Many annual events were canceled or forced to move online in 2020, but some of the area’s most popular festivals are making a return to the real world over the next month.
Sept. 17-26 National Book Festival
Once again, the National Book Festival will primarily be an at-home event. That’s not a knock against the Library of Congress, which has curated a well-rounded literary festival that includes 35 author talks streaming on demand; 38 live virtual conversations with authors (plus nine Q&A sessions for kids and teenagers); symposia on genealogy and comic books with Library curators; a PBS special hosted by LeVar Burton; NPR-produced podcasts; and author interviews on Washington Post Live. But unlike last year, there will be two in-person events at the library: A Sept. 21 discussion with New York Times crossword puzzle editor Will Shortz and Adrienne Raphel, author of “Thinking Inside the Box: Adventures with Crosswords and the Puzzling People Who Can’t Live Without Them”; and a Sept. 25 evening with Nikki Giovanni, who will read from her new book, “Make Me Rain: Poems & Prose” before a discussion with Librarian of Congress Carla Hayden. Ticket details have yet to be released, so keep an eye on loc.gov.
Sept. 18 H Street Festival
In any other year, the H Street Festival is one of Washington’s biggest gatherings; organizers estimate that 150,000 people are drawn to the block party, which shuts down H Street NE between Third and 14th streets with music, dancing, art installations, children’s activities, beer gardens, fashion shows and vendors. Given the state of covid-19, however, there will be some changes. Anwar Saleem, the executive director of H Street Main Street, which organizes the festival, says there will be fewer vendors, fewer stages and a smaller number of performers this year, to encourage attendees to spread out. Saleem also says the festival is encouraging — but not requiring — everyone to wear masks outdoors. Some businesses on the corridor are taking a cautious approach, scaling back their promotions, limiting capacity or, in the case of taco spot Chupacabra, closing altogether on festival day. There will still be pop-up attractions — Brine is hosting an outdoor oysterfest in the lot that once held Impala’s patio — but the festival might be less busy than you remember. hstreetfestival.org.
Sept. 18-26 WalkingTown DC
No matter how long you’ve lived in D.C. or how well you think you know the city, WalkingTown DC always finds new ways to show off different sides of the town we call home. Curious about Charles Dickens’s visits to Washington, the people buried in Washington’s oldest cemetery or the forested parks and Civil War forts in Ward 8? WalkingTown can show you, in person. The event usually features dozens of guided tours, held on weekends or at lunchtime on weekdays, but this year has been reduced to 31 tours, most capped at 25 to 30 participants for social distancing, says Steven Shulman, the executive director of WalkingTown organizer Cultural Tourism DC. WalkingTown requests that participants are vaccinated, but will not require it since most tours are fully outdoors. Masks, though, will be mandatory, since participants will gather closely around tour guides. Attendees are asked to sign up for no more than three tours, because of space constraints, so choose wisely. Admission to each tour is free, but donations are accepted. culturaltourismdc.org. Free.
Sept. 19-26 D.C. Beer Week
The annual celebration of local bars and breweries went online last year, with virtual beer tastings and trivia nights, and eat-at-home food and beer pairings. This year, “It’s going to be something of a hybrid festival,” says Kimberly Bender, the interim executive director of Beer Week. Some events will stay virtual, including a discussion with beer writer Jamaal Lemon and a panel of beer historians, while others, such as a heavy metal show with Zealot RIP, Asthma Castle and Loud Boyz at DC Brau, are in-person affairs. “You can participate however you feel comfortable,” Bender says. An updated schedule of events will be posted on dcbeerweek.net. Various prices.
Sept. 24-25 Art All Night
Art All Night began in Shaw in 2011, an after-hours festival inspired by Paris’s Nuit Blanche, packed with visual arts, music, dance and theater. This year, 17 neighborhoods are participating over two nights, from Congress Heights and Minnesota Avenue to Glover Park and Tenleytown. It’s a wildly popular event — Shaw Main Streets says attendance in 2019 was “approximately 30,000” — and while each neighborhood adds its own flavor, look for live music, fashion shows, film screenings, pop-up galleries, murals and art installations. More information and links to individual neighborhood schedules can be found on dcartallnight.org.
Oct. 9 Snallygaster
Washington’s biggest and best beer festival has managed to get even bigger after a year off. More than 450 beers will be available to sample, up from 395 in 2019, with offerings coming from more than 200 breweries and curated by Greg Englert of ChurchKey, Bluejacket and the Sovereign. Snallygaster once again fills Pennsylvania Avenue between Third and Sixth Streets NW, but capacity is limited to 50 percent. While that might mean shorter lines and more elbow room, it also increases the chances of Snally selling out much more quickly — VIP passes, which allow for an extra two hours of drinking, have already been snapped up. Tickets include unlimited beer, wine and cocktails, including four-ounce pours from new participants Halfway Crooks and Mortalis, and in-demand breweries such as Blackberry Farm, Foam and Weathered Souls. snallygasterdc.com. $60.