Have a memorable year with these 2023 events and festivals

Photo by Andrea Davis on Pexels.com

As I put away my holiday decorations, my mind has turned to filling up my new planner with fun things to do in 2023. You know I love holidays. I write a Halloween blog and a Christmas blog. But there are more celebrations than in fall and winter! Here are some of my favorites picks.

January – Chinese New Year, the latest cars and Monster Trucks

  • Sunday, January 22 is the Lunar New Year and the Year of the Rabbit. Head on down to Chinatown, DC for the Chinese New Year Parade at 2 pm, taking place between 6th and Eye Streets (Gallery Place Metro).
  • Also the same day is the Lunar New Year Celebration at the National Museum of Asian Art (Smithsonian Metro) 12 pm – 4 pm. The event includes a gallery tour at 12 pm, cooking demo at 1 pm and a traditional lion dance performance at 3 pm. Asian snacks will be for sale at the adjacent Castle.
  • The weekend of January 28 and 29 is all about new cars. Check them out at the Washington Auto Show at the Convention Center in DC.
  • Or buy a ticket for the Monster Trucks Jam at the Capitol Arena in DC, same weekend.

February – Travel, Galentine’s Day, Mardi Gras and Geocaching

  • Traveling more is a common New Year’s Resolution. I think it would be a lot more fun to go to the Travel and Adventure Show at the DC Convention Center on Sunday, February 5 instead of watching the Superbowl (also on Saturday, February 4).
  • If you don’t have a Valentine this year, that’s okay! Celebrate a day early on February 13. Oakton Library is offering a free Galentine’s Day party for ladies and Sherwood Library is having a Palentine’s Day party for men and women. Register online for these free events on the Fairfax County Library website.
  • Tuesday, February 21 is Mardi Gras. Busch Gardens Williamsburg is celebrating Mardi Gras every weekend from January 27 to February 26 with pageantry, music and beignets.
  • If you resolved to try a new hobby in 2023, consider geocaching! Attend Geocaching Adventures (Saturday, February 11, Lake Fairfax, Reston) or Geocaching Fest (Saturday, February 28, Burke Lake Park, Burke $8). Register for either event on the Fairfax County Parks and Recreation website.

March – St. Patrick’s Day

  • Everyone is Irish on St. Patrick’s Day. Celebrate all March long at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which will be holding a St. Patrick’s Day Festival on weekends, March 3 – 26.
  • Or attend the St. Patrick’s Day Parade on Saturday, March 4 in Old Town Alexandria at 11 a.m
  • Another St. Patrick’s Day Parade takes place in the City of Manassas on Saturday, March 11 at 11 a.m.
  • In Richmond, visit Shamrock the Block for live music and partying The Boulevard on Saturday, March 11.

April – Spring flowers and choo choo trains

  • Cherry blossoms bloom in late March into early April in this area. Both Northern Virginia and Maryland have plenty of lovely trees, but the ones encircling the Tidal Basin in DC are the most famous. The Cherry Blossom Festival begins on March 20 and culminates with the National Cherry Blossom Parade on Saturday, April 15 from 10 am to Noon in DC.
  • Also starting on April 15 and running through April 22 is Virginia’s Historic Garden Week, where you pay to tour fine homes and gardens. Visit their website for suggested itineraries.
  • Speaking of flowers, April 28 is the start of the Shenandoah Apple Blossom Festival in Winchester, which culminates with a parade and square dance on May 6.
  • I love trains and I love Ashland, Virginia (just outside of Richmond). So I love it when Ashland Train Day occurs on Saturday, April 29.

May – Food, fun and art

  • May is one of the nicest months to be outside in Virginia. All May long, on weekends, Busch Gardens Williamsburg is holding its Food and Wine Festival. I can take or leave wine, but I really enjoyed sampling the small bites from so many cuisines. If you haven’t gone before, I recommend it; just be prepared for lots of walking.
  • You have to experience, at least once, the practically indescribable event that is the American Visionary Artist’s Museums Kinetic Sculpture Race in Baltimore, happening this year on Saturday, May 6. Also involves a lot of walking.
  • If you feel like traveling to Richmond the weekend of the 6th, then check out the Bizarre Bazaar market at Richmond International Speedway and the Arts in the Park Festival at Byrd Park, both long-standing Richmond events.

June – Baseball, barbecue and outdoor concerts

  • See a minor league baseball game. I recommend you head to Richmond. (unless you are wealthy and can afford Washington Nationals tickets and parking for DC games). Quirky Richmond. I grew up there. In Richmond, you will root for the Richmond Flying Squirrels. They play home and away games April through September. Tickets are less than $10 and in the summer, sometimes they have fireworks after the games.
  • Celebrate summer at Cox Farms in Centreville…it’s well known in Northern Virginia for it’s amazing Fall Festival. But did you know that they also have events in the summer every Saturday? Every Saturday in May, June, July and most of August, Cox Farms has Smokin’ Saturdays. The farm market and barbecue is available from 11 am to 3 pm, there is live music from 12 pm to 2 pm and from 1 to 2 pm you can take a free ride on a tractor to visit Foamhenge (which is a recreation of Stonehenge). There are also farm animals and games.
  • Go to Wolf Trap in Vienna to see a concert at the Filene Center (outdoors) is nice to do in June. It has become pretty pricey and the event schedule hasn’t been published yet, but in general, it’s more pleasant to go in June than July because it’s usually not as hot. Take a picnic! Or go to one of the many free outdoor concerts around here.

July – Fireworks, tomatoes and wild ponies

  • I am biased but I think there is only one place to be on the 4th of July (unless you’re at the beach, if that is the case, always choose the beach). That place is Fairfax. They have an Independence Day Parade at 10 am. Then around 6 pm, they have a Hometown Celebration with a concert, the most amazing fireworks ever, and then a very fun after-party. It’s all outdoors and free. I highly recommend it!
  • I haven’t gone to this but it’s on my calendar now! The Hanover Tomato Festival takes place on Friday, July 14 and Saturday, July 15. I drive for these tomatoes because they are the best in the world. I can’t imagine a whole festival dedicated to them. So, I will be there!
  • On Wednesday, July 26, it’s Pony Swim Day in Chincoteague. You know, that’s when the saltwater cowboys drive the wild ponies from Assateague island (or thereabouts). That whole week is Pony Penning Week and if you haven’t experienced it, it’s a bit crowded but picturesque. Chincoteague is a charming beach town (with some pretty nasty biting flies and mosquitoes but great seafood).

August – County fairs, caverns and watermelon

  • I can’t understand why county fairs are held in August. August is the stickiest month of all in Virginia. You hear people saying, it’s not the heat, it’s the humidity. Nope. It’s the heat AND the humidity. But there you go. You can’t throw a rock without hitting a County Fair. I’m going to do your a favor and let you know you can skip the underwhelming Loudoun County Fair in Leesburg. And the urban Arlington County Fair is also irrelevant since they got rid of the racing pigs. If you want a real county fair experience, with rides, pigs and funnel cakes, and I know you do, you’ve got to get out into the country. Around here, the nearest place would be the Prince William County Fair in Manasass which delivers on all scores, August 11 – 19.
  • It’s nice to be indoors in August so I recommend a visit to the Shenandoah Valley (Front Royal and Winchester) to see things you just won’t see anywhere else, like Luray Caverns and the antique automobiles there, Shenandoah Caverns and American Celebration on Parade floats (old parade floats and department store Christmas window exhibits), the Route 11 potato chip factory, the Museum of the Shenandoah Valley with its incredibly elaborate dollhouses!, and the not-to-be-missed, kitschy Dinosaur Land.
  • If you are in Richmond, though, visit the Carytown Watermelon Festival from 10 am – 6 pm, Sunday, August 13.

September – Beach festivals, apple festivals and finally, some racing pigs!

  • The beach in September? Well, that’s when the good stuff happens. Well, not all good stuff (like jellyfish). But like, the Hard Crab Derby on the Eastern Shore in Crisfield, Maryland on Labor Day weekend, the annual Sandcastle Contest at Rehoboth Beach on Saturday, September 9 and the Neptune Festival at Virginia Beach Friday, September 29 to October 1, with a surfing competition, parade (September 30 at 11 am), Regatta and international sand sculpting contest.
  • Well, I may still have some sand in my shoes but I am good and ready for fall in September. The Shenandoah Valley Apple Harvest Festival at the Frederick County Fairgrounds in Clear Brook, near Winchester, runs September 16-17.
  • Fair season wraps in Virginia with the State Fair of Virginia, which runs from September 22 to October 1 this year at The Meadow Event Park in Doswell, VA (near Kings Dominion). In addition to competitive exhibits and carnival rides, there is a petting zoo, circus, otter show, racing pigs, a rodeo, concerts and more.

October – Pumpkin farms, sea witches and a Halloween parade 

  • Although fall officially begins in September, in Virginia we don’t see most of the leaves change and drop until mid-October or later. But that doesn’t stop us from celebrating the season. Cox Farms Fall Festival in Centreville runs all month long in October and is my favorite fall destination. The Festival features a pumpkin patch farm animals, hayrides, corn maze and live music. At night, they have a scary section called “Fields of Fear” but last year, they also created a Fire Grounds section that just has bonfires, s’mores, Foamhenge and other non-scary stuff for scaredy cats, like me. So, I am looking forward to visiting the fire grounds this year!I
  • I like dogs so I think I will check out the Montpelier Fall Fiber and Sheepdog Trials (October 7).
  • The Halloween Parade in Vienna on Wednesday, October 25 at 7 pm is more than 75 years old and is just as charming and fun as you imagine a small town parade might be.
  • Take one last trip to the beach for the Sea Witch Festival in Rehoboth Beach, DE (October 27 and 28).

November – Theme parks, museums and a parade

  • Starting in November, about a week before Thanksgiving, you can get a jump start on Christmas by visiting Christmas Town at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Winterfest at Kings Dominion. There are fewer crowds and it will put you right in the holiday spirit. Plus, theme parks are so hot in the summer! It’s much more fun to go when it’s cooler.
  • One thing to be grateful about living in the area is free admission to many museums. The Smithsonian museums, the U.S. Botanic Garden and the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC are only closed on Christmas Day. So, many people flock to DC to visit museums on Thanksgiving Day.
  • The day after Thanksgiving, the annual Holiday Parade at Reston Town Center takes place at 11 a.m. It is like a small Macy’s Day parade. There are balloons and bands, just much smaller. It’s fun 🙂

December – Holiday boats, a waterskiing Santa and fireworks on New Year’s Eve

  • On Saturday, December 2, there are outstanding Christmas parades in Alexandria, Manassas and Richmond. But the most unique one happens when these daytime parades are over: the Holiday Boat Parade in Alexandria (and also DC). Decorated pleasure boats cruise along the Potomac River at nightfall. It is really something to see, the lights reflected on the water.
  • And there are many fine light displays, concerts, Nutcracker ballets and plays during the Christmas season. but perhaps nothing is more droll than the Water Skiing Santa, who shows up, with elves, reindeer and the Grinch, on the Alexandria waterfront around 1 pm on Christmas Eve. It’s just one of those things you have to see at least once.
  • As for New Year’s Eve, the best time I ever had was at Kings Dominion Winterfest, with its lovely lights, fireworks and performances.

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