Things to Do

54 Best Things to Do in the DC Area This Week: Theatre Week, Panda Palooza at the Zoo, and the Cathedral’s Window Unveiling

Plus, Celebrate Petworth.

Photograph courtesy of Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

Happy Monday, everyone!

There’s a ton of fun things to do around town this week and weekend. The entire family can attend Panda Palooza, or Celebrate Petworth. Also, there’s new installations to view at the Washington National Cathedral and the Smithsonian.


Best Things to Do This Week and Weekend

September 18-September 24

  1. Theatre Week. The multi-week commemoration of local theater returns with tiered ticket prices of $20, $40, or $60 to see an array of musicals and plays across the region’s entertainment venues. Some of the Theatre Week options include the new DC-inspired comedy Monumental Travesties, spontaneous works by Washington Improv, the children’s production The Very Hungry Caterpillar Show, and lots more (Thurs through October 8, $20+, various participating locations).
  2. Panda Palooza: A Giant Farewell. Say goodbye to our favorite Giant Panda family as Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and Xiao Qi Ji prepare for their December trip to China. The National Zoo is throwing a farewell party on-site and online over a span of nine days offering fun activities such as bear talks, family yoga, concerts, a conservation-themed scavenger hunt, and movie screenings (Sat through October 1, free, but passes required, virtual, Smithsonian’s National Zoo).
  3. The Cathedral’s “Now and Forever” windows. Washington National Cathedral will unveil new stained glass windows designed by artist Kerry James Marshall. The reimagined “Now and Forever” installation replaces former windows that honored Confederate Generals Robert E. Lee and Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson. The dedication ceremony will be accompanied by a reading of Elizabeth Alexander’s poem “American Song;” after the event there’s an open house party with live music, and food trucks (Sat, free, Northwest DC). (You can learn more about the windows here.)
  4. Walking Town DC. Get moving during Walking Town DC’s week of guided walking tours, excursions, and historical adventures around the city. There’s an offering for everyone, including a bike tour of of Kingman Island, a tour inspired by novelist Charles Dickens, and a centennial celebration tour of Burleith neighborhood (through Sun, free, various participating locations).
  5. Celebrate Petworth. More than 50 artisans and exhibitors are a part of this weekend’s Celebrate Petworth jamboree. The family-fun day showcases local music by Flex Mathews Trio and DJ Unown, a dog show competition, and all-day programming for children in the Kids’ Zone hosted by drag queen Tara Hoot (Sat, free, Petworth).
  6. Mid-Autumn Night Market. Tiger Fork and Hi Lawn are teaming up to host a Mid-Autumn Night Market on the roof of Union Market. Guests will be transported into the streets of Hong Kong during the two-day celebration of traditional dancing and food. Bakeries and eateries Love, Makoto; China Chilcano; Purple Patch; and Yume Asian Fusion will serve bites at food stalls, while attendees groove to beats from various live DJs (Wed-Thurs, free entry, Union Market).
  7. Democracy Day at the Smithsonian. In celebration of Art in Embassies turning 60 years old there’s a traveling exhibition stopping in DC. “A More Perfect Union: American Artists and the Currents of Our Time” draws a connection between art and democracy in the U.S. through a display of visual works. The opening of the exhibition at the Smithsonian National Museum of American History kicks off with a Democracy Day program featuring artist talks, and exhibition tours (Tues through October 1, free, Smithsonian National Museum of American History). (In conjunction with the exhibit, a light show on the National Mall that started this past Sunday evening will run through the 21st.)

Want More Things to Do?

Fiesta DC. Photograph by Evy Mages .

Arts and culture: Author Alicia Kennedy and chef Rob Rubba discuss the future of plant-based eating at Bold Fork Books (Mon, $10+, Northwest DC). View the contemporary works of nearly 50 living Native artists at the National Gallery of Art’s new exhibit “The Land Carries Our Ancestors(Fri through January 15, free, National Gallery of Art). Awaken your inner creative at Yoga in the Galleries (Mon, Sat, $10+, Arlington). After a temporary closure, the Smithsonian American Art Museum’s modern and contemporary galleries reopen with a new installation (opens Fri, free, Smithsonian American Art Museum). Watch songful movie Pitch Perfect at Alethia Tanner Park (Wed, free, NoMa). Meet some of the cast of the hit TV show The Sopranos at Capital Turnaround (Sat, $55+, Southeast DC). Comedian Leslie Jones is in conversation with journalist Tiffany Cross at Sixth & I (Wed, $40 for book and ticket, $12+ for virtual, Northwest DC). View paintings by pioneering abstract artist Alma Thomas (through June 2, 2024, free, Smithsonian American Art Museum). Journalists and politicians face off in a spelling bee competition (Wed, $30, Penn Quarter). Take a swing dance class, and watch a movie screening of Soul (Fri, free, Columbia). There’s jazz and cumbia performances, art vendors, and food at the Hyattsville Arts Festival (Sat, free, Hyattsville).

Community and heritage: Observe the new collaborative exhibition America’s Voices Against Apartheid to learn about the U.S. anti-apartheid movement dating back to the 1880s (through November 5, free, Kennedy Center). Interactive outdoor history exhibit “Beyond Granite: Pulling Together” will close soon (Mon, free, National Mall). Celebrate Latino culture at Fiesta DC festival and parade (Sat-Sun, free, Downtown). The Congressional Black Caucus weekend is back with a prayer breakfast, town hall, and party at Walter E. Washington Convention Center (Wed-Sun, $150+, Downtown).

Theater and shows: ExPats Theatre presents new stage play Scorched at Atlas Performing Arts Center (Sat through October 15, $45, H Street Corridor). It’s your last chance to see Bohemians and aristocrats party in Moulin Rouge! The Musical (closes Sun, $45+, Kennedy Center). The DC Shorts International Film Festival returns to town for its 20th year with more than 12 films to binge (Wed-Sun, $15, various participating locations). The Arlington Players take on a revival show of popular musical Into the Woods (Fri through October 8, $30, Arlington). Comedian Ben Schwartz brings laughter to The Anthem (Thurs, $49+, Wharf). Nova Night Sky Theater performs Romeo and Juliet (Thurs, September 28, $25, Fairfax, Arlington). Listen to live storytelling at DC’s StorySLAM at Miracle Theatre (Tues, $15, Capitol Hill). Local performance artist Brian Feldman wants you to read a monologue while washing dirty dishes at his home in his new show Dishwasher 2: I Pay You (through October 2, $17, Cleveland Park).

Music and concerts: National Symphony Orchestra Music Director Gianandrea Noseda opens a new season at the Kennedy Center with a concert and gala (Sat, $65+, Kennedy Center). Art rock singer Peter Gabriel makes a tour stop in DC (Wed, $65+, Capital One Arena). Alternative rock band The Breeders play at The Filmore Silver Spring (Thurs, $39, Silver Spring). Rap legends Wu-Tang Clan and Nas are live in concert (Tues, $22+, Capital One Arena). Jonas Brothers will perform songs from their five albums all in one night (Sat, $72+, Capital One Arena). Singer-songwriter Frankie Cosmos sings tunes at 9:30 Club (Fri, $22, U Street Corridor). Rapper Macklemore is sold out at The Anthem, but there are resale tickets available on third-party sites (Tues, $40+, Wharf). Songwriter Julie Byrne sings folk melodies at Songbyrd (Tues, $18+, Northeast DC). Music stars Rick Ross, Monica, Black Alley and Kenny Burns are performing together at The Anthem (Fri, $79+, Wharf). Janelle Monáe sings songs from her latest album Age of Pleasure (Sun-Mon, $95+, Wharf). Five-time Grammy-nominated performer Michael Feinstein celebrates the music of Judy Garland at Music Center at Strathmore (Thurs, $28+, Bethesda).

Sports: Watch baseball with your furry friends at Pups in the Park (Sat, $35 for adults, $10 for dogs, Nationals Park).

Bites and beverages: Learn how to make handmade empanadas at Galería La Cosecha (Thurs, $59, Union Market). Don’t miss Wunderfest at Port City Brewing. The event includes a yodeling competition, a sausage toss, and live music (Sat, free, Alexandria). German fare, beer, and yard games are the highlights of Zinnia Oktoberfest (Sat, $45, Silver Spring). Weiner dog races and stein-hoisting competitions are a part of the fun at Lovettsville Oktoberfest (Fri-Sat, free, Lovettsville). Oktoberfest at The Boro features polka dancing, food trucks, and pumpkin beer (Sat, free, Tysons). Dine All Night is the newest culinary arts companion to next week’s Art All Night (Thurs through October 1, prices vary, various participating restaurants).

Things to do with kids: Kids can make playful art while adults enjoy frozen coffee treats from Rossana at MoCA on the Move at Met Park (Sun, free, Arlington). All ages can enjoy story time, museum tours, and dance workshops at Fotos y Recuerdos Festival (Sat, free, Smithsonian National Portrait Gallery). Youngsters can play with water toys and sift grain at Peirce Mill (Sat, free, Rock Creek Park). Kids can take an adventure through Maryland’s largest corn maze, drive a pedal kart, and race rubber ducks at Magnolia Meadow Farms (Sat through October 29, $15+, free for children under 2, Thurmont).

Plan ahead: Snag a timed-entry pass to Live! at the Library: Danzón Class with Corazón Folklórico, and join a conversation with journalists Bill Moyers and Judy Woodruff (September 28, free, but passes required, Library of Congress). Nationals and Commanders fans can celebrate together at Capital Crossover: Diamonds and Gridiron—a two-game series on both home fields featuring sport activations, music, and more (Thurs, October 5,  $13+, Nationals Park, FedEX Field).

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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.