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Cultural Events and Festivals in Washington DC

Annual Celebrations of International Arts and Customs


Washington DC offers some of the best cultural events and festivals in the United States. As the nation's capital, the city is home to 175 embassies from around the world and attracts a diverse population to live, work and play in the region. The following is a guide to the largest and most popular annual cultural events in the Washington DC area. These festivals provide a fun way to learn about the arts, music, food and traditions of other countries. (Listed in chronological order by date)

1. Chinese New Year

© Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com
January/February. Several Chinese New Year events are held around the region, including the most popular celebration - the annual parade held in Washington, DC's Chinatown. The traditional cultural festivities include live music and dance performances, tai chi and kung fu demonstrations, lion dancing, and children's crafts.

2. Francophonie Cultural Festival

© Francophonie Cultural Festival
March-April. The annual event is a voyage of exploration, discovery, and cultural sharing that emphasizes the diversity of the French-speaking world. The program features a myriad of artists from all cultural walks of life with concerts, theatrical performances, films, culinary tastings, literary salons, children’s workshops, and more.

3. St. Patrick's Day Events

© Miller Taylor
March. Irish-themed parades are held each year for St. Patrick's Day in Washington DC, Alexandria, Gaithersburg, and Manassas. Local Irish pubs have special menus and some participate in a pub crawl. The National Shamrock Fest is one of the biggest parties of the year.

4. National Cherry Blossom Festival

© Getty Images
March-April. The most popular cultural event in the region, the Cherry Blossom Festival brings visitors to Washington, DC from around the world to see the city's spectacular cherry blossoms as spring arrives. The two-week event highlights Japanese traditions with more than 200 performances and over 90 other special events.

5. Cinco de Mayo Festival

© Miller Taylor
May. The annual celebration in Washington DC features live music and dance, children’s arts and crafts workshops, food, games and activities for the entire family. Although originally Mexican in origin, the festival has become an annual “Latin American Family Reunion” on the National Mall.

6. Passport DC

© Cultural Tourism DC
May. Each May, Washington DC’s embassies and cultural organizations participate in a city-wide event offering open houses and special programming. Presented by Cultural Tourism DC, Passport DC showcases the international culture of the city with a wide range of performances, talks, and exhibits.

7. Fiesta Asia

© Miller Taylor
May. The Asian street fair is held in Washington, DC in celebration of Asian Pacific American Heritage Month and as part of Passport DC. The event showcases Asian art and culture with live performances by musicians, vocalists and performance artists, Pan-Asian cuisine, martial arts and lion dance demonstration, a multicultural marketplace, cultural displays and interactive activities.

8. International Children's Festival

© Meridian International Center
May. As a signature event of Passport DC, the Meridian International Center hosts a children's festival to engage families in learning about cultural traditions. More than 25 embassies provide hands-on activities, demonstrations, musical and dance performances, and more.

9. Smithsonian Folklife Festival

© Smithsonian Folklife Festival
June-July. Each summer, the Smithsonian's Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage sponsors a huge cultural festival on the National Mall. The themes changes each year, but usually highlight three distinct cultures with special programming that includes music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling and much more. The event begins in late June and extends over the 4th of July holiday.

10. Asian Food and Tennis Festival

© Asian Food and Tennis Festival
July. The free event in Fairfax, Virginia features music, cultural performances, food, beauty pageants, fashion, arts and crafts and tennis. Sponsored by the Thai Tennis Organization in America, the festival showcase the culture of China, Thailand, the Philippines and other Asian countries.

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