What We’re Looking Forward to in DC in 2021

Things are looking up already.

2020 was the year of canceled events and rescheduled plans. And, while many things still seem to be on hold for the foreseeable future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, it does appear there are some glimmers of hope for fun this year. 

In Washington DC, annual events like the Cherry Blossom Festival and Funk Parade, have been reimagined. Plus there are some very exciting developments—a tasty food hall, an improved park for springtime picnics, a new museum, and a city library with a dance studio and roof deck. Here are seven things Thrillist is most looking forward to in 2021.

The Roost
The Roost | Photo Courtesy of Vina Sananikone/Yoko and Kota

Actually being able to enjoy The Roost food hall

Capitol Hill is home to the newest food hall in Washington DC. The Roost is a 12,500-square-foot space officially opened last fall, and is slowly but surely coming to life with delicious food options. The latest stall to open comes from Thrillist Local Hero Erik Bruner-Yang. His restaurant Yoko and Kota opened in mid-December and features pan-Asian inspired dumplings and noodle dishes, along with Chinese BBQ, which pairs perfectly with a craft beer from Shelter. There’s also plenty of other delicious eats under this one roof, from sushi to pizza, or tacos and ice cream sundaes—your stomach will thank you for visiting this spot, located just across the street from the Potomac Avenue Metro.

Chowing down during Winter Restaurant Week

This is going to be a tough season for DC’s restaurants, which usually enjoy a spike in January foot traffic thanks in part to DC’s Winter Restaurant Week. While area restaurants remain closed to indoor dining, several have signed up for meal deals for outdoor dining, as well as takeout and delivery. Check out price-fixed deals for brunch, lunch, and dinner that range from $22-55 per person. The two-week promotion runs from January 25 through February 7. Plus, there’s Alexandria Restaurant Week To-Go, which runs from January 22 to February 7. More than 60 restaurants in Alexandria will offer a $49 takeout, delivery, or curbside meal for two or a $25 dinner for one.

Reimagining the Cherry Blossom Festival and 10-Mile Run

Cherry blossoms are an annual spring tradition attracting hundreds of thousands of tourists to DC and, sadly last year, the festival was put on hold due to COVID-19 shutdowns. This year, event organizers are envisioning a hybrid setup that includes safe social distancing, as well as virtual events, including the Pink Tie Party, which usually takes place on The National Mall. Those who plan to venture out to the Tidal Basin and National Mall should also plan for distanced and masked in-person gatherings. The National Cherry Blossom Festival, which runs from March 20 to April 11, includes a distanced kite-flying celebration and “Petal Procession” parades, which will take place in every ward of the city. Meanwhile, the Cherry Blossom 10-Mile Run is still a-go, albeit delayed well past peak bloom. This year’s race is scheduled for September 12. Runners should mark June 1 on their calendar for the competitive online lottery.

Celebrating Opening Day at Nationals Park

Opening Day is a rite of spring that was significantly delayed last year, but so far this year, it appears to be all systems go for a new Nationals season on April 1. 2021 ticket plans (as low as $18 per game) are on sale now and include access to the Opening Day presale. Granted, it’s still a bit of a wait-and-see approach  for fans hoping for in-person baseball this season. Last year, the Nats played to an empty ballpark, seen only by a select few with a rooftop apartment or office in an eyeshot view of the park. Even if the ballpark remains closed to fans, there are plenty of bars and restaurants on or near Half Street to celebrate a win against the New York Mets. A few standbys like Walters Sports Bar, Mission, and The Bullpen remain open with streeteries, and they join newcomers like craft beer favorites Atlas Brew Works and Gatsby, a swank American eatery with plans to open by April.

Planet Word
Planet Word | Photo Courtesy of Planet Word

Visiting the new Planet Word and Franklin Square

No other city in America rivals the access, ease, and options of museums found in The District. 2021 will only add to the grand scale of museums that Washington has to offer, including Planet Word, an immersive language experience located at the historic Franklin School. While the museum opened briefly last year, it was put on hiatus this fall due to COVID-19. But there is hope that the museum will reopen this year with voice-activated exhibits, the first in the world, plus interactive galleries bringing words and language to life in all sorts of fun ways.

Those who want to admire the building from the outside can cross the street to enjoy a prime picnic and food truck spot in Franklin Square. The park is closing out an $18-million renovation and will open this spring with a cafe, promenade, as well as plenty of grassy patches to peacefully escape the hustle and bustle of downtown DC.

Honoring MLK at a new DC library

This year the DC Public Library celebrates its 125th birthday, and as part of the celebration it’s breaking in its brand new central library, the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial Library, which underwent a $211 million renovation last year. The space has been designed for all ages, including kids, who can slide down from a children’s reading room instead of taking the stairs. There’s also a recording, dance and recital studio, a rooftop garden with sweeping views of Gallery Place-Chinatown, and an opulent lobby featuring an iconic mural of Martin Luther King, Jr. created by artist Don Miller in 1986. The library maintains limited curbside services to pick up and return materials, as well as check out books from the grab-and-go selection.

Funk Parade
Funk Parade | Photo Courtesy of Funk Parade

Taking in the Funk Parade online

Funk Parade will forego its traditional parade and day and night festival in favor of a series of virtual and smaller, socially distanced events. The programming will continue to center around celebrating DC art, culture, history, and the legacy of U Street’s Black Broadway. Plus, this year there will be a Funk Parade-themed beer produced by local Virginia brewery Aslin Beer Co. More details about the parade’s 2021 events and schedule will be available soon online.

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Tim Ebner is a food and travel writer based in Washington, D.C. and writes for EaterEdibleWashington City Paper, and Forbes Travel, among others. He's from Maryland and has a weakness for Old Bay seasoning. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram.