April Festivals and Events Around Washington, DC

With the arrival of spring, Washington, D.C., is abuzz with festivals, outdoor events, and all types of cultural activities for visitors and locals to enjoy. The biggest event happening in Washington throughout April is the Cherry Blossom Festival, which includes a month full of activities to celebrate the flowers in bloom. However, that's not the only thing happening in the nation's capital during April, and visitors have a lot of events to choose from.

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National Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry blossoms along the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC

Kevin Voelker Photography / Getty Images

The annual Cherry Blossom Festival in Washington, D.C., is one of the biggest events in the nation's capital. The tradition dates back to 1912 when the then-mayor of Tokyo gifted over 3,000 trees to the U.S. to celebrate the enduring friendship between the two countries. The festival spans four weeks and welcomes nearly 2 million people who come to enjoy the bright pink petals all over the city.

The exact dates of the bloom vary from year to year depending on the weather, but April is usually the prime month for observing this fuchsia phenomenon. The official webpage includes a bloom watch so you can monitor exactly when the flowers are starting to appear.

The entire month is filled with fun and cultural activities to fully take advantage of the cherry blossom season, including the all-day Petalpalooza music event, the Pink Tie Party, the Sakura Matsuri Street Festival, a day of kite flying, and art shows.

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Easter Egg Hunts

Children hunting for eggs at Morven Park in the Washington D.C. area

Morven Park

There are plenty of Easter events for children at a variety of venues around the capital region, where kids can hunt for eggs, enjoy treats, and even meet the Easter Bunny. Popular local events include the Eggstravaganza at Tudor Palace and the national Easter Egg Roll at the White House. If you want to get out of the city, you can also find family-friendly Easter events all around the Washington area, such as in nearby Virginia and Maryland.

03 of 15

Earth Optimism at the National Zoo

Sign at the Smithsonian National Zoo

Smithsonian National Zoo

On Easter Monday, the National Smithsonian Zoo celebrates Earth Optimism, where families are invited to learn about taking care of the planet and protecting vulnerable species. It includes special animal demonstrations, hands-on opportunities to learn about conservation, and the chance to meet local organizations working to connect communities to nature. This conservation-oriented event is free to attend and is a perfect way to prepare for upcoming Earth Day just a week later.

04 of 15

International Pillow Fight Day

People having a pillow fight outside

Ted Eytan / Flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0

This event is exactly what it sounds like: a massive pillow fight. Pillow fights break out in cities around the world, including on the National Mall. This event normally takes place in early April, so if you're around, make sure you have your pillow on hand to join in on the fun.

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05 of 15

Smithsonian Jazz Appreciation Month

Branford Marsalis holds Louis Armstrong's cornet at the Smithsonian's National Museum of American History

STEPHEN JAFFE / Getty Images

The National Museum of American History celebrates jazz music throughout the entire month of April, commemorating the long history and extraordinary heritage of jazz music in the U.S. Check out the full schedule for special concerts and exhibitions around this beloved genre of music.

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DC Emancipation Day

People marching for Emancipation Day

Rachel Cooper / TripSavvy

The anniversary of the Emancipation Act, when Lincoln granted freedom to 3,100 enslaved persons in the District of Columbia, is celebrated with educational and cultural events throughout the city. DC Emancipation Day has been a public holiday in the nation's capital since 2005, and is always in mid-April, falling on April 18 in 2020.

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FilmFest DC

Washington DC International Film Festival

Washington DC International Film Festival 

FilmFest DC, the city's oldest film festival, features a wide range of films from around the globe including full-length movies, documentaries, comedies, shorts, and award winners. The films are shown at venues all around the city, and it's a great way to catch up-and-coming films as they're being premiered that you otherwise wouldn't be able to see. The event takes place in April of each year.

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Boat Shows

Aerial view of a yacht show

United States Yacht Shows, Inc.

Get out of the city and spend a day on the water at the Bay Bridge Boat Show in nearby Stevensville, Maryland. Check out the over 400 boats that make up the show, ranging in size from seven feet to 70 feet. This popular nautical event takes place on the third weekend of April and makes for a great spring day activity.

If one weekend of boating events isn't enough for you, you're in luck. The following weekend in Annapolis, Maryland, you can attend the Spring Sailboat Show. This weekend has a greater focus on sailing, and you'll see sailboats, catamarans, monohulls, and family cruisers.

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Virginia Historic Garden Week

Close up of tulips in a beautiful garden

Kelly J Mihalcoe / Virginia Tourism Corporation

Virginia Historic Garden Week features tours of the gardens at Virginia’s most prestigious private homes and public attractions. See lush gardens, stunning architecture, and historic furnishings that you can't see at any other time of the year. 

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White House Spring Garden Tours

Tulips at the White House

Karen Bleier / Getty Images 

Twice a year, visitors are allowed to visit the White House grounds and explore the beautiful gardens, once in the spring and again in the fall. If you come during the spring, all the flowers and trees are in bloom, adding an explosion of color to the historic White House in the background. Tickets are necessary to attend; find the latest information on the official event webpage.

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DC Beer Festival

Aerial view of people attending DC Beer Festival

DC Beer Festival

You can taste over 200 beers from over 80 breweries all in one place at the DC Beer Festival. You probably won't get to try all 200, but you should taste as many of these local craft beers as you can. The festival is held at Nationals Park, with the 2020 date set for April 25. Apart from drinking beer, you can also learn about the process of making it in special seminars and snack on tasty bites from D.C. area food trucks.

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Arlington Festival of the Arts

People viewing art at the Arlington Festival of the Arts

Arlington Festival of the Arts 

The arts festival in Arlington, Virginia, features vibrant paintings, contemporary and whimsical art, life-size sculptures, photography, handcrafted jewelry, and much more. It's a massive event that takes over the Clarendon district of Arlington, and the eighth annual festival takes place on the weekend of April 25–26, 2020.

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Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival

The Leesburg Flower and Garden Festival

Leesburg Parks and Rec

The family-friendly Flower and Garden Festival in Leesburg, Virginia, displays landscape designs, gardening supplies, outdoor living items, plants, flowers, herbs along with children's entertainment, crafts, and a landscape design contest. Make a day of it in historic Leesburg, which is worth visiting for its quaint charm at all times of the year.

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Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival

The Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival

Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival 

Washington, D.C., is famous for its cherry blossoms, but travel a little further into Winchester, Virginia, to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley and you can see the blooming apple blossoms as well. This festival includes over 45 events including the Coronation of Queen Shenandoah, the Grand Feature Parade, band competitions, dances, a carnival, a 10K run, firefighter events, and more.

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Georgetown French Market

Georgetown French market

Sam Kittner / Georgetown Business Improvement District

The hip and trendy Georgetown neighborhood turns into an open-air market at the end of April, featuring a collection of local boutiques, cafes, restaurants, and galleries that bring out their best for this springtime event. Snack on French fare while you walk around and listen to the sounds French and gypsy jazz playing in the streets. The 17th annual French Market will be on Book Hill from April 24–26, 2020.

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