News & Politics

Fall Festivals 2010

Fall in Washington is jam-packed with festivals and street fairs. Here are the ones we're most looking forward to.


September 8 through 11: Arts on Foot
Kicking off the fall performance and visual arts season is the Washington Examiner's Arts on Foot, a festival featuring live performances, cooking demonstrations, wine tastings, crafts, and many other hands-on activities. Don't miss the Art Market, a juried bazaar with over 100 exhibitors including collage makers, glass blowers, and furniture designers. The Market runs from Wednesday through Friday from 11 to 7 each day. The festival, which adds two city blocks and a Penn Quarter restaurant sampling court to the celebration, takes place on Saturday from 11 to 6. Free. 

September 9 through 16: DC Shorts Film Festival
With its swanky parties, filmmaking seminars, and more than 95 short films, this festival is a film buff’s dream come true. The shorts are divided into eight rotating showcases, playing at the Landmark E Street Cinema and the US Navy Memorial Theater. For those on a time crunch, the last night of the festival features two “Best Of” showcases, highlighting judge and audience favorites. Access to one showcase is $12; multiple showcase and party passes are also available.

September 10 to 12: Maryland Seafood Festival
Just an hour's drive from DC, the annual Maryland Seafood Festival—held in Sandy Point State Park— is the perfect weekend escape. Enjoy fresh seafood from top local vendors, sand castle building demonstrations, a "Dessert Island" featuring treats from area restaurants, a fishing challenge, and the legendary crab soup cook-off.  Friday and Saturday 11 to 9, Sunday 11 to 7. Tickets are $12 at the gate, $10 in advance. 

September 11: 7th Annual Silver Spring Jazz Festival
Located at Veterans Plaza in downtown Silver Spring, this year's festival is headlined by New Orleans R&B icon Aaron Neville. Rumba Club, Janine Carter, Chopteeth Afrofunk Band, and local pianist Marcus Johnson are also slated to perform. Local restaurants will also offer food for purchase. The performances are outside, so bring a blanket or lawn chair. 3:30 to 10:30 PM. Free.

September 11 through October 3: Celebrate Mexico 2010
In commemoration of Mexico’s bicentennial, the Kennedy Center is hosting a series of events and performances exhibiting the country’s arts and culture. The celebration kicks off September 11 with the free Open House Arts Festival (12 to 7), an annual showcase of the Kennedy Center’s upcoming season. This year’s festival includes a children’s book fair, dance demonstrations, interactive chalk art, and more than 20 performances. Celebrate Mexico continues with performances by the contemporary circus Cirko de Mente, vocalist Magos Herrera, and many more. Venues and ticket prices vary; click here for more details. 

September 12: Adams Morgan Day Festival
This annual festival celebrates the vibrant culture of one of DC’s most diverse neighborhoods. Take in some jazz in Kalorama Park, stroll by art exhibits on Belmont Street, or grab a bite from one of the many food stands along 18th Street, Northwest. The day will also feature dance, two stages of live music, and a variety of vendors. Noon to 7. Free.

September 18: H Street Festival
As part of the H Street, Northeast, corridor revitalization, this year’s festival showcases the best of what this up-and-coming neighborhood has to offer. Highlights include a preview of DC Fashion Week, carnival games, rock climbing, parades, a pi- eating contest, international food vendors, dog-tag making, a speed chess challenge, and more than 30 musical and dance performances. Free shuttle service is available from Gallery Place and Eastern Market Metros. H Street between 12th and 14th streets. Noon to 6. Free.

September 18 and 19: Virginia Wine Festival
Whether you’re a master sommelier or a Two Buck Chuck guzzler, you’ll find something to please your palate at this year’s celebration of local wine. With Virginia vintages growing in both production size and quality, there’s no better time to taste the fruits of local labor. The festival features more than 400 varieties of wine, food tastings, live music, and an arts show. Tickets are $25 to $125; 11 to 6 at Bull Run Regional Park (7700 Bull Run Dr., Centreville).

September 18 to 25: Sonic Circuits Festival of Experimental Music
With an ear for cutting edge, genre-bending sounds, Sonic Circuits' annual festival is an aural experience unlike any other in the District. Over 40 musicians are on the bill. See homegrown acts like DC-based jazz/post-punk combo Gestures, as well as performers from as far away as Austria, like electronica pioneer Fennesz. If you're on a tight budget, be sure to check out the free performance by famed Italian percussionist Andrea Centazzo at the Kennedy Center's Millenium Stage on Wednesday, September 22 at 6 PM. For all other performances, tickets range from $8 to $45; click here for venues, times, and advance ticket purchase.

September 19: Vintage Crystal
The fourth annual Vintage Crystal, a wine-and-food event in Crystal City, has a Latin theme this year. A $20 ticket gives you access to unlimited tastings of 30 wines and food from 25 local restaurants. Also included are wine-tasting classes, tequila drinks, Latin jazz performances, and salsa dancing. The event is in the courtyard of 220 20th Street. 2 to 6.

September 19 through 24: Fall for the Book
Each year, George Mason University and the City of Fairfax sponsor this festival that brings readers and authors together. The weeklong event includes readings by acclaimed authors such as Garth Stein (The Art of Racing in the Rain) and Kathryn Stockett (The Help), lectures by publishing-industry professionals, and writing workshops for children and adults. All events are free. For location information, click here.

September 23: Grapes With the Apes at the National Zoo
Animal lovers will go bananas for this annual fundraiser, where guests can sip wine by the National Zoo’s great-ape habitat. Tickets include a commemorative glass and tastings from 20 wineries. If you really want to go wild, spring for the VIP pass, which includes animal demonstrations, interaction with the great apes’ keepers, and more extensive tasting options. Proceeds benefit the zoo’s animal-care and conservation efforts. General admission is $35 for FONZ members or $50 for others; VIP is $70 for FONZ and $85 for others
. 6 to 9.

September 24 through 26: Chesapeake Film Festival
Held in Easton, Maryland, this film festival is known for its broad focus and diverse range of offerings. Organized by Doug Sadler, whose acclaimed film Swimmers was set in the area, the weekend showcases both international and domestic movies. There are also Q&A sessions throughout the festival. This year’s opening film is the Jean-Michel Basquiat biopic The Radiant Child, a Sundance favorite. Tickets for most screenings are $10 at the door.

September 25: Barracks Row Fall Festival on Capitol Hill
With the feel of an old time street fair, this festival is a throwback to the days of Main Streets and midways. The kitschy fun includes cotton candy, a petting zoo, magic shows, antique car displays, live bands, and an appearance by Chesty, the bulldog mascot of the Marines. Celeb New Orleans chef Paul Prudhomme will be on hand to sign cookbooks, and there's also guided tours of the historic Marine Barracks, a military chef's cook-off, and a cameo by the Redskinettes. A bonus for military history buffs: try to spot the ten different historic uniforms sported by Marines at the festival. 8th Street SE between E and I Streets; 11 to 5. Free.

September 25: Clarendon Day
Head to this booming Arlington neighborhood for live music, art, food, activities for children, and more. Take advantage of this year’s focus on health and fitness by attending a free martial-arts or yoga lesson or checking out one of the health-screening booths sponsored by the Virginia Hospital Center Foundation. Events run from 11 to 5. Free.

September 25: National Book Festival
The National Book Festival is a bibliophile’s dream. Each pavilion hosts a different genre, such as Poetry and Prose or Contemporary Life, where authors will give presentations. Pavilions are known to fill up quickly, so plan ahead. Expect Jonathan Franzen, whose highly anticipated novel Freedom was released last month, and local celeb chef Spike Mendelsohn to be among the day’s most sought-after scribes. The festival is held on the National Mall from 10 to 5:30. Free.

September 25 to 26: What's Out There Weekend
If you feel like you never take advantage of living in Washington, now's the time to see "what's out there." The Cultural Landscape Foundation is hosting free tours of 25 designed landscapes around DC, including the National Mall, Rock Creek Park, and Tudor Place. These expert-led treks are sure to illuminate details of the city's history that you never knew, and perhaps even introduce you to brand new sights. For a sneak peak, swing by the weekend's launch party on September 9 from 5:30 to 7:30 PM., hosted at Room & Board (1840 14th St. NW). Tour times vary, click here for more details. Free. 

September 26: Then and Wow at Glen Echo Park
After over a century, Maryland's Glen Echo Park is still going strong. To celebrate its longevity and transformation over the years, the park is hosting a day-long festival that harkens back to its time as an amusement park. Take a ride on the Dentzel Carousel—which celebrated its 90th anniversary this summer— or play old-school arcade games like skee-ball and target shoots.  You can also learn to juggle or do magic tricks, and hear about the park's history through a series of tours and documentary screenings. 11 to 5 PM. Free.

September 28 through October 3: All Roads Film Festival
Showcasing film and photography from cultures often underrepresented in the arts, National Geographic’s All Roads Film Festival is a global celebration of inspiring works and heartfelt storytelling. Among this year’s most promising picks are the New Zealand flick Boy, a coming-of-age story about a child meeting his estranged father for the first time, as well as Reel Injun, a Canadian documentary that takes a comical look at the portrayal of Native Americans in mainstream film. Individual screenings for most films are $10; all-access festival passes are also available for $114.

Next >> October Festivals 


October 1 through 3: Waterford Fair
City life wearing you down? Spend a day at the Waterford Fair and let your urban woes fade into the distance. Loudoun County’s Waterford is a National Historic Landmark and functions as a living, breathing tribute to yesteryear. Tour still-occupied Federal and Victorian homes, watch craftspeople demonstrate such crafts as paper making and basket weaving, and listen to traditional fiddle music as you stroll streets once patrolled by Colonial militia. There’ll be a juried arts-and-crafts show, a Virginia institution. 10 to 5 each day; tickets are $15 in advance, $17 at the door.

October 2: Crafty Bastards
If you’re in the market for quirky, locally made goods, look no further than Washington City Paper’s annual Crafty Bastards fair. Fannypacks made from recyclables, miniature stuffed animals, and bottle-cap jewelry are just some of the offerings at this year’s event. More than 150 vendors are slated to showcase their work. 10 to 5 at the Marie Reed Learning Center (2200 Champlain St., NW). 

October 2 and 3: Railroad Days
Bring out your inner child and head to Brunswick, Maryland, for Railroad Days, where the town’s center becomes a hub of activity. Barbecue, live music, crafts, face painting, and, of course, train rides, make the first weekend in October a blast in this small town. Check out the incredible model train set at Brunswick Railroad Museum, and if you’re in the mood for antiquing, there are several great places to shop downtown. Free.

October 3: Turkish Festival 2010
Enjoy a trip to Istanbul without the jet lag or tricky currency conversion. This festival brings the bazaar to the District, and is complete with live music and dance performances, authentic cuisine, coffee fortune readings, crafts, and over 25 vendors selling Turkish wares. The day's highlight? An attempt to break the Guinness World Record for longest shish kebab. A noble— and delicious—challenge. 11 to 7 PM; Pennsylvania Ave. between 12th and 14th Streets, NW. Free. 

October 7 to 9: VelocityDC Dance Festival
After selling out its inaugural year of performances, VelocityDC is back at Sidney Harman Hall to showcase the best in dance. Featuring everything from flamenco to ballet, the three-day event is a great way to see a diverse range of dance troupes at the top of their game. The festival has a mixed repertory format, so each program features a different set of dancers. Program A runs Thursday at 8 and Saturday at 2; Program B runs Friday and Saturday at 8. $18.

October 9: RiverFrontFest
Celebrating the newly opened Yards Riverfront Park, this art-oriented festival has activities for all ages. Enjoy live music on three stages, trapeze demonstrations, arts and crafts vendors, a break-dancing competition, kids activities, a fashion show, visual art exhibits, skateboarding demos, and more. Local food and beverage vendors will also be on hand. Proceeds from the festival benefit local charities. At the Capitol riverfront, 11 to 7.  Click here for tickets. $12; children under 12 get in free. 

October 10 to 24: USA Science & Engineering Festival
This festival, celebrating the importance of scientific innovation, promises fun for both children and adults. Events are held all over the Washington area, and include Rubik's cube lessons, science-themed standup comedy, and a star gazing party. The festival culminates in a two-day expo on the National Mall, featuring more than 1500 hands-on activities and over 50 stage performances and demonstrations. Click here for specific times and locations. Free.

October 15 through 17: Hot Air Balloon, Wine, & Music Festival
Enjoy the fall foliage from a whole new perspective at this festival in Milwood, Virginia, where you can pay for a ride in a hot-air balloon ($250). If a down-to-earth weekend is more your style, you can watch the balloons from below, all the while enjoying the 30 Virginia wineries and 20 food vendors providing the weekend’s refreshments. Children can also join in on the fun with face painting, radio-controlled planes, and monster-truck rides. Be sure to get there on Friday night to see the balloon glow, where tethered balloons are lit up. Friday (1 to 8) and Sunday (7 to 4) $10, Saturday (7 to 4) $15; $15 extra for unlimited wine tasting.

October 17: Baltimore Beer Festival
Just in time for Oktoberfest, Baltimore Beer Week is here, culminating in this celebration on the Canton Waterfront. Fans of craft brews will love the offerings at this festival, ranging from local faves like Flying Dog to upstate New York's Saranac. A $30 advance ticket ($40 on-site) includes a souvenir mug, live music from three local bands, and tastings of over 60 beers. To stave off early hangovers, food from local restaurants is also available for purchase. Click here for ticket information. Noon to 5. 

October 21 to 25: Spooky Movie 2010
Weak stomachs and faint hearts, beware: Washington has its own horror film festival. With five nights of guts and gore, this festival has been a hit with scare-seekers for years. The screaming starts at AFI's Silver Theatre, where the festival opens on Thursday night with Tucker & Dale vs. Evil, a humorous flick about two hillbillies accused of murder. From Friday to Monday, the festival continues at the Cinema Arts Theatre (9650 Main St., Fairfax). Click here to see times and purchase tickets. A festival pass costs $25; individual blocks of screenings (three to five films) cost $9; double features on Friday and Saturday cost $15. 

October 23 to 24: Green Festival
The largest green event in the world comes to Washington this fall, with the goal of bringing sustainability solutions to the public. Highlights include talks from Ralph Nader and Amy Goodman, an eco-friendly marketplace, organic beer and wine tastings, a vegetarian food court, and live music. When it comes to practicing what you preach, Green Festival is the real deal. Organizers screen all exhibitors for their commitment to the environment, offset 100% of their electricity emissions, and make every attempt to be a zero-waste event. Held at the Washington Convention Center on Saturday, October 23 from 10 to 7 and Sunday, October 24 from 11 to 6. Day passes are $15, but if you buy them online the organization will plant a tree and
give you back $10 worth of "GF Bucks," redeemable at any of the weekend's vendors. 

Next >> November Festivals 

November 4 through 7: Alexandria Film Festival
Featuring 36 films varying in length from five minutes to two hours, this festival honors cinema in all its diverse forms. The four-day celebration kicks off on November 4 with a free party at the Torpedo Factory, followed by opening film Griefwalker, a documentary about theologian and grief counselor Stephen Jenkinson. The festival closes on November 7 with Food & Film Day, where chef demonstrations will accompany foodie films like Mad City Chickens,  a documentary about poultry farming in urban locales. Click here for tickets; venues and ticket prices vary.  

November 6 and 7: Pyramid Atlantic Book Arts Fair
Literature as an art form has been celebrated for centuries the world over. But this festival, held in downtown Silver Spring, takes the medium of literature—the physical book it is delivered in—reminds us that it is an art worthy of praise and in-depth analysis. The weekend is packed with lectures, exhibitions, demonstrations, and film screenings, each highlighting a different aspect of what makes book publishing an art in and of itself: typeface, papermaking, graphic design, and many other oft-underlooked components. Saturday, 10 to 6; Sunday, 11 to 5. One-day general admission passes are $30 and two-day passes are $55. Other ticket packages and discounts are also available. Click here to purchase tickets.

November 6 to 13: FotoWeek DC
FotoWeek ramps up in a major way for its third-annual celebration of photography in all its forms, welcoming submissions from all levels of expertise and styles ranging from high art to photojournalism. In addition to a juried exhibition, a photo contest, gallery openings, workshops, lectures, and book signings, this festival will also feature nighttime projections of photos on the walls of DC landmarks like the Newseum and the Holocaust Museum. The festival opens with a lecture by acclaimed photographer Bruce Davidson at the Corcoran Auditorium; click here to register for this lecture and others free of charge. For specific locations and times, click here.

November 13: Trash to Treasure Green Craft Fair
Get an early start on your holiday shopping at this craft market, which benefits local shelters in Prince George's county. Over 40 local artists and vendor will be at Watkins Nature Center (301 Watkins Park Dr., Upper Marlboro) to sell environmentally-friendly paintings, cards, baskets, rugs, jewelry, candles, and more. There's also kid activities,  food and drinks for sale, a "give a book, get a book" exchange station, and a clothing drive for coats and winter wear. 10 to 4. Admission is free. 

November 14 to 21: Jewish Folk Arts Festival
Hosted by the Jewish Community Center of Greater Washington, this festival celebrates the diverse talent of the Jewish arts community. Singers, visual artists, storytellers, craftspeople, writers, and dancers will give performances and workshops for attendees, who can learn about Yemenite embroidery, try their hand at making fused glass tile, watch the Farbrangen Fiddlers play, and much more. Festival events cost $5 to $25; click here to purchase tickets and see a full schedule.