Things to Do

10 Great Things to Do in DC This May

Listen to Kali Uchis's dreamy vocals, watch a ballet performance, and visit an environmental-­justice exhibit


1. The Washington Ballet’s The Sleeping Beauty

Photograph of The Sleeping beauty by @xmbphotography.

Kennedy Center | May 4 – May 7

When Julie Kent and Victor Barbee’s take on Tchaikovsky’s ballet debuted in 2019, reviews were rapturous and tickets were scarce. Now comes another chance to see it—just as Kent has headed out the door for a new gig in Houston.



2. “Classical Washington”

Ronald Thompson’s “Bird’s-Eye View of Capitol Dome and the Mall”. Photograph courtesy of George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum.

George Washington University Museum and Textile Museum | May 6 – November 18

Anyone who’s found themselves curious about why, say, the Lincoln Memorial looks so similar to the Parthenon should head to this exhibit, which explores how ancient Greek and Roman styles influenced DC’s architecture.



3. Kali Uchis

Photograph by Cho Gi-Seok.

The Anthem | May 9

Raised in Virginia and Colombia, the musician has made a national name for herself with boundary-pushing R&B. Her recently released album, Red Moon in Venus, brings to mind Sade and other retro-soul favorites—along with plenty of more contemporary sounds.



4. Good Bones

Photograph courtesy of Play Page Heros.

Studio Theatre | May 10 – June 11

James Ijames won the 2022 Pulitzer Prize in drama for his play Fat Ham. Now Studio has commissioned a new work from him, and it is—perhaps not coincidentally—set in a nameless city that resembles DC. Themes of gentrification and social mobility loom large: It’s about a woman who moves back to the much-changed block she grew up on to renovate an old home.



5. La Bohème

Photograph by Scott Suchman /WNO.

Kennedy Center | May 13 – 27

The Washington National Opera tackles Puccini’s endlessly popular tale of tragic young love in Paris. If you’re a fan of Rent, here’s a chance to investigate the crowd-pleasing opera that inspired it.



6. Caroline Polachek and Ethel Cain

Photograph by Aidan Zamiri.

The Anthem | May 19 

The latest collection of slinky synth-pop by singer Caroline Polachek (above)—intriguingly titled Desire, I Want to Turn Into You—is one of the year’s best albums so far. Also on the bill is Ethel Cain, whose darker-hued textures will offer a nice opening-slot contrast.



7. “To Live and Breathe: Women and Environmental Justice in Washington, D.C.”

In the exhibit is a 1935 photo of “Wash. D.C. Alley dwelling” by Harris & Ewing. Photograph courtesy of Library of Congress.

Anacostia Community Museum | Opens May 19 

This exhibit looks at the history of the environmental-­justice movement through the lens of Black women, telling the stories of various change-makers through artifacts and artworks.



8. The Walkmen

Photograph courtesy of Kip Kouri.

9:30 Club | May 23 – May 26 

The Ignobles were a local band of St. Albans kids that evolved into the heavily hyped New York group Jonathan Fire*Eater. They flamed out and morphed into the Walk­men, who made seven impressive albums before finally breaking up a decade ago. Now the latter band is back, and this eagerly anticipated run of hometown shows should attract some of the same people who were at those school-gym Ignobles gigs many years ago.



9. DelFest

Rob McCoury and friends. Photograph of DelFest by Marisa Muldoon/DelFest.

Allegany County FairGrounds | May 25 – 28

Created and hosted by bluegrass greats the Del McCoury Band, this annual gathering—held in Cumberland, Maryland—attracts good vibes and top players, including Trampled by Turtles, Sierra Hull, and Sam Bush. Want the full experience? Bring a tent: Camping is included in the price of a multi-day festival pass.



10. “Robert Houle: Red Is Beautiful”

Photograph of “In Memoriam” by Robert Houle.

National Museum of the American Indian | May 25, 2023 – June 2, 2024

Artist Robert Houle—a member of the Sandy Bay First Nation—uses traditional Indigenous art techniques to make his paintings, installations, and drawings. This first major retrospective of his work features 90 of the pieces he’s created over the past 50 years.

 This article appears in the May 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.