The Washington Post

Highlights from this week’s chat: ‘Nutcrackers’ and post-Christmas tree bars

The trains and exotic landscapes in the U.S. Botanic Garden’s holiday exhibition will delight children of all ages. (Courtesy U.S. Botanic Garden)

Thankfully, our guests this week are experts on seasonal events: Kathy Orton and Amy Orndorff, who edit the Weekend section’s annual list of Holiday Happenings. They know how to make December merry and bright — from “Messiah” singalongs to Scuba Santa to cutting your own Christmas tree.

Below are some highlights from our chat; you can also read the whole thing here. And don’t miss next Thursday’s chat, when we’ll welcome mixologist Dan Searing — the owner of Room 11 and author of “The Punch Bowl” — to talk seasonal cocktails, cool bars and holiday entertaining tips.

Q: Hi guys! My girlfriends and I (mid-20s) would like to go see “The Nutcracker.” Which show do you suggest? Anywhere in D.C. or Nova would work, and we’re looking to spend up to $60/person. The first place I thought of was the Kennedy Center, but I’m not sure we can get good seats for that price. Also, we’d probably like to have drinks and/or dinner before or after the show. Thanks!

Amy Orndorff: The Washington Ballet’s “Nutcracker” at the Warner sounds like a good match. Did we mention the Nationals’ Racing Presidents will be making an appearance at the Dec. 14 show?

Kathy Orton: Another option to consider is Momentum Dance Theatre’s hip-hop “Nutcracker,” which features Duke Ellington’s music. Tickets are very reasonable, $18 to $22.

Q. I’m trying to plan a date to see the White House Christmas trees and then grab a drink after at a romantic bar — maybe with a fireplace. I’m envisioning something like Tabard Inn or something cozy, but closer to our destination. Do you have a recommendation near the White House or up toward Logan Circle that might work?

Fritz Hahn: I tend to think that Off the Record, the ornate-but-secluded bar in the basement of the Hay-Adams Hotel on Lafayette Square, is romantic, just because it feels so out of the way. I also love the private areas in the bar at Quill, at the Jefferson Hotel. It’s on 16th at M, just a short walk from the White House’s front door.

Neither of those has the coziness of the Tabard’s hearth-warmed living room, but honestly, that’s *so* hard to replicate in D.C. One of the reasons to cherish the place.

Q. I’ve lived here for years and have always heard that the Willard does some sort of Christmas event everyday, maybe caroling and hot chocolate? I’ve never been able to go, but now I work in the area. Can you point me in the right direction as to find information about this? Thanks!

Fritz Hahn: I was just talking with a friend about this last night — she has never been to the Round Robin Bar, but I think I sold her on Christmas at the Willard.

Beginning tonight through Dec. 23, the hotel has free performances by local caroling groups from 5:30 to 7:30. My tactic is generally to go to the Round Robin Bar and order a hot toddy or something suitably warming, carry it out to the festively decorated lobby and sip while listening to the singing. One of my favorite holiday traditions, to be sure.

Q. Does anyone/anyplace around the D.C. area have an extensive model railroad set up for the holidays?

Amy Orndorff:You have tons of options! We put together a pretty long list . . . and I hear Kathy has some more ideas.

Kathy Orton: Fritz and I are partial to the one at the U.S. Botanic Garden. But there are many other options, including Brookside Gardens, B&O Railroad Museum and Fairfax Station Railroad Museum. And if you’re interested in planes and trains, College Park Aviation Museum is the place to go.

Q. Hi,Gurus. My sister and I usually get together for a holiday cocktail this time of year. We like to go places that are classic D.C. and decorated for the season. Last year we went to the Willard and it was very fun. This year we are going to do some shopping in Georgetown. Where should we go for our cocktail around that area? Didn’t you used to have a list of classic D.C. bars or something like that? Thanks so much!

Fritz Hahn: Right on Wisconsin Avenue, Martin’s Tavern covers itself with lights and velvet bows. It’s very much a classic D.C. bar — oldest or second-oldest liquor license in town, if I recall correctly — and some friends and I have a holiday tradition of going there for warm drinks.

Fritz Hahn has covered bars, drinks and nightlife for the Washington Post Weekend Section since 2003, but he also writes about everything from Civil War battlefields to sailing classes. You can find him on Twitter and Instagram.


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