Things to Do

October Culture Guide: 55 Things to Do in the DC Area

Snallygaster, Boo at the Zoo, and Jada Pinkett Smith's book tour are happening in October.

"Marola" by Beatriz Milhazes in The Sky's the Limit exhibit at National Museum of Women in the Arts. Photograph by Ben Westoby.

Happy Thursday, everyone!

There will be lots to do around town in October—from Snallygaster and Adams Morgan PorchFest, to the launch of the Shakespeare Everywhere Festival. Here’s a look ahead at some of the best events to attend.


Best Things to Do This Month

October 1-31

  1. National Museum of Women in the Arts reopening. The National Museum of Women in the Arts will reopen its doors to the public to continue the mission of championing women through the arts. The grand reveal is slated to have music by Les the DJ, a processional with Batalá Washington’s percussion band, flash tattoos, art-making, a photo booth, poetry, tastings, and an exploration of the new exhibit “The Sky’s the Limit” (opens October 21, free opening day registration, Downtown).
  2. Snallygaster. It’s been 11 years of Snallygaster and the big beer craze is not dwindling; VIP tickets for the event are already sold out. October’s craft brew festival returns with at least 350 beers on draft, food trucks, and two stages of live bands (October 14, $65+, Downtown).
  3. Jessie Ware in concert. Jessie Ware’s DC concerts are sold out, but you still have an opportunity to witness her pop vocals in-person. A number of ticket resale sites have seats available at both her 9:30 Club and Lincoln Theatre performances (October 16-17, $45+, U Street Corridor).
  4. Shakespeare Everywhere Festival. In recognition of William Shakespeare and his timeless productions, the Shakespeare Everywhere Festival will host 12 shows over the span of 12 weeks. The celebrations will begin in October and run through the fall with special events like The Bard & The Beat, a lecture series on Shakespeare at the Library of Congress, and a panel discussion with Shakespeare expert Michael Witmore (October 7 through December 31, prices vary, various participating locations).
  5. Adams Morgan PorchFest. Fall PorchFest will be a neighborhood-wide music showcase in Adams Morgan. The treasured local lineup—bumping a mix of rock, funk, go-go, classic, pop, and jazz tunes—boasts about 100 bands across 20 porches, business patios, parks, and for the first time, two main stages (October 14, free, Adams Morgan).
  6. Boo at the Zoo. Take a family-fun adventure through the Jack-O-Lantern-decorated National Zoo in your favorite spooky outfit. All ages can participate in trick-or-treating, after-hours animal spectating, dancing, and more seasonal cheer at Boo at the Zoo (October 20-22, $35, National Zoo).
  7. Jada Pinkett Smith book tour. Actress and talk show host Jada Pinkett Smith shares her new memoir Worthy with local fans and book-lovers in October at Howard Theatre. The intimate title reflects on the Hollywood star’s Baltimore childhood and road to fame (October 19, $20+, Howard Theatre).
  8. LoveLoud DC. In 2017, Imagine Dragons singer Dan Reynolds started LoveLoud festival to support LGBTQ+ communities. This year Reynolds is taking his festival on tour for the first time, and the kickoff location is DC. The concert features a diverse bill of artists such as “On My Mama” singer Victoria Monét, violinist Lindsey Stirling, indie-pop producer Cavetown, and others (October 17, $50+, Wharf).
  9. Nightmare at the Museum. Get ready to monster mash in your best Halloween costume on the National Gallery of Art dance floor during Nightmare at the Museum. This after-hours party includes a movie screening of Ghostbusters on the 4th Street Plaza, and scary art stories and face painting inside the East Building (October 12, free, but registration opens October 2, National Gallery of Art).
  10. Because They’re Funny Comedy Festival. Panels, podcasts, comedy classes, live music, and a ton of laughs are on the schedule for the inaugural Because They’re Funny Comedy Festival. The comic showcase highlighting BIPOC performers brings star-studded local actors and personalities like Yvonne Orgi and Tommy Davidson to the Wharf for three days of hilarious improv, workshops, stand-up shows, and more (October 6-8, prices vary, Wharf).

Want More Things to Do?

A crowd gathers at one of the locations at last year’s PorchFest. Photograph courtesy of Adams Morgan BID.

Art and culture: Shop jewelry from national designers at Smithsonian Craft2Wear (October 5-8, $20, Penn Quarter). Author Tan Twan Eng discusses his book The House of Doors at East City Bookshop (October 18, free, virtual, Capitol Hill). Washington Post columnist Taylor Lorenz chats about her book Extremely Online at Politics and Prose (October 7, free, Northwest DC). Former member of Congress Adam Kinzinger examines the January 6 Capitol riots in his new book Renegade (October 20, free, Northwest DC). Enjoy crafts and live performances at Smithsonian’s Día de los Muertos Family Day (October 28, free, Smithsonian American Art Museum). The solo works of Seoul-based artist Park Chan-kyong display at a major US museum for the first time (opens October 7, free, Smithsonian National Museum of Asian Art). “African Modernism in America, 1947-67” features artworks from 50 African and African American artists (opens October 7, $20, Dupont). Discover the historic process of photogravure in the new exhibit “Etched by Light(opens October 15, free, National Gallery of Art).

Theater: Movie favorite Mrs. Doubtfire comes to the Broadway stage (October 10-15, $51+, National Theatre). See a modern take on Shakespeare’s Lady Macbeth character in Macbeth In Stride (October 10-29, tickets are not on sale yet, Northwest DC). The GALA Hispanic Theatre presents Picasso (October 14, 15, 21, $12, Columbia Heights). The Mountaintop is a reflection on the life of civil rights activist Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. (October 11 through November 5, $39+, pay-what-you-can tickets available, Bethesda). New comedy POTUS heads to Arena Stage from Broadway (October 13 through November 12, $56+, Southwest DC). Pulitzer Prize-winning play Fat Ham makes its DC premiere at Studio Theatre (October 25 through December 4, $45+, Logan Circle). Ragtime the musical takes the stage at Signature Theatre (October 24 through January 7, 2024, $40+, Arlington).

Shows and performance: Attend JFK: The Last Speech with Phylicia Rashad and the National Symphony Orchestra (October 26, 28, $15+, Kennedy Center). Laugh with comedian Chelsea Handler (October 5, $55+, Warner Theatre). Artist Laurie Anderson performs at Hirshhorn Plaza (October 6, free, Smithsonian Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden). Claudio Simonetti’s Goblin performs a live score to a screening of Dario Argento’s Demons (October 2, $35+, Howard Theatre). Randy Rainbow brings his satirical campaign to DC (October 20, $45+, Warner Theatre). New Opera Grounded plays at Kennedy Center (October 28 through November 13, $45+, Kennedy Center). The Washington Ballet performs the world premier of Such Sweet Thunder (October 26-29, $47+, Warner Theatre).

Music: Have a Night at the Symphony with R&B legend Maxwell (October 11-14, $59+, Kennedy Center). Daniel Caesar’s DC concert is sold out, but there are a few resale tickets remaining (October 16-17, $99+, Wharf). Composer and trumpet player Charles Tolliver presents Africa/Brass (October 21, $39+, Kennedy Center). Don’t miss this massive hip-hop bash (October 28, free, but advanced registration encouraged, Nationals Park). Kim Petras sings glossy hits at The Anthem (October 12, $59+, Wharf). Ms. Lauryn Hill celebrates 25 years of her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (October 21, $265+, Capital One Arena). Anoushka Shankar and her quintet of musicians have a live concert at the Music Center at Strathmore (October 6, $28+, Bethesda). Rock the Park DC WKNDR returns to Franklin Park (October 21, free, Downtown). Pop star Kesha has a concert at The Anthem (October 29, $55+, Wharf).

Oktoberfest: Bring your furry friends to Puptoberfest at Prost (October 2, free, Northwest DC). Compete in a three-legged race and water pong at Shipgarten’s Beer Olympics Festival (October 14, free, McLean). Dress in your best lederhosen for Alexandria Oktoberfest (October 21, free, Alexandria). A block party with pumpkin painting and music is what you’ll experience at Vienna Oktoberfest (October 7, free, Vienna). Sip drinks at the beer garden, and dance to German music at Gaithersburg Oktoberfest (October 8, free, Gaithersburg).

Halloween: Field of Screams is Maryland’s top Halloween attraction (through October 31, $44+, Olney). Black Cat throws an Artloween Bash (October 27, $10+, Shaw). Go on a Halloween scavenger hunt through Mansion on O & O Street Museum (October 27, $50, Northwest DC). All ages can go trick-or-treating at Mount Vernon (October 28, $25, Mount Vernon).

Things to do with kids: Adventure through the Bowles Farms corn maze (Sat and Sun October 1-29, $15, free for children 3 and younger, Clements). Kids can explore the Enchanted Forest Pine Tree Maze and the Fairy Forest at Clark’s Elioak Farm (through November 5, $8+, Ellicott City). There are hayrides and apple cider at Miller Farms (Sat and Sun through October 29, $15+, Clinton). Youngsters can give pumpkin-themed bowling a try at Montpelier Farms (Weekday play days Tues-Thurs through October 31, $14+, free for children 2 and younger, Upper Marlboro). Kiddos can play in bounce houses and take train rides during Fall Fest at Reston Farm Garden Market (Sat and Sun through October 29, $20 for children, $5 for accompanying adult, Reston).

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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.