Things to Do in Washington DC in May

This list of our favorite things to do in May in Washington DC, updated for 2020, including free, nighttime, and family-friendly things to do. 

 

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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.

TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN MAY

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. Enjoy a Concert

There are a number of venues in Washington DC where you can see local and nationally touring acts.

Below the video we list highlights coming to the nation’s capital this month:

 

 

A few of these performances take place in locations like Baltimore and Silver Springs, but none of the venues are more than 35 miles away.

Please check this list of concerts in Washington DC on StubHub for even more options.


2. Attend a Sporting Event

This month the Washington Nationals, defending World Series Champions, have several home games. 

Soccer fans will be happy to hear that DC United has 3 home games in May and hockey fans may be able to see the Washington Capitals if they make it to the finals.

You can find all the games here on StubHub.

 

 

Baseball

  • Washington Nationals
    • Cincinnati Reds | May 1st – 3rd
    • Arizona Diamondbacks | May 5th – 7th
    • Seattle Mariners | May 19th – 20th
    • Miami Marlins | May 22nd – 25th

If you’re planning to visit Baltimore, you may also want to consider going to an Orioles game!

  • Baltimore Orioles
    • Los Angeles Angels | May 8th – 10th
    • Cleveland Indians | May 11th – 13th
    • Chicago White Sox | May 25th – 28th
    • Toronto Blue Jays | May 29th – 31st

Soccer – DC United

Hockey (if they make the finals) – Washington Capitals

See what other sporting events are in Washington DC this month on StubHub. 


3. See an Opera, Ballet or Musical

There are always theatrical performances in and around the Washington DC area. This month you can choose from a few.

The Washington National Opera will be performing Porgy and Bess from May 9-23, 2020, which means there will be several opportunities to see them throughout the month.

If you’re more interested in musicals, you can also see the Off-Broadway production of Dear Evan Hansen in Baltimore from May 5-17, 2020.

 

 

Alternatively, you can also see the Scottish Ballet perform the Crucible on May 16, 2020. This will be the only ballet in Washington DC this May, so you might want to get your tickets well ahead of time.

For even more great shows to attend, check this list of theatrical performances in and around the Washington DC area.


4. Enjoy a Comedy Show

If you’re in need of a good laugh, there will be three famous comedians performing in the Washington DC area during May 2020.

 

 

Each of these performers has decades of experience with stand-up comedy, so you can expect them to put on a pretty great show.

Take a look at this list of theater & comedy shows in Washington DC if you’re looking for even more laughs!


5. Take a Sightseeing Tour

Our Arlington Cemetery tour runs a few mornings each week giving you a chance to learn about our military history but also experience the beautiful landscape of this hallowed ground. 

Read about these tours and see when they are offered on our Tour Calendar page. 
 
 

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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!


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.

 

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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
  • Bike and Roll DC Tour
  • Sites by Segway Tour
  • The Capital Wheel
  • Sightseeing Cruise
  • Madame Tussauds
  • 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. Experience Star Wars in Concert

Fans of the legendary science-fiction franchise Star Wars will likely jump at the opportunity to hear one of the best musical scores in the history of film at a live concert.

Although you’ll have to travel to see it, the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will be performing the music of Star Wars: Return of the Jedi in concert on May 7th.

 

 
This is excellent for families and both performances will take place at 8 pm, making it a wonderful nighttime activity as well.

Tickets are selling out fast, so we recommend picking your seats up as soon as possible. For more family fun, check our family-friendly activities section below.


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:

Rolling Thunder Motorcycle Rally – May 24th, 2020 – You can read more about this in the free section below.

 

 
National Memorial Day Concert – May 24th, 2020 8 pm on the Capitol West Lawn

National Memorial Day Parade – May 25th, 2020 2 pm on Constitution Ave NW

We also run additional Arlington National Cemetery walking tours and our National Mall tour, which visits WWII, Vietnam and Korean Veterans Memorials.

Check out our guide to Memorial Day in DC for more information.


9. Attend DC Funk Parade

On May 9, 2020, join in on the fun with nearly 75,000 people at the annual DC Funk Parade.

 

 

Celebrating the cultural vibrancy of the U Street neighborhood, the DC Funk Parade offers a day filled with an arts & crafts fair, parade, and evening music festival.

Admission is free and open to everyone.

If you’re interested in the history of the neighborhood while you’re there, take our self-guided U Street History and Food Tour!


10. Celebrate Mother’s Day!

Spend a day celebrating Mom with a number of things to do to honor her around Washington, DC. A local favorite is a lunch (or brunch) cruise along the Potomac.

Check restaurants for brunch and menu specials or take Mom on a garden tour at Tudor Place in Georgetown where they have a special Mother’s Day tea.

 

 

You can also join the Mother of our Country, Martha Washington, for special weekend events at Mount Vernon.


BONUS: See the Blue Man Group

This famous theatrical troupe will be performing at the National Theatre in Washington DC from May 8 – 17, 2020.

If you’ve ever wanted to see their unique brand of theater, this is an excellent opportunity you won’t want to miss.

Tickets for Blue Man Group are already beginning to sell out, so you may want to consider picking them up before you even get to DC!

Showtimes are available both at night from 7:30 pm – 8 pm and during the days at 2 pm, so you can either enjoy this in the daytime or make it a fun nighttime activity.

Just below are even more great things to do at night.

 


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THINGS TO DO AT NIGHT

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 Parade.

Here are a few more night time activities for the month of May. For more nighttime activities, visit our Things to do at Night in DC post.

 

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Take a Nighttime tour!

Our 8 pm 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 if you’re looking for some salacious historical tidbits and a night away from the school groups.

Reserve a spot now!


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.

Purchase Dinner Cruise tickets or learn more.


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.

 


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THINGS TO DO WITH KIDS IN MAY

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.

 

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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 – 7 pm in the month of May.


National Cathedral Flower Mart

First started in 1939, the Flower Mart is an annual family event that takes place during the first weekend of May.

In 2020, the event takes place on May 1 & 2, on the pilgrim steps of the Washington National Cathedral.

Guests can shop for a variety of plants, as well as enjoy many different fun family activities such as puppet shows and carousel rides on the All Hallows’ Guild’s antique carousel—a fixture at Flower Mart for decades.

For more information on how to get there, refer to our guide on the Washington National Cathedral. The mart runs from 10:00 am – 6:00 pm (18:00)


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.

Our Historic Georgetown walking tour starts here and our family-friendly Ghosts of Georgetown begins not too far away.

Read about other family-friendly activities from our post on  Visiting Washington DC with Kids.

 


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FREE THINGS TO DO IN MAY

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, visiting our post on free things to do in DC.

 

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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 11, 2020, is National Bonsai Day!

The Arboretum is open daily from 8 am – 5 pm (17:00); admission is free.


Experience Rolling Thunder

As part of DC’s Memorial Day activities, the annual Rolling Thunder takes place on May 24, 2020.

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. 

With the mission to educate, facilitate, and never forget service members of the Vietnam War, Rolling Thunder’s main event (the run) takes place on Sunday, May 26th.

Thousands of motorcycle riders will make their way from the Pentagon through the district and back to the Lincoln Memorial. It is truly an amazing event to witness.


Take a Tour

We offer tours multiple times a day in May so there will always be something for your dates. 

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.

If we don’t offer a guided tour that fits your interest and schedule, check out our many self-guided tours and audio tours.

 


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About the author

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with 3 published books about the city. She has written for HuffPost Travel and has been featured in the Washington Post, WTOP, and numerous other DC papers. She's also been interviewed by the Travel Channel and Discovery Family Channel. Canden is the host of our podcast, Tour Guide Tell All

With a M.A. in History from University College London and a B.A. in History from Elon University, she is an authority on D.C. history, and has led tours in the city for over 10 years. She currently resides in DC, but has also lived in London and South Korea, and has travelled to 25 countries. Her two children (both under the age of 3) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts.