After Hours Blog > Guides
Best of Capitol Hill: Arts & Events
Yoga classes, poetry slams, and other lively outings you won’t find on a tourist map
Have Fun Grocery Shopping
Built in 1873, neighborhood anchor Eastern Market reopened last year after a devastating 2007 fire. Tuesday through Sunday, DC’s oldest public market fills with long-standing merchants who stock fresh mussels, Maytag blue cheese, black-and-white cookies, gerbera daisies, hand-stuffed ravioli, half-smokes, and more. On weekends, farm stands line the building’s facade and an outdoor flea market draws local artists and antiques dealers purveying everything from handmade jewelry and fine art to furniture and vintage maps.
Groove to a New Beat
An Art Moderne marquee fronts the historic Atlas Performing Arts Center, which opened in 1938 as a 1,100-seat movie theater. In 2006, after a four-year renovation, the space was rechristened as a neighborhood hub for dance classes, theater performances, films, and concerts. Tenants include the African Continuum Theatre Company and Joy of Motion Dance Center, which hosts free and inexpensive performances as well as adult and youth dance classes.
Go to Art Camp
Try out a new hobby or vocation at the Capitol Hill Arts Workshop, a community center with studios for dancing, painting, ceramics, and pottery as well as an art gallery, public darkroom, and experimental theater. Adult classes include painting, sewing, and digital photography; kids can learn to make masks, murals, movies, and puppets. There are also classes in dance (tap, ballet, ballroom), music (violin, guitar, voice), Pilates, martial arts, and more. October 2 is the annual ArtSmash fundraiser, with live performances and a silent auction. The resident theater company, the quirky Taffety Punk, performs three full-scale productions yearly; Julius Caesar runs October 2 through 23.
Celebrate the Bard
The Folger Shakespeare Library houses the world’s largest collection of the playwright and poet’s works. Though the reading rooms are for scholars only, the public can tour exhibitions, attend discussions and concerts, and watch performances in the Folger Theatre. (Henry VIII runs October 12 through November 21.) The popular PEN/Faulkner reading series draws best-selling authors such as Susan Orlean and Ian McEwan. On October 19, the series—normally based at the Folger—hosts novelist Nick Hornby and singer/songwriter Ben Folds for a reading and concert at downtown DC’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue.
Meet the Neighbors
The laid-back espresso and wine bar Sova hosts a mishmash schedule of live music. One day a week, it lures the toddler set for Boogie Babes, which features music performances for kids that grownups can enjoy. Thursday nights belong to bluegrass lovers, and monthly open-mike sessions bring out poets and other local talents.
Indulge Your Inner Bookworm
The Library of Congress is the biggest library in the world, with nearly 145 million items covering 745 miles of bookshelves. Dip into the fount of knowledge on a docent-led tour or at free book talks, poetry readings, films, scholarly symposiums, and concerts. On October 25, US poet laureate and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner W.S. Merwin reads from his work. The Young Readers Center offers daily story times and the Afternoon Book Buffet—20-minute sessions when library staffers read passages and poems from the collection (for ages eight and up).
Play in the Dirt
Dig into the United States Botanic Garden’s diverse ecosystem on behind-the-scenes, docent-led tours. There are also expert lectures, a yoga-in-the-garden series, and garden-fresh cooking classes. “Sprouts,” a free weekly program for kids, includes activities such as garden walks, stories, songs, and crafts.
Stretch the Status Quo
Since its debut on Barracks Row last year, the Fridge has sparked the local arts scene with its anything-goes gallery, performance space, music venue, and classroom. Concerts range from avant-garde jazz to hip-hop to folk; performances from magic to sideshows to poetry slams. The third Sunday of every month, the Sunday Circus celebrates local talent with a carnival of performances—dance, spoken word, experimental, and more.
Catch a buzz-worthy art opening at one of the Atlas District’s growing roster of galleries. A rehabbed 7,000-square-foot industrial building houses Conner Contemporary Art on the ground level; upstairs, Industry Gallery (202-399-1730) focuses on 21st-century design and functional art. Nearby, G Fine Art showcases international work.