Things to Do

11 Holiday Concerts and Shows to See in the DC Area

The Nutcracker, Samara Joy, and a holiday Go-Go Symphony are on the winter lineup.

Step Afrika Holiday Step Show. Photograph by Jati Lindsay.

Happy holidays, DC!

‘Tis the season to be jolly at an area ballet, carol concert, or circus. These winter performances and music showcases are great options to add to your holiday plans:

1. The Nutcracker

Through December 30

location_on Warner Theatre

language Website

The classic Russian ballet is reimagined with enchanting choreography from the Washington Ballet. Be on the lookout for playful nods to DC: the setting is in Georgetown, there’s a Rat King villain, and the heroic Nutcracker is George Washington ($49+).


2. An Irish Carol

Through December 31

location_on Keegan Theatre

language Website

Keegan Theatre’s rendition of Charles Dickens’ holiday play includes an Irish twist. Audiences will follow wealthy business owner David—instead of Ebenezer Scrooge—from his modern-day Dublin pub to a road of self-discovery as he’s visited by voices of the past, present, and future. The show is intended for audiences 16 and older ($60).


3. Magical Musical Holiday Step Show

December 8-17

location_on Arena Stage

language Website

Step Afrika’s energetic holiday show returns to Arena Stage for crowd-enthusing flips, stomps, and dances. The annual show tags itself as the world’s first holiday show to incorporate the African American tradition of stepping. Get ready to sing and move along with DJ Nutcracker and DC’s favorite step ensemble as they commemorate the holidays ($76+).


4. Handel’s Messiah

December 8-10

location_on Washington National Cathedral

language Website

The Washington National Cathedral Choir and Baroque Orchestra will perform Handel’s musical Christmas tradition Messiah against the backdrop of the church’s holiday-themed lights and decorations. If you’re looking for an abbreviated version of the three-hour concert, you can attend the family-edition show. Viewers can watch virtually from home, too ($25+).


5. Hot 99.5’s Jingle Ball

December 11

location_on Capital One Arena

language Website

Hot 99.5 radio is throwing its annual holiday bash at Capital One Arena this month. The Jingle Ball concert is a mash-up of star-studded performances by some of the country’s top pop artists, country singers, and rappers including OneRepublic, Jelly Roll, Doechii, Flo Rida, Melanie Martinez, David Kushner, and more ($40+).


6. GMCW Holiday Show

December 9-10

location_on Lincoln Theatre

language Website

Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington jazzes up the stage with a colorful holiday show this weekend. After a season of pop and country music covers including Whitney Houston and Dolly Parton, the playful chorus is closing out 2023 with a holiday extravaganza that is sure to get you out of your seat ($20+).


7. Cirque Musica Holiday Wonderland

December 14

location_on Capital One Hall

language Website

The entire family will enjoy the thrills and acrobats of Cirque Musica at their seasonal live show in Tysons. The sensory experience infuses holiday classics and symphonic music with the magic of a world-renowned circus that all ages will find delightful ($39+).


8. The Spirit of Kwanzaa

December 15-16

location_on Howard University

language Website

The Spirit of Kwanzaa is the Dance Institute of Washington’s longest-running showcase. The local cultural arts and dance ensemble takes center stage at Howard University’s Cramton Auditorium to celebrate the joyous African American holiday through dance, spoken word, and song ($30).


9. The Hip-Hop Nutcracker

December 19-22

location_on The Music Center at Strathmore

language Website

Tchaikovsky’s timeless score is remixed in modern-day New York City where the storytellers are contemporary dancers, a DJ, a violinist, and hip-hop legend Kurtis Blow. The high-energy show is back by popular demand at the Strathmore ($28+).


10. GoGo Symphony’s Twas the Night

December 22

location_on Union Stage

language Website

Twas the Night is a rocking jazz and go-go show featuring tunes and beats by the Go-Go Symphony and guest drummer “JuJu” Julius House. Guests can groove to Christmas carols and jazz melodies accompanied by DC-area live vocalists and dancers ($25+).


11. Samara Joy

December 23

location_on The Music Center at Strathmore

language Website

Two-time Grammy-winning jazz singer Samara Joy wraps up her month-long holiday tour at Strathmore in promotion of her new album, A Joyful Holiday. Fans of the 23-year-old vocalist can expect to hear tunes from her latest project, and classic carols performed by special guests, including musicians from her own family ($38+).

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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.