This list of our favorite things to do in May in Washington DC, updated for 2023, including free, nighttime, and family-friendly things to do.
Disclosure: While our recommendations are always unbiased, we may receive a small share of sales through some of the links below at no cost to you. See the full text.
Where possible we link to websites that often offer discounted ticket prices (like StubHub). While we are unable to confirm their prices are the best, they are all verified ticket resellers .
For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our other posts:
Be sure to check our post on things to do in DC year-round.
Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass.
1. Attend a Concert
There will be a lot of notable musicians performing in Washington DC this May, so this is actually the perfect time to go see a concert.
Here are a few of the best concerts available in the DC area this month:
Concerts Further Afield
- Janet Jackson | May 6th Bristow | May 13th Baltimore
- M3 Rock Festival | May 6th -7th | Merriweather Post Pavilion| Extreme, Styx, Winder, Quiet Riot, Warrant, and more
- Charm City Bluegrass Festival | May 5th | Union Craft Brewing Baltimore | Caleb Stine, Chatham Rabbits, Chris Jacobs, The Infamous Stringdusters, and more
If you still can't find a show to attend, make sure to check this list of concerts in Washington DC to see who else will be playing during the month of May.
2. Go to a Ballgame!
What better to do in America’s capital than watch America’s pastime?
The Washington Nationals will more than likely have multiple home games this month.
If baseball isn’t your thing, then you can catch some MLS Soccer featuring DC United at the Audi Stadium.
They have 2 home games in May against the Nashville SC and LA Galaxy.
DC’s hockey team, the Washington Capitals, may have some semifinal games to attend if they make it to the postseason.
The Washington Wizards NBA team might also make it to the postseason this month as well!
3. Spend a Night at the Theater
There will be a few different theatrical performances to see in the Washington DC area this month, including some musicals, ballets, and more.
Here are some of the best shows to see in May:
- Shear Madness | May 1st-30th | DC
- Six the Musical | May 9th-14th | Baltimore
- Beetlejuice | May 16th-19th | DC
- Goddess | May 25th-30th | DC
- Madagascar | May 26th | Tysons
If you're looking for more opportunities to visit the theater, check this list of theatrical performances in Washington DC.
4. Take a Sightseeing Tour
Our Arlington Cemetery tour runs a few mornings each week giving you a chance to learn about our military history and also experience the beautiful landscape of this hallowed ground.
Read about these tours and see when they are offered on our Tour Calendar page.
And we offer more evening tours to take advantage of the later sunsets, but some guests also enjoy evening bus tours.
Read all about the various bus tours in Washington DC to see which ones offer a night option.
With warmer weather, you may want to look into the Potomac River cruises.
This is a great time of year to take the cruise to Mount Vernon and see the springtime plants and baby farm animals!
5. Go to a Stand-up Comedy Show
If you're in need of a good laugh, consider going out to see a stand-up comedy performance.
There will be a handful of notable comics performing in Washington DC this May.
Here are some of the best comedy shows to see this month:
- David Cross | May 4th | DC
- Leanne Morgan | May 6th | Tysons
- Kountry Wayne | May 12th | DC
- Jerry Seinfeld | May 19th | Hanover
Lovers of the Real Housewives franchise might enjoy the Watch What Crappens podcast crew live on the stage. They'll be appearing on May 13th at Lincoln Theatre.
For even more opportunities to hear some great jokes, check this list of stand-up comedy performances in Washington DC.
6. Look into a Tourist Discount Pass
Even though there are so many free things to do in Washington DC, some of the highlights do have admission costs.
But you can save time and money on these with a tourist discount pass.
Depending on which pass you choose and how you use it, you could save up to 50% off general admission prices for some of the following activities:
- National Geographic Museum
- International Spy Museum
- Hop on Hop off Bus Tour
- Unlimited Biking Tour
- Sites by Segway Tour
- The Capital Wheel
- Sightseeing Cruise
- National Cathedral
- Mount Vernon
- And more!
If you’re interested in any of these attractions or you want to know more about how these services work, please read our post covering Washington DC discount passes.
7. Attend DC Funk Festival
Join in on the fun with the annual DC Funk Parade, rebranding in 2023 to the DC Funk Festival.
Celebrating the cultural vibrancy of the U Street neighborhood, the DC Funk Festival offers a day filled with an arts & crafts fair, parade, and evening music festival.
Admission is free and open to everyone.
Dates haven't been released yet, but check the website for updates.
If you're interested in the history of the neighborhood while you're there, take our self-guided U Street History and Food Tour!
8. Celebrate Memorial Day
There are few places in the country that celebrate Memorial Day better than DC.
There are many ways to honor our fallen on Memorial Day weekend in Washington DC – whether on your own paying respects at the veterans' memorials or as part of a scheduled event.
Some of the largest events are also free:
Check out our guide to Memorial Day in DC for more information.
9. Experience Rolling to Remember
On May 28th, 2023 thousands of motorcycle riders will make their way from the Pentagon through the district and back to the Lincoln Memorial.
This famous event pays tribute to our veterans and aims to raise awareness for the issues facing veterans in America today.
The First Amendment Demonstration run begins at 12 pm at the Pentagon and the bikers will circle the National Mall for the next few hours.
It is truly an amazing event to witness!
10. Celebrate Mother's Day
The capital is a great place to celebrate Mother’s Day.
DC’s restaurants are still running outdoors, so you can find a special brunch spot. Another great option is to take her on a cruise of the Potomac.
If simple and sweet is more her style, pack a picnic and bring it to the National Mall to eat surrounded by memorials.
May is a lovely month weather-wise so spending some time outside after the sun goes down is a treat!
Some of our top ten items are great for evenings like watching a baseball game or enjoying the DC Funk Festival
Here are a few more nighttime activities for the month of May.
For more nighttime activities, visit our Things to do at Night in DC post.
Take a Nighttime Tour!
Our evening Memorials and Moonlight tour let you explore the National Mall after the sun sets.
With the memorials lit at night, there is an extra level of beauty, and at some of the veteran's memorials, an added sense of reverence.
You'll also often get the memorials to yourself as crowds are less.
We also have a few adults-only tours, particularly our Lincoln Assassination Tour, if you're looking for some salacious historical tidbits and a night away from the school groups.
Go on a Dinner Cruise
Discover another side of the capital as you drift along the Potomac after dark and see all of the landmarks lighting up the night sky.
During a dinner cruise, you’ll also have the opportunity to enjoy an elegant 3-course meal and dance to live music performed on board the boat.
Whether you’re looking for a good idea for a date night or you just want to see DC from the water after the sun goes down, this is an excellent opportunity you won’t want to miss.
Experience the Supernatural Side of DC
Even our nation’s capital has its fair share of spooky stories that you might not know about.
If you’ve ever wondered whether or not Washington DC is haunted (by something other than old guys who sign bills into law), there are ghost tours that cover the haunted history of this area.
Visit locations such as the Treasury Annex, Lafayette Square, the Dolley Madison House and more as your guide provides details about some of the creepier things that have happened in DC!
For more details, please read our post on Washington DC Ghost tours.
Washington, DC is super family-friendly! There are also so many activity options available, there is sure to be something to fit everyone's tastes.
A few activities we've listed above like taking a Potomac River cruise or attending Passport DC are fun for people of all ages.
Here are a few more kid-friendly things to do in May. For more read about Visiting Washington DC with Kids.
Head to the Zoo!
A part of the Smithsonian Institution (meaning admission is free!), the National Zoo offers families a variety of animals and fun when they visit.
Don't miss the zoo's largest draw--the giant pandas that are currently on loan from China. Other animal highlights include gorillas, elephants, lions, and zebras.
The zoo grounds are open from 8 am - 6 pm (with the last admittance at 5 pm) in the month of May.
Cool off at the Georgetown Waterfront Park
Escape the DC humidity along the banks of the Potomac River at Georgetown’s Waterfront Park.
Children will enjoy splashing around on the accessible fountain splash pad and lounging on the riverfront steps leading up to the water.
Also, catch some shade under one of the many lush trees or relax under the industrial pergola.
Read about other family-friendly activities from our post on Visiting Washington DC with Kids.
Attend Passport DC
With so many diplomats in DC from countries far and wide a variety of cultures fill the city.
Passport DC celebrates this with annual events in and around the city in May. May is also International Cultural Awareness Month so it fits perfectly with this event.
You'll find embassy open houses, performances, street festivals, exhibitions, workshops, and more, many of them kid friendly!
This is Washington National Cathedrals' annual fundraiser, taking place on the grounds of the cathedral since 1939!
It's the perfect event for the whole family, with booths, children's books, an antique carousel ride, and more.
And of course, there are flowers and all sorts of other plants.
Events take place May 5th-6th, 2023.
For more information, visit the FlowerMart website.
The city of DC is (fortunately) overloaded with free things to do!
A lot of the items we've listed like Georgetown’s Waterfront Park and National Zoo are 100% free to enter!
Here are a few more ideas for free activities in May but for our comprehensive list, visit our post on free things to do in DC.
Head to the U.S. National Arboretum!
A visit to the U.S. National Arboretum is great for any beautiful spring day, as the flowers are in bloom and the grounds are lush.
May can also bring the peak azalea bloom so keep your eyes peeled for those.
A highlight of the Arboretum is the Bonsai collection and May 14th, 2022, is World Bonsai Day!
The Arboretum is open daily from 8 am – 5 pm; admission is free.
Shop Like a Local at Eastern Market
May is a beautiful month to take advantage of a favorite local spot - Eastern Market.
The market was included in original plans for the city, and the beautiful building dates back to 1871.
The market has the usual fruits, vegetables, and delicious foods, but also has artisans from around the world, making this a great spot for a unique souvenir.
The full market is open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Take a Tour
We offer tours multiple times a day in May so there will always be something for your dates.
Many of our tours are pay-what-you-want, so you get to choose how much they are worth at the end, even free. They are tours for every budget!
Find out more about our DC Tour schedule on our Tour Calendar page.