Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC

I was thinking that right NOW is the best time to visit Washington DC.

Since living 20 minutes from Washington, DC (when there is no traffic, ha) for 20 years, I have been fortunate to visit the city at all times during the year. It is relatively quiet in DC between the holidays and Cherry Blossom time but that makes it an ideal time of the year to visit our nation’s capital.

With less people in DC, it is easier for visitors (and locals) to get prime restaurant reservations, have unobstructed views of popular exhibits at the free Smithsonian museums, and otherwise have a more relaxing visit.

Here are some reasons that now is the best time to visit Washington, DC, including some new attractions, restaurants, and events.

Why NOW is the BEST Time to Visit Washington DC

1. Bei Bei, the Giant Panda cub at the National Zoo, made his first public appearance on January 16, 2016. February and early March are ideal times to visit the National Zoo and see Bei Bei because the crowds are relatively thin. Admission is FREE to the National Zoo, although there is a charge for parking.

McCool Travel note: unfortunately, the giant pandas have been returned to China in late 2023.

2. The Renwick Gallery opened after a two year renovation on November 13. The current exhibit, WONDER, is a magnificent immersive art installation that is attracting people who usually do not like art galleries. Visit soon, because WONDER will close in two stages, on May 8 and July 10, and because the crowds are very light (notice a theme?). Last week, I was able to just walk in at 4:45pm, with no wait. Located just west of the White House, Renwick is part of the Smithsonian museum system and admission is FREE.

Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC
WONDER at Renwick Galley, Washington DC
Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC
WONDER at Renwick Galley, Washington DC
Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC
Renwick Gallery, Washington DC

3. National Geographic Museum just last week (January 27) opened a new exhibit called CROCS. In addition to seeing some dozen different species, there are hands-on exhibits and fascinating learning opportunities at the museum. CROCS closes on May 8 and, of course, crowds are lighter now then they will be after mid-March. Admission is $15 for adults but the annual pass is a nice deal for multiple visits (includes many other benefits).

Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC
CROCS, National Geographic Museum / Photo from press.nationalgeographic.com

4. Union Station is undergoing an extensive renovation to mark its second century (it opened in October 1907). The highlight of the busy yet beautiful building, to me, is the magnificent ceiling prominent with real gold. Nearly all of the shopping and eating choices are now chains but there are some local food stalls outside when the weather is mild; my favorite is Sunrise Caribbean. A Walgreens is slated to open any day in Union Station so visit DC soon to experience a clean, fresh store. It may be an oasis in the hot summer, though.

Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC
Union Station, Washington DC

5. New Restaurants. Renee Sklarew, co-author of The Unofficial Guide to Washington DC told me: Momofuku CCDC instills undeniable personality and vivid flavors into their dishes. Avoid the massive crowds (tourist and local) starting in late March by visiting DC now.

best time to visit Washington DC
Pennsylvania 6 in Washington DC / Photo from pennsylvania6dc.com (NOW CLOSED!)

Do you think this is the best time to visit Washington DC?

Why is now the best time to visit Washington DC? Smaller crowds means better chance to get into popular restaurants, exhibits, and more.

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6 thoughts on “Why Now is the Best Time to Visit Washington DC”

  1. Look like good reasons to us, but then we always like to visit crowded places in the off season. Got to say though, the cherry blossoms are worth fighting the crowds at least once.

  2. Best time to visit: now & on a weekday! Also recommend visiting neighborhoods such as Shaw, Bloomingdale, and Brookland…

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