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Warm Weather Fun
Washington’s spring and summer months practically overflow with festivals and street fairs. Below is a sampling of just some of what our area offers. By Emily Leaman
Dancers twirl at the National Cinco de Mayo Festival, being held this year on May 2. Photograph by David King
Comments () | Published April 5, 2010

Remember, there are also Fourth of July parades, Memorial Day concerts, county fairs, and other community activities, so be sure to check Web sites of local jurisdictions for relevant dates and times. 

MAY
April 30 through May 2: Azalea Garden Festival
Held annually since 1953, this garden festival includes tours of Landon school’s 2½-acre azalea garden in Bethesda, home to more than 15,000 blooms. The event also features antiques, jewelry, clothing, and gift vendors; a plant market; musical performances and an art show by students; kids’ activities such as moon bounces and face-painting; and 5K and one-mile “fun runs.” Admission to the festival is free, and proceeds from sales of antiques and other items benefit the school.

May 1 through 31: Passport DC
During this monthlong festival, which celebrates international cultures, many of Washington’s embassies open their doors to the public in a massive open house that features street fairs, dance and music performances, food tastings, and art exhibitions. Also on the schedule are the International Children’s Festival (May 15), a kids-oriented fair promoting cultural exchange, and the Asian Heritage Festival (May 22). Some of the events require an entry fee, but most—including the embassy open house on May 1—are free.

May 2: National Cinco de Mayo Festival
This festival, held at the Sylvan Theater on the Washington Monument grounds, includes Latin dance and music performances, food, and craft workshops where kids and adults can make piñatas, hair braids, dancing puppets, and more. Kids can also play Lotería, or Spanish bingo, for a chance to win prizes. Noon to 6; free.

May 7 and 8: Washington National Cathedral Flower Mart
Each year, the Flower Mart draws thousands of people to the grounds of Washington National Cathedral. Held on the west lawn, the festivities include music, puppet shows, games, and rides for the kids; more than a dozen food vendors and 50 booths with items for sale; used and rare books; and, of course, lots of plants. Be sure to pop inside the cathedral’s nave to see floral arrangements by embassies from around the world. Admission is free; hours are Friday 10 am to 6 pm, and Saturday until 5.

May 8 and 9: Bethesda Fine Arts Festival
Fine arts and crafts from 150 local and national artists are on display in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle. Also on the schedule are live entertainment and samples from Bethesda restaurants. Free.

May 12 through 16: GI Film Festival
This four-day festival honors the American military through film. It features the work of new and established filmmakers from the United States and abroad and includes screenings, panel discussions, Q&A sessions with directors, and awards. Screenings are held at the Carnegie Institution of Washington. Tickets are required; multiday passes are available.

May 14 through 16: Mount Vernon’s Spring Wine Festival & Sunset Tour
Bring a blanket for a picnic under the stars at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Jazz is performed on the lawn, and there are candlelit mansion tours throughout the evening. For an extra $24, you can get fruit-and-cheese boxes for two that also include a summer sausage, crackers, wine biscuits, and Virginia peanuts. Other food items are available à la carte from the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. Tickets are $30. The event runs from 6 to 9 pm.

May 14 through 16: Greek Festival
Each spring, Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral holds a popular festival celebrating Greek culture. It features traditional food—think whole lambs turned on spits, spanakopita, meat-stuffed dolmas—plus crafts, games, and activities for kids; live music and dancing; and cathedral tours. Festivities start at noon each day. Free.

May 15: Potomac Strawberry Festival
Sponsored by the Potomac United Methodist Church, this family-friendly festival includes a bake sale of strawberry-themed desserts plus a marketplace with antiques, home goods, plants, secondhand clothing, and more. There are also games and activities for kids. Admission and parking are free.

May 15: Gaithersburg Book Festival
This is the inaugural year for Gaithersburg’s literary festival, which takes place on the grounds of Gaithersburg City Hall. It features book sales and signings with local and national authors, plus reading and writing workshops for kids and adults on everything from graphic novels to poetry and prose. There are also a coffeehouse with poetry readings and musical performances and a Children’s Village area with activities for kids. 10 to 6; admission and parking are free.

May 15 and 16: Maryland Faerie Festival
Celebrate fairies from folklore and literature at this annual festival at the Patuxent 4H Center in Upper Marlboro. This year’s theme is unicorns, and activities include May-pole dancing; musical performances on three stages; food and gift vendors; craft areas; and kids’ activities such as a treasure hunt and dress-up pavilion. Tickets are $10 for ages 12 and up and $3 for kids three to 11, but you can get a $1 discount if you dress in costume; children under three are free. Parking costs $3. Festivities run from 10 to 6 both days.

May 15 and 16: Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival
This annual festival and street fair in Reston features the work of more than 200 artists, who show everything from watercolor paintings to textiles. It includes music and entertainment, kid-friendly activities, and food tastings. Free. Reston Town Center on Town Center Parkway.

May 22: Fiesta Asia Street Fair
The capstone event of the National Asian Heritage festival, which includes several events throughout May, the Fiesta Asia fair features craft booths, cultural performances, food vendors, martial-arts demonstrations, a talent show, and more. The festival takes place along Pennsylvania Avenue between Thirds and Sixth streets, Northwest. It runs from 10 AM to 7 PM. Free.

May 31: Memorial Day Jazz Fest
Take a picnic lunch to Fort Ward Park in Alexandria for the annual jazz festival featuring big-band, swing, and contemporary jazz music. A new band takes the stage each hour from 1 to 7. Free.

>> Next page: Festivals in June

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