Renee Sklarew, author of The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C., recommends the best times to visit our nation’s capital.
Washington, D.C.’s tourist attractions are busiest around the National Cherry Blossom Festival, roughly mid-March through mid-April, and from late June through early August, when most U.S. public schools have their summer vacations. The period from late April through late June is also busy. The best times to visit are October (which also has great weather), January, and February (when the weather is pretty cold).
Attractions, monuments, and museums are generally busiest on Saturday and slowest on Tuesday. Ignoring special events, such as legal holidays, here’s how each day of the week stacks up in terms of crowds, with Saturday being the busiest and Tuesday the least busy: Saturday, Friday, Sunday, Thursday, Monday, Wednesday, and Tuesday.
Crowds generally peak at attractions between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. If a museum or monument opens at 10 a.m, arrive by 9:30 a.m. to beat the crowds. Alternatively, if you’re touring during summer and a museum has extended hours, it’s possible to do a “highlights” tour of even the largest museum between 3:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Washington, D.C.’s weather is the best in the spring and fall. The city’s fabled cherry blossoms bloom at the end of March or early April, not necessarily coinciding with the Cherry Blossom Festival, unfortunately. Fall brings crisp, cool weather and a spectacular display of foliage, especially in the Shenandoah Valley.
Summers are generally brutally hot and humid. Many Washingtonians follow Congress and foreign diplomats and “recess” out of the city in August, but that does mean August has its good side: far less traffic and shorter queues, easy restaurant reservations, extended museum hours, and—precisely because so many federal employees are on vacation—less tedious security. Washington is so much less crowded, in fact, that August is when many of the area’s most prominent chefs participate in the summer Restaurant Week, offering bargain-priced three-course lunch and dinner menus.
Though D.C.’s weather is erratic in winter, it’s one of the best times to avoid crowds. On weekdays especially, the Mall is nearly deserted, and museums, monuments, and normally crowd-intensive hot spots, such as the Capitol, are almost congenial. (There’s also a winter version of Restaurant Week offered in January.) Stay near a Metro station, and the subway will get you around town with minimal exposure to the elements.
For all there is to see and do when visiting Washington, D.C., check out The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. If you enjoyed this post, please subscribe to our YouTube channel and sign up for our newsletter here.
United States Capitol courtesy of Martin Falbisoner [CC BY-SA 3.0]