Things to Do

20 Things to Do Around DC This August

The performances, exhibits, and other events worth your time this month.

See Khalid in concert at Capitol One Arena August 3rd. Photograph by Grace Pickering.

Beyond Charlottesville: Taking a Stand Against White Nationalism By Terry McAuliffe

Politics and Prose (Connecticut Avenue), August 1

The former Virginia governor reflects on the Unite the Right white-supremacist rally of August 2017, which brought neo-Nazis to Charlottesville and resulted in the murder of activist Heather Heyer. The book—which also tackles broader issues of race and racism in the Common­wealth—comes just months after a blackface scan­dal involving McAuliffe’s successor, Ralph Northam—proof that examination of such issues by those in the statehouse is vital. Free.

“Ten Strong: Women of Barry Farm/Hillsdale”

Anacostia Neighborhood Library, August 5

Photograph of Simpson Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum
Photograph of Simpson Courtesy of Anacostia Community Museum.

Georgiana Rose Simpson was a teacher, a lover of German philology, and, after earning her degree in 1921, the second African American woman in the US with a PhD. She was also a proud resident of DC’s Barry Farm—and one of the intriguing subjects of this talk by Anacostia Community Museum curator and author Alcione M. Amos on the history of the now rapidly gentrifying Barry Farm/Hillsdale neighborhood. Free.

Three gaming events that are perfect for both seasoned Twitch streamers and total n00bs

SAAM Arcade

Smithsonian American Art Museum, August 3–4

Photograph of Saam Arcade by Darren Milligan.
Photograph by Darren Milligan.

This annual art-museum event (how is it not called ARTcade?) is about more than getting off the couch and playing Fortnite in a beautiful space—it celebrates diversity in gaming and highlights independent releases. This year’s theme is “Breaking Barriers.” Free.

Game Grumps: The Final Party

Warner Theatre, August 21

On their über-popular YouTube series, Game Grumps, Arin Hanson and Dan Avidan play games while cracking jokes and amicably grousing about new releases. Their DC appearance will be more of the same, but in front of an IRL audience. $32.

My Computing Devices

National Museum of American History, August 28

Still miss your Palm Pilot? Reunite with personal computing devices of yore at the National Museum of American History’s artifact wall of outmoded electronics (or, if you’re a ’90s baby, marvel at tech that predates the touch screen). Free.

21 Savage

The Anthem, August 6

Photograph by Raymond McCrea Jones/Redux.
Photograph by Raymond McCrea Jones/Redux.

The UK-born, Atlanta-raised rapper earned a lot of attention after his ICE detention (and #Free21 social-media campaign) earlier this year. He has since been released, but the incident led many new listeners to his work. His best lyrics—“Shit gettin’ outrageous / Treat us like slaves then they lock us up in cages”—speak to anyone facing persecution, be it on the corner or at the border. $55 to $505.

Dear Evan Hansen

Kennedy Center, August 6–September 8

Photograph by Matthew Murphy.

The musical Dear Evan Hansen got its start at Arena Stage before be­coming a Broadway phenomenon. In honor of its return to DC, here’s a look back at its amazing trajectory.$79 to $175.

July 2014

Producers approach Arena Stage with an untitled show about a shy teenager. When artistic director Molly Smith first listens to a demo recording of “Waving Through a Window” on her computer, she yells for Arena executive producer Edgar Dobie to run in and listen.

February 2015

Arena announces that the project will premiere there later that year, with songs by longtime collaborators Benj Pasek and Justin Paul and a book by Bethesda native Steven Levenson.

May 2015

Actor Ben Platt, best known from the Pitch Perfect movies, signs on to play the title role.

July 2015

Opening night at Arena attracts Ruth Bader Ginsburg and other local luminaries.

August 2015

Buzz quickly builds. The Washington Post’s review calls the musical, directed by Michael Greif, “heart-piercingly lovely.”

August 2015

That was fast: Dear Evan Hansen inks a deal to move from DC to off-Broadway.

May 2016

It opens at Second Stage Theatre in New York, then graduates to Broadway that fall. It’s nominated for nine Tonys—winning six, including Best Musical—and becomes an international sensation.

April 2018

The Kennedy Center announces that Dear Evan Hansen will return to DC for the first time since it moved to New York.

August 2019

Almost exactly four years after its DC premiere, it opens in the Kennedy Center’s Eisenhower Theater. Meanwhile, a copy of a Playbill from the original Arena Stage run is going for more than $250 on eBay. Check your junk drawer!


Signature Theatre, August 11–September 29

Stephen Sondheim’s darkly comic 1990 musical, which explores the lives of presidential assassins both failed and successful, seems to play well in the city where commanders in chief reside: Signature’s new production is the third local revival in as many years. $40 to $103.

Shawn Mendes

Capital One Arena, August 13

Photograph Courtesy of Shawn Mendes
Photograph Courtesy of Shawn Mendes.

Please let Shawn Mendes avoid the curse of the Calvin Klein underwear model. When the Canadian pop heartthrob released photos of himself in Calvin boxer briefs earlier this year, fans thirsted with little regard for the fact that this side gig often signals the decline of a musical career. (Look at what happened to Marky Mark.) Fortunately, Mendes’s recent single, “If I Can’t Have You,” is his highest-charting track yet, so it seems like he’s safe. For now. $85 to $695.

Shanghai Symphony Orchestra

Wolf Trap, August 14

Get a load of this, National Symphony Orchestra: The Shanghai Symphony Orchestra, founded in 1879, is such a big deal that it has its own museum. Opened in 2017, the Shanghai Symphony Museum explores Chinese classical music at large but is very much a shrine to the orchestra, which this summer is celebrating its 140th year with a new album of Chinese and Russian works and an international tour sure to inspire an exhibit or two. $25 to $80.

Inland by Téa Obreht

Politics and Prose (Connecticut Avenue), August 15

For the follow-up to her award-winning, Balkan-set debut, The Tiger’s Wife, Obreht switches focus to America’s Old West. The narrative jumps between Nora, a matriarch whose family is off in the wilderness, and Lurie, a down-on-his-luck outlaw. Obreht dodges dusty frontier tropes by mixing the historical and the mystical: Both characters are clairvoyants whose pioneer ad­ventures involve the living and the dead. Free.

2019 Pokémon World Championships

Washington Convention Center, August 16–18

Photograph by Troy Harvey/Bloomberg.
Photograph by Troy Harvey/Bloomberg.

Dust off your beloved holographic Jigglypuff card—some of the best Pokémon players from around the globe are coming to DC to battle. The tournament is divided into three categories: classic card game, video-game version, and Pokkén, a hybrid of Pokémon and the fighting video game Tekken. Prizes could run as high as $25,000, so the stakes—and level of play—are a bit higher than in the old days of trading cards in the back yard. $10 for spectators.

Trick Mirror: Reflections on Self-Delusion by Jia Tolentino

Politics and Prose (Connecticut Avenue), August 20

“Church never felt much more like virtue than drugs did, and drugs never felt much more sinful than church,” writes New Yorker staffer Jia Tolentino in one of nine essays in her new collection. In the piece, she uses her own experiences with the evangelical Christian church, Houston screw music, and the drug ecstasy to tease out unexpected cultural connections. That amalgam is her signature, whether she’s writing about incels, Cracker Barrel, or the genre of the essay itself. Free.

Tame Impala

The Anthem, August 24–25

Photograph by Matt Sav.

It’s possible—we hope!—that by the time you read this, Tame Impala will have finally released its eagerly anticipated new album, which is long overdue. Sure, frontman Kevin Parker has been busy collaborating with top talent—Lady Gaga, Kanye, SZA—and headlining Coachella, but we’re starved for more of the Australian psych-pop-funk band’s danceable tracks. $55 to $95.

National Book Festival

Washington Convention Center, August 31

The Library of Congress’s annual festival is back to fulfill the dreams of bibliophiles who long to fit an entire month’s worth of book talks and author readings into one day. This year’s focus on America’s Changemakers highlights Supreme Court justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, restaurateur/activist José Andrés, and scholar Henry Louis Gates Jr., all of whom will appear to discuss their work. Free.

DC Murals Walking Tour

Multiple Locations, August 31

You might have passed by these eye-catching murals, but do you know the stories behind them? Perry Frank and Cory Stowers run DC Murals, a nonprofit dedicated to promoting outdoor wall paintings, and they’ve put together a walking tour of some excellent specimens. $15. Here’s a preview of some paintings on the tour:

The Soulful Return of Marvin Gaye” By Aniekan Udofia

710 S St., NW

Photographs of Murals by Evy Mages

When Udofia’s first Gaye mural was covered up by a new building, neighbors asked for a remix. Stowers points out that the do-over contains Udofia signatures such as subwoofer speakers and pencils.

You Are Welcome” By Cita Sadeli (CHELOVE)

3020 14th St., NW

The four-story mural at the Upper Cardozo Health Center features a diverse group of DC residents and the word “welcome” in five languages. Stowers says the mural is both visually stunning and a nice contrast to the nearby shopping center: “It’s a powerful statement piece in one of the busiest business areas in the city.”

Duke Ellington Mural By G. Byron Peck

1209 U St., NW

First painted in 1987, the piece was re­moved for restoration in 2012. A vinyl printing returned to U Street in May of this year. Stowers says it’s a rare instance of a mural coming back from retirement: “Duke Ellington looking out over 12th and U again? We consider that a victory.”

The bands behind the ’90s hits “Jumper” and “The Middle” team up to perform those songs and also a bunch of others that we don’t really remember. $29.50 to $79.50.

Moechella Megafest

Date and location to be announced

If you followed the #DontMuteDC protests this spring, you’ve likely heard of Moechella, the big gathering of go-go bands, protesters, and party people that happened at 14th and U streets in May. Organizer Justin “Yaddiya” Johnson is planning another festival in August—his largest yet—with go-go legends likely coming out to put it in the pocket and fight the power. Free.

This article appears in the August 2019 issue of Washingtonian.