Legend of the Fall: DC Seasons, Ranked


DC is a notoriously fickle city when it comes to weather.

Residents often find themselves pulling something of a Goldilocks routine. Too hot, and the city turns into a volatile mass of angry, on-edge, Type A personalities and back sweat. Too cold and it’s all shut-in hermits and Seamless orders.

But when it hits that sweet spot, what a city it becomes. With fall fully doing its thing, it’s time to sort out the hierarchy of DC seasons.


4. Winter

With all due respect, fuck DC winters. Actually, respect rescinded. You are the the worst.

Despite the fact that no one would put its winters up against your Buffalos or Chicagos of the world, winters in the District still manage to be nothing short of complete hell. It’s two hours south of Philly, yet somehow every time so much as a cold front breezes through, the city manages to lose its damn mind.

The city shuts down at the slightest hint of snow, and while adult snow days are not without their charms, it’s more challenging to enjoy them when the District feels like a set piece from The Walking Dead. Ever make the mistake of going grocery shopping when snow is in the forecast only to find Harris Teeter flooded with maniacs stocking up on enough non-perishables for a nuclear holocaust when you were just looking to re-up on Cinnamon Toast Crunch? It’s maddening.

And people get so INCREDULOUS at the weather even though, again, it happens every damn year. Further north there’s at least a bit more of a “bite your lip and fight through it” attitude. Washingtonians act like the atmosphere owes them something.

The bar scene in the winter? Forget it.

Even the bars on U St become noticeably less lively when it turns cold. The number of times you’ll make plans with friends only to hear, “It’s too cold, I’m staying inside” becomes tragically frequent, and then you end up staying home, and then the inside of your residence starts to feel like The Shining even though it’s only 30 damn degrees out with a light dusting of snow. Bad times.

Julie Clopper/Shutterstock

3. Summer

At the other end of the spectrum, there’s summer.

DC summer, you have some legitimately fantastic stuff going for you.

Jazz in the gardens, rooftop bars, social sports leagues... all of these things are fun and worth being excited about.

Unfortunately, DC summers also bring the kind of toxic humidity that makes walking from the Metro stop to your office feel like doing jumping jacks in a steam room. Good thing 97% of the city has to wear a suit to work!

Oh, what’s that you say? The Red Line is single tracking? Again? No problem, I’m just enjoying the eau de pit sweat from 4,000 of my closest friends.

Also, thanks to residents looking to make up for winter and businesses... also looking to make up for winter, every bar is stuffed like a sardine can, except with way more networking happening. Of course, all that fades away when you’re at an outdoor festival, drinking a beer and making eyes with someone you think might want to sleep with you, and then... wait, nope, you just sweated through your shirt again. Time to go change.


2. Spring

Springtime in DC constantly gets all the shine.

And, in many ways, it’s deserved.

You know the scene in the Shawshank Redemption where Andy Dufresne sits outside laughing in the rain after escaping prison? That’s how the entirety of Washington acts in spring. It’s like something from a National Geographic documentary once temps reach the ‘60s: pure animal energy.

So, if you’re keeping score, that’s Shawshank Redemption crossed with National Geographic... which sounds kind of like how you spent one of those winter nights at home. But fear not, in this case it’s much better.

All the pent-up aggression from spending the past three months inside gets released at once. In the blink of an eye everyone goes from being homebodies to hanging out on the waterfront, taking in a Nats game or having brunch.

But then the Cherry Blossom Festival rolls around, and all that goodwill spring has built up goes right out the door.

It’s not that the cherry blossoms aren’t beautiful. They are! I’m not some curmudgeonly monster.

But what isn’t beautiful is a month straight of the Metro essentially shutting down. Trying to get further Downtown than Farragut is useless. Those videos of commuters in Beijing fighting each other to get onto a subway? They have nothing on the Metro around the Cherry Blossom Festival.


1. Fall

Aside from being every girl’s favorite time to really hit Instagram hard (#PSL!!!), fall has one other distinction: it’s the best time to live in the District.

The weather is actually temperate, and the crowds aren’t insane. For a solid portion of the season you can actually enjoy a rooftop without a harrowing, elbow-laden journey to the bar.

But beyond being mostly in the temperature sweet spot, the fall festivals in DC are the most underrated part of what makes it the season above all others in the District.

Between Taste of DC and all the Oktoberfest celebrations, fall is one giant orgy of delicious food and drinks and mild weather. Getting to work on the Metro is actually comfortable for once, and the monuments hit that perfect balance of solid viewing temperatures minus the merciless crowds.

Plus, fall brings football season, which for everyone not originally from DC means one thing: the opportunity to laugh at Redskins fans! Sure, your team might be terrible, but hey, at least it isn’t the one with the laughably offensive name and the egomaniacal owner who ruins everything!

Sorry, Redskins fans. But hey, things aren’t so bad. It’s fall! Get yourself to a festival, drink up, and enjoy the best season to be in Washington.

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Robert Pursell misses DC fall and is sorry about the Redskins. Follow him: @robert_pursell.