DC events calendar • Summer festivals and celebrations

Discover DC's best summer events, concerts and food fests—and find out where to celebrate the Fourth of July—with Time Out's Washington, DC events calendar



Add +
Participants in the National Capital Barbecue Battle, one of DC's most popular summer events

Participants in the National Capital Barbecue Battle, one of DC's most popular summer events © Capitol Media USA

Washington, DC's events calendar for summer is jam-packed—there are endless things to do in the National Capital when the mercury starts to rise. The Fourth of July is—as you might expect—celebrated in style in DC, with Independence Day events (and mindblowing firework displays) popping up all over town. Summer musical events are a treat—with highlights like the Capital Jazz Fest and the Marine Band's traditional Evening Parades leading the way. The museums get in on the act too, with the Smithsonian's Folklife Festival bringing cultural showcases and—oh joy—heaps of gourmet food from around the world to the National Mall. And speaking of food, summer in DC just wouldn't be the same without June's obscenely popular National Capital Barbecue Battle, that draws the city's meat enthusiasts out en masse to compete for mastery of the grill. Looking for yet more mouthwatering summer events in DC? Read on.

Sleeper Agent in concert at Fort Reno in Washington, DC

Fort Reno Summer Concert Series

Both up-and-coming and well-known bands take to the outdoor stage at Fort Reno Park, on a hill overlooking the city. Concerts are free and bands play for nothing; not surprisingly, long-term funding is a concern for the popular event. Come along, bring a picnic and soak up the music. No booze or glass bottles allowed.
www.fortreno.com. Transport: Tenleytown-AU Metro.  

  1. Fort Reno Park, NW, between Wisconsin & Nebraska Avenues, Upper Northwest
  2. June–Aug

Marine Band’s Summer Concert Series & Evening Parades

“The President’s Own”—once led by John Phillip Sousa—performs free, twice-weekly outdoor concerts at the Capitol and/or on the Mall during the summer months; the band’s repertoire ranges from classical music to brass-band favorites, and the action starts at 8pm. (See the band’s website for days and locations.) On summer Fridays, the band is also a featured element of the showy Evening Parade, which includes impressive precision formation drills; it begins at 8:45pm on the manicured grounds of the Marine Barracks (8th & I Streets, SE), the corps’ oldest post. Reservations are required, though unclaimed seats are sometimes available at the time. The affiliated Commandant’s Own drum and bugle corps performs a weekly Sunset Parade at the Iwo Jima memorial statue, adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery; start time is 7pm and reservations are not required.  
www.marineband.marines.mil. Transport: Rosslyn Metro. 

  1. US Marine Corps War Memorial Arlington, VA
  2. Tue in June–Aug

Capital Jazz Fest

Billed as “the Woodstock of jazz festivals,” this outdoor extravaganza in Columbia, Maryland, serves up food, crafts, and, of course, some of the best jazz musicians around. Dave Koz, Eric Benét, Walter Beasley, David Benoit, Incognito and India Arie are among past headliners.  

  1. Merriweather Post Pavilion, Columbia, MD
  2. Early June

Dupont-Kalorama Museums Consortium Walk Weekend

Hidden-treasure museums and historically important houses in Dupont Circle and the neighbouring Kalorama area take part in an “off the Mall” museum day for the public. Free food, music, tours and crafts are added bonuses.  

  1. Multiple venues
  2. Early June

Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure

It’s said to be the biggest five-kilometer run/walk in the world. The Race for the Cure draws tens of thousands of participants to raise money for and awareness of breast cancer.  
www.komen.org. Transport: Federal Triangle Metro.   

  1. Starts at Constitution Avenue, NW, at 9th Street for runners and 12th Street for walkers, The Mall & Tidal Basin
  2. Early June

DanceAfrica DC

A week of masterclasses culminates in a weekend festival celebrating African and African-American dance, with free outdoor performances, crafts and food, plus ticketed mainstage events indoors. Note that an admission price is charged for some events.  
www.danceplace.org. Transport: Brookland-CUA Metro. 

  1. Dance Place, 3225 8th Street, NE, at Monroe Street, Northeast
  2. Late May–early June

National Capital Barbecue Battle

For more than two decades, barbecue wizards have gathered to compete for titles that now, astonishingly, carry more than $40,000 in prize money. Tens of thousands throng the nation’s Main Street to sample glorious ribs, chicken and every other form of barbecue imaginable. Celebs, music, children’s activities and much more to go with the food. 
http://bbqdc.com. Transport: Metro Archives-Navy Memorial.   

  1. Pennsylvania Avenue, NW, between 9th & 14th Streets, Federal Triangle
  2. Late June

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

This monster festival celebrates the arts, crafts and food of selected U.S. states and other countries. Food and demonstration booths stretch down the National Mall, and there are evening celebrations and music performances. The atmosphere is cheerful, the weather usually hot and sticky. The themes for 2013 were Hungarian heritage, endangered languages, and African-American dress and adornment.  
www.folklife.si.edu. Transport: Smithsonian Metro.   

  1. National Mall, between 10th & 15th Streets, The Mall & Tidal Basin
  2. Late June & early July

Independence Day

Steer clear of this one if you hate crowds (nearly 700,000 people generally turn up), or if the now rather pervasive security makes you think of Mr. Orwell (the legacy of 9/11 means that Fourth of July revelers now enter a fenced-off National Mall via checkpoints). Official events begin at 10am at the National Archives, with a dramatic reading of the Declaration of Independence, demonstrations of colonial military manoeuvres, and more. Just before noon, the Independence Day parade starts to wind its way down Constitution Avenue (from the National Archives to 17th Street), and later (5–9:15pm) the grounds of the Washington Monument host entertainment—folk music, jazz, marching bands, military singers—and hordes of revelers. The National Symphony Orchestra performs a concert on the West Lawn of the Capitol building at 8pm, traditionally concluding with a battery of cannons assisting in the finale of Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture; then, at roughly 9pm, a stupendous array of fireworks is set off over the Washington Monument. Logistical hassles aside, it’s a grand sight: The monuments are lovely in the summer dusk, and the barrages involve thousands of rounds of explosives. Walk to the festivities if you can: Fourth of July crowds eat up parking spots and test the limits of the public transportation system.  

  1. Multiple venues
  2. Sat Jul 4

Users say


City links

Global links