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10 Reasons to Check Out the Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Washington, DC

The annual festival celebrates its 50th anniversary with its best edition yet

Each summer, the National Mall plays host to the Smithsonian Folklife Festival, a massive, multiple-day celebration of international cultures. The 2017 edition (June 29 – July 4, July 6-9) marks the 50th anniversary of the event, so special programming honoring this milestone is on tap. The festival will also focus on the circus arts and the importance of migration. Read on to learn what activities and offerings await as you plan your excursion to this only-in-DC festival.

1 Bring all your friends – the Smithsonian Folklife Festival is free!

Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall - Family Friendly Summer Festival in Washington, DC

Like the best things in life, the Folklife Festival is free to enjoy. The extravaganza is easy to find as well, as it’s centrally located on the National Mall between 7th and 12th Streets NW. The festival’s general info page will come in handy as you plan your multicultural adventure.

2 Take your taste buds to new places

Basque Skillet at Smithsonian Folklife Festival on the National Mall - Family Friendly Summer Festival in Washington, DC

Every year, this festival comes through with delicious international eats. Local and national food vendors are often on-hand showcasing their latest offerings, and expect plenty of choices that align with the festival’s themes of migration and the circus arts. Keep an eye on the website for updates regarding cuisine options.

3 Explore the incredible Marketplace
Explore the incredible Marketplace Francisco Guerra / Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Traverse the globe without leaving the festival grounds at the festival’s famous marketplace, which features artists and artisans from around the world showing off their craft-making skills. Support these creative minds by purchasing from the incredible array of jewelry, sculpture, pottery, textiles, clothing and art on display.

4 Learn the importance of immigration
Learn the importance of immigration Jaclyn Nash / Smithsonian National Museum of American History

On the Move: Migration Across Generations will illustrate the immense impact of migration both to and within the United States. With the country’s population as diverse as ever, the new generation must learn from their ancestors and their experiences to create a better present and future. The program will include performances, workshops, games, visual arts demos and discussions, touching upon themes like identity, diversity and multilingualism.

5 Witness the acrobatics of the circus arts

Circus Juventas - Performing at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC

As part of the festival’s Circus Arts theme, attendees will be able to see feats of athleticism right on the beautiful National Mall. Aerialists and acrobats will be demonstrating their incredible skills that defy gravity and showcase intense concentration and grace in equal measure. Check out the list of participants, which includes Circus Arts Conservatory and Circus Harmony.

6 Be dazzled by tricks

Circus Harmony - Performing at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC

Of course, the circus arts go beyond high-flying feats. Equilibrists and object manipulators will join in the fun, showing audiences their abilities and revealing secrets of their trade that date back to ancient times. Just remember: they’re only tricks!

7 Have a laugh with some clowns

Medical Clown Project - Participating in the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, DC

…..we’re serious. No need to fear, as the friendly clowns at the Folklife Festival are on-site to incite plenty of laughs, demonstrate their transformative skills and highlight the true art of their profession, which is tapping into the human spirit. You will come to understand why clowns are so vital to the circus experience.

8 Go behind-the-scenes into the circus life

The Circus Arts - Theme for the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, Dc

Circus Arts will also delve into the fascinating history and traditions of the circus, which first began permeating American culture in the late-18th century. You’ll find out how the circus arts are thriving today and hear from artists, coaches, musicians, sound technicians, tent designers, poster artists and more on how their hard work brings the spectacle you see to full and vibrant life.

9 Discover stories through captivating objects

Wood Carving of Mask at Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Free Summer Festival in Washington, DC

Across its 50 years, the Folklife Festival has seen a wealth of objects that reveal the enthralling tales of their creators come through its marketplace. 50 Years | 50 Objects will show how these objects are truly treasures, commemorating the potters, silversmiths, chainsaw carvers, artists and many more that have shared their works and stories over the years.

10 Cap it off with a party

Families dancing at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival - Family friendly summer festival in Washington, DC

On July 8 and 9, Smithsonian will round out the 50th Folklife Festival with stories of the early days and a look into the festival’s very bright future. There will also be special workshops, performances and plenty of memories shared via discussion and photographs.

Interested in other DC festivals? We’ve got this c13 Can't-Miss Summer Festivals in Washington, DC covered .