Washington DC
Washington DC

Washington, DC Festivals


The sight of just about every great picketing act or march on the Capitol, the National Mall was once home to rabble-rousing hippies, bra-burning demonstrators and everyone else who generally wanted to cause mayhem for the political world. Now, the National Mall is the site of almost every festival in Washington, DC. This grand, European-style boulevard stretches the two miles from the Capitolís eastern end to the Washington Monumentís western end, and is home to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, the Duke Ellington Jazz Festival, the National Book Festival, and many more events. Pennsylvania Avenue is also home to a variety of festivals, such as the Turkish Festival, Fiesta Asia! and the National Capitol Barbecue Battle. Capitol Pride, one of the greatest gay pride events in the country also happens in Washington, DC, offering one of the largest parades in the area as well as a wide range of exciting competitions, social networking opportunities and educational discussions.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

Washington, D.C.'s Natonal Cherry Blossom Festival honors a 1912 gift from Tokyo to Washington, D.C. of 3,000 cherry trees. When they blossom in late March and early April, more than 700,000 people come to celebrate this two-week, beginning-of-spring festival in the nation's capital. Japanese horticulturists are on hand, as are marching bands and Japanese taiko drummers. The National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade marches along Constitution Avenue between 7th and 17th Streets, NW. Don't miss the blossom festival's tap dance team, choir or clowns. The National Cherry Blossom Festival's antique cars are worth a look, too. (Avital Binshtock) >> more

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

National Mall, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 202.633.1000
Since 1967, the largest annual cultural event in the Nationís Capitol, drawing more than one million visitors each year, is Washington, DCís Smithsonian Folklife Festival. Held on the National Mall between 7th and 14th Sts. near the Smithsonian Museums, the two-week festival falls over the Fourth of July holiday and includes demonstrations by chefs, artists, craftsmen, storytellers and other performers from over 90 nations, every region of the U.S., and over 100 Native American groups. With no admission fee, attendees can enjoy and participate in a range of cultural traditions as well as attend discussion sessions concerning global issues. Named one of the top events in the U.S., DCís Smithsonian Folklife Festival is interactive as well as family-friendly.

Filmfest DC

Various locations, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 202.628.FILM
Filmfest DC, Washington, DCís International Film Festival, showcases a range of cultures and traditions including films from over 30 countries. Aiming to introduce attendees to new perspectives, the ten-day film festival has themes such as an annual geographical focus (the 2007 festival featured French films), Views from the News, which offers differing points of view on major global issues and Global Rhythms, featuring world music. Honoring innovation in cinema, the Washington, DC festival challenges movie-making conventions and offers showings of unique films not available at other local theaters. International film buffs as well as those simply curious to learn about new traditions will find Filmfest DC engaging; broadening their perspectives and knowledge of world cinema.

Washington, D.C. Green Festival

801 Mount Vernon Place, NW, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 800.58.GREEN
A joint operation between Global Exchange and Co-Op America, Washington, DCís Green Festival is a celebration of healthy communities and economies that is one of only four annual festivals of its kind held across the Nation. The two-day fall festival, held at the Washington, DC Convention Center, features local speakers from green businesses, workshops for conscious consumers, yoga classes, a fair-trade pavilion, organic dining and even organic beer. Marketed as a ďparty with a purpose,Ē the Washington, DC Green Festival creates a model for sustainable living and develops environmentally conscious connections between residents and local businesses. All attendees, from hybrid-driving vegans to businesses curious about recycled paper will become more sustainable in their everyday routines. Volunteering is encouraged and participants will receive free membership to Co-Op America. The all-green event also offers a food drive to benefit local food banks and encourages attendees to donate low-sodium, healthy food items.

National Capitol Barbecue Battle

Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 202.828.3099
Voted one of North Americaís Top 100 events by the American Tourism Industry Association, Washington, DCís National Capitol Barbecue Battle draws competitors of all backgrounds from across the Nation. Participants including restaurant chefs and backyard grill-masters compete side-by-side for over $25,000 in cash prizes and bragging rights as the National Pork BBQ Champion. Traditionally competitive categories include Pork Shoulder and Whole Hog, as well as a special contest to discover the Nationís Best Barbecue Sauce. Held on Pennsylvania Ave. each summer between 9th and 14th Sts., the National Capitol Barbecue Battle offers a weekend of free food samples, live music, cooking displays, and activities the entire family can enjoy in Downtown Washington, DC.

Capitol Jazz Fest

10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia, MD; Tel. 301.780.9300
The worldís largest showcase of contemporary jazz, Washington, DCís Capitol Jazz Fest is a five-day festival held in early June. Taking place at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland, approximately halfway between DC and Baltimore, the event has performances on three stages featuring the best in contemporary jazz, urban and neo-soul music. The festival also includes the Capitol Jazz Challenge for new and aspiring jazz musicians as well as a Poetry Slam competition, and both offer a cash prize for winning entrants. The Washington, DC Capitol Jazz Fest also features many local artists and past Capitol Jazz Challenge competition winners. Concert-goers can enjoy the music up-close in the Pavilion or relax on the lawn and between shows, there are plenty of arts and crafts, food, and artist meet-and-greet booths to explore.

National Book Festival

National Mall, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.888.714.4696
Washington, DCís annual National Book Festival, sponsored by the Library of Congress, is open to the public and aims to encourage a life-long love of reading. Held on the National Mall between 7th and 14th Sts., the all-day fall event features readings and book signings from various best-selling authors for adults and children as well as storytelling, live music, and reading promotions. Favorite childrenís book characters such as Curious George and Clifford the Big Red Dog attend the event to encourage literacy and Washington, DC teachers can gain insight on how to inspire their pupils by using the interactive online Young Readersí Toolkit. With booths set up to include every genre from Childrenís literature to History and Biography, readers of all types can enjoy the National Book Festival.

Turkish Festival

Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.888.282.3236
Sponsored by the American-Turkish Association, Washington, DCís annual Turkish Festival celebrates the culture and traditions of Turkey in the heart of the Nationís Capitol, between 13th and 14th Sts. on Pennsylvania Ave. The one-day fall festival offers a taste of Turkey, with an authentic bazaar set up to stimulate all five senses and create a truly Turkish experience. Featuring vendors selling everything from Turkish coffee to handmade arts and crafts as well as samples of traditional ethnic cuisine such as kabobs and baklava, the Washington, DC Turkish Festival immerses festival-goers in Turkish culture. Folk music performers provide a backdrop for the event, which also features cultural dance, a childrenís activity tent and fortune telling. Aiming to promote and increase understanding of Turkish culture as well as improve relations between the Turkish community and the public at large, Washington, DCís Turkish Festival is an opportunity to explore a new world.

Capitol Pride

Various locations, Parade starts at 23rd St. and P St. NW, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.202.797.3510
A celebration of the gay community in the Nationís Capital, Washington, DCís annual Capitol Pride is a weeklong series of educational seminars and nightlife events, ending with a parade and the DC metropolitan areaís largest one-day street festival. A collaboration of community organizations promoting LGBT rights, Capitol Pride is a festival that provides both social networking as well as discussions about the advancements and setbacks facing LGBT individuals. Featuring a wide range of events including the Mr./Miss Pride pageant, interfaith gatherings, health and wellness events, a Mr./Ms. Capitol Pride Leather Competition and discussions sponsored by the Human Rights Campaign, Capitol Pride appeals to the entire community. The culmination and highlight of this weeklong festival is the parade and street festival, which showcases the diversity and unity of DCís gay culture.

Washington, D.C. International Wine & Food Festival

Ronald Reagan Building and International Trade Center, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.617.385.5021
Boasting over 1,100 wines in all, Washington, DCís International Wine & Food Festival combines the very best in wine and gourmet cuisine. Wine lovers of all types attend this three-day festival, held each spring during Wine & Food Festival Week, to attend seminars on selecting wines and creating delectable food pairings. The Opening Night Party offers guests a chance to indulge in the finest wine and the DC areaís most exquisite cuisine, and all weekend, winemakers and trade specialists are available to answer questions and offer suggestions. The event also aims to raise money for SOME Ė So Others Might Eat, a charitable organization whose mission is to help the poor and homeless of the Nationís Capitol. The canít miss highlight of the International Wine & Food Festival is the Grand Tasting, which is divided into themed areas based on geographical locations and offers selections from over 280 wineries.

Greek Festival

36th St. & Massachusetts Ave NW, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.202.333.4730
Washington, DCís Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedralís annual Fall Festival, located at 36th St. and Massachusetts Ave., is a celebration of Greek culture in the DC area and delights the senses with two full days of food, drinks and family-friendly activities. Authentic cuisine such as roasted lamb, souvlaki and gyros are available in an indoor buffet, and there is also a large Greek market for adventurous chefs wanting to create these delicacies at home or those wishing to purchase Greek art or religious jewelry. There are arts and crafts for the children, and for the adults, there is live music and lively Greek dancing. Tours of the cathedral, founded in 1904, are also available. The Washington, DC Greek Festival is a weekend of fun and food, and offers the public a taste of Greek culture.

Fiesta Asia!

Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.703.920.0620
The annual spring celebration of Asian-American heritage in the Nationís Capital, Fiesta Asia! is a month-long cultural festival culminating in a street fair Downtown on Pennsylvania Ave. between 3rd and 6th Streets. Free and open to the public, the all-day street fair boasts an exciting array of vendors and performances including dance showcases, a New Unicorn Awakening Ceremony, a cultural parade and martial arts demonstrations. An all-day music stage also showcases the best in Asian music from nearly a dozen cultural groups. A culture tent with lessons in Filipino dancing, Chinese name writing and Malaysian folk games also invites festival attendees to learn about new traditions. Sponsored by the Asian Heritage Foundation, Fiesta Asia! is a festival celebrating the diversity of Asian-American culture in the greater Washington, DC area.

Dance DC Festival

Various locations, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.202.724.5613
Sponsored by the Washington, DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities, the Dance DC Festival showcases a wide variety of traditional dances performed by local artists. Both performances and workshops are offered in genres including hip-hop, salsa and swing. All three days of Dance DC are free and open to the public. The opening night performance is a celebration of dances from across the globe, and the weekend continues in a similar vein with performances across the city from a variety of troupes. Shows are also planned in conjunction with Washington, DC public schools, making the Dance DC Festival both educational and entertaining.

Festa Italiana

3rd and F Sts. NW, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.202.923.7845
The only Italian Festival in downtown Washington, DC, Festa Italiana showcases Italian American culture in the DC area. The all-day summer street fair begins with a procession led by the Pastor of Holy Rosary Church starting at 3rd and F Streets Downtown, the small remainder of a once bustling Italian neighborhood, and offers festival-goers a chance to sample authentic Italian cuisine, enjoy magic by street performers and listen to arias sung by Italian musicians. Free and family-friendly, Festa Italiana features a different area of Italy each year and highlights the culinary and cultural traditions of the region. Free Italian lessons are available to the public and for those planning to travel to Italy, Festa Italiana is an opportunity to explore the culture of Italy without leaving Washington DC.

Duke Ellington Jazz Festival

Various locations, Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.202.232.3611
An annual celebration honoring Jazz history and DC native musical genius Duke Ellington, Washington, DCís Duke Ellington Jazz festival showcases both local and international artists, including Grammy-winners and National Endowment for the Arts Jazz Masters. The week-long festival includes concerts at more than 20 local venues as well as an all-day concert on the National Mall. A project of Festivals DC, the event also includes a free Family Fun day with storytelling and music lessons. The festival aims to use Jazz music as a type of arts education for area youth and all concerts and lessons are free in hopes to expose a wide range of new listeners to the diverse performances. The Duke Ellington Jazz festival honors Washington, DCís history as a Jazz hub and highlights both its rich past and diverse development.

Adams Morgan Day Festival

18th St. N.W. and Columbia Rd., Washington, D.C.; Tel. 1.202.232.1960
Washington, DCís most densely populated and diverse neighborhood, Adams Morgan, holds an annual street fair showcasing its wide variety of traditions from around the globe. First held in 1978, the Day Festival honors the rich variety of ethnic identities of its residents. Festival-goers can enjoy delicious ethnic food, vendors, and cultural demonstrations in areas such as dance and music while exploring the neighborhood. Childrenís activities are available in both English and Spanish, and people of all tastes can find something to enjoy at this diverse event. Named after formerly segregated elementary schools in the area (the once all-black Thomas P. Morgan and white John Quincy Adams schools), the neighborhood is now a cultural melting pot indicative of Washington, DCís rich diversity. The Adams Morgan Day Festival highlights and celebrates this diversity and exposes visitors to a unique blend of traditions.
--Washington, DC festival reviews by Laura Hayes