10 Things to Do in Washington DC in Summer

With the arrival of the heat and leaving spring behind, Washington also has an interesting offer for you for the summer days.

Andressa García

Andressa García

12 min read

10 Things to Do in Washington DC in Summer

Washington DC | ©Tran Sformr

Summer arrives loaded with irreverent festivals and multiple things to see and do in Washington DC It's this time of year when the city is at its most lively, so locals and visitors alike take advantage of the friendly temperatures to indulge in the fun.

One of the most emblematic celebrations in Washington DC for the summer season is undoubtedly the 4th of July celebration. The independence of the United States is celebrated in a big way in the capital. If you're passing through during the summer season, you can't miss these ten must-sees.

1. Dress up as your favorite character for the Awesome Con

At the Awesome Con| ©Randy Caldwel
At the Awesome Con| ©Randy Caldwel

It is a three-day event where geek culture is celebrated. Lovers of film content, movies, series and other geeky events have a celebration especially for them.

This event in DC seeks not only to celebrate the fans, but also to attract curious people who want to be part of the exhibition and party along with the participants.

One of the most interesting things about this Awesome Con is that it is not only designed for people who are already fans of comics and other mass consumption materials and content. It also has an exhibition area especially dedicated to the little ones.

In this place children can learn a little more about geek culture. It is definitely an activity that I would include in my list of things to see and do with kids in Washington, at least in the summer.

This event hosts every year more than 70 thousand visitors between city residents and foreigners who come to see and learn a little more about the activities that take place.

On the other hand, you can also see a wonderful futuristic exhibition organized by the Awsome Con in conjunction with the Smithsonian. In this area, you will be able to see the point of view of its creators regarding the role of science and science fiction in today's world and what its future will be.

To subscribe and be part of the event you have to enter the official website where you can find more information about the different exhibits and what to expect from the event.

Practical info

  • Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 801 Mt Vernon Pl NW, Washington, DC 20001.
  • Price: Prices vary from 45 to 90 euros for attending the event. To join the Awesome Con club, you must pay between 400 and 1000 euros.
  • Hours: Fridays from 13:00 to 20:00. Saturdays from 10:00 to 19:00. Sundays from 10:00 to 17:00.

2. Be filled with color at Capital Pride

Capital Pride| ©Daniel Kelly
Capital Pride| ©Daniel Kelly

The capital takes Pride very seriously, so for a few days the city becomes the center for the celebration of the LGBTQ+ community. During the days of the Pride celebration, multiple events are planned that I recommend you to attend when you are passing through Washington in the summer.

Among the events held to honor the LGBTQ+ community during Capital Pride are:

  • Pride Honors: To honor people who have given their lives defending the rights of the LGBTQ+ community in the capital city and across the country.
  • Conversatories: These types of events and forums are usually organized to share experiences and knowledge about the characteristics of the LGBTQ+ community.
  • Kick-Off Party: At the beginning of the Pride Days, a party is held for people over 18 years of age only to officially kick off the Pride season in Washington DC.
  • Pride Block Party: This is an outdoor party where there are multiple food trucks and other attractions where you can enjoy all the queer and pride magic at its best. At this party you will also have the opportunity to have some alcoholic beverages if you are over 21 years old.
  • Pride Parade: This is one of the most recognized activities of the Pride Week in Washington, it is the parade where the whole community participates and wears their best outfits, to tell the society that they exist and that they are celebrating their moment.
  • Saturday Pride Party: Generally this party takes place during the last Saturday of Pride and seeks to give a celebratory atmosphere to all the participants of the events during the day.
  • Pride Festival: This is a festival within the festival. On this day when the pride festival is celebrated, you will be able to see multiple pride exhibits, as well as be part of various entertainment activities. It is a spectacle worth attending and enjoying.
  • Pride Concert: To close with a flourish the celebration of pride in Washington, a concert is organized where you can enjoy different artists that enliven the celebrations.

Traveller Tip

There are events that you will not be able to attend with children, so I recommend you take this into account when making your plans.

3. Get to know new cultures at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival| ©Alexis
At the Smithsonian Folklife Festival| ©Alexis

This is a festival that seeks to highlight the culture and folklore of the nation as well as to make visible the tradition and culture of other countries that have a close relationship with Washington and the United States in general.

This festival was born in 1967 and since then it has been in charge of highlighting the culture and folklore that unites the United States with other countries.

The premise of the organizers of this annual festival is to work together with the communities of the United States and the world to better understand and learn about their ways of life on an economic, social and cultural level.

If you want to enjoy a different experience and learn much more about American society and other latitudes, then this is the event you have to attend.

To know everything that the festival brings for you, I invite you to enter their website, where they always post updated information about the programs that are available year after year. You can also find out on their website how is the entry process to the festival and how you can buy at their souvenir store.

This festival usually takes place during the last weeks of June and the first week of July, with the closing of the festival coinciding with the 4th of July.

Practical info

  • Location: Between Constitution and Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC 20050.
  • Price: Free admission.
  • Hours: 11:00 am to 5:00 pm and special events starting at 6:00 pm.

4. Eat all you want at the Annual Barbecue Festival

Annual Barbecue Festival| ©Tony DeFilippo
Annual Barbecue Festival| ©Tony DeFilippo

This is more than a show, festival or event, it is a battle between barbecue lovers, where they dispute the throne of the National Barbecue Champion.

This event usually takes place in mid-June and is considered the most important food and music event in the city. It is a must-attend festival if you are a food lover, and especially a barbecue lover.

Within the Barbecue festival you will have the opportunity to see how the experts in the field cook their best dishes with meat and you can also make the corresponding tasting of flavors.

This event takes place during two days in which you have the opportunity not only to taste the best of food and barbecue, but also to taste wines and beers from Washington and other parts of the world.

The barbecue festival is another of the activities you can do if you go to Washington with children, and they offer multiple activities for the little ones of the house. Another interesting activity that you will find when you visit the festival is the number of interactive exhibits where you can talk with the chefs about their cooking techniques and share knowledge.

Practical info

  • Location: 555 Pennsylvania Ave NW Washington, DC 20001.
  • Price: From 15 to 150 euros.
  • Hours: From 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.

Traveller Tip

I recommend you to go to the festival without eating, because you will surely find many options to eat. It is not a festival suitable for vegans.

5. Admire the 4th of July fireworks display

4th of July fireworks| ©Curtis Palmer
4th of July fireworks| ©Curtis Palmer

Every July 4th is celebrated in the United States as National Independence Day. Of course, the place of greatest festivities is the nation's capital itself. Thus, watching the 4th of July fireworks becomes a must-do summer activity.

To admire this spectacle you have many options, from watching them from the ground, to climbing to the top of the city and see them from above.

If you want to enjoy the 4th of July celebrations all day long, you can do so by attending the concert organized annually to celebrate Independence Day.

You can also go to Constitution Avenue to watch the magical and colorful spectacle that is organized along this important avenue in Washington. The parade is one of the most fun activities that you can do during the day...

Places to enjoy the fireworks display

On the night of the 4th of July the sky lights up with a truly beautiful fireworks display. In addition to the 10 best views of Washington DC, these are some of the other spots in the city from which you can admire the fireworks:

  • National Mall: The esplanade is one of the capital's favorite places to admire the 4th of July fireworks. You will find the largest crowd there.
  • Potomac Cruise: I think there is no better place to see the 4th of July fireworks than on a cruise around the Potomac. You can embark on one with your whole family and enjoy the show in a special way.
  • Mount Vernon Trail: Besides being an interesting walk, you'll have beautiful views from the Virginia side of the Potomac River.
  • U.S. Supreme Court Square: This is a favorite spot for locals. The square is big enough for you to enjoy the show from that spot.
  • Hains Point in East Potomac: This is a public park located near the Potomac River from where you can enjoy spectacular views of the Potomac and the Anacostia.
  • Washington National Cathedral: It is a good place to see the fireworks show, especially in the terraced area, where you can even picnic while waiting for the illumination of the sky with colorful pyrotechnics.
  • The Wharf: An evening on the wharf accompanied by a fireworks show in the sky is definitely the perfect activity for you to enjoy the 4th of July celebrations.

Book a guided tour of Washington DC

6. Laugh, cry and fall in love with theater at the Capital Fringe Festival

Ford's Theater at night| ©m01229
Ford's Theater at night| ©m01229

Every summer since 2006, Washington DC opens its doors to the most special theater festival in the city. This is the Capital Fringe Festival, which showcases the talent on stage of a large number of artists who come on stage to offer the public a quality show and, above all, an entertaining and captivating performance.

Generally, the festival takes place in several theaters and different venues in the city of Washington, presenting around 90 shows during several weeks.

The number of artists participating and on stage is what makes this show one you won't want to miss. Among the genres you can enjoy during the show are comedy, drama and thriller. You will also have the opportunity to see musicals with impeccable staging.

Part of the themes that are dealt with in the different theatrical productions have to do with people's relationship with their own bodies, and how they relate to the world around them.

Although the central theme changes from year to year, the essence of bringing a positive message to society and the general public is always present.

Practical Info

  • Location: Various theaters and venues in the city.
  • Price: From 20 euros for single tickets, up to 500 euros for passes to all shows.
  • Schedule: From morning to evening plays are presented, depending on the annual program.

7. Bring out the anime in you at Otakon

Costumes at the Otakon| ©Chris
Costumes at the Otakon| ©Chris

This is one of the most interesting festivals of the summer in Washington DC. If you are a lover of Asian culture, manga, anime, video games and other elements that represent their pop culture, then this fair is for you.

This event takes place during a weekend in July and to attend you can line up at the entrance or go to the official website of the event and register to participate in the exhibition.

Year after year the schedule changes, as well as the number and type of exhibits you will be able to enjoy. It is a good place to test your knowledge of Asian culture, as well as to have a lot of fun letting your creativity fly from the beginning of the exhibition.

Practical info

  • Location: Walter E. Washington Convention Center. 801 Mount Vernon Place NW Washington, DC 20001.
  • Price: Adults from 55 euros single day admission. Children 8 years old and younger get in free. Children 8 to 12 years old pay 50 euros.
  • Hours: All day with lodging available.

8. Taste the best of the capital's cuisine at Summer Restaurant Week

Enjoying the Restaurant Week| ©Anna
Enjoying the Restaurant Week| ©Anna

This is a celebration that happens twice a year, in winter and in summer. In this case, I'll tell you about the summer version of this culinary extravaganza. Although, if you are a lover of restaurants and good food, you will surely love to include this event also in your list of things to do in Washington DC in winter.

Going back to the summer restaurant week in Washington, you have to know that it is a great dining experience that you will love not only for the variety of food you will be able to try, but also for the affordable prices.

This summer restaurant week offers you a varied menu for lunch, dinner and brunch with exquisite combinations that will make you want to come back for more.

In the summer version you will be able to participate in the selection of the best dishes among the many participating restaurants. A detailed list of the restaurants that will participate in each edition can be found on the official Restaurant Week website.

Practical info

  • Location: Varies according to the list of participating restaurants.
  • Price: Brunch and lunches from 22 euros. Dinners between 35 and 55 euros.
  • Hours: All day, according to the schedules of each restaurant.

Book a food and street art tour of U Street

9. Enjoy a luxurious evening at the DC Jazz Fest

DC Jazz Fest| ©Dc Honny
DC Jazz Fest| ©Dc Honny

The DC Jazz Festival is a show that is not just a few days of celebrating jazz culture in the nation's capital, but is also a year-round music education enterprise for people interested in jazz music.

As for the Jazz Festival event, it takes place during the last weeks of August and the first weeks of September. If you are in Washington DC during the summer months, this is an excellent option to see some great music and to get inspired to learn a little more about American musical culture.

Practical Information

  • Location: 515 M Street SE. Ste. 102-B. Washington, DC 20003
  • Price: General admission is free. Other ticket prices start at 59 euros.
  • Hours: From 2:00 p.m. to 10:00 p.m.

10. Take a guided tour of Mount Vernon

George Washington's Mansion| ©Paull Young
George Washington's Mansion| ©Paull Young

If there is one activity you can't miss in the summer, especially because of the pleasant weather and temperatures, it is a trip to the town of Mount Vernon.

On the guided tour you will have the chance to visit George Washington's estate, as well as learn about the life of this American president.

Lasting approximately 5 to 8 hours, the full day tour aims to take you on a complete experience from Washington DC to Mount Vernon, with attractions ranging from the museum to the tomb where George Washington himself and Martha Washington are buried.

You'll love seeing what period costumes were like, plus you'll get a close-up look at the era of slavery in the United States by visiting an authentic slave quarters.

The tour is completely historical and cultural and definitely the time of the year to do this tour is the summer, thanks to the temperatures that help to have a more pleasant and quiet ride.

Useful Information

  • Price: From 64 euros per person.
  • Duration: Approximately 5 hours, counting the trip from Washington DC to Mount Vernon.
  • Means of transportation: Bus with capacity for approximately 20 to 25 people.
  • Advantage of this option: It is wheelchair accessible. Assistance animals are allowed. It is possible to bring baby carriages. The tour is also available in Spanish.
  • Disadvantages of this option: You must be in average physical condition to be able to do the whole tour. The tour may be cancelled if the weather is bad or if the minimum quota of people to travel is not filled.

Book your day trip to Mount Vernon