There's never a bad time to visit Washington, DC. Not only do brilliant events take place almost every day, but the district also undergoes breathtakingly beautiful transformations as the seasons change.

March's explosion of cherry blossoms might well be the biggest magnet for many, but don't underestimate the beauty of a snow-dusted US Capitol in winter, fall foliage sessions at the city's National Arboretum, and lazy summer days cooling off by the Tidal Basin. Here are the pros and cons of visiting at different times of the year.

February is the cheapest month to visit

January, February and March are the cheapest months to visit Washington DC, although February is your best bet – shoppers heading to the city for the January sales can push up prices at the start of the year, and the second half of March is when the cherry blossoms begin to bloom.

Visit in February, and you can expect temperatures between 27°F and 47°F, along with odd snowfall. One minor downside is that, although all of DC's top attractions will be open, it's trickier to find guided tours during this time, as many pause operations between December and March. One important tip: avoid fixed-price restaurant menus around Valentine's Day, when restaurants hike up costs.

On a budget? Check out these top things to do for free in Washington, DC

Tree branches covered in cherry blossoms the foreground, while people ride paddle boats on the Tidal Basin in Washington, DC beyond
The Tidal Basin is one of the best places to see cherry blossoms in Washington, DC © Julia Kim / EyeEm / Getty Images

March is the best time to see Washington, DC's cherry blossoms

March is when the city's cherry blossom trees burst with color. Working out exactly when the blooms will appear isn't an exact science, but it's usually in the second half of March. In early March, there are daily blossom updates for the city's indicator tree (yes, there really is such a thing), along with the best areas to spot them. Top spots include the National Mall, where you'll find cherry blossom trees gifted to the country by Japan; and the banks of the Tidal Basin, which is lined with trees. 

For an extra dose of flower power, book a hotel with views of DC's cherry blossoms. These include several properties in the Wharf area, due to its proximity to the Tidal Basin. The InterContinental Washington DCHyatt House Washington DC and Canopy by Hilton Washington DC are all great options. Another ideal base is the Foggy Bottom neighborhood – book a hotel here, and you'll be a short walk from both the National Mall and the Tidal Basin.

Visit in May to see behind the scenes at the city's embassies

During Passport DC, a month-long event that celebrates DC's international diplomatic community, around 50 embassies open their doors to the public, offering behind-the-scenes tours and hosting events that offer insights into their countries. Admission is free, but you'll need to book tickets on the Passport DC website. The events are incredibly diverse, ranging from llama-petting sessions at the Peruvian embassy to craft masterclasses at the Swedish embassy (which has a beautiful rooftop patio that opens to the public during Passport DC). 

Most embassies will serve up various regional delicacies, and there are regular Q&A sessions with ambassadors. Stick to a maximum of six a day, starting with the most popular ones (these tend to include Brazil, Ireland, the UK and Japan) to avoid long queues. Book your accommodation early, as hotels quickly reach maximum occupancy during this time. Hotels on Embassy Row – where most of the embassies are located – include The Fairfax at Embassy Row and The Ven at Embassy Row, but these also come with the highest prices.

A military parade passes in front of the National Archives during Fourth of July celebrations in Washington, DC
DC is a major focus for Fourth of July celebrations © Anadolu / Getty Images

June and July are great times for sun-seekers (who don't mind the crowds)

Visit DC in June and July, and you'll get great weather and lots of sun without the energy-sapping humidity of August and September. The downside? These months are often the busiest, which means prices for everything, from hotels to restaurants, tend to be higher (and that's after accounting for airfares, which increase by around 30%). 

That said, there are several brilliant annual events held during this time too, including, on July 4, a dramatized rereading of the Declaration of Independence on the steps of the National Archives, various Fourth of July events (including a Capital Fourth concert held on the West Lawn of the US Capitol) and the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which usually starts in late June and finishes in early July.

August and September are great months for music and movies

August and September are both hot and humid, although the mercury is generally at its highest in August, when temperatures regularly exceed 90°F. Events in September include the DC Shorts International Film Festival, DC Jazz Fest, when jazz musicians do their thing at dozens of venues across the city, and Art all Night, a two-night, nighttime performing arts festival with performances throughout DC.

Many people skate on an ice rink at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, on a sunny winter's day
Skate over to the ice rink at the National Gallery of Art for some winter fun © A Blokhin / Getty Images

November and December are best for holiday magic

Thanksgiving in Washington, DC is marked with various parades (the largest ones take place on Market St and Freedom Dr), and it's also when the city's tree-lighting ceremony takes place. In December, the weather generally hovers between 34°F and 46°F, making it a fantastic time for a few laps around one of the city's public ice rinks. For a brilliant backdrop, it's hard to beat the ice rink outside the National Gallery of Art. However, the one on the Wharf's Transit Pier ticks the fun factor box – you'll be right on the water's edge and can pair an ice-skating session with a gig at one of the Wharf's three music venues. 

Love a twinkly Christmas light? Head to historic Georgetown to check out the beautifully-lit townhouses and to sign up for one of the Georgetown Glow walking tours held throughout December, when artists from across the US fill the neighborhood's streets with spectacular light installations. Finally, don't dismiss Washington, DC's most famous landmarks. Yes, you'll have to contend with the occasional crowd, but the elaborate displays are too good to miss. At the top of your list should be Washington National Cathedral, famous for its beautiful Christmas lights and regular carol recitals, and the United States Botanical Garden, where Christmas decorations include model trains, replicas of DC landmarks made from flowers, and gorgeous displays of poinsettias.

Keep planning your trip to Washington, DC

These experiences should be on your DC itinerary 
Navigate like a local with these tips for getting around
Explore beyond the district with these day trips from Washington, DC
Get to know DC like a local in these top neighborhoods

This article was first published February 2021 and updated April 2024

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