Turn off your cellphone, turn up the Duke Ellington and revel in the ritual before yet another December flies by in a blur of tinsel and colored lights. Plan a date night, a family outing or an excursion with out-of-town friends to make gingerbread houses, sip holiday cocktails and see one of the nation’s loveliest trees. Here are four festive itineraries, some happening as early as Saturday, to carry you all the way through to the new year.
COZY UP WITH YOUR SUGARPLUM
Get crafty while satiating your sweet tooth and then settle in for some holiday jazz.
Take a gingerbread-decorating class for adults at the Fairmont
At the Fairmont hotel, gingerbread is serious business. Head pastry chef Rebecca Kinsella, who has baked at the White House, leads a gingerbread-decorating class for adults Dec. 11. Participants get a pre-constructed gingerbread train to adorn with a sugary smorgasbord that beats the pants off standard gumdrops. Expect French macarons for wheels and miniature passengers made of marzipan.
While you work, sip cocktails, nibble on hors d’oeuvres and gaze out on the Crystal Garden with its lighted trees and reindeer. Kinsella will help make your gingerbread train a first-class creation. And don’t worry about getting your masterpiece home; the Fairmont will deliver it to D.C. residents the next day.
Dec. 11 at 6:30 p.m. The Fairmont, 2401 M St. NW. 202-457-5019. $85, reservations required.
See Duke Ellington’s ‘Nutcracker Suite’ at Blues Alley
For 18 years, the Eric Felten Jazz Orchestra’s annual Christmas show has had audiences tapping their toes to swinging holiday classics. The highlight is a full-length rendition of Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite,” which Ellington arranged with jazz composer Billy Strayhorn and recorded in 1960. This is an opportunity to see a 16-piece big band in the small listening room draped with garlands and lights.
Dec. 11 at 8 and 10 p.m. Blues Alley, 1073 Wisconsin Ave. NW. 202-337-4141. www.bluesalley.com. $25. Note: The 8 p.m. show is sold out, but a limited number of tickets will be sold at the door.
WAKE UP AND SMELL THE SPRUCE
Gather your visitors and see the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree before admiring wintry foliage and gorging on Italian comfort food.
Visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree
Let’s face it, last year’s misshapen National Christmas Tree replacement (after the first one fell in high winds) left something to be desired. Instead of heading to the Ellipse, opt for the 70-foot-tall Engelmann spruce gracing the West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol. The tree, which hails from Colorado’s White River National Forest, has just concluded an epic, Olympic-torch-style road trip. More than 7,000 ornaments handmade by Colorado schoolchildren trim the tree.