Things to Do

Best Things to Do in the DC Area 12/15-12/18: Winter Lantern Festival, Museum of Illusions, and Cirque Dreams Holidaze

Plus, a holiday dog party.

DMV Winter Lantern Festival. Photograph courtesy of Winter Lantern Festival.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

Add to your December photo collection at DC’s newest hands-on museum, or snap a few festive photos at the latest winter festival.


Best Things to Do This Weekend

  1. Winter Lantern Festival. Immerse yourself in a spectacular holiday light adventure featuring more than 10,000 LED Chinese-inspired artisan lanterns at the DMV Winter Lantern Festival. The show of lights includes illuminated swings, tunnels, see-saws, ice lantern displays, and Chinese myths (opening Fri, $30 for adults, $18 for ages 3-12, Tysons).
  2. Museum of IllusionsPrepare to be amazed by optical illusions and Instagram-worthy playrooms at the new Museum of Illusions. The interactive museum showcases more than 50 exhibits, some of which nod to Washington culture with references to the Metro and wandering George Washington eyes (daily, $24 for adults, $19 for ages 5 to 12, free for children 4-years-old and younger, CityCenterDC).
  3. Cirque Dreams Holidaze. The annual holiday show Cirque Dreams Holidaze is back for one weekend only. Experience a dazzling combination of a Broadway-style musical with modern circus artistry that all ages can enjoy (Thurs-Sun, $32+, MGM National Harbor).
  4. Yalda Market DC. In recognition of the Persian winter solstice, Brookland Arts Walk is hosting its first-ever Yalda Market in collaboration with Norooz Market. Shop small from local artists and craft-makers while listening to a live performance by Kamyar Arsani. There will be an origami folding station and open-mic poetry, too (Sat, free, Brookland).
  5. Barkin’ Holiday Bash. Here’s a holiday event that you can bring your pets to: Barkin’ Holiday Bash. Dress your furry besties in festive outfits and pose with them at the Ballston Quarter photo booth. Tunes will be spinning live, plus there will be treats from Bartaco and doggie swag bags from Heart + Paw (Sat, free, Arlington).
Museum of Illusions. Photograph by Ben Droz Photography.

Want More Things to Do?

Budget-friendly. If you win this spoken word contest at Busboys and Poets, you could also win a trip to Cuba (Sat, $5+, Anacostia).

Arts and culture. Visit a holiday market at the Four Seasons and meet DC authors Brandt Ricca and Matt Miller of Bernice Books and the Wonder of Pearl (Sat-Sun, free, Georgetown). Check out the exhibit “Homestead Elegy(Thurs-Sun, free, Alexandria). Watch a screening of a documentary about solar energy at climbing gym Brooklyn Boulders (Thurs, $20, Northeast DC). Dance with professionals at Rhizome DC (Fri, $10+, Northwest DC). Comedy, karaoke, and trivia will be all in one showcase (Sat, $15+, Arlington).

Theater and shows. The new play Jane Anger depicts a 1606 Shakespeare adventure (through Jan. 8, $49+, Northwest DC). Chuckle with friends at a live comedy show (Fri, $10, Northeast DC). Or, participate in a bit of dark humor (Fri, $17, Northwest DC). There’s a good reason to laugh at Astro Beer Hall’s live show (Sat, $20, Northwest DC). The stage play An Irish Carol returns to the Keegan Theatre (opening Thurs, $50, Northwest DC). Story District is sharing heartwarming true stories based on the classic movie, It’s a Wonderful Life (Sat, $25, Southwest DC). Enjoy Tchaikovsky’s The Nutcracker with the Fairfax Ballet (Sat-Sun, $49+, Fairfax).

History and heritage. Join a discussion with author Ammar Ali Jan about politics in Pakistan (Thurs, free, Northwest DC). Browse Black-owned vendors at the Umoja Holiday Market (Sun, free, Anacostia). Experience The Spirit of Kwanzaa, a choreographed celebration with the Dance Institute of Washington (Fri-Sat, $30, Howard University). Learn about the origins of cinnamon (Thurs, $30, virtual). Watch the 1939 The Wizard of Oz at a museum (Sat, free, National Museum of American History).

Music and concerts. Groove to Oddisee & Good Compny at the 9:30 Club (Sun, $30, Northwest DC). Or, rock out to the Horse Jumper of Love band in concert (Fri, $26, Silver Spring). Get ready to dance all night long to Prince and Beyonce (Fri, $15, Northwest DC). Get tickets to see local indie group Cecil and Delilah (Sat, $10, Northwest DC). You don’t want to miss A Candle Light Christmas concert with the Washington Chorus (Fri-Sun, $19+, Kennedy Center, Bethesda). Tap your feet to live jazz in the living room of Good Neighbor’s holiday shop (Thurs, $35, Northeast DC). See a wintry theatrical dance performance at Frost (Sat, $30+, Eastern Market). Local favorite DJ Analyze is teaming up with ChurchKey and MistaForty for the Hip Hop & Craft Beer Bottle Share (Sat, free, Northwest DC). The Accord Symphony Orchestra is performing The Polar Express (Sat, $10, Northeast DC).

Holiday festivities. Santa is throwing a disco with reindeer games, crafts, and more fun (Sat, free, Tysons). Decorate your own ornament with glitz and holiday glam (Thurs, $15, Northeast DC). Stop by the Eckington Place Holidaze market for jewelry, art, and food (Sat, free, Northeast DC). Sip and shop at the Red Bear Brewing Hoppy Holidays Market (Sun, free, Northeast DC). Have breakfast with Santa at the Salamander Washington DC hotel (Sat-Sun, $95, Southwest DC). Bring the entire family to Franklin Park for iceless skating and trackless train rides (Sat, free, Downtown). Gear up for your next holiday party by learning how to make some festive cocktails (Thurs, $50, Northwest DC). All are welcome to attend the Winter Family Festival for food, games, and live princess character performances (Sat, free, McLean).

Get involved. Party at the 11th Annual Scooby Doo Mansion Céilí Ball to help raise funds for DC organizations Harriet’s Wildest Dreams and the Sexual Minority Youth Assistance League (Sat, $20, Northwest DC).

If you enjoyed these events, please don’t forget to share this post with a friend on social media, and sign up for our newsletter for more things to do.

Briana A. Thomas is a local journalist, historian, and tour guide who specializes in the research of D.C. history and culture. She is the author of the Black history book, Black Broadway in Washington, D.C., a story that was first published in Washingtonian in 2016.