The Roots' Ahmir "Questlove" Thompson DJs a kickoff Soul Train Dance Party for the 2011 Smithsonian Folklife Festival on Thursday. (Matt Rourke/AP)


Cornel West theory

Inspired by the work of renowned African American studies scholar Cornel West, the music of local band the Cornel West theory uses spoken word, electronics, go-go, jazz, rock and hip-hop elements to create a unique sound.


Manufactured Landscapes

Outdoor film screenings rule the roost this summer, but for a slightly cooler experience head to the U.S. Botanic Garden’s screening of “Manufactured Landscapes,” a film following the work of artist Edward Burtynsky, who was known for his large-scale photographs of quarries, recycling yards and other “debris.”


Machu Picchu Centennial

One hundred years ago this year, a group of Quechua natives led American historian Hiram Bingham on a hike to an extraordinary mid-15th century Inca city now revered as one of the most complex and sophisticated ruins in the world. Learn about the genius behind the design of Machu Picchu and the history of the Inca empire from experts in anthropology and archaeology in this evening conference.


Soul Train Dance Party

This year, the Smithsonian Folklife Festival spotlights the tradition and culture of rhythm and blues in the United States. Lucky for you, that translates to a Soul Train kickoff dance party on the National Mall featuring Roots drummer and noted producer Questlove as DJ.


Fringe Festival Preview

Brush shoulders with the press at a preview of more than 30 shows in this year’s Capital Fringe Festival. In addition to seeing these shows a full week before the alternative arts and theater bonanza officially opens, you can quench your thirst with cool beers or Prosecco on tap (food and drinks are available for purchase only).


Salute to Independence

One of the most popular Fourth of July events in the area, the Maryland Symphony Orchestra plays a concert in honor of Independence Day on the grounds where the Battle of Antietam took place.


A Capitol Fourth rehearsal

You could go to the National Mall on the Fourth of July along with thousands of others to see Steve Martin, Josh Groban, Jordin Sparks and Glee’s Matthew Morrison at the annual A Capitol Fourth concert at the U.S. Capitol. Or, you could avoid the massive crowds and head to the rehearsal with almost all of the same performers a day earlier. (Note: there are no fireworks the day of the rehearsal.)