Visiting Washington DC in May (2019)

This list of the top things to do in May in DC, updated for 2019, contains some of our favorite spring activities and some events unique to this time of year. 

 

 

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TOP 10 EVENTS AND THINGS TO DO IN MAY

This section covers our top ten list for May.

For more ideas on popular things to do in DC, check out our posts on bus tours and walking tours of the city.

Some of the items listed in this post are included for free with the purchase of a tourist discount pass

 

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1. Passport DC 

May 1-31, 2019

One of the most popular events of the year, Passport DC allows visitors to travel the world without ever leaving the district!  

The event takes place over the course of 3 weekends in May and gives guests the chance to explore DC’s many embassies. 

 

 

Each of the embassies features popular food and cultural traditions from that specific country.

Admission is free and reservations are not required, but expect lines at certain embassies to be quite long!

Some of the main events are:

  • Around the World Embassy Tour – May 4, 2019 – Australia, Bangladesh, Belize, Brazil, Nepal, Oman, Qatar, Rwanda
  • European Union Embassies’ Open House – May 11, 2019 – visit the embassies of over 25 member nations of the European Union to experience food, art, dance and more. New for 2019 – download the app to monitor lines so you don’t spend the day waiting to get in to a certain embassy!
  • Fiesta Asia! Street Festival – May 18, 2019 – Fiesta Asia Street Fair offers outdoor craft exhibits, live performances, food and open market vendors, interactive displays, martial arts demonstration, talent show, cooking demo, and more.

To learn more about Embassy Row, consider taking our Embassy Row tour of Adults Only Dark Side of Dupont and Embassy Row tour.


2. Sightseeing Tours

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.

 

 

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!


3. Enjoy a Concert

There are a number of venues in Washington DC where you can see local and nationally touring acts. Some of the big names coming to the nation’s capital this month:

In addition to these concerts, the following live musical performances will be available this month. Click on the links to learn more about each opportunity:

Check out our Things To Do at Night section to learn about some of the local musical acts you can support while you’re here.


4. Memorial Day 

the weekend of May 27, 2019

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 26, 2019 – You can read more about this in the free section below, but note that 2019 may be the last year for Rolling Thunder so if this was something you wanted to witness, do it this year!
  • National Memorial Day Concert – May 26, 2019 8 pm on the Capitol West Lawn
  • National Memorial Day Parade – May 27, 2019 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.


5. Catch a Baseball Game! 

Cheer on the Washington Nationals and the larger than life Racing Presidents during a baseball game in the month of May. With plenty of home games to choose from, you’ll have an evening (or afternoon!) the whole family can enjoy.

  • May 01-2 vs St. Louis Cardinals
  • May 14-16 vs New York Mets
  • May 17-19 vs Chicago Cubs
  • May 24-27 vs Miami Marlins – Friday, May 24 will see a special Fireworks display after the game!

Look for discounted tickets on StubHub.

Nats Park is located near Navy Yard and the Southwest Waterfront and is even Metro accessible!

In addition to baseball, the Washington Capitals hockey team might be in the playoffs (we did win the Stanley Cup last year after all) so keep an eye out for those.


6. DC Funk Parade

May 11, 2019

On May 11h, join in on the fun with nearly 75,000 people at the 6th 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!


7. Georgetown Garden Tour

May 11, 2019

Visitors on the Georgetown Garden Tour presented by the Georgetown Garden Club will have the opportunity to get an inside peek at eight hidden gardens in the posh DC neighborhood.

 

Georgetown Garden Tour in May

 

Tour proceeds rain or shine; tickets are $40. Check the website for more information!

While you’re in Georgetown, read about how to get there, what else to do and where to eat in our Georgetown Guide.


8. Celebrate Mother’s Day!

Weekend of May 13 

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. We highly recommend scheduling brunch at the Inn while you’re there! Find out more about the events.


9. Catch the US Premiere of FAME: En Espanol at Gala Theatre

A diverse group of ambitious, young hopefuls dream of stardom as they deal with life, love, and a tragedy at the prestigious high school for the performing arts.

This production pays homage to the overlooked Cuban author who wrote the book for this world-famous musical.

 

 

The performance is directed and choreographed by Luis Salgado, who was in the cast and assistant choreographer in the Tony Award-winning In the Heights.

Salgado directed/choreographed the Helen Hayes Award-winning production of In The Heights en espanol with the Gala Theatre in 2018.

This should be a unique way to experience this famous musical and will be bilingual with subtitles in English and Spanish.


10. 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.

 

 

Some of the best things to do in May are included in at least one if not more of the passes:

  • Take a tour of Nats Park
  • Hillwood Estate & Gardens
  • Potomac River Cruise
  • Mount Vernon
  • Bike Rentals

Get free admission to our tours and many top DC attractions with a Tourist Discount Pass.

 


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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.

 

 

Take a Nighttime tour!

Our 8 pm Memorials and Moonlight tour lets 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!


Laugh at a Comedy Show

There are some great acts coming through DC in May, and some great shows that are here year round.

For an interactive comedy experience, join the ongoing show Shear Madness at the Kennedy Center. A murder mystery whodunnit that gets you involved, no two shows are alike.

Shear Madness is the second longest running production in American Theatre and there is a show almost nightly.


Support Local Music

A great way to have a unique night out in Washington DC is to check out one of the many local bands. Washington DC has a pretty incredible music scene, even if only slowly being acknowledged.

  • May 3, 2019 – Ballad Of Album Release Concert – Seeker’s Church – Drawing from a deep well of both traditional and contemporary musical stylings, DC-based quartet Ballad Of dances gracefully across its wide-ranging influences from Appalachian old-time to early blues to experimental classical to indie pop and beyond.

 

 

  • May 4, 2019 – Bassapellea – Jackpot – live music at a local bar. Bassappella focuses on the sound pattern with bass and percussion and provides the perfect backdrop to enjoy a unique soundscape while enjoying a conversation or a beer. Jackpot is just downtown in Chinatown with great drinks and free popcorn.

 


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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.

 

 


Joint Base Andrews Air Show

May 11-12, 2019

Take the kids (or kids at heart) to the 2019 Joint Base Andrews Air Show featuring the Air Force Thunderbirds and the Navy Blue Angels. You’ll also see KC-135, the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and the UH-1N Iroquois.

 

 

On Saturday and Sunday, May 11 to 12, Joint Base Andrews will open its gates to the public, no admission or tickets required. For the schedule visit the JBA Website.

Free public parking will be available at FedEx Field with shuttles taking attendees to the base from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. and from the base to FedEx Field until 5 p.m.

No public parking will be available on Joint Base Andrews. 


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 animals 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

May 3-4, 2019

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


Running of the Chihuahuas

May 4, 2019

Celebrate Cinco de Mayo a day early with a Chihuahua race! The 8th annual Running of the Chihuahuas is great fun to watch on the SW Waterfront Wharf – where you’ll also find food, drinks, and everything is family-friendly.

There are a number of kid-friendly activities on the Wharf, from oversized games to mini golf and boat rentals.

Read more about what to do with kids on the Wharf.


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.

 


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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 the Kennedy Center 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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Honor our Fallen

Many of the official National Memorial Day events over Memorial Day weekend are free.

You can find out all about the various events for Memorial Day 2019 on our blog post: Memorial Day in Washington 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 11, 2019, is National Bonsai Day!

 

 

There will be special bonsai demonstrations but this event also coincides with the month-long Bonsai Bling: Azalea Bonsai in Bloom when the azalea bonsai bloom.

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


Take a Tour

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

Our tours are name your own price tours, 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.


Take in a Pay What You Can Theatre Production

Many of the local venues offer pay what you can night for new performances.

  • Wednesday, May 7, 2019 – Fame: En Espanol at the Gala Theatre – we talk about this US Premiere musical in our Top 10
  • Monday, May 27, 2019 – Describe the Night at Wooley Mammoth -In 1920, Russian Jewish writer Isaac Babel starts a diary while wandering the countryside with the Red Cavalry. In 2010, after the crash of an aircraft carrying the Polish president, his diary is discovered among the wreckage. What did Babel write, and why does it matter so much to a low-level KGB agent who may or may not be Vladimir Putin? Describe the Night uncovers the mystery by tracing the stories of seven lost souls connected across decades by history, fiction, lies, and blood.

Experience Rolling Thunder

May 26, 2019

As part of DC’s Memorial Day activities, Rolling Thunder will take on DC for the 32nd year in 2019. This may also be its last year so if this was an event you were hoping to catch, this is the year to do it.

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.


Check out a New Exhibit

Freer Gallery of Art

Two new exhibits open at the Freer Gallery of Art this May. Whistler in Watercolor (May 18, 2019) will showcase some rarely viewed watercolors from the famous artist.

The founder of the Museum left the world’s largest Whistler collection to the Smithsonian and this exhibit will display over 50 different types of watercolors for you to enjoy.

Opening on May 18 also is the Peacock Room, the highlight of the Freer Gallery, when it returns to its Blue and White glory.

The room itself is artwork but in mid-May, you’ll also see Chinese porcelains in blue and white on display, reminiscent of the Victorian days when it was a dining room in London!

For more on visiting the Freer Gallery, which is part of the Smithsonian, visit our post.

 


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About the author

Canden is a historian and tour guide in Washington DC with three published books about the city. She has traveled extensively and lived in London, UK where she attended University College London for a Masters in History and in Seoul, South Korea where she taught English. While her family is now based in DC, she still explores the world. Her two children (both under the age of 3) have their passports and own frequent flier accounts. She has been a part of the Free Tours by Foot team since 2011.