DC events calendar

Plan ahead with Time Out's guide to the biggest and best annual Washington, DC events, festivals and concerts



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Time Out’s Washington, DC events calendar is your one-stop shop for things to do year-round in the National Capital. And believe us, there’s loads on offer, with festivals, cultural celebrations, street parties, parades and more popping up all annually over the city—and in the midst of some of its most iconic sights and attractions. So whether you’re looking for Easter egg hunts at the White House in spring, Independence Day concerts at the Capitol in summer, national book festivals in fall or Holiday fun in winter, we’ve got you covered. Read on for the best events and things to do in Washington, DC in spring, summer, autumn and winter.


National Christmas Tree Lighting

The President kicks off the holiday season by switching on the lights on the giant National Christmas Tree. (There’s a National Menorah, too, which gets lit on the appropriate night.) For a seat in the enclosure, you’ll need a ticket: apply at least six weeks in advance as they run out fast. The ticketless, though, can usually get a glimpse from the other side of the fence. The ceremony begins at 5pm; arrive early. After the tree lighting, until New Year’s Day, the Ellipse hosts Christmas performances as part of the annual Pageant of Peace.  
Transport: Federal Triangle Metro. 

  1. The Ellipse, The Mall & Tidal Basin
  2. Early Dec

New Year’s Eve celebrations

Events around town range from relatively inexpensive celebrations at the Kennedy Center (music and dancing in the Grand Foyer) to dinners at some of the area’s more upscale dining establishments costing hundreds of dollars. Restaurants and clubs often offer jazz, dinner and a champagne toast for a fixed but generally substantial price (most start taking reservations early); check ads in the Washington City Paper and the Washington Post. 

  1. Multiple venues
  2. Thu Dec 31

Martin Luther King Day celebrations

A birthday celebration is held on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, where Dr. King gave his famous “I have a dream” speech in 1963. That’s just one of many, many commemorations in DC. Among others: the Washington Performing Arts Society (WPAS) hosts an annual children’s concert with Sweet Honey in the Rock, which combines gospel, African rhythms and rap into a cappella combinations. A tremendous show.  

  1. 3rd wk in Jan
A dragon takes to the streets as part of Washington, DC's Chinese New Year celebrations

Chinese New Year

Celebrations kick off with a bang—dancers, dragons, firecrackers and parades—and continue, a bit more muted, for ten days. Look out for details near the time or contact the Chinese Consolidated Benevolent Association (1-703 851 5685).  
Transport: Gallery Place-Chinatown Metro.

  1. Chinatown, H Street, NW, between 6th & 9th Streets, Downtown
  2. Early Feb

Black History Month

The Smithsonian Institution holds special events, exhibitions and cultural programs throughout the month. For more information on the activities on offer, check newspaper listings or contact the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library. 

  1. Multiple venues
  2. Throughout Feb

Famous birthdays

A celebration of Abe Lincoln’s birthday (February 12) is held at the Lincoln Memorial; Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is read and a wreath is laid. For hardcore history buffs only. George Washington’s birthday celebration, with a patriotic military program and a George Washington impersonator, is held (on the third Monday in February) at Mount Vernon, Virginia. The Frederick Douglass birthday tribute is held on or near February 14 at the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, 1411 W Street, SE, at 14th Street, Anacostia.  
(Information: Lincoln 202 426 6841, Washington 703 780 2000, Douglass 202 426 5960.) 

  1. Throughout Feb

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