The Best 20 Places to Visit in Washington, D.C. in 2021

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Heading to Washington, D.C. in 2021 or early 2022? I’m sure the White House, Capitol, and even the Supreme Court are on your itinerary. But besides political buildings and events, the capital of the United States has a lot more to offer.

Here are a few of our favorite places and events to visit every season in Washington, D.C. in 2021 and beyond.

Spring

National Cherry Blossom Festival

The city’s cherry blossoms are a well-known treasure and worth a visit! The festival happens from the end of March until early to mid-April. There’s no exact date for the blossoming of the cherry trees, but calculations show that (around) April 4th is your best bet. Check out the National Park Service’s official bloom watch to learn more about peak bloom season.

Earth Day

Celebrated on April 22nd, Earth Day is a day of environmental awareness. Events are held across the nation all month long. Join organized cleanup events at DC’s parks and sit in on workshops about the environment and sustainability.

United States Botanic Garden

Don’t miss the botanic garden during spring. It receives over a million guests every year and it’s the oldest botanical garden in the US that has been in continual operation.

Nationals Park

Baseball season is in full swing from March to September (Go Nationals!). If you want to watch one of the team’s home games, look into getting your tickets well before the game!

Passport DC

Passport DC is an annual celebration of international cultures in the city, held in May. I highly recommend touring embassies for free at the Around the World Embassy Tour and the European Union Open House. 

Summer

Outdoor Eating

Rooftop bars, picnics at the park, or at any of the new “streateries” that popped up this year: outdoor dining (or lunching, or drinks) is HOT! The mayor proposed to allow outdoor dining for the rest of 2021 and during the warmer months in 2022 and 2023. Now that’s something to look forward to!

Riverwalks

D.C. is a waterfront city, and river(side) activities are popular during the warmer days of the year. 

  • Walk along the Potomac’s riverside in Georgetown and check out the neighborhood’s views and events while you’re there. Book a Potomac Riverboat cruise to see a whole different side of the city. Enjoy water activities like kayaking or standup paddling.
  • The Anacostia Riverwalk Trail runs along both sides of the Anacostia River and has undergone significant upgrades. The wide trail is a great place to be active or wind down. 
  • The Wharf’s Recreation Pier is also a lovely place to lounge and admire the breathtaking views!

Movie Night at…wherever

All around the city, places are hosting outdoor movies during the long summer nights! Some favorites are the Drive-In at Union Market, Sunset Cinema at The Wharf, and Summer Movies on the Lawn, but check out this complete list.

Bike the National Mall at Sunset

Or sunrise, if you’re an early riser!

The National Mall is about 2 miles long, so exploring it by bike makes sense. I highly recommend going at night, because it’s less crowded. Also, the lights make it magical! Going at sunset or sunrise means you’ll get beautifully colored skies (if you’re lucky).

And if biking isn’t your thing, I’m happy to take you along on our guided night bus tour through DC!

Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens

The Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens are famous for their water lilies and large lotus flowers. So after cycling the Mall at sunrise, head straight to the gardens. The flowers bloom in the early morning between late June and July, and the midday heat forces them to close.

Fall

Mount Vernon + Old Town Alexandria

Look out for the Washington Monument, Pentagon, and Air Force Memorial. Next, see Robert E. Lee’s boyhood home, the George Washington Masonic Temple, and the Historic Christ Church. Finally, explore George Washington’s historic estate, Mount Vernon—from the mansion’s interior to the President’s beloved gardens; our tour includes it all.

Mount Vernon also hosts Harvest Days, which are fall-themed events. Take a wagon ride, join in on some games, or have a fall wine tasting.

Shenandoah National Park

As the capital region transforms into a spectacular fall landscape, it’s an incredible time to head to Shenandoah National Park for some hiking and taking in that fall foliage.

More locally, Rock Creek Park and the National Arboretum are excellent alternatives.

Arlington, Virginia

Arlington is supposedly the Best City to Live in America. While I have to disagree (but I’m prejudiced), it’s 100% worth a visit. The city houses memorials, you can take a Pentagon tour in nearby Crystal City, or head onto the Mt. Vernon Trail. 

The main attraction is the Arlington National Cemetery. The Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is a very emotional place to visit. Witness the Changing of the Guards at the cemetery, every half hour from April through September and every hour from October to March. Don’t miss a thing with this guided bus tour to Arlington Cemetery.

Market Halls

The markets are amazing just after the fall harvest! Head to the Farmers Market yourself, or enjoy the fresh ingredients at food halls. No shopping and cooking, but still the culinary experience! I love the Eastern Market on Capitol Hill and Union Market.

Fall Festivals

Many neighborhoods in D.C. go all out during fall to showcase what they have to offer. Check out these three fall festivals if you’re in town:

  1. H Street Festival is a day to celebrate the popular historic neighborhood, and over 200 businesses join in! Over 11 blocks, you can enjoy music, (performance) art, fashion, education, and much more.
  2. The Taste of DC Festival happens in October on Pennsylvania Avenue. The area’s restaurants offer tasting plates of their menu, so it’s easy to get your fill of all your (new) favorite foods!
  3. In Georgetown, they organize Taste and shop Georgetown. Also held in October, the event offers specials at restaurants and streateries, fall shopping, and service promotions at more than 65 businesses.

Winter

US Capitol Building at Night

The Many Museums

I always like to say that our city has museums for every single interest:

  1. The International Spy Museum; fun for both adults and kids
  2. Planet Word; a very fun interactive language experience at the historic Franklin School
  3. National Museum of African American History and Culture (if you’re interested in African-American history and culture, I highly recommend this tour along significant locations in our capital)

Winter can get cold, so the museums are a great refuge.

Ice-Skating at the Rinks

I wish ice-skating on the rivers was possible (how cool would that be?!), but it’s much safer at the ice rinks in the city. Washington Harbor Ice Rink in Georgetown is fantastic and offers skating from November through March (even on Christmas Day!). There’s another one at the National Gallery of Art’s Sculpture Garden in the National Mall—it’s surrounded by art, and they serve hot cocoa at the Pavilion Café.

Christmas Tree

Every year at the beginning of December, a 40-foot Christmas tree lights up at the White House. There are also 50 mini trees representing each state. They’re even decorated with hangers provided by the states!

Chanukah also starts with a lighting ceremony of the world’s largest menorah at the White House!

Holiday Lights

Looking for that holiday atmosphere? Throughout the city, businesses have holiday displays and some residential streets are breathtaking.

A local favorite is the Parade of Lighted Boats on the Potomac River. The Southwest Waterfront also has live music, hot chocolate, a Christmas tree lighting, and more. See it all come to life with our complete holiday lights tour! I promise to show you all the best places.

Georgetown GLOW

Speaking of lights during wintertime, Georgetown (DC’s most historic neighborhood) hosts Georgetown GLOW during the winter. It’s an event showcasing light installations by local artists. They’re not holiday lights per se, but artworks with their own story.

Ready to plan your trip to Washington, D.C.?

No matter the season, I’m sure you’ll have a great time in our beautiful city. We’d love to help you put together a great itinerary and find the tour that’s just right for you. 


Get in touch today and we’ll put your plans in motion.