Things to Do

August in Washington

With Congress on recess and lots of Washingtonians away on vacation, what’s there to do in August? Plenty! From free film screenings and an archaeological dig to restaurant week and cultural festivals galore, we’ve got the lowdown on a late-summer visit t

August 2: Friendship Firehouse Festival in Old Town Alexandria
This annual festival, now in it’s 14th year, celebrates the 1774 founding of Old Town Alexandria’s Friendship Fire Company. The festival includes live music, craft and food vendors, giveaways for kids, and a look at historic firefighting equipment, such as hand-drawn fire engines, axes, leather water buckets, and more. South Alfred Street between Prince and King streets, where the festival is held, will be closed to traffic. 9 AM to 2 PM. Free.

August 2: Alexandria’s Irish Festival
If you head to Old Town for the Firehouse Festival, swing by Waterfront Park on Prince Street for the Irish Festival, happening the same day. The festival is part of the city’s Ethnic Festival Series, celebrating various cultures around the world. The event includes food, crafts, and entertainment. Noon to 7pm. Free.

August 2-10: DC Sales Tax Holiday
For a week in August, DC businesses suspend the 5.75-percent sales tax for shoes, clothing, accessory items, and school supplies—just in time for back-to-school shopping. The exemption usually applies to items costing $100 or less. For more information, visit the Office of Tax and Revenue’s Web site.

August 7-9: DC Comedy Fest

Washington-area comedians come together for a three-day festival. Performances at venues in DC and Virginia include improv, standup, sketch, and short film comedy. Check the festival’s Web site for more information.

August 9: White House Summer Garden Tour
Tours of the White House gardens and grounds are held periodically throughout the summer. The tours are open to the public, but free timed tickets are required for all attendees, including small children. The National Park Service distributes them at the Ellipse Visitor Pavilion at 15th and E streets on each tour day beginning at 8 AM. One ticket per person is distributed on a first-come, first-served basis. Tours run from 10 AM to 4 PM. Call 202-208-1631 for more information.

August 9-10: Asian Festival in Reston, Virginia
Reston’s Asian Festival, held at the Lake Newport Square (11452 Baron Cameron Ave.), celebrates the culture and traditions of Thailand, China, India, the Philippines, Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. The event features music, cultural performances, food, and entertainment, including a celebration of the Beijing Summer Olympics. Past festivals have included martial-arts demonstrations, bounces, dunk tanks, and a sports tournament. 10 AM to 9 PM. Free.

August 11-17: DC’s Summer Restaurant Week
Nearly 200 DC restaurants participate in DC’s Summer Restaurant Week, offering deep discounts on three-course lunches and dinners. Lunch and dinner cost $20.08 and $35.08 a person, respectively. Start planning where you want to go by checking out The Washingtonian’s 100 Best Restaurants list—many of these hot spots participate in the deal.

August 15-24: Comcast Outdoor Film Festival at Strathmore

Bring a blanket or beach chair and catch a free movie on the lawn at Strathmore in North Bethesda, Maryland. This year’s lineup includes Bee Movie, Spiderman 3, The Kite Runner, Transformers, and more. Donations will be accepted to benefit the National Institutes of Health Children’s Charities. Movies start at 8:30. Check the Web site for the full movie roster.

August 16: Family Dig Day
Strap on a pith helmet and head to the George Washington Masonic Memorial (101 Callahan Dr.) in Old Town Alexandria for an archaeological dig. City archaeologists and trained volunteers will be on hand to help you dig for artifacts. Organizers recommend comfortable clothing, sunscreen, and a water bottle; sandals will not be permitted. All digging equipment will be provided. Children under 16 will need adult accompaniment, and reservations for all participants are required. 1:30 to 3 PM; $5 a person.

May-August: The Commandant’s Own
Friday nights at the US Marine Corps Barracks (Eighth St. between G and I sts., SE) mean free outdoor performances by the United States Drum and Bugle Corps and the Marine Corps Silent Drill Platoon. Shows start at 8:45, but it’s a popular event, so plan on getting there an hour early. The Marines perform in light rain or shine; if a passing shower occurs, performances are delayed until it’s gone. Learn more at the Drum and Bugle Corps’s Web site.

May 23-October 3: Jazz in the Garden
Friday nights, enjoy free jazz concerts in the National Gallery of Art’s sculpture garden (Constitution Ave. between Seventh and Ninth sts., NW). Bring a blanket and picnic dinner or enjoy a sushi platter and a cheese-and-fruit plate from the Pavilion Cafe in the garden from 5 to 8:30.

June 26-August 21: Sunset Serenades at the National Zoo
Head over to the National Zoo Thursday nights from 6:30 to 8 throughout the summer for free family-friendly concerts. Musical acts from nearly every genre perform on a stage on the zoo’s Lion/Tiger Hill. Closest Metro: Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan (Red Line).

July 14-August 11: Screen on the Green
Monday nights in July and August mean free movies on the National Mall. Film classics are projected on a 20-by-40-foot screen between Fourth and Seventh Streets. This year's line-up includes Dr. No, The Candidate, and Superman. Movies start at dusk, between 8:30 and 9 PM, but people get there as early as 5 to grab the best spots. In the event of inclement weather, call 877-262-5866; screenings may be canceled. Free.

Visiting in a different month? Check out our City Schedule for events happening throughout the year.

This article is part of’s Visitors’ Guide. For more articles like it, click here.