News & Politics

Fall Festival Guide

We’ve rounded up the best fall festivals going on in Washington. Enjoy!

Art & Literature | Film | Food & Wine | Neighborhood Festivals | Outdoors & Other

Art and Literature

On October 4, McLean Project for the Arts will take over the town's Central Park for a one-day art show-and-shop featuring the work of 38 artists from a range of disciplines, including oil painting, clay, ceramics, and jewelry. The Children's ArtWalk will showcase the work of young artists from the area, and there will also be live entertainment and food vendors from local restaurants. McLean Central Park is located at the intersection of Route 124 and Old Dominion Drive. Parking is available. For more information on this rain-or-shine event, go here.  

George Mason University’s Fall for the Book festival attracts big names in all literary fields. This year’s lineup includes James Ellroy, E.L. Doctorow, and Sherman Alexie. Film screenings and photo exhibitions will be held alongside author readings and discussions. The festival runs September 21 through 26, with events at George Mason’s Fairfax campus and throughout DC, Maryland, and Virginia.

The DC Jewish Community Center’s Hyman S. & Freda Bernstein Jewish Literary Festival runs October 18 through 28. A dramatic reading of Philip Roth’s Goodbye, Columbus (published 50 years ago) opens the festival. On Tuesday, October 20, Notes on a Scandal author Zoë Heller will discuss her latest novel, The Believer, alongside Washington Post Book World editor Ron Charles. Also on the schedule: a poetry slam with artist Jake Marmer (October 24) and a children’s book fair complete with workshops and storytelling sessions (October 25). For tickets and more information, go here or call 202-777-3251. Unless otherwise noted, activities will be held at the DCJCC.

The National Book Festival, put on by the Library of Congress, takes over the Mall with a celebration of reading on Saturday, September 26. Junot Díaz, John Irving, Nicholas Sparks, and George Pelecanos, are a few of the more than 80 participating authors. The Children’s Pavilion on September 26 will feature the launching of an online narrative collaboration between authors and kids titled the Exquisite Corpse Adventure, with a new chapter/Webisode running every two weeks, leading up to next’s year festival. The festival, which is free, takes place at the Mall between Third and Seventh streets, Northwest.

Artists from all over the country gather to exhibit paintings, sculpture, jewelry, photography, ceramics, and more at the annual Alexandria Festival of the Arts. This year, the festival runs Saturday and Sunday, September 12 and 13. Artists and crafters display their work in stations set up along King Street in Old Town, between Union and Washington streets.

The Arts on Foot street festival features food, drinks, art, and live performances—all happening within four blocks in the Penn Quarter neighborhood. There’s an art market with works for sale by local artists, a restaurant-sampling area, and arts and crafts for kids. On Saturday, September 12, F Street, Northwest (between Sixth and Ninth streets), transforms itself into a small market with ceramics, jewelry, glass, and other art available for purchase.

Alexandria’s Del Ray
neighborhood celebrates art and culture with Art on the Avenue on October 3. The festival gathers hundreds of local artists and craftspeople looking to showcase (and sell) their work. Plus, there’s food provided by local restaurants, and live musical performances. The festival runs from 10 to 6 along Mount Vernon Avenue between Bellefonte and Hume streets.

The Takoma Park Folk Festival is a day of music, dance, food, and handmade crafts held on Sunday, September 13, at Takoma Park Middle School. Seven stages will be set up to host performances, dance workshops, and children’s activities. There’ll be craft booths throughout indoor and outdoor spaces, and food from several local restaurants will be available. Just remember to leave Fido home—pets aren’t allowed on festival grounds. 

The 40th Annual Book Festival at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington will feature a slate of events, including lectures and discussions, with authors like Jeffrey Zaslow, Peter Yarrow and Dara Horn. The festival runs November 5 through 15. For more information, visit

Reel Affirmations, Washington’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender film festival, which runs from October 15 through 24, showcases shorts, documentaries, and feature films. For its 19th iteration, the festival will showcase more than 90 films at venues throughout the area, including the AFI Silver Theatre and the Harman Center for the Arts. This year’s big events include the festival opener, An Englishman in New York—a sequel of sorts to 1975’s The Naked Civil Servant about gay English writer Quentin Crisp (played by John Hurt). In Englishman, Hurt reprises the role of Crisp, as the film examines the noted author’s latter years in New York City in the 1980s. Passes and individual tickets can be purchased online or at the venues’ box offices on the day of the screening.

9500 Liberty, a documentary based on the YouTube channel of the same name started in 2007 by two Asian-American filmmakers, opens the DC Asian Pacific American Film Festival, now in its tenth year. The festival runs October 1 through 10 and is held throughout various theaters in DC, including the Goethe-Institut and E Street Cinema. Festival passes and individual tickets can be purchased here.

Need a remedy to those two hours of your life you’ll never get back? (We’re looking at you, Funny People.) How about short and sweet films—lots of them. The DC Shorts Film Festival runs September 10 through 17, and more than 100 films will be featured this year. Plus, the screenwriting competition is back, with a live reading of six scripts on October 17. Attendees will get to vote on their favorite screenplay; the winning script gets $1,000.

Food and Wine
Taste of Georgetown (cosponsored by The Washingtonian) is October 10. The food-and-wine event brings out more than two dozen restaurants providing samples of dishes. Tastes are $5 each; bracelets for the wine pavilion are $10. The local bar Blues Alley will set the mood with jazz performances. The festival runs from 11 to 4 along Wisconsin Avenue between M and South streets.

Taste of Bethesda is October 3 from 11 to 4, with more than 50 restaurants offering samples of dishes. There’ll also be live music and performances on four stages plus activities and giveaways for kids. Free admission; tasting tickets sold in booklets of four for $5. The event takes place along Norfolk, Fairmont, St. Elmo, Cordell, and Del Ray avenues.

Sample wines from Virginia vineyards and take an evening tour of George Washington’s home at the Mount Vernon Wine Festival and Sunset Tour October 2 through 4. Colonial-garbed guides will share history and take visitors into the estate’s cellar, where the first president stored his wine in brick vaults. Food such as fruit-and-cheese boxes, sandwiches, and desserts will be available for purchase. Admission is $30.

For two days starting October 10, Old Town becomes an oenophile’s dream, as local wineries come together for the Old Town Food and Wine Festival. Local restaurants will serve meals paired with Virginia wines, a tasting room with all participating wineries will be set up at the Holiday Inn on First Street, and there’ll be a series of cooking and wine seminars. Tickets to the festival, which include a pass to the tasting room, are $30 in advance and $35 at the event.  

Neighborhood Festivals
One of the cities largest—and the longest-running—neighborhood festivals, Adams Morgan Day (September 13) features live entertainment on two stages, craft vendors, dance workshops, and—for the first time—a “green” pavilion with eco-friendly wares. The festival takes place over a four-block stretch of 18th Street, Northwest, between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road.

On September 19, the Atlas District hosts its sixth annual neighborhood festival with live entertainment, vendors, and more. Details for the festival are still being finalized, but last year’s event featured a fashion show, dance performances, and carnival games.

Billed as “Arlington’s biggest party,” Clarendon Day on September 26 is an eight-hour food-and-art extravaganza, complete with belly-dancing performances, skateboarding demonstrations, and two performances stages for live entertainment. Proceeds of the event will benefit Doorways for Women & Families and the Clarendon Alliance. The festival starts at 11.

Outdoor and Other Celebrations
Vienna’s Wolf Trap hosts the International Children’s Festival September 19 and 20. Intended to foster multiculturalism and awaken an appreciation of the arts in young children, the festival features performers from all over the world, including Spain, Serbia, and Georgia. Headlining this year are TAP Kids, a tap-dancing group made up of teenagers and young adults. Tickets are $8 for adults and $4 for children if purchased before September 12.

Fiesta DC, Washington’s Latino festival, takes place in Mount Pleasant on September 27 to celebrate Latino history in DC and the community’s cultural contributions. In addition to food, craft vendors, and musical performances, the festival will also hold fairs and a diplomatic pavilion for embassies and consulates.

For anyone toting children under the age of ten, Pumpkinville at Leesburg Animal Park offers a fall festival that’s complete with a free pumpkin upon admission. While your kids take advantage of the zip lines, moon bounces, hay-rides, and petting zoo, you can enjoy the farm’s all-you-can-eat apples and all-you-can-drink cider. Apples and pumpkins to take home are available at the farm’s market. Pumpkinville is open daily September 26 through November 3 from 9 to 6. Admission is $8.50 on weekdays and $12.50 on weekends; free for children under two.

Experience autumn’s changing palette with the Farm Color Tour, a free self-guided tour through Loudoun’s farm country. More than 30 wineries, farms, and gardens dot this scenic drive, and there are stops along the way if you want to take a tour, have lunch, or taste Virginia wine.  Call 800-752-6118 for more information, or download a interactive tour map here. Open October 17 and 18 from 10 AM to 4 PM.