Things to Do

17 Things to Do Around DC This October

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

See Charli XCX at 9:30 Club on October 18. Photograph courtesy of subject.

How to Up Your Halloween Game

Field of Screams, September 27–November 2

If soiling yourself in fear sounds like the right way to celebrate Halloween, Olney’s Field of Screams is the place to go. Michael Lado, creative director of the attraction, shares some of the elements that make for a truly terrifying experience­—even if you’re just decorating your front yard. Parental discretion is advised; $15 to $105.

Pick a Theme

Whether it’s creepy dolls, nuclear winter, a witch­es’ coven, or a haunted psychiatric hospital, sticking with a concept makes the effects more realistic. “Telling a cohesive story throughout the haunted house is big,” says Lado.

Do Your Homework

Almost as important as buckets of fake blood are buckets of . . . data? “We try to understand the science of scaring people through researching and looking at statistics,” he says. That includes poring over medical journals and news clippings.

Make Some Noise

The same gags that cause you to drop your popcorn while watching a horror movie work in person. “Sharp piercing sounds and even looming pulsating sounds,” Lado says, can add an element of fear.

The Education of Brett Kavanaugh: An Investigation by Robin Pogrebin and Kate Kelly

Politics and Prose at the Wharf, October 1

A year after Brett Kavanaugh and Christine Blasey Ford testified before the Senate, New York Times reporters Pogrebin and Kelly offer a deeply informed look at the newest Supreme Court justice’s background, searching for the suburban house where the alleged sexual assault occurred and uncovering details about his Washington private-school world. Free.

“Portraits of Courage: A Commander in Chief’s Tribute to America’s Warriors”

Kennedy Center, October 7–November 15

Photograph of Bush painting by Grant Miller, courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center.
Photograph of Bush painting by Grant Miller, courtesy of George W. Bush Presidential Center.

The most remarkable thing about these images of wounded warriors who served after 9/11 is the artist: George W. Bush, the very man who sent them into battle. Art connoisseurs on both sides of the aisle have lauded the works, which were compiled into a bestselling 2017 book and now serve as the inaugural art exhibit at the Kennedy Center’s new expansion, the Reach. Free.

“Cuba Va!”

Phillips Collection, October 10–January 12

Los Carpinteros LED portraits courtesy of Phillips Collection.

The genre-bending Cuban political artist collective Los Carpinteros formally dissolved in 2018, but its impact continues. This show, the group’s first post-breakup museum exhibit, is a nuanced exploration of post-revolutionary Cuba using LED portraits (right) plus two wrenching videos—one about lightning-rod poet Heberto Padilla, the other a peek into the private lives of Cubans via their living spaces. $10 to $12.

Marc Maron

Kennedy Center, October 11

Things are going pretty well for curmudgeon of note Marc Maron. He’s a podcasting god (his celeb-interview-focused WTF is still a hit), a Netflix darling (he acts in Glow and Easy), and, most recently, a member of the DC Extended Universe (he has a small role in the upcoming Joker origin story). So what’s there for him to grouse about during this 90-minute standup routine? We’re guessing a lot. $25 to $79.

All Things Go Fall Classic

Union Market, October 12–13

Photograph courtesy of Melanie Martinez.
Photograph courtesy of Melanie Martinez.

The Union Market music festival, now in its sixth year, continues to deliver a smorgasbord of food and drink vendors along with of-the-moment acts. This year, Chvrches and The Voice alum Melanie Martinez (left) headline, and, as at the last fest, one full day will feature an all-female lineup. Adding to the girl-power vibes: a partnership with She Is the Music, a nonprofit that works to in­-crease the number of women in the music industry. $69 to $239.

Takács Quartet

Kennedy Center, October 15–16

Photograph of Takács Quartet by Ellen Appel.
Photograph of Takács Quartet by Ellen Appel.

Flawless execution of Béla Bartók’s quartets is the chamber-music equivalent of making a shot from half court or downing a 72-ounce steak in 60 minutes: often foolishly attempt­ed, rarely achieved. But no one is more pre­pared to take on the Hungarian composer’s complex masterpieces than the Takács Quartet. The Grammy-winning ensemble will show off their knack for emotion and technical precision when they tackle all six pieces over two nights. $45.

Olive, Again by Elizabeth Strout

Sidwell Friends Meeting House, October 16

Pulitzer Prize–winning author Strout has finally heeded pleas to bring back everyone’s favorite Maine math teacher with this sequel to her beloved novel Olive Kitteridge. The new one is, like the original book, a poignant story told in 13 parts, this time tracing the next ten years of Olive’s life. $15 to $45.

“Royal Philatelic Society London’s 150th Anniversary”

National Postal Museum, October 17–20

The United Kingdom’s premier stamp collectors’ club is bringing its treasures to the Smithsonian’s shrine to all things snail mail. So what’s the most valuable item on display? According to organizers, it’s the piece of royal correspondence above. Even among the rarities, the quartet of 1937 stamps created by renowned designer Edmund Dulac for the coronation of King George VI and Queen Elizabeth are something of a unicorn, because they’re affixed to an envelope adorned with a hand-painted royal coat of arms and accompanied by signatures from the king and queen themselves. Free.


DC Armory, October 18–27

Photograph of 29Rooms courtesy of Getty for Refinery 29’s 29Rooms.
Photograph of 29Rooms courtesy of Getty for Refinery 29’s 29Rooms.

The digital-media company Refinery 29 has created an interactive installation where visitors can actually do many of the things they read about on the website: craft, dance, snap Insta-ready pics, and play. An “art park” room features DC artist Trap Bob’s “Stairway to Your Dreams,” a piece that can be climbed. R&B singer and Alexandria native Kali Uchis’s contribution, “Dream Doorways,” is billed as a “rabbit hole to an alternate universe where nothing is what it seems.” Confused and intrigued? That’s kind of the point. $29 to $34.

Charli XCX

9:30 Club, October 18

She’s relentlessly experimental, has more mixtapes than albums, and throws shade at Taylor Swift: Charli XCX doesn’t exactly make moves like your average pop star. Yet she seems poised to dominate the genre. On the world tour for her new self-titled album, there’ll be plenty of slick, dirty electronic pop tracks from the outspoken Brit—and plenty of surprises. $30.

Shin Lim

DAR Constitution Hall, October 19

Photograph of Lim by Louis Aslarona.
Photograph of Lim by Louis Aslarona.

How does a magician make it to the big time these days? Reality TV, of course. Shin Lim, winner of season 13 of America’s Got Talent and illusionist of the moment—he nabbed a coveted Vegas residency earlier this year—erases bad memories of over-the-top David Blaine stunts through his good old-fashioned sleight of hand and close-up tricks using playing cards and smoke (minus the mirrors). $34 to $47.


Sidney Harman Hall, October 23–27

Photograph of NEXTsteps Dancers Alexandros Pappajohn and Ashley Murphy-Wilson by Procopio Photography.
Photograph of NEXTsteps Dancers Alexandros Pappajohn and Ashley Murphy-Wilson by Procopio Photography.

Going to see The Nutcracker every year is nice, but it’s also important to support ballets created in the current century. The Washington Ballet’s season-opening NEXTsteps focuses on internationally known choreographers whose works will be enjoyed by future generations: John Heginbotham, Jessica Lang, and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Lopez Ochoa is the mastermind behind a ballet about the rise and fall of a Mob daughter—complete with fight scenes. $25 to $100.

Bentzen Ball

Various locations, October 24–27

It’s been a decade since the first Bentzen Ball, a collaboration between Brightest Young Things and comedian Tig Notaro that’s meant to highlight the District’s status as a standup destination. The lineup this year includes Notaro, Maria Bamford, and the stars of Comedy Central’s The New Negroes, along with up-and-coming talent both local and not. $30 to $154.20.


The Anthem, October 25

Photograph of Sleater-Kinney by Nikko Lamere.
Photograph of Sleater-Kinney by Nikko Lamere.

The Center Won’t Hold, the ninth album from the Olympia, Washington, band Sleater-Kinney, is produced by St. Vincent and marks something of a departure from their hard-charging sound—so much so that longtime drummer Janet Weiss departed in July be-cause of the new direction. How will they sound onstage without her? We can’t wait to find out. $37.50 to $62.50.

Beyond the Studio Workshop: Illustration With Marcella Kriebel

Smithsonian American Art Museum, October 27

Photograph of Kriebel by Michael A. Milkovich.

DC artist and cookbook author Marcella Kriebel creates drool-worthy watercolor food portraits in her Brookland Arts Walk studio and storefront. This month, she’s holding a workshop at the American Art Museum. Kriebel shares a few things that inspire her palette/palate. $10


She grew up mushroom-hunting in the Pacific Northwest but has yet to try it on the East Coast. “I’ve found them while hiking but never picked,” the artist says. Nonetheless, fungi still show up frequently in her work.

The Rickey

Kriebel’s illustrated cookbooks focus on her international travels, but she paints lots of local food and drink, such as a piece about DC’s official cocktail, the rickey. The work includes an image, a recipe, and a few facts, all supporting her goal to “inform and educate my audience, not just make pretty pictures,” she says.

Bacon and Eggs

Kriebel is such a fan of the local food scene that she made a series in which she re­created the District flag using different foods—bacon and eggs, strawberries and rhubarb—as a little “shared joke with my fellow Washingtonians.”

Astro Poets: Your Guides to the Zodiac by Dorothea Lasky and Alex Dimitrov

Politics and Prose (Connecticut Avenue), October 31

Unlike those awful auto-tweet daily horoscopes prevalent in the early days of Twitter, the Astro Poets bring a high-quality dose of astrology to our social feeds. The best-friend duo—who are, in fact, poets—mix humor, whimsy, and astrology to create unusual zodiac content, such as a list of each sign as an alcoholic beverage. Their first book allows them to stretch out and offer in-depth looks at the traits of each sign. Should you go to this event? Check out @poetastrologers that morning for guidance. Free.

This article appears in the October 2019 issue of Washingtonian.