Things to Do

May in Washington

How do locals celebrate one of the most temperate months of the year? With outdoor festivals galore. From flowers at Washington National Cathedral to an embassy open house to Memorial Day done right, you’ll have more than enough to see and do.

April 30 through May 9: Passport DC
For more than a week, many of DC’s embassies will open their doors to the public in a massive open house that will feature street fairs, dance and music performances, food tastings, and art exhibitions. Don’t miss the International Children’s Festival (May 9), a kids-oriented fair promoting cultural exchange.

May 1 and 2: 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, 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. The best part: Admission to the festival is free.

May 1 through 3: Potomac Bonsai Festival

The National Arboretum is hosting a festival celebrating bonsai trees. Held on the arboretum grounds (3501 New York Ave., NE), it includes a exhibition of the miniature trees and free demonstrations by experts. Feeling inspired? Check out the vendor tent with enough trees and supplies to get you started on your own. Grounds are open from 10 to 5.

May 2 to 9: DC Yoga Week
Calling all yogis—and curious non-yogis. Visit DC this week and test drive a yoga class at more than a dozen DC yoga studios. Check out the schedule for participating locations. Cost: free or $5, depending on location.

May 3: National Cinco de Mayo Festival
This festival, held on south side of the Washington Monument, 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 and meet Mexican cowboys and cowgirls, who’ll be on horseback near the stage. Noon to 6; free.

May 9 and 10: Spring Garden Party at Mount Vernon
Celebrate spring at George Washington’s 500-acre estate by perusing plants and garden items at the annual garden-and-gift sale.  Musicians will play Early American music in the upper and lower gardens, and in honor of Mother’s Day, “Mrs. Washington” will share her insights on motherhood—with a late-18th-century flair. Grounds open 8 to 5. Admission is $15.

May 13 through 17: 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. Ticket prices and the schedule of events will be available in March.

May 15 through 17: Mount Vernon Wine Festival & Sunset Tour
Bring a blanket for a picnic under the stars at George Washington’s Mount Vernon estate. Jazz will be performed on the lawn, and candlelit mansion tours will be offered 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 will be available à la carte from the Mount Vernon Inn Restaurant. Tickets are $30. The event runs from 6 to 9 PM.

May 16 and 17: Northern Virginia Fine Arts Festival
This annual festival and street fair in Reston features the work of more than 185 artists. It includes outdoor music and entertainment, kid-friendly activities, and food tastings. Free. Reston Town Center on Town Center Parkway.

May 17: Taste of Arlington
More than 40 restaurants will participate in this year’s Taste of Arlington, where visitors can sample international cuisines including Italian, Mexican, Caribbean, Irish, and Indian. Admission is free, but booklets of eight tasting tickets cost $20 in advance or $25 at the event. The street-fair-style festival takes place at Ballston Common Mall and on Wilson Boulevard from noon to 5. Advance ticket sales will be available online from April 15 through May 15.

May 22 through September 11: Jazz in the Garden
Friday nights from 5 to 8:30, enjoy free jazz concerts in the National Gallery of Art Sculpture Garden. Bring a blanket and picnic dinner or enjoy a sushi platter and a cheese-and-fruit plate from the Pavilion Café.

May 24 and 25: Memorial Day Events
Washington kicks off the summer season with a Memorial Day weekend packed with events. The annual Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally, which raises awareness about veteran benefits and POW issues, brings thousands of motorcyclists to DC streets on May 24. They depart from the Pentagon at noon and ride to the Reflecting Pool at 1:30 for a program with guest speakers and live music. That evening at 8, PBS will broadcast its Memorial Day concert from the west lawn of the Capitol. The concert includes appearances by actors and guest artists as well as performances by the National Symphony Orchestra. The parade is the next day, with marching bands, floats, and balloons. It starts at Constitution Avenue and Fifth Street, Northwest, at 2 PM.

May 25: Memorial Day Jazz Festival
Take a picnic lunch to Fort Ward Park in Alexandria (4301 W. Braddock Rd.) for the annual jazz festival featuring big-band, swing, and contemporary jazz music. It’ll be hard to get bored—a new band takes the stage each hour from 1 to 7. Free.

May 30 and 31: Washington Folk Festival at Glen Echo Park
Hundreds of folk-music performers will make use of this festival’s seven stages, with performances and demonstrations in music, dance, and traditional crafts. There will be plenty of events for kids and adults, including storytelling and participatory dance. Free.

May 30 and 31: Vintage Virginia Wine Festival
Fifty Virginia wineries will offer unlimited pours of more than 300 wines at this annual event at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville. Food vendors will serve cheese and other goods to pair with wine, and local artists will sell crafts and artwork. Bands will perform on the outdoor amphitheater stage, and in the Family Tent kids can enjoy jugglers, magicians, balloons, and more. Festivities run from 11 to 6 both days. A $20 shuttle will take you to and from the Vienna Metro station on the Orange Line. Tickets are on sale here

This article is part of’s Visitors’ Guide. For more articles like it, click here. If you’re visiting in a different month, check out our City Schedule for events happening throughout the year.