Friday, October 26, 2018

Annual parades in the Washington D.C. area


As 2019 creeps closer, I started musing about things to do next year. That got me thinking about all the different parades we see in and around Washington D.C. throughout the year – and there are many! The first of which starts in January. However, being it's currently October, I realized there is a flurry of events happening right around the corner because many of them take place between Thanksgiving and Christmas.



Here’s a rundown of the different annual parades broken down by month that you can find in the region.

January & February


In January on Martin Luther King Day, the annual Peace Walk takes place. A 2-mile walk, everyone is welcome to join. This parade has been a tradition since 1979.

Mardi Gras isn't just in New Orleans. If you're in the D.C. area, you can enjoy parades, floats and fireworks right downtown at the District Wharf. Across the Potomac in Arlington (Clarendon), there is also an annual Mardi Gras parade that takes place (check the website for updates, it seems due to other events in the region taking place simultaneously, this one may get shifted to another date).

Chinese New Year is a big event in the D.C. region. This celebration starts either in January or February, depending on which month the New Year falls on in any given year. As part of the festivities, there is always a big parade held downtown.


Alexandria, Va. is the location for the annual parade to celebrate George Washington. Washington owned nearby Mount Vernon and spent a lot of time in Alexandria proper, so it seems fitting this city would be the chosen location for this celebratory parade. The event always takes place on the third Monday in February (President's Day).



(Note: I combined these months due to the overlap in Chinese New Year between January and February)


March & April


St. Patrick’s Day is the big event in March throughout the D.C. region. You'll find many parades taking place in D.C., Maryland and Virginia. Most of them will shift toward the weekend either before or after March 17 (and in some cases on other weekends during March which is great news for the rest of us since it offers a chance to see more than one!)

St. Patrick Day's Parade, Washington D.C. 
Cities and/or towns in the region that host St. Patrick's Day parades during the month include:
  • Washington, D.C.
  • Alexandria, Va.
  • Manassas, Va.
  • Annapolis, Md.
  • Gaithersburg, Md.
Many of these communities also have other fun celebratory events for St. Patrick's Day.

Late March to mid-April brings the National Cherry Blossom Festival to downtown Washington, D.C. The festival offers both a parade and fireworks. In the past, they've held the parade first and with the fireworks taking place on the last weekend of this three-week festival

National Cherry Blossom Festival performance

(Note: March and April also combined due to overlap in the National Cherry Blossom Festival between the two months.)



May


As the month of May comes to a close, the biggest Memorial Day parade in the U.S., the National Memorial Day Parade, takes place along the National Mall to honor those individuals who have given their all.

Arlington National Cemetery
Rolling Thunder, an organization dedicated to bringing awareness of and bringing full accountability for prisoners of war and those missing in action, holds its annual Rolling Thunder Rally. The event begins at the Pentagon, crosses over the Potomac River and moves its way into D.C. (see the website for full Rolling Thunder events over Memorial Day weekend).

Other events in May include the DC Funk Parade and the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival Parade (the latter is a bit off the beaten path, about 60-90 minutes west, depending on where you're driving from, but would be a great day or weekend trip).

June


Every June, the Capital Pride Parade takes place in the Dupont and Logan Circle neighborhoods, celebrating diversity and pride. To find out the current date/year of this annual event, visit the official website and click "calendar view". 


July & August


The Fourth of July is the big parade (and fireworks!) event for July. The nation's Capital city hosts these amazing events every year and more. You probably can't find a better place to be on July 4th than Washington, D.C. to experience the National Independence Day Parade if you don't mind the crowds.


Other Fourth of July parades you can find in the DMV region include:
  • Great Falls, Va.
  • Fairfax, Va.
  • Leesburg, Va.
  • Dale City, Va.
  • Annapolis, Md.
  • Laurel, Md.
  • Takoma Park, Md.
  • Kensington, Md.
  • Montgomery Village, Md.
Many of these events include other holiday fun, along with fireworks. 

Later in the month, the Baltimore Carribean Carnival Parade kicks off. An annual event that takes place in mid-July, their website is active but at the time of this writing contains no information. It may be updated as July comes closer.

August & September


I'm not aware of any parades in the region that take place in August but there are a couple of local Labor Day parades. One is located in Gaithersburg. Md. (marching more than 80 years!) and the other in Kensington, Md (marching more than 50 years!)

October & November 


As of now, I am also not aware of any October parades, but hopefully one day soon we’ll see an MLB World Series Championship (Let’s go Nationals!) parading down D.C.’s streets. Based on MLB's latest playoff schedules, I suppose it could theoretically take place in October, but more likely early November.

November brings the annual Northern Virginia Veterans’ Day Parade that takes place in Manassas. The parade marked its 10th year in 2018. 

(This photo was actually taken in Washington D.C. during another parade)

Every November, on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, the Montgomery County Thanksgiving Parade comes to town. The Reston Holiday Parade is an annual tradition since 1991. It takes place at the Reston Town Center, usually on the day after Thanksgiving.

December


December brings many holiday parades to the region. Perennial regional favorites include:



  • Scottish Christmas Walk Weekend  (Old Town, Alexandria, Va.) (Note: There are usually a ton of events going on throughout Old Town Alexandria to coincide with this annual special weekend after the parade). 
  • Greater Manassas Christmas Parade (Manassas, Va.)
  • Warrenton Christmas Parade (Warrenton, Va.)
  • Leesburg Holiday Parade and Festival (Leesburg, Va.)
  • Christmas in Middleburg Parade (Middleburg, Va.)
  • Winterfest (McLean, Va.)
  • Alexandria Christmas Lights Boat Parade (Old Town Alexandria, Va.)
  • Annapolis Holiday Boat Parade of Lights (Annapolis, Md.)
  • Purcelleville Christmas Parade (Purcelleville, Va.)
  • Cambridge-Dorchester Christmas Parade (Cambridge, Md.)
  • Mayor's Christmas Parade (Baltimore, Md.)
For more information about the specific Virginia Christmas and Holiday parades, I invite you to visit my other post that contains more detailed information and links to official websites).

Leesburg Holiday Parade & Festival (2012)

Every season brings plenty of parades to the D.C. and surrounding regions! I'll update this post as I discover new information.