Things to Do

2014 Holiday Fun in Washington: Concerts, Dance, Film, and Other Events

Where to catch choral recitals, improv shows, and lots more.

Where to see performances of The Nutcracker and more holiday classics this year. Image via Shutterstock.

The holidays are a time to unwind, eat a little (or a lot) too much, and enjoy the company of family. Luckily, it’s also a time of myriad wintry activities to take advantage of when the cabin fever inevitably sets in. Whether you want to see a classic production of The Nutcracker, check out a decidedly nontraditional comedy show, or just find something to keep the kids amused, we’ve rounded up some excellent options for you.

Contemporary Concerts

Baltimore Choral Arts Society: Holly Jolly Pops
Strathmore, December 11 ($31 to $94)
BCAS vocalists join the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra and a pack (jingle?) of tap-dancing Santas for carols, sing-alongs, and more.

NPR’s A Jazz Piano Christmas
Kennedy Center, December 12 ($69)
Harold Mabern, Kris Davis, and Lynne Arriale are a few of the pianists featured in this evening of twists on classic holiday songs.

NSO Pops: Happy Holidays With Cirque de la Symphonie
Kennedy Center, December 11 through 13 ($20 to $98)
The troupe—which is like Cirque du Soleil designed for concert halls—offers aerial acrobatics, juggling, and other performances to accompany the Pops.

Megan Hilty’s A Kennedy Center Christmas
Kennedy Center, December 13 ($65)
The Broadway star and Smash actress lends her pipes to tunes from the Great American Songbook.

Mannheim Steamroller Christmas
Strathmore, December 13 ($48 to $98)
Hear Chip Davis and company perform their unmistakable renditions of Christmas carols and other holiday tunes.

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington DC: Rockin’ the Holidays
Lincoln Theatre, through December 14 ($25 to $59)
This concert promises “glitter, glamour,” and spirited renditions of seasonal classics, plus new musical arrangements.

The Colors of Christmas
Strathmore, December 18 ($31.50 to $90)
Grammy-winning R&B artist Peabo Bryson, pop singer Taylor Dayne, Tony winner Jennifer Holliday, and American Idol alum Ruben Studdard join forces for an evening of classic and contemporary Christmas hits.

Robyn Helzner Trio Hanukkah Concert
Strathmore, December 17 ($25)
The guitar and mandolin trio offers a concert of folk songs celebrating Jewish identity.

Choral Recitals

This year offers myriad chances to hear your favorite Christmas carols, plus other holiday tunes. Here are a few great options.

Cathedral Choral Society: Joy of Christmas
Washington National Cathedral, December 13 and 14 ($25 to $75)

Thomas Circle Singers: Sing All We Nowell! Music for Christmas
St. Paul’s Lutheran Church, December 14 ($20)

Washington Chorus: A Candlelight Christmas
Kennedy Center, December 14 through 22 ($15 to $70)

Choral Arts Society of Washington: A Capital Christmas (December 15 through 24, $15 to $75) and A Family Christmas (December 20, $15 to $45)
Kennedy Center

Christmas With the King’s Singers
National Cathedral, December 21 ($25 to $85)

More Messiah

See the National Symphony Orchestra’s rendition of Handel’s famous work at the Kennedy Center December 18 through 21 ($10 to $85), or head there December 23 for the annual free sing-along. The National Philharmonic offers its own version at Strathmore December 20 and 21 ($28 to $89).

The Nutcracker, 5 Ways

The Washington Ballet‘s annual production puts its usual Washington-centric spin on the story, setting it in 1882 Georgetown. Warner Theatre, December 4 through 28 ($32 to $110).

The Moscow Ballet this year celebrates 20 years of touring North America, and its Great Russian Nutcracker is delightful as ever. Strathmore, December 14 ($48 to $88).

Another area favorite is the production from Utah’s acclaimed Ballet West, with accompaniment by the Opera House Orchestra and the Arlington Children’s Chorus. Kennedy Center, December 10 through 14 ($56 to $165).

See talented dancers from Maryland’s Baltimore School for the Arts take on the holiday tale with music by the BSO. Modell Performing Arts Center at the Lyric, December 19 through 21 ($22 to $62).

Or if you prefer something less ballet-oriented, check out The Nutcracker: A New Holiday Musical, a modern theatrical update on the holiday tale, complete with puppets and an original score. Round House Theatre, through December 28 ($10 to $45).

So Much Scrooge

You’ll find practically every conceivable twist on A Christmas Carol around Washington this winter. We rounded up some of the varieties.

A Christmas Carol
Ford’s Theatre, through January 1 ($32 to $91)
The annual production stars local favorite Edward Gero as the miserly Scrooge.

A Broadway Christmas Carol
MetroStage, through December 28 ($50)
The classic tale gets spiced up with holiday parodies of well-known Broadway tunes.

A Christmas Carol: A Ghost Story of Christmas
Olney Theatre, through December 28 ($18 to $36)
Actor Paul Morella channels Dickens in this one-man rendition of the story.

An Irish Carol
Theater J, December 26 through 28 ($35)
Keegan Theatre presents this twist on the original, reimagined by Irish playwright Matthew Keenan.

Tiny Tim’s Christmas Carol
Adventure Theatre, through January 1 ($19)
Adapted by Tony Award winner Ken Ludwig, this kid-friendly play recasts the story through the eyes of young hero Tiny Tim.


Christmas movie marathon
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, December 14 ($8)
Not just a festive occasion but a pretty damn great deal, this all-day event gets you access to four full-length Christmas films including Scrooged and Elf—plus two showings each of animated specials How the Grinch Stole Christmas and A Charlie Brown Christmas—for under ten bucks. The whole thing starts at noon; stay as long as you want, or come and go as you please.

It’s a Wonderful Life
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, December 18 through 23 ($6.50)
The venue is donating 50 percent of ticket sales to Arlington’s Patrick Henry Elementary PTA, and is also giving four free tickets to a future movie to folks dressed in holiday costumes (see website for full details).

More holiday movies
National Harbor, Saturdays in December (Free)
Catch free, family-friendly flicks on the big screen at 2 PM—The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol on the 13th, and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on the 20th.

Miscellaneous Fun

Second City’s Nutcracking Holiday Revue
Arlington Cinema & Drafthouse, December 12 through 27 ($30)
The Chicago comedy troupe that launched the careers of Tina Fey and Stephen Colbert, among others, presents a show of hilarious holiday-themed sketches, songs, and improv.

National Chanukah Menorah Lighting Ceremony
White House Ellipse, December 16 (free)
The ceremony begins at 4 PM, with hot latkes and doughnuts to keep you warm, plus live music performances by Alex Clare and other artists. Tickets are free but must be reserved online.

Kwanzaa Celebration
Alexandria Black History Museum, December 20 ($5)
The annual celebration, happening between 11 and 12:30, offers crafts workshops, songs, dances, and more aimed at educating children (and adults) about the holiday’s traditions.

A John Waters Christmas
Birchmere, December 22 ($49.50)
The kooky director celebrates—and skewers—holiday memories and traditions in this one-man show.

Good for the Jews
Jammin Java, December 24 ($20)
Rob Tannenbaum (the author of I Want My MTV: The Uncensored Story of the Music Video Revolution) teams up with indie rocker David Fagin of the Rosenbergs for this musical comedy show.

National Zoo, through January 1 (free)
Always free, always fancy. This year, the zoo has also added a light show set to music.

Gaylord National Resort, through January 4 ($28 to $34)
Check out ice sculptures, costumed characters, and more in this annual event, this year themed around Frosty the Snowman.