The Best Time to Visit Washington D.C.

US Capitol Building, National Mall and Northwest Washington at sunrise from Library of Congress, Washington DC, USA
Danita Delimont/Getty Images

The best time to visit Washington D.C. is typically in the fall (September to November).The weather is comfortable, crowds are smaller and there's still plenty to do around the city.

Whenever you decide to go, use this guide to help plan your trip to the Nation's Capital.

Popular Events and Festivals

Each season has events that draw huge crowds but the most popular events and holidays are the National Cherry Blossom Festival (late March to Early April), Memorial Day weekend and 4th of July. Other busy times are Thanksgiving weekendChristmas week and Easter weekend. Large school groups often visit in the spring as well, visiting the National Mall and its museums. If you want to experience D.C. at its busiest (namely during the Cherry Blossom festival or marches that draw large numbers of attendants), be sure to book accommodations early and prepare for massive crowds, especially during the weekends.

Regardless of when you visit, many of the memorials are open 24 hours and the Smithsonian museums are open every day of the year except for Christmas Day.

Managing the Crowds in Washington D.C.

Packed to the brim with museums, tourist attractions and historical sites, millions of visitors come to Washington D.C. every year. If you visit during the peak season in spring and summer, expect long lines at popular attractions.

If you are attending a crowded event and taking the Metro, be sure to arrive and depart from a station that is not the closest to your destination. The closest station will always be the most crowded and if you walk a little further away you may escape the long lines. 

If you prefer to avoid crowds altogether, head away from the National Mall and explore some of the lesser known attractions in the city. There are plenty of interesting museums, monuments, parks and neighborhoods throughout Washington DC. Visit historic house museums around the city or spend some time at some of the unique museums in the Dupont Circle neighborhood. Take a walk on Embassy Row and marvel at the architecture. Spend some time in a park or taking in views of the Potomac River.

The Weather in Washington D.C.

With the city’s Mid-Atlantic location, the weather is relatively mild and there are four distinct seasons that are generally equal in length. Winters are often cold and snowy with temperatures averaging in the 30s and 40s. D.C.'s winters can be relatively mild, but cold snaps have made for very chilly viewing for January inaugurations on the National Mall.

One thing is certain: Summers in D.C. are very hot and humid, with average temperatures in the high 80s and often into the 90s and above. Prepare with plenty of water and comfortable clothing if you find yourself sightseeing in August and July. Luckily, there are plenty of air-conditioned museums to duck into during those brutal summer months. Spring and fall weather in Washington, D.C. is comfortable and ideal for sightseeing.

Peak Season in Washington D.C.

The rush of tourism around the Tidal Basin's gorgeous annual cherry blossom blooms means hotel rooms can be at a premium during late March through early April. Tourism also spikes during the spring and summer months when school is out. However, D.C. is always a business destination, and popular conventions and conferences can lead to increased hotel prices during the week — and sometimes you can find a deal on hotel rooms during the weekend for that reason.

January

Washington D.C.’s winter weather is variable but it will likely be cold and sometimes snowy. Winter is also the quietest and least crowded season, making it a great time to visit the museums, enjoy live entertainment, or try some outdoor ice skating. 

Events to check out:

February

Expect cold and blustery weather in D.C. in February, but if you don't mind chilly temps, this could be the perfect place to have a Valentine's getaway.

Events to check out:

March

Spring is starting to come to D.C. at this point, with temperatures in the 50s and 60s (although sometimes you'll encounter a very warm day that feels more like summer). There's always a possibility of rain, so pack accordingly.

Events to check out:

April

As the weather warms, it's the perfect time of year to visit the National Mall and the monuments and memorialsGuided tours are especially popular and offer a variety of ways to enjoy the city’s top attractions. 

Events to check out:

May

It's spring in Washington, D.C., and the weather is usually in the range of the 50s to 70s, although sometimes it may get into the 80s. This is a beautiful time of year to be outside.

Events to check out:

  • Memorial Day weekend is very busy with special events, concerts, and parades honoring American patriots.
  • Take a tour of one of the many embassies in D.C. at Passport D.C.

June

While school is out, summer is a popular time for families and groups to visit the nation’s capital. It will be hot and humid but there there will still be plenty of visitors flocking to the capital. There are also many free concerts and outdoor movies throughout the summer season.

Events to check out:

  • The Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall honors cultural traditions from around the world and lasts for two weeks in the summer.
  • The Capital Pride street festival and parade celebrates pride in the LGBTQ communities in Washington, D.C., and includes tons of activities and concerts with big name musicians.

July

Be ready for the heat (and crushing humidity). The temperatures in July are in the 80s and 90s: this is usually known as D.C.'s hottest month according to the Washington Post's weather gurus. Still, outdoor festivals and activities are a huge draw this time of year.

Events to check out:

  • The Smithsonian Folklife Festival stretches into early July.
  • Washington DC is the most patriotic place in America to celebrate the Fourth of July, with a full day of programming that begins with the Independence Day Parade and ends with fireworks over the Washington Monument.
  • Tennis fans can't miss the Citi Open Tennis Classic, which runs into August.

August

Another scorcher: the average temperature is in the high 70s and 80s and could easily get higher than that. This can be a quieter time of year in the city too, as children head back to school and politicians take an August recess (and everyone whose business revolves around the government heads to the beach).

Events to check out:

September

The fall season is one of the best times to explore the city on foot and enjoy a wide range of activities. As the leaves begin to change, Washington D,C, becomes a wonderful place to enjoy fall foliage and outdoor recreation

Events to check out:

  • Celebrate the neighborhood of Adams Morgan at Adams Morgan Day, the longest running neighborhood festival in Washington D.C.
  • Meet award-winning authors at the Library of Congress's National Book Festival, which is a bibliophile's dream.
  • Try all sorts of food in a historic neighborhood at the annual Taste of Georgetown festival.

October

All you'll need is a light jacket during October, when the temperature is mild, hovering around 60 to 70 degrees. Take a hike and enjoy the changing leaves in Rock Creek Park or participate in Halloween events.

Events to check out:

November

The days are getting shorter and colder in November, as winter arrives in the Mid-Atlantic region. Highs are in the 60s and lows are in the 30s, so don't forget warm clothing.

Events to check out:

  • Take the family to Kids Euro Festival, one of the country's largest performing arts festivals for children with more than 90 free events around the city. 
  • The President lights the National Christmas Tree and shares a message of peace for the world at the end of fall.

December

Washington, D.C. looks so beautiful during Christmas time, whether it's the giant red bow decorations at Union Station or the glittering National Christmas Tree. White Christmases are relatively rare in D.C.: sometimes the weather can be mild with temps in the 50s, although it can get down to the 30s and 40s.

Events to check out:

  • In the latter part of the season there are dozens of special holiday happenings for the whole family.
  • See the National Zoo all lit up with LED lights for the holiday happening ZooLights.