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Best Time To Visit Washington D.C.

A NOVA local’s guide to the best time to visit Washington D.C.

It’s crazy to think that I lived near the nation’s capital for over half a decade. I arrived just east of D.C. one cold winter morning (it feels just like yesterday). But fast-forward six years and I know D.C. in-and-out, through the heat and cold (mostly the cold though).

So if you’re planning a trip to one of the most unique destinations in the United States and wondering when to go (before you book that flight), here are my top tips on the best time to visit Washington D.C.

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Stay For A Sunset In D.C.

sunset in DC facing the Lincoln memorial at night. The statue of Lincoln is softly glowing.

Before I jump into the best months (and later dates) to visit D.C., I just want to say this: if you can, stay past sunset.

D.C. is a relatively quiet city. And once the sun goes does, the monuments blink and open their eyes wide in the silence. Most of the buildings are softly lit in white.

Start your evening in D.C. by watching the sunset from the stairs of the Lincoln Memorial (come early as this is a popular activity amongst locals and in-the-know tourists).

Then, opt for a D.C. by night tour (either self-guided or guided, take your pick) before you hit the bed (I promise it’s worth it).

Winter In Washington D.C.

Winter in Washington D.C. usually lasts from late November to early March.


Winter in Washington DC. with red and green and white Christmas colored buildings.

When I lived near D.C., I remember January and February as hot cocoa followed by more hot cocoa months. I rarely wanted to roll out of the blanket cocoon I wrapped myself in during the wintertime.

D.C. is cold in the winter. Come late December, the temperature slips from cool to freezing to below freezing. Snow is frequent. But if you’re well bundled up, there’s plenty to explore.

2020 Winter In D.C. Events Calendar

SPYFEST: JANUARY 31

Restaurant Week: January 13-19

Zoo Lights: December – January 1

LIGHTING OF THE NATIONAL TREE: TBD

Winter is actually one of the best times to visit the DMV (Dallas-Maryland-Virginia) area. There are so many holiday festivities (like the lighting of the National Tree and Zoo Lights, an annual event in which the National Zoo transforms into winter wonderland).

But it’s also a risky season. While the crowds are fewer and farther between, every year, during the holidays, there’s a government shutdown potential. So there’s a chance D.C.’s top attractions (including the Smithsonian) might be closed to the public for a time.

Winter In Washington D.C. Travel Tips:

  • January and February see the most snow (time to bundle up).
  • If you’re looking for a geared-towards-kids event, The Spy Museum hosts Spyfest (January 31st, 2020) every January.

Spring In Washington D.C.

Spring in Washington D.C. usually lasts from late March to early May.


Cherry blossoms snaking around the Tidal Basin in spring in Washington D.C.

I never tire of spring in Washington D.C. With gentle blooms, a pastel palette, and light chill, spring is hands-down my favorite time of the year in D.C.

Although spring in D.C. is a short season, the cherry blossoms (a gift from Japan) are reason alone to visit during this time (and considering spring is high peak season, lots of other travelers and residents seem to think so as well)!

2020 Spring In D.C. Events Calendar

Cherry Blossom Festival: March 20 – April 7

Shakespeare’s Birthday: April 14

If you can, try to plan your trip towards the middle of the annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The festival falls between the last week of March and the first week of April every year. Peak bloom can fall anytime in between (it’s hard to predict whether a season will see an early bloom or not).

When I lived in NOVA, I always visited smack in-between to see the Tidal Basin flush in light pink tones.

Vanilla Shakespeare Birthday Cake (shaped like a a book) to celebrate the Shakespeare festival.

Spring In Washington D.C. Travel Tips:

  • Photo tip: visit the cherry blossoms at dawn. The morning hues complement the blossoms beautifully!
  • The best places to see the cherry blossoms are at Capitol Hill, by Washington Monument, and right by the Tidal Basin.
  • One of my favorite festivals in Washington D.C. is Shakespeare’s birthday bash. It’s a little-known annual tradition set up by the Folger Shakespeare Library (the best part: live Folger Theatre Performances of popular Shakespeare plays).

Summer In Washington D.C.

Summer in Washington D.C. usually lasts from June to August.


Library of Congress full facade showing summer in Washington D.C. The sky is a pale blue. And the building is huge with three fountains in the front.

Summer in D.C. sees large crowds, but it is nonetheless one of the best times to visit the nation’s capital.

In June, the weather is temperate. And as the days inch towards the end of July, the heat rises.

Weather in D.C. is like a bell curve. Come the end of July, the temperature drops again.

2020 Summer In D.C. Events Calendar

Folklife Festival: June

Restaurant Week: TBD

If you’re planning on visiting in the summertime, book tours and accommodations early (as the price goes up).

And if you’re in town on the Fourth of July, head to the Supreme Court Building on Capitol Hill for the best views of the parade!

Summer In Washington D.C. Travel Tips:

  • Every year, the Smithsonian presents the annual Folklife Festival (near the National Mall). It’s a cultural heritage exposition. If you’re looking to dip your toes into places a plane ride or two away (without leaving D.C.), this is the place.
  • Restaurant Week is one of my favorite weeks in Washington D.C. Over a hundred of the hottest DC area restaurants offer up a special price (between $20-25) for a 3-course brunch. It’s a chance to try avant-garde cuisine at a fraction of the cost. This event usually happens once in the winter and once in the summer.

Fall In Washington D.C.

Fall in Washington D.C. usually lasts from September to early November.


Orange and red leaves covering up one of D.C.'s most iconic buildings. This is fall in Washington D.C., the best time to visit.

Fall in Washington D.C. kicks off with The National Book Festival, a yearly event for book enthusiasts, held near the Library Of Congress.

This is shoulder season. The wave of travelers from summer has dissipated. School is back in session (and field trip permission forms have yet to arrive).

2020 Fall In Washington D.C. Calendar

National Book Festival: September

The weather dips to cool. There’s an invigorating chill in the air. The leaves have turned shades of orange and reds.

If you’re looking to spend a quiet and serene, undisturbed day in D.C., fall is your best bet. Most October days in D.C. are relaxed and quiet, making fall the best time to visit Washington D.C.

Fall In Washington D.C. Travel Tips:

  • If you’re planning on visiting The National Book Festival, make note of the authors you want to see beforehand. Head to their booths early as the lines get long (don’t be afraid to pack a snack and listen to an audiobook during the wait).
  • The National Zoo always goes all out during the holidays. They usually have a few night-time events (for kids and as the night progresses, adults) around Halloweentime as well.

Recommended Washington D.C. Tours

Did you enjoy this blog post on the best time to visit Washington D.C.? Have you ever been to D.C.? If yes, when did you go and how was your experience? As always, I love hearing from you!

Disclaimer: The dates of all events listed in the events calendar are accurate at the time of publication, but are subject to change afterward.

16 Comments

  • Avatar
    Amanda Williams
    June 4, 2016 at 10:13 AM

    Great idea for a post. I would love to be there for the national book festival and I LOVE seeing anything by the Reduced Shakespeare Company!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      June 5, 2016 at 3:08 PM

      Yes, the cast of the Reduced Shakespeare Company is so incredibly talented!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    etsyexplores
    June 4, 2016 at 2:52 PM

    I must say I never knew there were so many things to do in DC! Thanks for breaking it down into months! Will definitely keep this bookmarked for when I visit in future (:

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      June 5, 2016 at 3:07 PM

      I’m so glad you found it helpful! ☺️

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Sarah
    June 8, 2016 at 2:42 AM

    What a fantastic post! DC has long been one of my favorite destinations!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      June 10, 2016 at 5:18 AM

      Thank you! I’m excited to hear that someone else has DC marked as one of their favourite destinations! 🙂

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kelley Farrell Ferreira
    June 8, 2016 at 2:08 PM

    This is great, thanks! I’ve been on sn international travel jag lately but DC is one of the few places in the continental US that I haven’t been to yet!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      June 10, 2016 at 5:17 AM

      Oooohhh! You should definitely visit! The city has such a powerful resonance that is certainly very unique. I wish you safe and happy travels!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    LaKisha Riddick
    June 8, 2016 at 8:30 PM

    Excellent post! I’ve been to DC but didn’t get a chance to really tour the city. This gives a great guide for the sites and months to visit. Pinning!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      June 10, 2016 at 5:15 AM

      Thank you so much! I’m glad you enjoyed it!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Kiana
    June 9, 2016 at 6:21 AM

    I’ve been wanting to visit DC for a while, so this is a great guide! I was thinking of visiting in August, so the fact that Restaurant Week takes place then makes my foodie heart so happy.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Anshula
      June 10, 2016 at 5:15 AM

      Thank you so much! I’m so excited to hear that you are going! Restaurant Week,from personal experience, is amazing..the summer dates haven’t launched yet but be sure to check their website. And if you happen to miss the August even, it is a biannual tradition so there is a chance to eat to your heart’s content in winter as well!

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Ashley @ Wandering Weekenders
    June 17, 2016 at 1:22 PM

    This is such a great list of things to do in DC during each month! We went in April last year for the Cherry Blossom Festival and loved every minute of it!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Anvita - TheBellyRulesTheMind
    June 17, 2016 at 9:03 PM

    Lived there, loved it. My fav time of the year in DC was always Spring or Fall.

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Tiffany
    June 17, 2016 at 11:11 PM

    I’ve actually never been to DC :/. It’s definitely a place I need to visit at some point. Thanks for the tips!

    Reply
  • Avatar
    Ellie
    December 17, 2018 at 3:51 PM

    Am really a lover of wildlife. With the zoo in DC I really like to visit in December.

    Reply

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