Beyond the Monuments: Celebrate Year-Round Events in Arlington, Virginia

Armed Forces Cycling Classic. Arlington, Virginia.

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No matter the time of year, Arlington, Virginia, is home to various events that draw in crowds from near and far. While monuments and historical sites are the county’s claim to fame, you’d be surprised how many travelers flock to Arlington for annual festivals and celebrations. There’s always something exciting to do, from pop-up concerts to parades, pie-eating contests, and marathons, regardless of the season.

Here’s a list of popular events to experience the next time you’re in Arlington.

National Cherry Blossom Festival

The Blossom Kite Festival.

Just across the river from Arlington in Washington, D.C., spring officially kicks off at the annual National Cherry Blossom Festival between mid-March and mid-April. Celebrating the anniversary of the 3,000 cherry blossom trees gifted by the Mayor of Tokyo over 110 years ago, the festival attracts over 1.5 million visitors. The month-long celebration starts with an opening ceremony that pays tribute to the relationship between Japan and the United States and features unique performances from both Japanese and American artists. You can find the cherry trees in three prominent locations, the Tidal Basin in West Potomac Park, Hains Point and the Washington Monument grounds. Arlington National Cemetery also has cherry trees.

You’ll feel like a kid again at the Blossom Kite Festival. Spend the day flying a kite among the cherry trees on the Washington Monument grounds and nearby parks. There’s also Petalpalooza, a day-long celebration that features live music, interactive art installations, and family-friendly activities at the Capitol Riverfront. In the evening, a spectacular fireworks extravaganza lights up the sky.

Of course, no event beats the National Cherry Blossom Festival Parade on Constitution Avenue featuring majestic helium-filled balloons, floats, marching bands from across the United States, and lively performers – you may even see a celebrity.  

Quarterfest Crawl

A performance at the Quarterfest Crawl in Arlington, Virginia’s Ballston Quarter.

Quarterfest Crawl is an all-day event in May that transforms Arlington’s Ballston neighborhood and vibrant Ballston Quarter into an entertainment and food hub. Benefiting several Arlington charities, the festival serves food and drink samples, while pop-up concerts occur throughout the day. Past entertainers include MC Ricky, the lively Encanto Sisters, and local favorite cover band Uncle Jesse.

As you groove to the beats, you’ll dine on a wide range of cuisine provided by local restaurants, from pizza to sandwiches piled high with all the fixings – don’t forget to sample cocktails or a frothy craft beer.

The Armed Forces Cycling Classic

The 2022 Armed Forces Cycling Classic.

The Armed Forces Cycling Classic has been the region’s premier cycling event since 1998 and attracts top cycling teams from around the country to compete. Taking place in early June, the event consists of pro/am races, free kids’ races, and the Challenge Ride that’s open to cyclists of all abilities over the age of ten. Riders can go around the course as often as they like until the track closes at 10 am. All bikes except e-bikes are allowed on the course. If you’re not interested in competing, there’s nothing like the thrill of watching cyclists zoom by as they compete for the Clarendon or Crystal Cup.

Arlington Pride

A crowd at Arlington County Pride in Virginia.

When it comes to Pride Month, Arlington knows how to celebrate the LGBTQIA community. Uniting under the message of “Moving Forward to Together,” Arlington’s annual pride festival takes place in late June and features yoga, entertaining performances, concerts, games and local vendors. The festival aims to promote community, encouragement and education, creating allies throughout Arlington’s neighborhoods. While specific events change year to year, the festival is sure to be a fun time. Watch drag queens perform dazzling routines, dance to a  Live DJ and keep an eye out for prizes and swag bag giveaways!

Columbia Pike Blues Festival

Columbia Pike Blues Festival performance in Arlington, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Josh Brick Graphics.

Considered one of the most popular block parties in Arlington, the Columbia Pike Blues Festival is a free outdoor summer music event in South Arlington’s Columbia Pike Corridor that brings thousands of visitors and locals together. Groove to the beats of artists playing blues, jazz and bluegrass music while indulging on food and drinks from local restaurants and vendors – even the breweries and wineries join in the fun.

Families with kids can check out the Kidzone, which features face painting and lawn games. In addition to family-friendly activities, the festival hosts Art Alley featuring interactive art exhibits and photography collections. Don’t skip browsing the vendor tents highlighting handcrafted jewelry and home décor.

Warm summer nights, blues tunes and good eats? What more could you ask for?

Arlington County Fair

One of the most significant free events on the East Coast, the Arlington County Fair has been a must-visit experience for the last 40 years. Attendees can enjoy live performances from local and regional artists, exciting games and rides, and dine on a variety of mouthwatering fair foods, from decadent funnel cakes to jumbo corn dogs.

Taking place over five days in August, you don’t want to miss the annual pie-eating championship or goat yoga (yes, you heard correctly, it’s yoga with roaming goats). Families with younger children should head to the Kids Court for puppet making, inflatable games and performances. But, of course, for the adults, don’t skip the fair’s Beer Garden serving up samples of local brews from IPAs to hard seltzers.

One recent addition to the fair is the Night Market, where attendees can shop under the stars from local vendors selling handmade jewelry, homemade sweet treats, blankets and other accessories such as totes and handcrafted backpacks.

Rosslyn Jazz Fest

The Suffers perform at Rosslyn Jazz Fest in Arlington, Virginia. Photo Courtesy of Josh Brick Graphics.

If you love jazz, then Rossyln Jazz Fest at Gateway Park is a can’t-miss event in early September.

During the free Saturday event, attendees can enjoy musical performances by local and global artists, dine at food trucks, play games and enjoy activities sponsored by Arlington Arts. In addition, a handful of smaller events get festival-goers excited the week before the big event. The festivities typically kick off with music and food at Assembly Food Hall’s outdoor patio, followed by more live music at the Freshfarm Farmers Market. In 2022, the festival ended the weeklong pre-events with a Rosslyn Rolling Concert, where a band performed on an open-top bus.

Valley Fest

A band playing at the Valley Fest Street Festival in Shirlington. Photo Courtesy of Josh Brick Graphics.

Born from the desire to grow the Four Mile Run Valley into an active hub for arts and community, the Valley Fest Street Festival is a celebration of art, music, entertainment and local restaurants and breweries in late September. Entrance is free unless you want to partake in the beer package, which gets you a commemorative pint glass and three beer tickets. Then, sample some of New District’s popular beers in the special beer tent. Beyond beer, the festival hosts local food trucks, while vendors set up displays featuring homemade desserts and wares such as art, jewelry and handcrafted pottery.

Marine Corps Marathon

Marine Corps Marathon finish line in Arlington, Virginia.

One of the largest marathons in the United States, the Marine Corps Marathon is held at the end of October and features multiple races, from beginner to advanced. The primary race takes place on a scenic 26-mile course with views of the Arlington National Cemetery, Potomac River, D.C.’s National Mall and Crystal City. There are also shorter runs throughout the event, from a 10k to 50k and a run for kids. For non-racers, the D.C. Armory is home to the Health and Fitness Expo, featuring 100,000 square feet of exhibits and booths where you can test new exercise equipment, sample the latest health foods and participate in giveaways.

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