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10 Things to Do in Washington DC in Fall

Beautiful postcards, fall foliage, unique holidays... Autumn is one of the most beautiful times in Washington and here you will discover the 10 best plans to enjoy this season in the capital of the United States.

Carlos Bleda

Carlos Bleda

10 min read

10 Things to Do in Washington DC in Fall

World War I Memorial | ©John Brighenti

There are many reasons why autumn is considered the best season of the year to visit Washington DC. Starting with the autumn colors that stain the large green areas of the city and give us an unparalleled postcard and adding some unique events and festivals of these months to which we must add a good balance between the influx of visitors and the prices of the same in autumn.

For all these reasons, and apart from the usual things to see and do in Washington, in this post I am going to recommend 10 perfect plans to take advantage of the virtues of autumn. These plans are designed to know the best places in the city to enjoy good temperatures and fall foliage.

1. Visit the National Arboretum

National Arboretum| ©Nicolas Raymond
National Arboretum| ©Nicolas Raymond

An arboretum is a botanical garden dedicated especially to trees, practically a forest. And in the U.S. capital is one of the most spectacular you can visit.

Located in the eastern part of the city, about 10 minutes drive from the Capitol, this place is a favorite for locals and tourists in autumn thanks to the blanket of reddish colors that covers it and makes it one of the most beautiful postcards of Washington.

The National Arboretum features a wide variety of trees such as conifers, picnic areas, walking trails and even a bonsai museum.

But the symbol of this place are the capitol columns. A monument formed by 22 original columns of the capitol that were installed in 1828 in its portico and that years later were removed when it was realized that they were poorly placed and were moved to this point. It is undoubtedly one of the places that you must visit in Washington in autumn.

Information of Interest

  • Price: Free
  • Hours: 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Location: New York Ave, Washington

2. Tour Rock Creek Park

Walking in Rock Creek park| ©Nicolas Raymond
Walking in Rock Creek park| ©Nicolas Raymond

A national park in the middle of Washington? Yes, it is. Rock Creek Park is an urban park northwest of the city, but it is recognized as a national park.

In fact, it is the third oldest national park in the United States, named in 1890, after Yellowstone National Park in 1872 and Mackinac National Park in 1875.

It covers an area of more than 7 square kilometers in which, in addition to a beautiful forest and a creek, there is a zoo, a golf course, a multitude of trails...

Autumn is its best season, not only for the colors of its trees, but also for being the best months to see animals, such as deer, in the interior of the forest.

From downtown Washington you can take the blue metro line to get there in just 50 minutes.

Information of interest

  • Price: Free
  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Location: Glover Road, north of Washington

3. Stroll the National Mall with camera in hand

Sunset and Autumn on the National Mall| ©John Brighenti
Sunset and Autumn on the National Mall| ©John Brighenti

On any trip to Washington DC you will visit the National Mall. In this area of about 3 kilometers long are concentrated the best and most important monuments of Washington, such as the Capitol, the obelisk-monument to Washington or the White House.

But in autumn you can give it a different approach taking advantage of the fact that it is a green area that in that season becomes more photogenic than ever.

Strolling through its many green areas is a luxury, especially if you are a lover of photography. The reddish colors combined with the autumn sunsets make this area one of the preferred by amateurs and professionals of photography to take incredible postcards.

The area south of the National Mall where the Thomas Jefferson memorial is located, among others, is the best in this regard to be around a lagoon on the banks of the Potomac River and with abundant vegetation.

4. Celebrate Veteran's Day at Washington Memorials

Arlington Cemetery| ©Tim Evanson
Arlington Cemetery| ©Tim Evanson

Veterans Day is a very important date in the United States. It is celebrated every November 11, the date on which the armistice of the First World War was signed, to honor those veterans who have fought in some of the war conflicts in which the United States has participated.

On that day you can visit both Arlington Cemetery and the war memorials on the dates close to November 11 or the same day, since the tributes, offerings and improvised acts in these memorials give it a unique character.

Washington, as the nation's capital, is the centerpiece of this holiday where several tributes are held.

The President of the United States himself goes to Arlington National Cemetery to make a wreath at the tomb of the unknown soldier.

And the many memorials in Washington are also the scene of commemorations and tributes. Especially at the Vietnam War veterans' memorial.

Visit War Memorials and Arlington Cemetery in Washington DC

5. Art all night long

Art All Night| ©Ted Eytan
Art All Night| ©Ted Eytan

Every year to welcome autumn in Washington, a nighttime art festival is held at the end of September known as Art All Night. It is an artistic and cultural event that fills the streets with street artists of all kinds and a multitude of exhibitions, concerts, lectures and activities throughout the city.

It is usually held the last weekend of September and has the particularity that most of the performances and art shows take place at night.

The festival is spread throughout the city and has earned its own right to be recognized as one of the best cultural events in the capital of the United States.

I leave you the link to the official website of the event so you can check all the activities they do if you happen to want to travel to the city on those dates.

6. Enjoy Mount Vernon Fall Wine Festival

Wine of the Mount Vernon Wine Festival| ©Virginia
Wine of the Mount Vernon Wine Festival| ©Virginia

The city of Washington is surrounded by vineyard areas and apple orchards, so they have a great wine and cider tradition. Autumn is the best time to enjoy this tradition, since it is harvest time. So much so that in early October there is even a festival dedicated to wine.

The precursor of this festival is the Mount Vernon estate. Located south of the capital, on the banks of the Potomac, this estate that produces wines and ciders is not just any estate.

The place belonged to the first president of the United States, George Washington, and today you can visit the place and taste its vintages.

Taking advantage of this festival at the beginning of October, I recommend you to visit it not only for the history of the place and its wines and ciders, but also for the beauty of the estate with the autumn mantle.

By car it only takes about 30 minutes to get there from the city, but luckily there are many excursions to Mount Vernon from Washington.

Take a tour of Mount Vernon

Information of interest

  • Price: From 20 euros approx
  • Hours: 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.
  • Location: Mount Vernon, Virginia, south of Washington, D.C.

7. A time of good, autumnal food and wine.

Pumpkin Donuts| ©Mirella Z
Pumpkin Donuts| ©Mirella Z

Just as autumn is the season of wines and ciders, it is also the season of food and gastronomy, almost exclusive to this time of the year.

This is the case of pumpkin, an ingredient that in Washington is not just for Halloween, but is one of the bases of many of the best local dishes and recipes. So much so that in the city even coffee is served with hints of pumpkin.

Other typical snacks of these dates are pumpkin donuts, pumpkin ice cream, or the many cakes that have this ingredient. The best way to taste these autumnal delights is with a good gastronomic tour of Washington.

The best gastronomic tours in Washington

8. Experience the Marine Corps Marathon in October

Participating in the Marathon| ©Aberdeen Proving Ground
Participating in the Marathon| ©Aberdeen Proving Ground

When autumn arrives and the summer heat is left behind, a time of great sport begins in the capital of the United States. Taking advantage of the good weather, several very interesting sporting events are held, but the main and best known is the Marine Corps Marathon.

After the Boston and New York marathons, this is the most important on the east coast of the United States.

It is held on the last Sunday of October and although it was originally a race focused on the Marine Corps, registrations are open to the general public.

Every year some 30,000 runners gather to participate in this race that runs through some of the most emblematic points of Washington such as the Capitol, the White House or Arlington National Cemetery from where the race usually starts.

Whether you want to participate or not, the atmosphere around this race makes it a great event to enjoy another side of the city.

9. Celebrate Thanksgiving in Washington

Thanksgiving Dinner| ©GETTY IMAGES
Thanksgiving Dinner| ©GETTY IMAGES

Perhaps the best known holiday in the United States is Thanksgiving Day. It was George Washington who proclaimed this celebration on October 14, 1789 to give thanks for the harvests of the fields.

Since then, this holiday has been celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November in the United States.

Few places are more appropriate to join this celebration than the capital of the country. In Washington it is celebrated in a more discreet way compared to cities like New York where there are big parades, but you will be able to enjoy it just the same.

Although it is a day to be at home with the family, if you are a tourist and you are in the city you can enjoy the festive atmosphere and eat the traditional turkey in many of the city's restaurants.

10. The best time to bike around Washington

Bicycling along the Washington Obelisk| ©Tony DeFilippo
Bicycling along the Washington Obelisk| ©Tony DeFilippo

Washington is a city very suitable for cycling through its wide and large streets and esplanades and its many green areas. That is why it is one of the best means of transportation to get to know the city with the added bonus of good autumn temperatures and the beautiful colors of the season.

Bicycles are so important that they even have their own events. This is the case of the DC Bike Ride that takes place at the end of September and in which thousands of people go out to bike around the city. And of course, you can always take a sightseeing tour of the city on pedals. In this link you will find out which are the best ones.

Book a Washington Bike Tour

Temperatures in Washington DC in autumn

Capitol in Autumn| ©Sergiy Galyonkin
Capitol in Autumn| ©Sergiy Galyonkin

The weather is one of the best assets in favor of autumn. Average temperatures are milder than in summer and more similar to those of spring.
Highs range from an average of more than 25 degrees in September to 20 degrees in October and drop to an average of about 15 degrees in November.

As for the minimum temperatures, in September they average 15 degrees, in October they drop to 10 degrees and in November the cold starts to show and the minimum temperatures drop to 5 degrees.

Rains are the main drawback of autumn and are more common at this time of year.

Washington DC in the fall and prices in Washington DC in the fall

Enjoying Halloween in Washington| ©Mike Maguire
Enjoying Halloween in Washington| ©Mike Maguire

Another reason why it is a good idea to visit the capital of the United States in autumn is because of the influx of tourists. Fall is, after winter, the season with the fewest tourists in the city.

It cannot be said that it is empty, but queues and crowds are less common and it is somewhat easier to get reservations at hotels, restaurants and monuments.

There are certain exceptions, as in autumn there are important holidays such as Veterans Day or Thanksgiving.

The drop in tourists and demand also affects prices, which are down slightly. It is still an expensive city, but many of its monuments and tourist sites are free all year round including the fall. Again, the exception is the national holidays, when demand and hotel prices rise, especially.

What to pack for a visit to Washington DC in the fall

Preparing your luggage| ©Marissa Grootes
Preparing your luggage| ©Marissa Grootes

When packing for Washington in the fall, we must take into account two factors: temperatures and rainfall. To make sure you don't forget anything, here is a little reminder of the essentials to bring to Washington in the fall:

  • Wear light but warm clothes. And if you are traveling in November, when temperatures drop, it is highly recommended to take a coat.
  • Rain showers are common, so bring an umbrella or raincoat with you at all times.
  • As you will move mainly on foot, wear comfortable shoes and better if they are waterproof.
  • Remember that the plugs in the United States are different from those in Europe, so you should bring an adapter.