a fiddling competition, and a Highland dancing competition. There’s also a children’s version of the competition’s heavy events. Additionally, there is also an organized dog show for Scottish breeds of dogs is also. The festival is held in The Plains, which is around 45 mi (72 km) away from Washington, DC.

Virginia Scottish Games

Address: 5089 Old Tavern Road, The Plains, VA

Website: Virginia Scottish Games

Takes Place: September

9. Latino Festival (Fiesta DC)

Fiesta DC 2014 (14999974944)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user S Pakhrin used under CC BY 2.0

Latino Festival, also known as Fiesta DC, puts the focus on Latino culture. Celebrated over two days in the fall, the fest comprises a parade and a festival. The Parade of Nations consists of cultural displays of various Latin countries displayed through traditional costumes and dance performances. The full-day festival usually has an exciting collection of activities such as a special children’s fest, a beauty pageant, arts and crafts displays, a live artistic performance, and food stalls showcasing traditional South American and Mexican cuisine.

Latino Festival (Fiesta DC)

Address: Pennsylvania Avenue NW, from 3rd Street to 7th Street, NW, Washington, DC

Website: Fiesta DC

Takes Place: September

10. Smithsonian Folklife Festival

2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival - 50
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Ser_Amantio_di_Ni... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Smithsonian Folklife Festival is a unique celebration of folk traditions across cultures worldwide and the United States. Organised by Smithsonian Institute, the fest usually spans four days where cultural practitioners are invited to share and demonstrate their folk traditions. The festival typically focuses on a few themes each year, around which special events are organised. A host of educational events such as discussions and workshops are held by participating institutions and heritage professionals. Entertainment events including concerts and dance parties that are held in the evenings. The Marketplace is where visitors can enjoy scrumptious regional food stalls and explore craft items on sale.

Smithsonian Folklife Festival, June/July

Address: National Mall, 7th and 12th St, Washington, DC

Website: Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Takes Place: June to July

11. Passport DC

Dupont Circle fountain - facing southwest
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user AgnosticPreachersKid used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Passport DC is an exciting festival that allows visitors to explore other countries’ cultures without leaving the city. As the capital of the United States, Washington DC is home to over 170 embassies and consulates. In this month-long festival, participating embassies and cultural institutions host demonstrations and performances. This is held as a part of the Around the World Embassy Tour open house so that visitors can get a glimpse of their culture. Additional events such as street fests, music performances, exhibitions, and workshops are held throughout the month, offering the unique opportunity to gain exposure to distinctive features and traditions of different countries.

Passport DC

Address: Embassy Row (Massachusetts Avenue, Connecticut Avenue, 16th Street NW), Washington, DC

Website: Passport DC

Takes Place: May

12. Oktoberfest

Oktoberfest - Flickr - GregTheBusker (2)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Greg Schechter used under CC BY 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Oktoberfest is a popular fall festival that originated in Munich but is now observed worldwide. A vibrant celebration of German culture, it is most well-known for providing the opportunity to sample an incredible range of beers. In Washington DC, several pubs and restaurants celebrate Oktoberfest with special events that comprise beer-tasting sessions of over 100 types of ales/lagers, games/contests, live music, and specialty German food. Some notable fests to check out include the one held by the Bavarian pub, Biergarten Haus, The Das Best Oktoberfest, Snallygaster DC, and Wunder Garten Oktoberfest.


Address: 1355 H St NE, Washington, DC

Website: Biergarten Haus Oktoberfest

Takes Place: September to October

13. Kids Euro Festival

'Wandering In The Bush Show' - Interactive & Educational Children's Show (AU)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Beehive Montessor... used under CC BY-SA 3.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Kids Euro Festival is the biggest children’s festival in the United States. Aimed at introducing European culture and traditions to children aged 2 to 12, the festival brings together talented artists from all over Europe who present a variety of artistic performances and fun educational sessions. A wide range of events is organised including concerts, storytelling sessions, puppetry shows, movies dance performances, and magic shows.

Kids Euro Festival

Website: Kids Euro Festival

Takes Place: October

14. Turkish Festival

Turkish Festival DC 2013 (10009984654)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user S Pakhrin used under CC BY 2.0

Explore varied facets of the Turkish culture at this festival held every September. The one-day event is choc-a-bloc with activities and performances hosted by Turkish artists. Events held here include folk dance performances, live music shows, arts and crafts activities, workshops, and unique experiences such as traditional coffee fortune-reading. This festival also holds a traditionally styled bazaar that showcases Turkey’s local crafts and its culinary delights.

Turkish Festival

Address: Freedom Plaza, 14th Street and Pennsylvania Avenue NW, Washington, DC

Website: Turkish Festival

Takes Place: Usually held in September

15. Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend

Kilts and Pipes (37911386585)
Source: Photo by Wikimedia Commons user Rob Shenk used under CC BY-SA 2.0

Photo is only for illustrative purposes

Held annually, Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend is a festival dedicated to celebrating the town’s rich Scottish heritage. The event includes a spirited parade and a fest. The parade offers marching units of various Scottish clans, bagpipe and drum performances, Scottish dances, and reenactments of historic events. The fest includes fun events such as Scottish dog shows, arts and crafts activities, a classic cars show, musical performances, and a Scottish tasting menu.

Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend

Address: St. Asaph and Wolfe Street, Old Alexandria, Alexandria, VA

Website: Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend

Takes Place: December

16. Unite the District Fest [Event has passed]

Editor's Note: There's no photo available at the time of writing

Unite the District Fest is a two-day festival that brings together the various aspects of the district’s culture in one place. Held for the first time in 2019, the fest offers visitors the chance to experience live music featuring local bands, events, exhibitions, interactive installations, competitions, and more. Stalls set up by selected breweries and restaurants offer local specialties.

Unite the District Fest

Address: Audi Field, 100 Potomac Ave SW, Washington, DC

Takes Place: October

Enjoy a peek into different aspects of Washington DC

The wide choice of festivals being held in Washington DC can be overwhelming. Each festival has numerous events and activities that feel unmissable. To get the most out of your experience, it is best to go through the schedule beforehand so you can shortlist and prioritise the events you want to attend. Our list of popular festivals in Washington DC offers you all details for you to plan out an exciting outing.

While you’re here, be sure to check out some food tours and seafood restaurants in Washington DC.

Disclosure: Trip101 selects the listings in our articles independently. Some of the listings in this article contain affiliate links.

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Writing and travelling both bring joy to Sowmya's life. Her favourite destination so far is Bhutan. A land of incredible beauty! And her favourite style of travelling is solo backpacking!...Read more

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