"Sweat" at Arena Stage, Jan. 15-Feb. 21
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Lynn Nottage and director Kate Whoriskey interviewed politicians, drug addicts, police officers, artists and dozens of other residents of Reading, Pa., a city once ranked among the poorest in the nation. Those interviews led to "Sweat," a drama co-commissioned by the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and Arena Stage, which follows a group of friends as they grapple with rumors of layoffs at the steel mill where they work. 1101 Sixth St. SW. $40-$90.
Travel back to the days of Donkey Kong, Pac-Man and Asteroids when the Smithsonian and American University's Game Lab fill the American Art Museum's Kogod Courtyard with vintage arcade machines, in addition to some new independent games. Future video game designers can check out game-building workshops, while sci-fi fans new and old will appreciate the chance to play two movie tie-ins from the the early 1980s: "Tron" and "Star Wars." The best part? You don't even need quarters. 800 G St. NW. 1 to 7 p.m. Free.
Washington's newest giant panda cub, Bei Bei, arrived in August, but his adoring public has only been able to watch him eat, sleep and play with his mom, Mei Xiang, on the Panda Cam. That changes this month, when the National Zoo officially opens the panda house to the general public on Jan. 16. Expect lines, crowds and a sleepy panda cub. But above all, expect to say "aaaaaaw." 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW. Panda House is open 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. daily. Free.
'Mercy Street' premieres on PBS, Jan. 17
"Mercy Street," a fact-based PBS drama set in an Alexandria hospital during the Civil War, makes its television debut Jan. 17. And although the six-episode series wasn't filmed in Old Town, you can best see what inspired the show at the Carlyle House. The historic mansion's exhibition "Who These Wounded Are: The Extraordinary Stories of the Mansion House Hospital," which opens Jan. 19, shares the story of the wealthy Green family and their hotel-turned-hospital. For a deeper dive, D.C. Military Tours offers the Mercy in Alexandria walking tour, which delves into the Civil War history that inspired the show. Carlyle House, 121 N. Fairfax St., Alexandria. $3-$5. D.C. Military Tours, 703-407-6663. Tours start at Alexandria Visitors Center, 221 King St., Alexandria. $12-$15, age 12 and younger free.
The Sovereign opens, mid-to-late January
Think of the Sovereign as the ChurchKey of Belgian beer bars. Beer expert Greg Engert is stocking the new Georgetown destination from Neighborhood Restaurant Group with 50 draft lines and 300 bottles. Peter Smith, formerly the chef at PS7's, is handling the "playful" menu, which will include a variety of mussels. The two-level building, formerly home to Champions and Blue Gin, has received an extensive makeover. 1206 Wisconsin Ave. NW.
Alessia Cara at 9:30 Club, Jan. 24
A few years ago, Canadian teenager Alessia Cara started uploading acoustic covers of songs by Adele, Amy Winehouse and Justin Timberlake to YouTube. Her soulful, stripped-down renditions led to a deal with Def Jam, which released her breakout single, "Here," last spring. Since then, the antisocial anthem (built on a sample of Isaac Hayes' "Ike's Rap II") has been racking up Spotify and YouTube streams. Considering that Cara is a self-proclaimed introvert and "Here" is about how she'd rather not be at a party, it'll interesting to see the 19-year-old take the songs from her debut album "Know-It-All" out of her room and onto the 9:30 Club stage. One thing's for sure: You won't find Cara at the after-party. 815 V St. NW. 6 p.m. Sold out.
Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week, Jan. 25-31
Love it or hate it, Metropolitan Washington Restaurant Week is coming. Held twice a year, the area-wide event features specials at 250 participating restaurants. This time around, restaurants will offer three-course lunches for $22 and three-course dinners for $35. Tables can be tough to come by, so if you're serious about trying a particular place, consider making a reservation in advance. At various area restaurants.
No matter which performance you attend, it's probably worth shelling out to see Alexei Ratmansky's new staging of "The Sleeping Beauty," which a New York Times dance critic described as the finest reconstruction he had ever seen of a dance work. On Friday evening and the Sunday matinee, however, there's an extra reason: Misty Copeland, the superstar who last year became the first black female principal dancer in American Ballet Theatre history, graces the Opera House stage as Princess Florine. 2700 F St NW. $49-$299.
Drafthouse Comedy Theater opens, Jan. 29
The owners of Arlington Cinema 'n' Drafthouse are expanding to Washington with Drafthouse Comedy this month. Unlike in Arlington, the D.C. Drafthouse won't feature movies or drink minimums. Instead, the 150-seat black box theater will be home to established and up-and-coming comedians, local comics and improv troupes. (You'll also see multiple comedians headline the club on the same weekend, even on the same night.) The new venue opens on Jan. 29 and 30 with two shows from veteran deadpan comedian Todd Barry. 1100 13th St. NW. Todd Barry show at 7 p.m. $30.
Pineapple and Pearls opens, January TBD
Will lighting strike twice for Aaron Silverman, chef and owner of the perpetually hot Rose's Luxury? We'll start to get an idea this month, when he debuts cafe service at Pineapple and Pearls, his next-door follow-up. Daytime offerings will include coffee and lighter fare, but dinner service -- reservations accepted! -- is still a bit down the road in March. 715 Eighth St. SE.