October Festivals and Events in the Washington, DC, Area

Washington DC
Olga Kaya / Getty Images

Washington, D.C., and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host a myriad of happenings celebrating the colorful fall season. October sees pumpkin festivals, corn mazes, Halloween activities, and Oktoberfests throughout the Capital Region—some geared toward younger crowds, others adults-only. There's something to suit the runner, wino, bookworm, and lover of classic cars during this jam-packed month. Keep in mind, though, that in 2020, many events have been altered or canceled. Check the websites of organizers for updated information.

01 of 16

Mount Vernon’s Wine Festival & Sunset Tour

Mount Vernon Wine Festival & Sunset Tour

 Mount Vernon

George Washington's Estate and Gardens, known as Mount Vernon, hosts an annual Wine Festival and Sunset Tour event from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly from Friday through Sunday, October 9 to 11, 2020. At the event, guests can taste unlimited samples from more than a dozen Virginia wineries and learn the history of winemaking at Mt. Vernon. The festival also includes wine-cellar tours and live music, plus an exclusive evening tour of the historic mansion and cellar. In 2020, the mansion will remain closed. Advance tickets are required to attend and are available online.

02 of 16

Conservation Discovery Day

Conservation Discovery Day

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute ‎/ Facebook

The National Zoo's world-renowned science, research, and animal care facility at the Smithsonian Biology Conservation Institute in Front Royal, Virginia, opens its doors to the public only once a year on Conservation Discovery Day. The 3,200-acre institute is the headquarters of the National Zoo’s conservation science initiatives—it's a research center for animal behavior and reproduction, ecology, genetics, migration, and conservation sustainability, and on the first Saturday in October each year, curious students may come in and explore the natural sciences up close. In 2020, Conservation Discovery Day will take place entirely virtually with prerecorded videos and live Q&As.

03 of 16

Army Ten-Miler

Army Ten-Miler

Army Ten-Miler

One of America's biggest 10-mile races, the Army Ten-Miler attracts 20,000 runners each year. It typically begins at 8 a.m. at the Pentagon and winds through some of the most iconic vistas and landmarks in the city. The race includes U.S. service members, military veterans, and their families, but also non-military members who simply fancy a patriotic, 10-mile run. The event includes a health and fitness expo at the D.C. Armory all weekend long.

The Old Guard Drill Team and Fife and Drum Corps perform throughout the event and on Saturday evening, you can carbo-load at the pasta buffet traditionally attended by the Sergeant Major of the Army, Sergeants Major of the Reserve and Guard, and more than 900 runners from around the world, as well as Wounded Warriors. All race proceeds benefit the U.S. military's Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs. In 2020, the Army Ten-Miler will be held virtually.

04 of 16

Fall for the Book Festival

Book festival
JordiRamisa / Getty Images

The Fall for the Book Festival is a regional celebration of literature and the arts that features events at George Mason University's Fairfax Campus in Virginia and at several other venues throughout the Capital Region. The festival welcomes nearly 150 authors annually, including some of the nation’s most exciting and provocative writers. Featured speakers have in the past included novelist Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, New Yorker writer and bestselling author of "Killers of the Flower Moon" and "The Lost City of Z" David Grann, and the iconic novelist Stephen King. In 2020, the festival will be virtual with talks and programs taking place online.

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05 of 16

Boo at the Zoo

Boo at the Zoo

Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute 

Kids love to see bats, spiders, owls, and other animals while trick-or-treating at Boo at the Zoo around the time of Halloween. The National Zoo in Washington, D.C., holds this family-friendly event every year to celebrate the autumnal holiday in a mildly spooky way. It's a rare opportunity to enjoy zookeeper talks and festive decorations along the "haunted" trails dotted with Halloween candy stations. Advance tickets are required and costumes are welcome. In 2020, Boo at the Zoo will be a drive-through experience.

06 of 16

Marine Corps Marathon

Marine Corps Marathon
Brendan Smialowski / Getty Images

Also known as "The People's Marathon," the annual Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) is one of the biggest in the world. It warrants a full weekend of events, including a health and fitness expo, a Healthy Kids Fun Run, a Historic Half in Fredericksburg, Virginia, and the Marathon Finish Festival. Runners of all experience levels, from all 50 states and more than 60 countries participate in the race.

On the day of the marathon, October 25, 2020, you can cheer on the finishers of this huge race series if you don't place to participate yourself. Runners must register in March.

07 of 16

Washington International Horse Show

Washington International Horse Show- Halloween


Each year, the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C., hosts a world-class equestrian competition featuring top riders, Olympic veterans, and superstar horses. More than 500 prize-winning horses and riders from all over the globe gather to compete for more than half a million dollars in prize money. The Washington International Horse Show returns October 21 through 25, 2020, and will include show jumping, boutique shopping, educational events, social events, and more.

08 of 16

Kids Euro Festival

Dancers at Kids Euro Festival

Kids Euro Festival 

Made possible by the cooperation of Washington-based European Union embassies and more than a dozen major local cultural institutions, the Kids Euro Festival features more than 200 free performances around Washington, D.C., mostly geared toward children from ages 2 to 12. Touted as one of the largest performing arts festivals for children in America, it brings two weeks of performances, concerts, movies, storytelling, puppetry, dance, and more to the Capital Region. In 2020, all entertainment will take place virtually.

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09 of 16

Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Family Days

Mount Vernon Fall Harvest Days
Mount Vernon Ladies Association 

Celebrate the season with horse-drawn wagon rides, wheat treading in the 16-sided barn, a straw bale maze, early-American games, music, and demonstrations at historic Mount Vernon. The famous venue's annual Fall Harvest Family Days feature a variety of 18th-century activities and reenactments at the Pioneer Farm. Entry is included in the price of admission (free for Mount Vernon members). In 2020, the event will take place on October 24 and 25 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. with special safety measures.

10 of 16

United States Sailboat Show in Annapolis

Sailboat in Annapolis

Annapolis Boat Shows 

Downtown Annapolis' City Dock plays host to more than 400 sailboats—some up to 75 feet in length—during this annual maritime gathering. It's one of the world’s largest and most prestigious sailboat shows, featuring the latest models from almost every major manufacturer, talks with industry representatives, boating products, marine gear, and accessories. Between boat-related chats and showings, you can sample the local fare and libations while listening to live music. In 2020, the event has been canceled.

11 of 16

Taste of Bethesda

Taste of Bethesda

Bethesda Urban Partnership / Facebook

In early October, Bethesda brings together more than 60 restaurants, jazz performers, and traditional dance troupes from around the world for a food and music-centered extravaganza. More than 40,000 people turn up each year to dine on Bethesda's best while jamming to live music on five stages. Rain or shine, it's held at Woodmont Triangle from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free but "taste tickets" are sold on-site in bundles of four for $5. In 2020, Taste of Bethesda has been canceled.

12 of 16

Taste of D.C.

Taste of D.C.

Taste of D.C. 

Every October, area foodies flock to Audi Field for a rare opportunity to taste dishes from more than 50 of the area's best restaurants, all in the same place. Taste of D.C. not only offers the best bites in town, it also has a massive beer garden, two stages of live music, and culinary entertainment such as chef demos and classes. There are opportunities to mingle with local celebrity chefs as you savor their offerings. Each restaurant provides at least one tasting item priced between one and three Taste Tokens and, in addition, select menu favorites are available for up to eight Taste Tokens. In 2020, Taste of D.C. has been canceled.

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13 of 16

Bethesda Row Arts Festival

Bethesda Row Arts Festival

Bethesda Row Arts Festival / Facebook

Touted as the area's largest art show, this festival showcases the work of more than 200 artists in Bethesda, Maryland. You'll find wearable fiber art and jewelry, glass creations, woodworking, photography, and paintings at the event, which also draws some of the area's best musical acts, street performers, and local food vendors. A variety of hands-on activities such as jewelry-making are usually available to entertain the kids. In 2020, the in-person event has been canceled, but you can purchase art from the vendor through BethesdaRowArts.org.

14 of 16

Rockville Antique & Classic Car Show

Rockville Antique & Classic Car Show

Christopher Ziemnowicz / Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 4.0

At the annual Rockville Antique & Classic Car Show at Maryland's Rockville Civic Center grounds, you can peruse more than 550 antique and classic automobiles on display. From Packards to Ferraris, the iconic vehicles are displayed by their owners and more than 30 classic car clubs. There's also a car sales area, in case you're in the market for one, food and drink vendors, and a flea market. In 2020, the car show has been canceled.

15 of 16

White House Garden Tour

Jackson Statue Lafayette Park White House Washington DC
bpperry / Getty Images

Showcasing the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children's Garden, and South Lawn, the biannual White House Garden Tour takes place over weekends in the spring and fall. Visitors can discover the beauty of this vast and historic estate that is rarely open to the public, all for free—although tickets are required and can be obtained online. In 2020, all White House Garden Tours have been canceled.

16 of 16

17th Street High Heel Race

D.C. High Heel Drag Queen Race

S. Pakhrin / Flickr / CC BY-2.0 

What started as a silly game between friends in the 1970s has now grown to attract thousands of spectators to Dupont Circle in Washington, D.C. Here, participating drag queens show off their elaborate Halloween costumes and race a tenth of a mile down 17th Street on the Tuesday night before Halloween. Now managed by the City, the parade starts at 7 p.m. and the race itself commences at 9 p.m. The organizers have not yet confirmed whether 2020's race will proceed.