Destination Guide: Washington, D.C. in the Fall
Autumn brings cooler days to Washington, D.C., making it the perfect time to explore outdoors activities. With huge crowds of families and youth groups back to school after the summer, the city’s museums, historical sites and other attractions in the district are more accessible. You may need a light jacket in the evenings, but DC days are generally very nice in the fall as the hot, humid days of summer die down.
Walk the National Mall and Memorial Parks
With the milder weather, this is the perfect time to make the full tour on foot, from the Lincoln Memorial up the 2.6 miles to the nation’s Capitol. Along the way, of course, are some of the finest museums in the country, including several Smithsonian buildings, the Washington Monument, the Thomas Jefferson Memorial, the Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial, and the memorials for World War II and the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Furthermore, the National Mall is also home to several important memorial sites, including the Constitution Gardens, the George Mason Memorial, the John Ericsson Memorial, and the Old Post Office Tower.
Oktoberfest in Washington, D.C.
A number of communities in the District of Columbia put on a local version of the fall celebration from Munich, Germany. The Germantown Festival is the biggest, now in its 28th year. Held on October 2nd, more than 10,000 people will enjoy the performances and family activities that end with a spectacular fireworks display. On October 8th, the City Club of Washington hosts the annual Charity Classic Oktoberfest, a day of traditional German fare, beer and music that benefits such charities as the Muscular Dystrophy Association ($25 per person).
The 27 Washington, D.C.-based European Union embassies come together to stage one of the United State’s largest performing arts festivals for children. The month-long Kids Euro Festival begins on October 15th and offers more than 150 free events around the city, from storytelling to acrobats. Events are held at some of the DC’s best venues, including the Kennedy Center, the Strathmore Mansion, the National Gallery of Art and the Library of Congress.
Boo at the Zoo
One of DC’s favorite Halloween traditions, the Smithsonian National Zoo hosts this family-friendly celebration from October 22-24, 5:30-8:30 pm each evening. Visitors can enjoy trick-or-treating, haunted trails, festive decorations, and of course, plenty of animal encounters. Zookeepers are also on hand to give special talks and interactive with visitors. Tickets ($30) usually sell out, so advance purchase is recommended.
Fall Foliage in DC
The leaves in the District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia usually peak in mid to late October. Washington, D.C. itself puts on a dazzling display – try Rock Creek Park, an urban park that extends 12 miles from the Potomac River to the Maryland border. If you want to go outside DC to see the autumn leaves, you need not go far. Take in the natural beauty as well as one of our country’s most prized historic sites at Mount Vernon, the 500-acre estate of George Washington located about a half hour from Washington, D.C.
Mount Vernon Wine Festival and Sunset Tour
Speaking of Mount Vernon – a must-see for visitors to Washington, D.C. – if you are in town October 1-3, you can attend this celebration of Virginia’s history of wine. The event ($30) offers special evening tours of the mansion and cellar, wine tastings, and live music on the east lawn overlooking the scenic Potomac River. Later in the month from October 23-24, catch the Fall Harvest Family Days with horse-drawn wagon rides, dance lessons and cooking demonstrations.
Winter Holiday Festivities
If you want to attend the lighting of the National Christmas Tree on December 4th, you will need to enter a lottery system for tickets beginning in early November. The tree lighting, which kicks off the holiday season, has been a tradition since 1923. The event also includes the Pageant of Peace, featuring 56 smaller, decorated trees representing all 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories.
Images via Shelley Seale