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.
Dancers twirl at the National Cinco de Mayo Festival, being held this year on May 2. Photograph by David King
Dancers twirl at the National Cinco de Mayo Festival, being held this year on May 2. Photograph by David King

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. 

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

June 1 through 13: DC Jazz Festival
Local and international jazz artists converge to play concerts at venues around the city, including the Kennedy Center, National Portrait Gallery, and Carter Barron Amphitheatre. Some events, such as the family-friendly jazz concerts on the National Mall, are free, while others require tickets.

June 4 through 13: Capital Pride Festival
This festival celebrates Washington’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender individuals and communities and their cultural and civil-rights achievements. Now in its 35th year, the event includes educational opportunities and civic and social events. The event culminates with a parade through DC’s Dupont and Logan circles and a street festival along Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest.

June 5 and 6: Old Town Arts and Crafts Festival & Volunteer Fair
Volunteer Alexandria, an organization that matches volunteers with local nonprofits, sponsors this annual fundraiser. The festival includes a marketplace of handmade arts and crafts by local artisans, as well as live music and food vendors. Nonprofit groups will be on hand to present opportunities for volunteering. Free.

June 5 and 6: Washington Folk Festival
Celebrate cultures from around the world at this annual folk festival at Glen Echo Park. Last year’s program included six performance stages for everything from puppets to music to storytelling, as well as dance workshops and an arts-and-crafts marketplace. The festival, which runs from noon to 7 both days, is free.

June 5 and 6: Vintage Virginia Wine Festival
Dozens of Virginia wineries offer unlimited pours at this popular annual event at Bull Run Regional Park in Centreville. Food vendors serve cheese and other goods to pair with wine, and local artists sell crafts and artwork. Bands 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. Discounted advance-purchase tickets—available here through June 4—run from $5 for kids to $125 for a VIP pass.

June 11 through 13: Celebrate Fairfax! Festival
Check out more than 400 vendors, artisans, and family activities at this annual community festival at the Fairfax County Government Center. Concerts are held on five stages—this year, feature performances include Rusted Root and KC & the Sunshine Band. If you have kids in tow, head over to the Children’s Avenue pavilion, which in the past has included a petting zoo, climbing wall, musical stage, and model-train exhibit. Discounted early-bird tickets are available here, but you can also get tickets at the gate.

June 11 through 26: Columbia Festival of the Arts
Now in its 23rd year, this annual summer festival celebrates performing and visual artists from Howard County. The LakeFest Celebration (June 11 through 13) opens the festival at Columbia Town Center, with three days of family-friendly activities including an arts-and-crafts marketplace, kids’ stories and crafts, a parade, and live music. Other festival highlights include art exhibitions, concerts, family activities, and art workshops. Some events, such as the LakeFest Celebration, are free, but others require tickets. Tickets are available at Tickets.com starting April 30.

June 12 and 13: National Harbor Food & Wine Festival
National Harbor’s nosh-and-sip fest includes kids’ cooking demonstrations and activities, seminars and demonstrations with guest chefs, a Belgian-beer cafe, and samples of boutique wines. Special events, such as a three-course clambake, are also in store. Tickets, which give you unlimited tastings, are available here at early-bird prices ranging from $15 to $69; children under six are free. General-admission tickets at the gate are $73.

June 12 through July 3: Source Festival
This three-week theater festival showcases more than two dozen never-before-seen performance pieces. It includes a mix of both full-length and short plays as well as works representing collaborations between artists from across multiple disciplines. Tickets are required for all performances.

June 22 through 27: Silver Docs
More than 100 films from 60 countries are screened during this documentary-film festival. Screenings are held at AFI Silver Theatre and Discovery Communications World Headquarters in Silver Spring, and the Round House Theatre in Bethesda. In addition to film showings, there are roundtable discussions and an idea-pitching forum for filmmakers and interested participants. Tickets are required.

June 24 through 28 and July 1 through 5: Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Learn about cultures around the world at the annual Folklife Festival on the National Mall (between Seventh and 14th streets). The Smithsonian packs the two-week event with music, food, dancing, crafts, cooking demonstrations, and outdoor exhibits. This year, Asian Pacific American cultures and Mexican traditions will be highlighted. The Smithsonian provides a behind-the-scenes look at its museums and institutions with the Smithsonian Inside Out program. The festival is open daily from 11 to 5:30, and evening events start at 6. Free.

June 26 and 27: National Capitol BBQ Battle
You’ll probably be able to skip lunch—and maybe dinner—if you check out the National Capital Barbecue Battle, held along Pennsylvania Avenue, Northwest, between Ninth and 14th streets. Sample ribs, pulled pork, beef brisket, and more as barbecue teams duke it out for $40,000 in cash and prizes. There are also cooking demonstrations, children’s activities, live music on two stages, and celebrity appearances. Tickets are $10 for adults, $5 for kids ages six to 12, under age six are free.

June 26 and 27: DC Caribbean Carnival
This annual festival features performances by local bands and artists who hail from Caribbean countries as well as island food, crafts, and entertainment. The don’t-miss event is the parade, which travels down Georgia Avenue from Missouri Avenue to Barry Place. The parade ends at the carnival grounds at Banneker Recreation Park. Tickets are required for entry to the carnival.

>> Next page: Festivals in July and August

June 24 through 28 and July 1 through 5: Smithsonian Folklife Festival
Learn about cultures around the world at the annual Folklife Festival on the National Mall (between Seventh and 14th streets). The Smithsonian packs the two-week event with music, food, dancing, crafts, cooking demonstrations, and outdoor exhibits. This year, Asian Pacific American cultures and Mexican traditions will be highlighted. The Smithsonian will also provide a behind-the-scenes look at its museums and insitutions with the Smithsonian Inside Out program. The festival is open daily from 11 to 5:30, and evening events start at 6. Free.

July 8 through 25: Capital Fringe Festival

The Capital Fringe Festival celebrates experimental art and theater. At venues throughout DC, you can see hundreds of performances of contemporary theater, dance, music, poetry, and puppetry, performed by local, national, and international artists. There are also panel and roundtable discussions with performers. Most events require tickets, and packages to see multiple performances are available.

July 23: Clifton Film Fest
Clifton residents submit original short films for this community festival, which culminates in a screening of the top entries in July. Films are three to eight minutes long and range in style from drama to comedy to documentary. The winning films in the adult and student categories receive a prize. Screenings begin at 8:30 pm at Clifton Town Park.

July 31 and August 1: Asian Festival
Reston’s Asian Festival, held at Lake Newport Square, celebrates Asian culture and traditions with food, arts and crafts, music, and stage performances. Past festivals have included special events such as martial-arts demonstrations, sports tournaments, a break-dancing contest, and an Asian Idol singing contest. Free.

August 7: Friendship Firehouse Festival
This annual festival celebrates the 1774 founding of Old Town’s Friendship Fire Company. It includes live music, craft and food vendors, giveaways for kids, and a peek at historic firefighting equipment. 9 am to 2 pm. Free.

August 14: Alexandria Irish Festival
Head to Old Town’s Waterfront Park on Prince Street for the Irish Festival. The event includes Irish-American food, crafts, and entertainment. Noon to 7. Free.

August 28 through October 24: Maryland Renaissance Festival
Hosted in a recreated 16th century English village called Revel Grove, the annual Maryland Renaissance Festival includes costumed villagers who man pubs, stages, food booths, and more than 130 craft shops. You can get into character, too—there’s a booth for adults and children to rent costumes. In addition to the day-to-day entertainment—strolling musicians, jugglers, mimes, and more—there are special weekend themes. Last year’s included Pirate Adventure Weekend and Shakespeare Weekend. Tickets are required. 

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