Updated: May 15, 2022
My answer to this question… It depends! Of course, I have a favorite time of year – the holidays. I seriously think it is just beautiful in DC with all the buildings decorated and trees around. Don’t stop reading though! I promise I will answer your question in more depth with a perfect time for everyone below.
As someone who has now lived in DC for 6 years (Wow that is crazy to think about!), I get asked often, what is the best time of year to visit Washington DC? And honestly, I’ve had people visit at all different times of the year and really enjoy it. With a bucket list destination like DC, it can be hard to know what is the best time to visit Washington, DC.
So in this post, I hope to answer that question by helping you think about what you want to see and do while you’re here so you can pick the right time of year. There isn’t a bad time of year to visit Washington, DC, but there is a good time of year to visit for you specifically (a little confusing I know, but we will clear it up in the post).
If you want to experience a beautiful East Coast fall…
The best time to see the fall foliage in the Washington region is almost always between October 19 and November 2. Basically, every year between the end of October and the beginning of November, the trees become bright fall colors of orange, yellow, and red. There are so many beautiful places around the city to see the fall colors but really, even going around the National Mall will give you the chance to see the beautiful colors.
Fall on the East Coast is truly one of the best times of year. The leaves changing colors, amazing fall foods, farm visits and weather make it one of the best times to visit in my opinion. Plus, crowds are lower this time of year!
More on fall in DC here.
If you want to see cherry blossoms…
On average, the cherry blossoms bloom around the last week of March into the first week of April, but it can also be before or after that period. If you want the best chance to see them, wait until the end of February/beginning of March to buy a ticket. Also, check the Cherry Blossom watch website for the best prediction that year. It depends on rainfall and temperatures so it does change year by year.
This is one of the most popular times of years to visit which makes buying a ticket just a month out more expensive, but the cherry blossoms are worth a visit. Here are more tips to see the cherry blossoms in DC.
If you want to avoid tourists, but still have good weather…
This is a hard one because people are always visiting DC, but in all my years, September is the month with the fewest tourists and best weather. March also is shoulder season, but it is pretty rainy so I think September is much better in my opinion! Kids are just getting back in school so you avoid school visits, families aren’t visiting for the same reason, and it is getting cooler so fewer people are planning their vacations. It’s definitely the best time of year to visit Washington DC.
If you want discounts on hotels and don’t mind rain…
The beginning of the middle of March, as above, is a great time to visit without crowds but has rainy weather. For this reason, at the end of February to March you’ll find a lot of discounted trips to DC, but you’ll also find a lot of rainy weather. Rainy weather doesn’t have to stop you from enjoying DC though because of all the museums and amazing food you can still enjoy! Taking the metro would definitely be a little harder though.
If you love warm weather…
The average summer temperature in DC is 88 degrees Fahrenheit. This doesn’t seem so bad until you add in the average humidity of 40-50 percent and you’ve got a recipe for some hot feeling temperatures. May is better for warm weather and less humidity but it is definitely the high season for tourists to visit.
I do love summer in DC though. There are so many cool events like Jazz in the Park, Pride, and the folk festival on the National Mall. Rooftop pools open up across the city and you can enjoy sipping a cocktail from a pool overlooking an incredible view of the Capitol. I really love summer in DC, even with the hot temperatures.
If you rely on school breaks for your vacations…
As a teacher, it can be hard to find time off to visit that allows you to avoid crowds. However, there are some times I’d recommend visiting to avoid this issue. Coming during the beginning of holiday break, before Christmas or after New Years is a great time to see the beautiful holiday decor all over the city. Another great time of year is right after school ends.
This is a time between school groups coming and before families really begin their vacations. In general, avoid when school groups will be in the city because this will affect lines and your ability to enjoy the city without crowds.
Holidays in DC
One time of year I love the most is around Christmas! DC does an excellent job decorating for the holidays and there are so many places to celebrate Christmas in DC. I also personally think this is the best time to visit Washington DC.
There are fewer crowds in December, everything is decorated, and there are lots of special events that you can enjoy while here such as tree lightings, parades, holiday pop up bars, and special light displays. It’s an awesome time to visit even though it can be chilly!