A Guide to Washington’s Festivals and Events


The capital city hosts numerous festivals year-round celebrating music, food, flowers and more. The country’s other major cities and towns also host unique annual events like wine and onion festivals, parades and holiday celebrations.

Originally launched in 1940, Redmond’s Derby Days features parades, a bike derby and the Diaper Derby (a race where toddlers crawl). Other activities include an art exhibit, a criterium race and a pancake breakfast.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

The National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates the 1912 gift of 3,000 Yoshino cherry trees from Japan to Washington, DC, and honors the enduring friendship between the two countries. The four-week event features a variety of activities and events.

Watch floats and marching bands during the National Cherry Blossom Parade, one of the largest spectator events in the city. Admire themed art exhibits during the annual Art in Bloom.

Feast on spring menus showcased at restaurants that participate in the popular Cherry Picks program. Or put on your pinkest gear and party at venues like Hook Hall’s silent disco or a Nicki Minaj dance party.

National Book Festival

The National Book Festival is the Library of Congress’ annual literary event that brings best-selling authors together with thousands of readers for readings, conversations, and book signings at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center. It is free and open to the public.

The National Book Festival returned to Washington after a two-year hiatus during the coronavirus pandemic. JLW volunteers welcomed tens of thousands of attendees to the Convention Center. Children can meet the authors of their favorite books and discover new ones at the festival’s many literacy-related activities. For example, this year there are yoga and meditation sessions led by emPOWER kids and story-times featuring a local illustrator and author.

Irish Festival

The Irish Festival (March 10-12, 2019) is a family-friendly event celebrating Ireland and Seattle’s strong Irish community. Highlights include non-stop Irish music, singing and dance from traditional Irish musicians & champion Irish stepdancers from around the Pacific Northwest and from Ireland, genealogy & Irish language workshops, lectures, cultural displays, and booths selling Irish and Celtic products.

Like the legendary god Lugh Lamhfada, this festival has something for everyone. Besides the musical performances, it also features a variety of activities such as cooking classes, crafts, games and more. Literary accomplishments out of Ireland are highlighted as well. The festival is free!

Cherry Blossom Festival Parade

The delicate pink flowers of the cherry trees—mostly Yoshino cherries, first given to the United States in 1912 by Japan—herald spring across the capital. Each year, the National Cherry Blossom Festival celebrates this gift with festivities that span more than a month.

The energy-filled parade travels 10 blocks along Constitution Avenue Northwest and features floats, marching bands from around the country, and performers. Grand colorful helium balloons and dazzling parade elements delight visitors of all ages.

For a comfortable way to see the parade, book your seat on a trolley tour. It eliminates the need for parking and can help you avoid the crowds.

National Heritage Festival

Celebrating a nation of many cultures and histories is central to the National Heritage Festival. Take part in a Noongar language singing workshop or learn about bush tucker for your garden. Kids can try their hand at copperplate calligraphy and make Rangoli flowers while adults attend panel discussions on the AANHPI experience.

The festival also hosts a series of nationally adjudicated and competitive music festivals in cities across North America for school choral and instrumental groups. The 2023 event in Washington will give students an unparalleled musical education as well as serve as a bonding experience with their peers.

National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony

The National Christmas Tree Lighting Ceremony is a holiday tradition that began with President Calvin Coolidge in 1923. This year, the event celebrates its 100th anniversary with a special broadcast on CBS.

You can watch the National Christmas Tree Lighting: Celebrating 100 Years special for free if you have a TV set, an antenna, and clear reception in your area. The special features performances from big-name artists including Gloria Estefan, Andy Grammer, Joss Stone and Shania Twain along with the President’s Own United States Marine Band.

You can also visit the National Tree in person from Dec. 2 through Jan. 1. The Pathway of Peace featuring 58 trees representing all 50 states and territories, as well as the National Menorah are open to the public.


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