Best time to go: 01/20 - 02/15
In late January and early February, Washingtonians make the most of the Chinese New Year (and other Lunar New Year festivals). The Chinese and Korean embassies provide ample support by attracting performers from around the world, in collaboration with the Smithsonian, the Kennedy Center, and other local venues.
2022 Update: Unfortunately, the January 2022 Celebration has been downsized this year due to the pandemic. But the Kennedy Center has put together a bunch of videos to watch at home. You can still see the lanterns in person this year from 5:30 – 9 pm, Th – Su until February 6.
One can’t-miss event that we attend every year is the festival in the underground concourse connecting the Sackler and Freer Galleries next to the Smithsonian Castle. One year we had front-row seats to a free Yo Yo Ma concert. Another year, our children got to experience Mongolian throat singing from a renowned master. It’s pretty awesome.
- Arrive by 10a (event begins at 10a on Saturday and 11a on Sunday, but you should definitely be there by 10 either day)
- Pack a lunch. The museum provides a couple of dreary food options every year, but even PB&J beats sub-par catered lunch that’s been warming over a bunsen burner all morning.
A new addition to the Chinese New Year scene is the Lantern Display at the REACH complex surrounding the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. We have a love-hate relationship with the Kennedy Center in my family. We love that the events are free and only a 5 minute drive from our house, but we hate that the lines to all the good stuff stretch down the hall and out the building. Still, there’s plenty to see in the open area outside, and did I mention it’s free?
The best time to go is at sunset. For some reason, there seems to be a lull in the crowd from 3p – 6p, so you have the area completely to yourself on weeknights and you won’t be overwhelmed by lines on weekends. The view of the river (and Rosslyn and Georgetown) is also best as the day draws to a close.