Things to Do

35 Best Things to Do in the DC Area This Weekend: NSO Labor Day Concert, DC Festival of Magic, and DC Black Food and Wine Festival

Plus, Pops in the Park.

The National Symphony Orchestra's violins and cellos at a performance in January 2015. Photograph by Scott Suchman .

Happy holiday weekend, everyone!

Spend your extended weekend watching brain-flipping magic tricks, or take your family to the National Symphony Orchestra’s outdoor Labor Day concert.


Best Things to Do This Weekend

August 31-September 4

  1. NSO Labor Day concert. Experience a family-friendly evening on the U.S. Capitol West Lawn for the National Symphony Orchestra’s Labor Day concert. Conductor Enrico Lopez-Yañez will lead the talented musicians in scores of classical and modern melodies from composers Duke Ellington, Johannes Brahms, Florence Price, and others. This year’s special guest is Grammy–winning guitarist Sharon Isbin (Sun, free, US Capitol).
  2. DC Festival of Magic. For adults who enjoy magic, mind-bending tricks, and live entertainment, you may want to head to the Capital Hilton for the third edition of DC’s Festival of Magic. The weekend shows boast a lineup of five performances: Kayla Drescher will lead her Magic in Heels show, “professor of magic” Larry Hass plans to bring mystery to his showcase, and there’s a family show for kids to attend by Joe Holiday (Fri-Sun, all access pass $99, individual shows $10+, Northwest DC).
  3. DC Black Food & Wine Festival. Cuisine, culture, and live music are the highlights of the picnic-style DC Black Food & Wine Festival at Gateway DC. Participants are encouraged to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit back, relax, and indulge in culinary bites from more than 20 Black-owned vendors, taste Black-owned wines, and snap Instagram-worthy photos in a 360 photo booth while socializing with new and old friends (Sat, $65+, Congress Heights).
  4. “Ink” play. Olney Theatre Center and Round House Theatre team up for a new production of the stage play Ink. The drama by playwright James Graham is inspired by the true story of London’s The Sun newspaper coming under the leadership of Rupert Murdoch in 1969. This Saturday’s performance features a Journalism Night where theatergoers can attend a pre-show panel discussion with local journalists Peter Marks, Jummy Olabanji, David Smith, and others (through September 24, $39*+, but pay-what-you-can tickets are available, Bethesda).
  5. Pops in the Park. Summer isn’t quite over yet; Anne Arundel County is celebrating the season with a family-friendly outdoor music festival. The Annapolis Symphony Orchestra will host two nights of pop tunes, patriotic songs, Broadway hits, and food at Downs Park and Quiet Waters Park during Pops in the Park (Sat-Sun, free, Annapolis).

Want More Things to Do?

Unconventional Diner is participating in Restaurant Week. Photograph courtesy of the restaurant. Photograph by Jeff Vincent/Flickr.

Arts and culture: English-language learners can explore U.S. art, history, and culture at a community conversation about portraiture (Fri, free, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery). Classic cars will be on display for public viewing at the “Cars at the Capital” exhibition (Fri through September 11, free, National Mall). It’s the last chance to view “Frank Stewart’s Nexus” vintage photography collection at The Phillips Collection (closes Sun, $20, Dupont). The final Sunset Cinema movie pick for the summer is Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Thurs, free, Wharf). Hear live poetry readings from emerging and established poets at People’s Book (Sat, free, Takoma Park).

Community talks and lectures: Listen in on a conversation with Dr. Ron Gamble about the experiences of African American STEM professionals (Fri, free, virtual). In recognition of International Overdose Awareness Day attend a neighborhood gathering and concert (Thurs, free, Southeast DC).

Theater and shows: If Grease is one of your favorite movies, you’ll love Alamo Drafthouse Cinema’s sing-along screening (Sun, $16+, Arlington, Northeast DC). “Dish! The Storytelling Dinner Show” features area storytellers at Crazy Aunt Helen’s (Thurs, $15, Capitol Hill). Laugh and debate at the Unpopular Opinions comedy show (Thurs, $20+, Northwest DC).

Music and concerts: Indian playback singer Sonu Nigam has a concert at Eagle Bank Arena (Fri, $69, Fairfax). Local indie soul band Oh He Dead plays at 9:30 Club (Sat, $50, U Street Corridor). DC Jazz Fest continues with outdoor concerts, and musician workshops (through Sun, free+, various locations). Post-punk legend Sting returns to Wolf Trap (Fri-Sat, $52+, Vienna). DC multi-instrumentalist Dono has a show at The Pocket (Sat, $15+, Truxton Circle). Festival Boliviano arrives at Eagle Bank Arena (Sun, $34+, Fairfax). Get Amped in the Park with local tribute band Better Off Dead (Thurs, free, Columbia). Diplo brings an electric music show to Echostage (Sat, $59+, Langdon). Dance with fellow partiers at Gimme Gimme Disco (Fri, $35, U Street Corridor). Go-go groups Rare Essence and Northeast Groovers keep the beat going at Howard Theatre (Sun, $55, Howard Theatre).

Labor Day weekend: Have a daycation at Hotel Zena’s rooftoop pool (Thurs-Mon, $50 day pass, Northwest DC). Explore the “Put it This Way” exhibition to observe works by 49 women and non-binary artists from the Hirshhorn’s permanent collection before it closes (through Mon, free, Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden). Go to the pool with your family and friends for a community swim (closes Mon, free, Shaw).

Bites and beverages: Be sure to to catch a dining deal before Summer Restaurant Week wraps up this weekend (through Sun, $25+, various participating locations). Have a meal on the patio with your pup at Dovetail Bar & Restaurant (every Sun, free entry, Logan Circle), and then stick around for a movie screening of The Big Lebowski and popcorn (Sun, $12, Logan Circle).

Things to do with kids: Young children are introduced to history, and touchable museum objects at Wonderplace (Fri, free, Smithsonian American History Museum). Beginner artists can practice with crafts from the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden Art Cart (Sat, free, Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden). Take your kids to the zoo for nature play activities and story time (Thurs, free, Smithsonian’s National Zoo).

Get involved: Attend a music festival for a good cause at the third annual Mykle Lyons Commemorative Concert and Jazz Festival; donations will benefit Friends of Music at George Mason (Sat, free, but donations welcome, Reston).

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.

An earlier version of this post listed ticket prices as starting at $75 , but there are cheaper tickets available. We regret the error.

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.