Deciding when to visit Washington, D.C. can make all the difference in how much you spend. When planning your trip, be sure to factor in weather and seasonality, peak tourism times, and special events such as the Presidential Inauguration and May graduations.
As a general rule, plan to spend more on visits during the business week, as well as on weekends in spring and fall when the weather is nicest. There are ways to save, however, regardless of when you go. Here are some insider tips to help you put together a cost-effective trip.
D.C. is a popular place to visit from mid-March through mid-June, and again from mid-September through early November. Visitors will find the highest hotel occupancy rates during these months, as well as during the business week (Mondays through Thursdays). The hot, humid days of July and August and seasonably cold January are D.C.'s low seasons.
- high season: March to mid-June, mid-September to early November
- low season: July to mid-September, January to February
- shoulder season: late June, November to December
Spring and fall are very pleasant, with low humidity, comfortable temperatures, and plenty of sunshine. Summer months are hot, humid, and sticky. While winters are generally mild, plan accordingly, as the city often gets several snowstorms each year.
Tourism surges in late March and early April, when the city's famous cherry blossoms bloom around the Tidal Basin. Graduations in May also bring crowds to the city, as does the Presidential Inauguration ceremony, held every four years in January. The Fourth of July holiday brings throngs of visitors to the National Mall for the city's annual fireworks display. Other events to watch out for include the Capital Pride Festival, rallies and other events on the Mall, the Marine Corps Marathon, and conventions. You can see a calendar of upcoming conventions on the DC Convention Center website.
Many attractions, such as the Smithsonian museums, are closed on Christmas Day. Some museums and galleries may also close for inclement weather such as a snowstorm. If the federal government offices close for bad weather, many area attractions follow suit.
When to Save
Many great lodging deals can be found for visits during the off-season months of January, July, and August, including value-added packages with perks such as dining discounts and spa extras. Restaurant prices, as well as admission-fee attractions, are not subject to seasonality or tourist demand. You can save, however, on top-ranked restaurants by visiting during D.C. Restaurant Week, when participating restaurants offer prix-fixe menus at discounted rates. Just be sure to make reservations early, as this event is popular among both visitors and locals.
When to Book
The Washington D.C. Convention & Tourism Corporation recommends booking four to eight weeks before arriving. Also, last-minute rates can provide good savings, should you decide to take a trip on short notice.
Plan to spend more during peak spring and fall travel months, particularly during cherry blossom season and graduations. Special events such as the Inauguration will also drive up airfare prices.
Either advance planning (one to two months ahead) or last-minute sales will provide the best hotel rates. The CVB website often lists available specials, and you should also check hotel company websites to see if online-only prices or sales are being offered at participating D.C. properties. If you're planning on visiting during a major convention, try to book even earlier to make sure you get a decent rate (as well as a room).
Information provided by the Washington, DC Convention and Tourism Corporation.