The cherry blossoms and paddleboats that are the signs of springtime in Washington, DC can sometimes steal the show. But there is nothing quite like the endless activity and things to see that comes with fall. There’s much more to it than cool weather and auburn leaves raining down on us. Among the fantastic fall foliage, there’s less of you-know-who (tourists), fall festivals galore, and fireplaces that are outside the home. Here’s how to make an awesome time out of DC, fall style.
Even for the tourists, this is a good thing. You get to go to all the sightseeing monuments and important museums without any other selfie stick getting in the way of yours. It’s also one of the most beautiful times of the year, besides the famous cherry blossom season, and there are plenty of local spots and festivals to check out to get really immersed in the DC culture.
Being a tourist in DC means doing a lot of walking, if you’re doing it right at least. Bouncing around from one historically acclaimed structure to the next is hard work, and when you visit in summer, as most do, you get tired fast, and are much more moist with your own sweat than you surely care to be. There is a simple solution that those who come here in the summer don’t have, one that doesn’t leave you retiring to the hotel early just for some free A/C and an ice bath. Come in the fall.
This always makes it to the best things about DC lists, but it is especially true when all the free stuff has a gorgeous, leaf-changing-color backdrop. It’s more scenic than even the cherry blossoms, and much less crowded since you can find it in every park and garden in DC. If you’d like to spend some time indoors, go to one of the free concerts at the National Gallery of Art, or many of the other galleries and museums among the city that are free of charge.
Full disclosure: fall doesn’t only happen in DC, although we do do it best. There are plenty of places around the city that are well worth the day trip. Take Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park, and set up camp for the day or the weekend. George Washington’s Mount Vernon is always an enjoyable day trip, and there is nothing like a good wine tour in autumn.
Oh, how your Instagram will stand out from the crowd with eye-catching auburn and yellow hues and top notch autumn vibes. Some of the best places to get those like-worthy pictures are The National Mall, the monuments and memorials, and Rock Creek Park.
We have it all for a spooktacular holiday. After-hour zoo events, one for kids and one that’s an adult version. Fright Fest at Six Flags from September 23 to October 27. A drag queen race in heels down 17th Street, a mansion scavenger hunt, and several bars and pop-ups that are going all out for the haunting holiday.
Speaking of holidays, there’s more celebrated in autumn than any other time of year. We have Labor Day in September, Halloween in October, and Veterans Day and Thanksgiving in November. So you have your options of which events you’d like best—a good scare for the kids in the zoo or seeing the President pardon a turkey.
Another option is Veterans Day, where you can pay tribute to servicemen and women at many of the memorials and monuments. Almost all museums in the city portray military history, which brings awareness to the sacrifices that American soldiers have made to protect their country. There are commemorations at the memorials and museums to honor the holiday.
Concerts and theater
This is the best time to experience the culture of the capital. It’s when the action starts, when performers can be on stage for hours without breaking a sweat and everyone wants to drink outdoors. Each week you can find a new play or concert happening in the city. The Anthem, one of the larger music venues in DC, is ready to blow your mind with the concerts they’ll be hosting. The National Theatre always has exciting hits coming out. Here’s more on the best concerts to go to this fall.
Root for the home team
Fall means only one thing to a lot of people in DC—sports season is here. Be a part of the waves of sports fans that come to see the Nationals play baseball, the Capital play hockey, and the Wizards dribble down the court. If you’re not much of a sports fan, at least come for the tailgates.
DC has a love affair with beer gardens, and fall is the perfect time to see what we’re all head over heels for. It takes you out of time and place for a moment, and suddenly you’re celebrating Oktoberfest in Munich with your friends and coworkers. Go to Biergarten Haus, Dacha Beer Garden, The Brig, The Midlands, or many others and raise a traditional brat and stein of beer to fall glory.
When the weather starts to cool, Washingtonians need a reason to be outdoors, and DC gives it to us. Some of the biggest festivals in the capital happen from September to November, like Taste of Georgetown, Colonial Fall Harvest at Mount Vernon, H Street Festival, Capital Food Fight, and the Oyster Riot at the historic Old Ebbitt Grill. Here’s more on the best fall festivals.
It seems as if more and more restaurants and bars around the city are making fireplaces a must-have. Hopefully enough that even the Chipotle on the corner will have one someday. It gives every restaurant a cozy, homie vibe that can’t be matched without it, and makes the food and drinks feel like it just came out of your grandmother’s kitchen, even if you’re having an apple martini and ribeye.