Things to Do

18 Things to Do Around DC This January

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

Boozin’ in Your Onesie Bar Crawl

Various locations, January 1

Photograph courtesy of Bar Crawl Live.

Once the holiday lights are packed away, it’s easy to surrender to a winter routine of eating cheese in a Snuggie on the couch. But this annual crawl around Dupont Circle will help you escape your cold-weather rut without completely sacrificing the coziness of home. The concept: Get drunk while wearing your jammies. What else, really, is there to say? $14.99 to $29.99.


9:30 Club, January 10

Photograph by Alysse Gafkjen.

Drawing comparisons to soulful forebears such as Ray Charles and Charley Pride, singer/songwriter Yola sounds more like a product of the American South than southern Britain, where she actually grew up. Her gritty debut album—recorded in Nashville with the Black Keys’ Dan Auerbach—tackles past hardships, including the time when her house burned down. Its title: Walk Through Fire. $20.

Girls Gotta Eat

Lincoln Theatre, January 10

Photograph courtesy of Girls Gotta Eat.

No kink is too kinky for standup comedian Ashley Hesseltine and writer Rayna Greenberg’s popular podcast, Girls Gotta Eat. Topics include walks of shame, hooking up with groomsmen at weddings, STIs, and DM slides. Catch them talking sex and dating on their tour, but be warned: You may be asked to share a story of your own. $35 to $70.

DC Tattoo Expo

Crystal Gateway Marriott, January 10–12

Photograph courtesy of DC Tattoo Expo.

At this tenth annual event ($30 to $60), more than 400 artists from around the country will showcase the best in body art and give tats to attendees. Greg Piper, the expo’s founder and the owner of Exposed Temptations in Manassas, offers a preview.

Expect: Big-name artists looking for clients interested in taking advantage of their specialized skills—such as the man who sat 20 hours last year for a Star Wars piece (left) by Calgary artist Saga.

Don’t expect: To see a lot of locally orient-ed tattoos. Even though it’s the DC Tattoo Expo, Piper says that “other than victory sports teams, I don’t see regional stuff much any­more.” District and Maryland flags, for example, have fallen out of favor. What about ones from that other state? “In 25 years,” Piper says, “I’ve never done a Virginia flag.”

Photograph courtesy of DC Tattoo Expo.

Expect: Lots of excitement around of-the-moment tattooers such as Virginia’s Lucio Guevara (near right), who does intricate black-and-gray portraits, and Pittsburgh’s Mohawk Jesse, who mixes colorful shapes and photo-realism.

Don’t expect: Much excitement about those tiny, minimal shapes that are all over Instagram. “More than ever, people want the same few things,” says Piper. “Let your artist give you a creative idea for something really different.”

Photograph courtesy of DC Tattoo Expo.

Expect: Access to in-demand local artists—such as Piper himself (left), who can be hard to book outside of the expo.

Don’t expect: To get something generic like an EKG heartbeat tat. Yes, those simple line designs are everywhere, but artists at the expo would rather spend time on “something reflective of their work ability,” says Piper.


DC Improv, January 10–12

Photograph by L-Murder Inc.

Thanks to decades of movie roles, cameos in high-profile music videos, and cartoon voice work, Luenell is known to comedy fans of all ages. But the 60-year-old’s standup routine is strictly for her peers. “Retiring” from sex; aches and pains; erectile dysfunction; and escalating dental work are the basis of some of her best riffs. If you’re a youngster who finds her funny, so be it, but she’s catering to, as she has put it, “my loyal old school, OG people—we need somebody to speak for us! $25 to $30.

American Opera Initiative

Kennedy Center, January 10

In the time it takes most operas to get warmed up, the young artists behind this annual event present succinct, complete works. Three new 20-minute operas are performed in a single evening, and the stories are as unconventional as the run times. The pieces forgo the tragic love stories favored by the genre and consider modern American life. This year’s themes include immigration and the pitfalls of wealth and greed. $19 to $35.

Step Afrika!

Strathmore, January 12

Photograph of Step Afrika! by Jati Lindsay.

The dance troupe Step Afrika! is joined by step squads from around the region, and will also perform part of Drumfolk, an artistic depiction of the Stono Rebellion of 1739. The new piece, which coincides with the group’s 25th anniversary, looks at one of the earliest and most impactful slave uprisings and its aftermath: Enslaved Africans lost, among many other things, the use of drums, but they used their feet and voices to create the music that helped them worship, communicate, and endure. $35 to 75.

A Thousand Splendid Suns

Arena Stage, January 17–March 1

Photograph by Charles Davis.

Khaled Hosseini’s bestselling novel about women in war-torn Kabul is more than a decade old, but his look at how the Afghanistan War affected the country’s residents is, sadly, still relevant. Ursula Rani Sarma’s stage adaptation treats the story—about the unlikely friendship between two women who married the same man—with sensitivity and care, in the process knocking down stereotypes about life in the Middle East. $56 to $72.

Stretch and Bobbito + the M19s Band

Kennedy Center, January 17

Photograph of Stretch and Bobbito by John Phillips/Getty.

Pioneering New York radio hosts Stretch Armstrong and Bobbito García helped introduce the world to hip-hop legends Jay-Z, Biggie Smalls, and Nas in the ’90s. So what does their long-awaited debut album, No Requests, sound like? Not at all like the music they once featured on their show. But by combining samba, reggae, soul, and Afro-beat, they pay homage to hip-hop’s tradition of mixing and repurposing to create something greater than the sum of its parts. $20 to $30.

Not in MY Gayborhood by Theodore Greene

Anacostia Community Museum, January 18

In recent years, DC’s best-known gayborhoods have largely disappeared. Greene’s Not in MY Gayborhood looks at how they came to be in the first place. As part of the Anacostia Community Museum’s “A Right to the City” series, the assistant professor of sociology at Bowdoin College will discuss his research, which uses interviews, archives, and ethnographic data to trace how famous LGBTQ enclaves in DC and Chicago developed. Free.

Tonight We Bombed the U.S. Capitol by William Rosenau

Politics and Prose (Connecticut Avenue), January 19

With extensive research, captivating photos, and newly declassified FBI documents, New America scholar Rosenau pieces together an in-depth look at M19, a women-led domestic terrorist cell that operated during the Reagan era. At this event, the author will recount how the leftist militants executed a string of especially brazen operations, including the titular explosion at the Capitol. Free.

Matthew Bourne’s Swan Lake

Kennedy Center, January 21–26

Nearly 25 years after its debut, Bourne’s Swan Lake remains a stunning take on one of the most familiar ballets. The British choreographer’s modern interpretation swaps sparkly ballerinas for a flock of emotionally intense, bare-chested male dancers but retains the work’s heart: a timeless story of a prince and his swan love in breathtaking pas de deux. $29 to $109.

“Dialog: Landscape and Abstraction”

Art Museum of the Americas, January 23–April 26

Photograph of “Poas” painting by Fredya Grand.

Landscapes usually occupy different sections of museums from abstract art—but why? Curators at the Art Museum of the Americas flout that rule with this exhibit, which places its permanent collection’s abstracts alongside the landscapes of DC artist Freya Grand (above, “Poas”). Seeing the deeply textured painting of Brazilian artist Danilo di Prete next to Grand’s magnified topography coaxes audiences into recognizing the technical and emotional similarities between them. Free.

Meetups for Local Motorheads

This month, car enthusiasts have two ways to enjoy vehicles tearing up an indoor track. The Washington Auto Show offers a course that attendees can drive on, while the Monster Jam Triple Threat Series is purely a spectator situation. Here’s how the pedal-to-the-metal events stack up.

Photograph of Land Rover courtesy of Land Rover. Photograph of monster truck by Anadolu Agency/Getty.

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Washington Auto Show’s Jaguar Land Rover Above & Beyond Experience What Monster Jam Triple Threat Series
Washington Convention Center Where Capital One Arena
January 24–February 2 When January 25–26
Attendees can drive a Land Rover over an obstacle-filled course with steep inclines. The Ride Eight drivers perform wheelies, jumps, and doughnuts with ATVs, speedsters, and, of course, gigantic trucks such as Grave Digger and Monster Mutt Rottweiler.
The temporary track is made up of roughly 160 dump trucks’ worth of dirt, poured onto the floor of the venue. The Course The arena floor is converted into a track using 85 dump trucks’ worth of dirt.
Drivers are accompanied by a Land Rover rep, who can take control if need be. Safety There’s no danger to the audience. Drivers should be fine, too, because the monster trucks are basically big roll cages.
High. When Washington Auto Show CEO John O’Donnell recently gave it a try, he says, “the first thing I did was turn and ask [a Land Rover employee], ‘When this thing tips, is it your insurance or mine?’ ” Thrill Level High, for both attendees and drivers. These vehicles average 1500 horsepower, compared with 100 to 150 for a Honda Civic. “You have to be a special kind of crazy to do it,” says Bernard Lyght, driver of a big-wheeler called Alien Invasion, “but there’s absolutely nothing like driving a monster truck.”
$5 to $12 Tickets $20 Website


Roddy Ricch

9:30 Club, January 28

This Compton rapper has been endorsed by the likes of XXL magazine (he made its influential Freshman Class list for 2019), Meek Mill (who has brought him onstage as a guest), and Nipsey Hussle (they recorded “Racks in the Middle” together not long before Hussle’s death). But the biggest endorsement of the 21-year-old’s sparse but evocative storytelling will be seeing a packed venue full of fans wailing out the hook to his viral single, “Die Young.” $25.

The Longing for Less: Living With Minimalism by Kyle Chayka

Politics and Prose at Union Market, January 28

Back in 2016, while many of us were happily Kondo-ing our possessions, cultural critic Chayka was delving into the sociology of austerity chic. In The Longing for Less, he builds on his reporting for the New York Times and the New Republic, exploring how the pursuit of a perfect, clutter-free life can lead to its own kind of exhaustion. Free.

Is Paw Patrol Secretly Set in DC?

Photograph courtesy of Nickelodeon.

Washington parents who spend too much time watching the hit kids’ program Paw Patrol might wonder what the deal is with one of its fictional locations: Foggy Bottom. Surely that distinctive name—identical to that of one of DC’s oldest neighborhoods—can’t be a fluke.

On the show, it’s a slightly ominous, literally foggy place just down the road from sunny Adventure Bay, where the search-and-rescue pups live. Foggy Bottom is home not to the State Department but rather to Paw Patrol rivals the Kitten Catastrophe Crew and the mustache-twisting Mayor Humdinger. Creator Keith Chapman is British, but perhaps he was inspired by a stay at one of Foggy Bottom’s hotels?

So with Paw Patrol Live! headed to EagleBank Arena January 31 through February 2 ($19 to $175), we decided to investigate this obvious link to our area. We reached out to a Paw Patrol spokesperson. She was, it turned out, somewhat puzzled by our inquiry. “It’s just a coincidence,” she insisted. Sure, okay. That’s just what mean Mayor Humdinger would want us to think.

A version of this article appears in the January 2020 issue of Washingtonian.