The Washington, D.C. area and its surrounding communities in Maryland and Virginia host many fun annual festivals and special events throughout the month of October. From pumpkin festivals and corn mazes in Maryland and Virginia to Halloween and Oktoberfest events in the Capital Region, there are plenty of great events to get you in the mood for fall.
Map out your weekend trip to D.C. with a choice of food fairs, street festivals, road races, car and boat shows, and tons of family-friendly activities.
Each year during early October, George Washington's Estate and Gardens, known as Mount Vernon, hosts the annual Wine Festival and Sunset Tour event from 6 to 9 p.m. nightly from Friday through Sunday. At the event, taste unlimited samples from 20 Virginia wineries and learn the history of winemaking at Mt. Vernon.
During the Wine Festival, enjoy wine-cellar tours and live music, and don't miss an exclusive evening tour of the Mansion and cellar while you're there. Advance tickets are required to attend and are available online.
Visit Downtown Annapolis' City Dock and check out the latest in sailboats and boating accessories during the annual United States Sailboat Show, which takes place in early October. This is recognized as one of the world’s largest and most prestigious sailboat shows with over 100 participants on the water.
Boating enthusiasts can board and check out new models from almost every major sailboat manufacturer, talk to industry representatives, and see the latest in boating products and services at the many vendor booths and displays.
On the first Saturday of the month, Bethesda brings more than 60 restaurants and five stages of live entertainment for its annual Taste of Bethesda food and music festival. More than 40,000 attendees visit each year for this event, which is held at Woodmont Triangle in downtown Bethesda. Held rain or shine, the festival is open 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Go back in time at the Maryland Renaissance Festival, a medieval village with crafts, food, live performances, games, event foods like turkey legs, and plenty of historically-based fun. Street entertainers roam the grounds and entertainers perform on eight stages during the event. The Maryland Renaissance Festival takes place on weekends through late October in Crownsville, Maryland.
Get a behind-the-scenes look at the National Zoo's world-renowned science, research, and animal care facility at the Smithsonian Biology Conservation Institute in Front Royal, Virginia. The 3,200-acre institute is the headquarters for the Smithsonian’s National Zoo’s conservation science initiatives and is normally closed to the public. This facility is only open to the public one day a year—the first Saturday in October—so you won't want to miss this unique opportunity to explore the natural sciences up close.
Each year over the last weekend in October, at Audi Field, area foodies flock to Taste of D.C. for Restaurant Row featuring tastings from over fifty of the area's best restaurants, a huge beer garden, and two stages of live music and culinary entertainment. Look forward to food trucks and opportunities to mingle with local celebrity chefs.
One of America's biggest 10-mile races attracts 20,000 runners each year. The Army Ten-Miler begins around 8 a.m. at the Pentagon on the second Saturday of October and participants race alongside U.S. service members, military veterans and their families, through iconic vistas of Washington, D.C.’s historic landmarks.
The Ten-Miler event also features a special expo at the D.C. Armory all weekend long that features great deals on clothing, shoes, accessories, and other health and fitness items. The Old Guard Drill Team and Fife and Drum Corps also perform throughout the event. 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 Family and Morale, Welfare, and Recreation (MWR) programs of the U.S. military.
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 multiple locations throughout the capital region. The festival welcomes nearly 150 authors including some of the nation’s most exciting and provocative writers and takes place over the second weekend in October.
Touted as the area's largest art show, more than 200 artists display a wide variety of artwork and crafts throughout Bethesda Row during the annual Bethesda Row Arts Festival in Bethesda, Maryland. This family-friendly event also features some of the area's best musical acts and street performers as well as several local food vendors and a variety of hands-on kids' activities.
Popular outdoor concert venue Merriweather Post Pavilion transforms into a haven for art and music lovers with the annual OPUS Merriweather event, which takes place over the second weekend of October each year.
This festival enlists groundbreaking artists and musicians from across the world to create immersive art installations and unforgettable performances. High-tech art will include treetop projection mapping. Top D.C. chefs will also whip up food in OPUS Merriweather's Culinary Village.
See a display of more than 550 antique and classic automobiles during the annual Rockville Antique & Classic Car Show at the Rockville Civic Center grounds in Maryland. Enjoy the shining beauty of cars from Packards to Ferraris displayed by their owners and over 32 classic car clubs. There's also a car sales area, food and drink for purchase, and a flea market.
Visit bats, spiders, owls, and other animals while trick-or-treating at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. during its annual Boo at the Zoo event. Enjoy animal encounters, keeper talks, festive decorations, and haunted trails at the annual National Zoo’s Halloween celebration. Advance tickets are required.
View the Jacqueline Kennedy Garden, Rose Garden, Children's Garden, and South Lawn of the White House in this twice-annual tradition. The White House Garden Tour event happens over weekends in the spring and fall. The White House website will list the exact October dates.
Celebrate the season at historic Mount Vernon with horse-drawn wagon rides, wheat treading in the 16-sided barn, a straw bale maze, early-American games, music, and demonstrations. Taking place at the Pioneer Farm in Mount Vernon, this annual event also features a variety of 18th-century activities and reenactments.
The Kids Euro Festival includes more than 200 free performances around Washington, D.C. Made possible by the cooperation of Washington-based European Union embassies and more than a dozen major local cultural institutions, this festival is geared to children from ages 2 to 12, but all are welcome to attend.
Touted as one of the largest performing arts festivals for children in America, you'll be entertained by many of Europe's children's entertainers. Each fall the festival brings two weeks of free performances, concerts, movies, storytelling, puppetry, dance, and so much more to Washington, D.C.
Also known as "The People's Marathon," the annual Marine Corps Marathon (MCM) includes a full weekend of events like the Health and Fitness Expo, Healthy Kids Fun Run, and the Marathon Finish Festival. Ranked as one of the largest marathons in the US and the world, runners of all experience levels from all 50 states and more than 60 countries participate. There are multiple events located around the Washington, D.C. area. The MCM, MCM Kids Run and MCM10K are hosted in Arlington, VA, and the District. The Historic Half occurs in Fredericksburg, VA. The MCM Event Series is hosted on, or near, Marine Corps Base Quantico in Prince William County, VA.
Cheer on the finishers of this huge race series or participate yourself—just be sure to register in advance if you plan to run.
Each year, the Capital One Arena in Washington, D.C. host a world-class equestrian competition featuring top riders, Olympic veterans, and superstar horses. More than 500 prize-winning horses and riders come to D.C. from all over the globe to compete for more than a half a million dollars in prize money.
The Washington International Horse Show includes thrilling show jumping, boutique shopping, educational events, social events, and more.
D.C. High Heel Drag Queen Race
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, costumed drag queens show off their elaborate Halloween costumes and race down 17th Street from one bar to another on the Tuesday night before Halloween. The Facebook page lists current details and has photographs from past events.
The National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, Virginia, hosts an annual Air & Scare event each year in October. Join creepy space aliens, mysterious astronauts, and ghostly pilots for safe, indoor trick-or-treating. Visitors also can enjoy storytimes, face-painting stations, hands-on activities, karaoke, simulation games, and robotics demonstrations during this museum event.