Things to Do

10 Great Things to Do Around DC This December

Watch the World Cup final, experience a Holiday Boat Parade, and more


1. Holiday Boat Parade | Alexandria and The Wharf

Photograph courtesy of The Wharf.

December 3

If, like us, you love to gawk at extravagantly decorated seasonal houses, why not head to the river for this yearly display of brilliantly lit watercraft? Free.


2. Rare Essence and Trouble Funk | Howard Theatre

Photograph by Mike Kirby.

December 31

If there’s a more exciting way to spend a DC New Year’s Eve than partying at one of Washington’s most historic music venues with a pair of its all-time greatest go-go bands, we certainly aren’t aware of it. $50 and up.


3. NPR’s A Jazz Piano Christmas | Kennedy Center

Hiromi. Photograph by Mari Amita.

December 3

The latest installment of this ivory-tickling tradition features a trio of talented musicians: Bob Thompson, who lives in West Virginia; Hiromi, a native of Japan; and José André Montaño, who was born in Bolivia, moved to DC, and—though he’s been a professional musician for years—is still in high school. $59 and up.


4. “A Collector’s Eye: Freer in Egypt” | Freer Gallery of Art

Photograph courtesy of Freer Gallery of Art, Gift of Charles Lang Freer.

Opening December 17

The industrialist and art collector Charles Lang Freer went to Egypt several times in the early 1900s, acquiring quite a bit of art and jewelry while there. Now the museum that bears his name is displaying that collection, some of it for the first time. Just don’t expect to bask in the presence of Freer’s famed Washington Codex, one of the world’s oldest Bibles; only a digital copy will be viewable here. Free.


5. Emerson String Quartet | The Barns at Wolf Trap

Photograph courtesy of Wolf Trap.

December 9

The illustrious ensemble—formed at Juilliard in the ’70s and widely celebrated ever since—is disbanding next year, and it’s marking the occasion with a farewell tour. On the agenda will be Beethoven’s thorny “Grosse Fuge,” along with other bow-powered delights. $45 and up.


6. The Joy of Christmas | Washington National Cathedral

Photograph by Washington National Cathedral.

December 10–11

If your seasonal tastes run toward the traditional, make your way to the Cathedral Choral Society’s annual concert, where the stained-glass ambience serves as a perfect backdrop to a variety of tasteful Yuletide fare. $25 and up.


7. Deb Perelman | Sixth & I

December 5

Home chefs across the land will soon be unwrapping gift copies of Perelman’s eagerly awaited third cookbook, Smitten Kitchen Keepers, the subject of this in-person appearance. Hot tip: Whatever holiday your family celebrates, we’re pretty sure Perelman’s Ultimate Banana Bread will be a by-the-fire hit. $12.


8. World Cup Final | December 18

Though we obviously can’t predict which teams will be competing, in an international city like ours, the bars are certain to be packed with expats rabidly rooting for whoever makes the cut. The game is set for 10 am, but don’t worry, that probably won’t mute the revelry. We’re guessing there will be no shortage of spots where you can jump up and down and shout yourself hoarse.


9. Lorton: Prison of Terror | Amazon Prime Video

Filmmaker Karim Mowatt. Photograph courtesy of Karim Mowatt.

Written, produced, and directed by local filmmaker Karim Mowatt, this documentary explores the horrifying history of DC’s now-closed prison, which was actually a number of different lockups located in Northern Virginia. Mowatt knows what he’s talking about: He was once an inmate there himself. $6.99 to rent, $14.99 to buy.


10. Bonny Light Horseman and Joan Shelley | Howard Theatre

Photograph by D. James Goodwin.

December 10

Singer-songwriter Anaïs Mitchell—best known as the force behind the hit musical Hades­town—is also a member of the trio Bonny Light Horseman, which finds her and two bandmates spinning entrancingly comfy roots music. Kentucky­bred Joan Shelley opens with her own trove of sophisticated folk tunes. $25 and up.

This article appears in the December 2022 issue of Washingtonian.