Between the abundance of Oktoberfest celebrations, old-timey renaissance festivals, and a slew of culinary events packing the fall calendar in Washington, D.C., bidding goodbye to summer doesn't seem so bad. Autumn marks the end of the Capital Region's peak tourist season and the withdrawal of summer's sweltering, sticky heat, meaning smaller crowds at the major attractions, lower hotel prices, and a milder climate in which to explore the city's events.
In 2020, many events have been canceled or altered. Check the websites of organizers for updated information.
The Adams Morgan neighborhood of Washington, D.C., is known for the nightlife scene around 18th Street as well as its numerous late-night eateries, quirky murals, brick-row houses, and a number of great vintage and artisanal shops. To celebrate the diverse culture of the neighborhood, the second Sunday in September is Adams Morgan Day, a day of live music and international food. Colorful vendors, cultural demonstrations, live music, and dance workshops on rumba, Mexican folk, Bolivian, and salsa will pack the streets on September 13, 2020.
Mount Vernon Estate welcomes the fall season with a weekend of wheat treading in the 16-sided barn, early-American games, music, and demonstrations during October's Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Days. Here, visitors can peruse George Washington's Pioneer Farm and create their own cornhusk dolls, take a horse-drawn wagon ride, or find their way through a hay maze. Fall Harvest Family Days at Mount Vernon will take place on October 24 and 25, 2020, from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Masks and social distancing are required.
George Washington's Mount Vernon is full of autumnal celebrations. In addition to its Fall Harvest Days, there's the annual Wine Festival and Sunset Tours, celebrating the history of vino in Virginia with two evening tours of the mansion and live music on the east lawn, overlooking the Potomac River. The Mount Vernon Wine Festival is BYOB—bring your own blanket—and features libations from 16 local wineries. In 2020, it will be held October 9 through 11, 6 to 9 p.m. Masks and social distancing are required.
Around 35 of Washington's most distinguished restaurants serve samples of their signature dishes paired with complementing wines at the Taste of Georgetown event. This culinary extravaganza also includes live music and children's activities such as caricature artists, balloon makers, and jugglers. The region's top chefs typically test their culinary skills during the Georgetown Chef Showdown, where judges taste all 70 dishes to pick the "Best Use of Seasonal Ingredients," "Best Overall Dish," and "Best Way to Satiate a Sweet Tooth." Taste of Georgetown will be a revised Taste and Shop event in 2020, featuring take-out, delivery, and outdoor dining specials from October 5 to 25.
The Maryland Renaissance Festival is a family-friendly affair held for six weeks from August to October in Anne Arundel County, about 30 miles from Washington, D.C. It recreates a 16th-century English village with crafts, food, live performances on eight stages, a jousting arena, and games. There are fire eaters, jugglers, magicians, and costumes—though you don't have to wear one yourself to get into the spirit. In 2020, the Maryland Renaissance Festival will be held online (featuring virtual merchants and performers) on October 10 and 11.
In honor of Hispanic Heritage Month—September 15 to October 15—Washington, D.C. holds a fiesta celebrating Latino culture each September. Highlights of this annual event include a Parade of Nations, a children’s festival, a beauty pageant, a science fair, a diplomatic pavilion for embassies and consulates, arts and crafts stations, and traditional South and Central American cuisine. Fiesta D.C. typically takes place along Pennsylvania Avenue NW (Constitution Avenue) from 3rd Street to 7th Street, but in 2020, the event will take place virtually with permanent online exhibitions.
Held in the eastern blocks of H Street in the Near Northeast neighborhood of Washington, D.C., the H Street Festival is an annual fair designed to showcase the developing arts and entertainment district that spans 10 blocks of H Street Northeast. It would normally showcase more than 500 artists on 14 stages—plus an array of local, regional, and international cuisine, shopping, exhibits, educational events, and seminars—but in 2020, the H Street Festival will be held virtually. Throughout the months of September and October, you can tune into virtual programming, participate in marketplaces, thematic showcases, and local business promotions online.
The Kids Euro Festival features more than 90 free events throughout the capital, making it one of the country's largest performing arts festivals for children. Staged through the cooperation of the 28 Washington-based European Union embassies and 30 major local cultural institutions, the multi-day event is geared toward kids aged 2 through 12. It features artists in almost every performing genre, from bubble-blowers to acrobats, from late October through early November every year; however, 2020's performances will be virtual. Free, on-demand programming can be streamed online from October 17 through November 29.
Originating in Munich, Oktoberfest is now a widely celebrated festival centered around beer drinking and German culture. There are a few at which to sample lagers, ales, and wines while dancing and eating in Washington, D.C., from Snallygaster downtown to Port City Brewing's edition in Alexandria, Virginia.
Snallygaster D.C. is known as one of the "beastliest" of the region's beer festivals, featuring more than 300 different ales and lagers as well as multiple food vendors, live music, DJ performances, and family-friendly activities each October. Meanwhile, Port City Brewing Company's Oktoberfest spans two entire months. In 2020, both have been canceled.
For more than 50 years, the Maryland Seafood Festival has been an Annapolis tradition celebrating its rich history of harvesting food from the nearby Atlantic Ocean. Highlights include a crab cake-eating contest, crab-picking contest, oyster-shucking contest, and a crab soup cook-off. There's also a sand soccer tournament and arts and crafts featuring local creatives. When hunger strikes, head to the beer-and-oyster-tasting tent or visit the chef demo area for free seafood samples. The 2020 Maryland Seafood Festival has been postponed to September 25 and 26, 2021.
Reportedly the largest culinary festival in the Mid-Atlantic, Taste of DC is a two-day street festival in which 65 of the region's best restaurants, eateries, and food trucks come together each October. Highlights of the festival include an Oktoberfest celebration, a Wine Walk, live musical performances, and the Annual Ben's Chili Bowl's World Chili Eating Championship. The event also features a Kids Zone with interactive games, live music, and demonstrations from local chefs. The 2020 event has been postponed to spring 2021.
Held on the first Saturday in October each year, the annual Taste of Bethesda event not only features 50 Bethesda-area restaurants, but it also has four stages of entertainment centered around Woodmont Triangle and a kids' corner for cookie decorating, face painting, games, and prizes. This culinary tradition is celebrated in conjunction with Best of Bethesda Day, which includes a classic car show and an animal rescue day, as well as the annual Bethesda Film Fest, featuring long and short-form videos from local and regional filmmakers. In 2020, the event has been canceled.