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National Mall Events

A Guide to Major Annual Events in Washington DC


Although approximately 3,000 events are held on the National Mall in Washington, DC each year, surprisingly few, only about a dozen major festivals are held annually. Most of the events on the National Mall are small gatherings, such as sporting events, protests and rallies, and other group activities.

Note: A permit is required to host a public event on the National Mall to assure that activities will not conflict with each other. For details, contact the Office of Park Programs at (202) 619-7225.

Major Annual Events on the National Mall:

1. National Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry blossoms in Washington D.C.
Mark Wilson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Late March - Early April. Washington, DC welcomes the arrival of spring with the annual two-week, city-wide event featuring more than 200 international cultural performances and over 90 other special events. The annual kite festival, stage performances and many other events take place on the National Mall.

2. Earth Day

Photo © Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com, Inc.

April. Washington, DC hosts one of the largest Earth Day gatherings in the U.S., a major day - long event on the National Mall to rally to demand Congress enacts climate and clean energy legislation. The event includes speeches by public officials and musical performances by national talent.

3. Cinco de Mayo

© Leslie Esterrich-Betancourt
May. The annual celebration 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 Cinco de Mayo Festival has become a larger “Latin American Family Reunion” on the National Mall.

4. Memorial Day

© Rachel Cooper
May. This is a great time to honor our veterans and famous Americans by visiting the monuments and memorials in Washington, DC. Special programs, wreath laying ceremonies and other events are held at the memorials in remembrance of fallen heroes.

5. Rolling Thunder

Photo © Rachel Cooper, licensed to About.com, Inc.
May. The annual motorcycle rally that is held in Washington, DC during the Memorial Day weekend is a call for the government's recognition and protection of Prisoners of War (POWs) and those Missing in Action (MIAs). About 400,000 veterans will roar across the National Mall on their motorcycles as a tribute to American war heroes.

6. Smithsonian Folklife Festival

© Smithsonian Folklife Festival
June – July. The annual event sponsored by the Center for Folklife and Cultural Heritage celebrates cultural traditions around the world with daily and evening music and dance performances, crafts and cooking demonstrations, storytelling and discussions of cultural issues. Each year there are three themes.

7. 4th of July Fireworks

Photo © Capitol Concerts
July. Washington DC is a spectacular place to celebrate July 4th! The National Mall, with Washington DC’s monuments and the U. S. Capitol in the background, forms a beautiful and patriotic backdrop to America's Independence Day celebrations. This is an all-day event in the nation's capital, beginning with a parade along Constitution Avenue and ending with a spectacular display of fireworks over the Washington Monument.

8. Screen on the Green

© Miller Taylor
July - August. Screen on the Green is a favorite Washington, DC summer tradition. Bring a blanket to the National Mall on a warm night and watch a classic film on a gigantic movie screen. Films are shown on Monday nights beginning at dusk.

9. Black Family Reunion

© Rachel Cooper
September. The two-day event held on the National Mall in Washington, DC celebrates the strength and values of African American families. The festival, sponsored by the National Council of Negro Women, Inc., includes free concerts, arts and crafts, an international marketplace, health screenings, food and activities for kids.

10. Veterans Day

© Rachel Cooper

November. Many of the memorials on the National Mall host special events in honor of America's armed forces. Veterans Day is a great time to visit Washington DC and pay a tribute to those who have defended our country.


For information on additional events held throughout the Washington DC region, see my monthly event calendars.

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