Things to Do

10 Great Things to Do in DC This April

Check out a river festival, vibe to R&B artist Ella Mai, and laugh along with Alexandra Petri


1. RiverRun

RiverRun Illustration by Edwin Fontánez from On This Beautiful Island.

Kennedy Center | March 22 – April 22

This celebration of all things river-related offers a steady flow of programming—art exhibits, musical performances, and buckets of other waterway-themed events. You can watch NASA footage accompanied by live orchestral music, for example, or check out an immersive experience featuring work by illustrator Edwin Fontánez (above).



2. Bikini Kill

Photograph by Tammy Rae Carland.

The Fillmore Silver Spring | April 4 and 6

This world-changing punk band lived in DC for only about a year back in the early ’90s, but their riot grrrl blast remains entwined with the city that nurtured it. The group reunited in 2019, only to see plans for more extensive touring sink amid the pandemic. Here, finally, they roar back into town.



3. Ella Mai

Photograph courtesy of Live Nation.

Echostage | April 8 

The British singer’s most recent album, Heart on My Sleeve, is a lovestruck R&B project that invites listeners to her inner world of devotion, infatuation, and heartache. Expect her to switch up the vibe of this lively dance club with a heart-healing chill-out session.


Book cover Courtesy of W.W. Norton.

4. US History: Important American Documents (I Made Up) by Alexandra Petri

Politics and Prose | April 10

The latest from the hilariously sharp Washington Post columnist offers some wild alternate history: Mark Twain turns into a zombie, John and Abigail Adams engage in sexting, and—for reasons you’ll have to read the book to grasp—Sesame Street Muppets carry out the D-Day invasion.



5. Shahzad Ismaily, Vijay Iyer, and Arooj Aftab

Photograph by Ebru Yildiz.

Strathmore | April 14

This intriguing trio makes up a collaborative project called Love in Exile, whose first album is due soon. Multi-instrumentalist Ismaily, pianist Iyer, and vocalist Aftab (pictured, left to right)—all majorly accomplished on their own—build a sound that’s spacious and haunting.



6. Danish String Quartet

Photograph by © Exit Studio/Courtesy of Kennedy Center.

Kennedy Center | April 21 

A charismatic troupe of bow-toting blonds, this acclaimed ensemble will offer two works by Schubert along with a new quartet commissioned by Washington Performing Arts. The latter piece was written by Icelandic star Anna Thorvaldsdottir, whose music is elusive and immersive.


Book cover courtesy of Penguin Random House.

7. Games and Rituals by Katherine Heiny

Politics and Prose | April 22 

Bethesda writer Heiny follows the novel Early Morning Riser with a collection of short stories that tap her signature com­bination of heart and humor. Sample setup: Suffering from a hangover and “laundry crisis,” a character shows up to work in a bridesmaid dress that “looks like something an American Girl doll might wear to a movie premiere.”



8. Passing Strange

Photograph by Stephen Strange.

Signature Theatre | April 25–June 18 

It’s been 15 years since this popular musical opened on Broadway, and its exploration of art and Black identity still resonates—as do the songs, which veer from blues to punk to gospel and other genres. The whole thing springs from the fascinating brain of the eclectic musician Stew.


Portrait of Queen Lili‘uokalani” by David Franzen.

9. “1898: U.S. Imperial Visions and Revisions”

National Portrait Gallery | April 28, 2023–February 25, 2024

This collection of historic portraits marks the 125th anniversary of the Spanish-American-Cuban-Philippine War. The art depicts monarchs, military leaders, and political activists from the countries involved (the painting here is of Hawaii’s Queen Lili‘uokalani), and the exhibit is meant to juxtapose American expansion with the viewpoints of those who were affected by it overseas.


Photograph by Capital Classic Staff.

10. 50th Anniversary Capital Classic

Entertainment & Sports Arena | April 29

For the last half century, the annual event has pitted a team of the area’s best high-school basketball players against a squad of national all-stars (including the likes of Magic Johnson, Michael Jordan, and LeBron James back before they were superstars). This year’s contest will also serve as a tribute to the Cap­ital Classic’s founder, Robert Geogha, who died last year.


This article appears in the April 2023 issue of Washingtonian.

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.