When it comes to climate, Washington DC is in a tough spot. Wedged between the Blue Ridge Mountains to the west and the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean to the east, Washington DC is often bombarded with cold Canadian air and warmer, humid conditions via the Atlantic and the Gulf. The combination can get a bit messy, especially during Washington DC winter months. However, D.C. still manages to offer an appealing selection of seasonal delights including elegant autumn days and blossoming spring evenings.
Washington DC Seasons
Washington DC Spring: March-May
Spring in DC means one thing: cherry blossoms. When the city's nearly 3,000 Japanese Cherry Trees bloom in early April, the streets come alive with gorgeous shades of white, red and pink. Ornamental fruit and Dogwood trees, as well as countless gardens, from residential plots to the Botanic Garden and National Arboretum, also contribute to the colorful Washington DC spring scene. Washington DC spring days are typically warm and sunny during this popular season.
Washington DC Summer: June-August
The fact that many Washingtonians skip town in late summer is not surprising, considering that a record high temperature of 106 degrees Fahrenheit has been reached twice: on July 20, 1930 and August 6, 1918. Sticky humidity is the summertime trademark, along with late afternoon (at times violent) thunder and lightening storms. Power failures, downed trees and tornado watches are not uncommon, and central air conditioning is a must for residents. Fortunately, many city restaurants offer rooftop dining when the air cools down after dark, and most museums are open and air-conditioned seven days a week.
Washington DC Fall: September-November
The most vibrant red, orange and yellow leaves appear on Washington DC's trees in mid to late October. With frequent blue skies, cozy sunshine and pleasant breezes, autumn in Washington DC is perfect for sightseeing, whether touring monuments or a casually strolling the neighborhoods. Rainy days are scarce from September to November, and the days are still long enough to enjoy several hours of this warm, golden season.
Washington DC Winter: December-February
Winter in Washington can quickly turn chaotic. An average of 15-18 inches of snow falls during the coldest months, and often turns into a slushy, icy mix when mixed with plenty of freezing rain. It takes a foot of snow to prompt the Federal Government to shut down, and businesses and schools often follow suit.
The Best Times to Visit Washington DC
For delightful weather and scenery, spring and fall cannot be beat in Washington DC. Both seasons feature comfortably warm, dry and sunny days with quiet breezes and plenty of foliage; cherry blossoms in the spring and changing leaves in the fall. Spring and fall also tend to be less crowded with tourists than the action-packed summer season, and a casual feeling (flip flops and short sleeves are suitable attire) prevails. Many sun-loving residents and visitors head to Rock Creek Park, the lawn of the Washington Monument and the suburbs of Virginia to soak up every last daylight hour.
What to Pack
An umbrella is key, as rain showers can sneak up suddenly in Washington DC, drenching a sunny day for an hour or two. Avoid toting unnecessary items during the summertime when humid air provides an extra, heavy layer. Otherwise, light layers of loose-fitting cotton or wool clothing are perfect year round, and comfortable walking shoes are essential for city treks. Certain bars, lounges and restaurants around DC call for a dressier look, but for the casual sightseer, diner or bar-hopper, jeans are de rigueur.
—Washington DC weather review by Sarah Amandolare