Let’s get one thing clear: we at Border Free Adventures believe that you absolutely, positively, should get out there and travel the world. You should let nothing stop you from stepping foot in foreign lands, tasting new cuisines in local kitchens, and surrounding yourself with people who speak a language you do not understand.
That said, there are times throughout our lives when we can not, for whatever reason, physically take a trip around the world. Like, for example, if you are in saving mode for that trip around the world.
Yes, I am a woman of limited interests and absolutely everything eventually finds its way to being about exploring the world. So, what does all of this have to do with “How to travel around the world without ever leaving Washington, D.C.?” Well, I’m glad you asked.
Washington, D.C., being the capitol of the United States of America, is home to a myriad of cultures, peoples and foreign embassies (each being on their own sovereign soil). Additionally, the multicultural city boasts amazing museums, cultural centers, eateries, and festivals that celebrate our world and all of its distinct beauty.
Ready to explore the world without your passport?
Take a Round The World Trip in One Day
If you are short on time but eager to explore and learn, you should head to Washington, D.C. to experience Passport DC. This month long celebration of all things international lasts from May 1 to May 31, 2017. Embassies and cultural centers host concerts and exhibits that will thrill attendees. But what if you don’t have a month? What if you have one day? Fear not. On Saturday, May 6, 2017, Passport DC hosts the annual (read: you can do this every year!) Around The World Embassy Tour.
Participating embassies open up their doors and welcome everyone in to enjoy their country (remember: an embassy is sovereign soil so, technically, you are IN a foreign country). Each embassy sets their own program and we have been fortunate enough to see musical performances, art exhibits, taste traditional food, try our hands at local crafts, and much much more!
The list of participating embassies changes from year to year and you want to make sure to get your hands on a map and plan your day- after all, you have one day to travel around the world! Past participants include Albania, Belize, Chile, Ethiopia, Turkey, Japan, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Kosovo, and many more.
Busy on May 6th already? It’s ok! The following Saturday, May 13, 2017, you can take the day to travel with the Shortcut to Europe: European Union Embassies Open House. It may not be an around-the-world trip but it’s an around-Europe-trip and that is an amazing opportunity too!
Visit the Middle East
This intriguing part of the world is fascinating, complex and beautiful. Two places inside of Washington, D.C. do a great job at introducing the newcomer to the history, culture and charm of this region: The Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center and the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia.
The Sultan Qaboos Cultural Center is housed in a beautiful building in D.C. Inside, visitors discover a welcoming and informative staff more than willing to answer all your questions and share their knowledge of this part of the world. The focus here is on the culture and history of Oman. The cultural center features an exhibit space that packs a great dose of culture, architecture, fine arts, jewelry, and traditional crafts. One of our favorite parts of the space is the wall dedicated to the dress of Oman. The colorful and beautiful garments will inspire anyone to want to travel to this country and visit in person.
I would highly recommend getting a group of friends, or family, together and scheduling a tour in advance. Our own guides were informative and incredibly helpful with all the questions we had.
As you visit the Middle East, journey over to the Royal Embassy of Saudi Arabia. This is, of course, a place where you need to contact the staff and make reservations well ahead of your visit. But all that effort will pay off the moment you walk inside the embassy and step foot onto Saudi soil. The embassy houses a beautiful collection of pictures, traditional dress and artifacts, along with several miniature replicas of famous mosques.
Our visit to the embassy started with a wonderful video presentation with a lot of information about the country- it was a like a collection of cool facts and fun things you never knew about Saudi Arabia! Religion is central in the Kingdom and in the film and it does a great job at explaining Islam and its pillars to the novice. Our embassy guides explained all the photographs around the main floor, answered all the questions our group asked, and gave us a glimpse into everyday life in Saudi Arabia. It was a great visit and one I would highly recommend to anyone.
We loved our own Visit to the Middle East so much that we wrote more extensively about it in our Worldschooling in D.C.: An Educational Field Trip post (you can find it on the Day 2 section with all of our impressions and wonderful experiences).
Spend some time in Mexico
Mexico gave the world poinsettias, was home to the first printing press in North America (1539), and gave the most widely used delicacy, chocolate, its name (chocolatl from the Nahuatl language of the Aztecs). Of course, it is also home to the largest monument ever constructed in the world (The Great Pyramid of Cholula), Japanese peanuts (yeap, these are actually Mexican), popcorn, chewing gum, and tacos. Mmm… I might be getting hungry.
To explore and learn more about Mexico, spend some time at the Mexican Cultural Institute. With art exhibits, musical performances, culinary events, and special programming throughout the year, the Mexican Cultural Institute is a great way to learn about the culture of our southern neighbors.
If you happen to be in D.C. during the month of May, check out the National Cinco de Mayo Festival at the National Mall.
Travel to Asia
The upcoming months of April and May are a great time to travel to Asia in D.C. Given the sheer size of this continent you have a wealth of options throughout the year- but three events in the Spring months really shine: The National Cherry Blossom Festival, Fiesta Asia, and Holi DC.
Starting in April, Japanese culture shines with the blooming of the cherry blossoms on the national mall. On April 1, 2017, the Blossom Kite Festival fills up the grounds of the Washington Monument with colorful and festive kites. On April 8, 2017, the day starts off with the National Cherry Blossom Parade at 10 AM. For 10 blocks and two hours, Constitution Avenue turns into a colorful world of balloons, floats, performers, and music. The festivities continue with the Sakura Matsuri Japanese Street Festival taking place in the Capitol Riverfront neighborhood from 10:30 to 6 PM.
For, perhaps, a broader tour of Asia, Fiesta Asia is the National Asian Heritage Street Festival held on May 20, 2017. With cultural performances, crafts, dancing, music, and food from various Asian countries, this street fair along Pennsylvania Avenue is one you don’t want to miss. And, speaking of street festivals, May 7, 2017 will be a colorful day for anyone attending Holi in D.C. This Indian festival of color, an ancient Hindu celebration of love and faith, will leave an impression on both your soul and your clothes!
What if large street festivals are not your thing? Well, you are in luck. The Chinatown Community Cultural Center is a gold mine of cultural opportunities. Not only does this community cultural center host special events and programing, but they also offer child and family friendly Chinatown walking tours, Chinese language classes, crafts and traditional arts classes, and the ability to schedule a combination of these for a field trip opportunity. Whether you have a day, a week, or a year, the Chinatown Community Cultural Center offers something you will enjoy. Give yourself time to visit the Friendship Arch in Chinatown and observe the art and cultural nuances within the arch.
Party like you are in the Caribbean
Feel like something a bit more tropical for your world tour? How about the Caribbean?
Few places evoke the feelings of relaxation and vacation quite like the islands of the Caribbean and, with this fun festival to learn about the cultures in this part of the world, I am sure you will feel like you are on a vacation too.
The Baltimore/ DC Caribbean Carnival, held on July 15 & 16, 2017, will be filled with music, food, and a grand parade to celebrate the cultures of the Caribbean. If the past is any indication, it will be one fun, family friendly, and colorful carnival celebration. The not-to-be-missed parade starts at 12 noon at the 900 E. 33rd Street and ends at Clifton Park- where the family friendly event continues until 10 PM. While held in Baltimore, MD (about 40 minutes outside of DC), this carnival is worth the trip.
The more D.C. local Grace Jamaican Jerk Festival is held in June. The official dates and information are not yet available (as of February 2017) but keep a look out on their website!
Journey to Africa
This summer, August 12 & 13, 2017, you can journey to Africa for a day that includes live performances, a fashion show, yummy food, and lots of African dance, arts and crafts at the Fest Africa 2017 Cultural Festival.
To say that this is a large festival is an understatement. With over 50 musical performances by local and international African bands, an honors award ceremony, and cultural performances from across the continent, this is one cultural ceremony that will immerse you in the vast richness of the continent and its multitude of cultures, peoples, and languages.
Of course, if you will be around D.C. past this summer, the PanaFest, a celebration of African heritage, will once again be held in September.
Delight in European Culture
If it’s a more calm European flair that you desire on your trip, look no further than the Hillwood Museum French Festival. Set to coincide with Bastille Day, this festival takes place on July 15 & 16, 2017. You can watch the festivities of French court in a play, learn baroque dance, make and wear your own French bergere or Napoleon hat, and tour and admire the French art collection on site. If you don’t want to wait until July to learn about French life, you can visit the Hillwood Museum the weekend of April 8 & 9, 2017 for the Faberge Egg Family Festival. This is a particularly enchanting event if you have children that you want to expose to the world. The festival boasts a beautiful Faberge collection, folk music and dancing, egg rolling games, and a workshop to make your own creations.
If it’s Greece you want to learn about, Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral will be holding their annual Saint Sophia Annual Greek Festival on May 19-21, 2017. There will be live music and dancing, food, a marketplace, tours of the Cathedral, and children’s games.
Of course, if you want an evening out, tasting the local food and enjoying musical concerts or a chance to meet the ambassadors, nothing beats the Embassy & Culture section of Things To Do. With programs like “A Celebration of Prague: An Evening Out in the Czech Embassy” and “An Evening at the Russian Embassy”, the website offers multiple opportunities a month to celebrate world cultures and travel around Europe, or the world, as you visit the foreign embassies throughout D.C.
Are you ready to travel the world without ever leaving Washington, D.C.?
We hope you are! These are but a small sample of all the cultural opportunities throughout Washington, D.C.- and we only aimed to tackle this Spring! With abundant cheap airfare opportunities, D.C. might be more accessible than Japan or France or Oman. Then again, maybe not! Check out those airfare deals, you may find that you can travel the world within D.C. AND by getting yourself to another continent!
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