Winterfest at Wunder Garten, Dec. 1-17
What does a beer garden do when the weather turns too cold for sitting in the sun with liters of hefeweizen? It reinvents itself as a winter garden, with fire pits, blankets and hot toddies. Now decorated with seasonal lights, Wunder Garten offers photos with Santa, pop-up markets, DIY craft workshops, food and even a Christmas tree lot, so you can bring some spirit home with you. Open Thursday and Friday at 4 p.m., and Saturday and Sunday at noon. Free.
Now in its 30th year, the European Union Film Showcase is a chance to see dozens of that continent's finest films, including movies that become their country's official selection for the Best Foreign Language Film Oscar. Opening night features “Borg vs. McEnroe,” starring Shia LaBeouf and Sverrir Gudnason. Don't miss the French drama “Custody,” which earned Xavier Legrand the Best Director award at the 2017 Venice Film Festival. Dates and times vary. Individual tickets $15; Admission to all films $200.
The National Museum of American History is getting dressed up with festive decor and a two-day party to kick off the season. The family-friendly festival includes performances from the U.S. Air Force Band Singing Sergeants, cooking demos and screenings of holiday films. Kids can marvel over a Howdy Doody marionette and Mickey Mouse Club ears in the “Children’s Television Holiday Display” exhibit, along with chocolate demonstrations with samples from the candy experts at Mars. 10 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Free.
Holiday Boat Parades, Dec. 2 and 9
The grand opening of the Wharf on the Southwest Waterfront means the D.C. area now has three parades featuring festively decorated boats. Old Town Alexandria's parade, held on Dec. 2, begins with the arrival of Santa Claus on a fireboat at 3 p.m. Games and music fill the dock outside the Torpedo Factory before the parade begins in earnest at 5:30. The District's Holiday Boat Parade at the Wharf takes place the same night, beginning at 7 p.m. Activities on land include a bonfire with s’mores and hot chocolate, Santa photo ops and live holiday music, and finish with fireworks at 8 p.m. The action heads to downtown Annapolis on Dec. 9, when the long-running Eastport Yacht Club Lights Parade fills Annapolis Harbor and Spa Creek with dozens of creatively lit vessels from 6 to 8 p.m. All events are free.
The Winternational is an easy destination for anyone who wants to soak up Washington's international culture. More than three dozen embassies, from Afghanistan to Morocco to Vietnam, gather at the Ronald Reagan Building to show off their art and cuisine. It has the feel of a travel fair, with embassies handing out tourism and promotional material, but the music and dance performances, as well as the food and drink samples, make it an enjoyable way to spend a midweek lunch break. 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Free.
The Suzanne Farrell Ballet gives its final performances in a program titled “Forever Balanchine,” in honor of the acclaimed choreographer. Two programs of his works will be performed, including such gems as “Chaconne” and “Tzigane.” Dec. 7 and 8 at 7:30 p.m., and Dec. 9 at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. $29-$89.
Dana Tai Soon Burgess Dance Company premieres “I Am Vertical,” based on the stormy life and works of poet and novelist Sylvia Plath. This piece is inspired by the exhibition “One Life: Sylvia Plath” at the National Portrait Gallery, where Burgess is resident choreographer. Dec. 7 at 6:30 p.m. and Dec. 10 at 2 and 4 p.m. in the gallery’s Kogod Courtyard. Free.
Zahav Shabbat at Station House, Dec. 8
If you’ve ever tried to book a table at Zahav, Michael Solomonov’s acclaimed modern Israeli restaurant in Philadelphia, you know it can be nearly impossible. But Sixth and I Historic Synagogue, which will host a party for Solomonov and Steven Cook’s new doughnut cookbook later this month, is bringing Zahav to D.C. for one night. Their Zahav Shabbat, curated by Solomonov and Cook, features a three-course dinner — meat or veggie options are available — plus a cocktail and wine for only $30. (Note: The dinner is at Station House in the H Street NE corridor, not at Sixth and I.) $30. 8 p.m.
Georgetown Glow, opens Dec. 8
Georgetown looks even more charming than usual this time of year, with all its red and green decorations. But the District’s oldest neighborhood takes a modern approach to holiday lights: Georgetown Glow is a month-long outdoor light-art exhibition, inviting artists from around the world to illuminate entire blocks with neon installations. Through Jan. 7. 5 to 10 p.m. Free.
Drink the District Wine Festival, Dec. 8-9 and 15-16
The holiday edition of the Drink the District Wine Festival is “Mistletoe and Merlot”-themed, with unlimited samples of more than 100 wines. Sommeliers will roam the Petworth festival answering questions, and a chef will be demonstrating food and drink pairings. While you’re tasting your way through rosés or nibbling on cheese, get some shopping done, too. There will be a Drink the District retail store with bottles for sale and a marketplace featuring gifts made by D.C. crafters and artisans. Various times. $30-$99.
The biggest event on Washington's cocktail calendar is this swinging party celebrating the 84th anniversary of the end of Prohibition. The biggest names in local bartending mix exclusive drinks throughout the venue, while special guests include legendary mixologists and authors Dale DeGroff and Jeffrey Morgenthaler. New York's BlackTail and Houston's Julep run special pop-up bars, and another section of the Auditorium celebrates the 10th anniversary of the D.C. Craft Bartenders Guild. 7:30 p.m. to midnight. $90-$140.
The Gay Men’s Chorus of Washington’s annual holiday concert has everything you could want this time of year, mixing both the irreverent and traditional. Yes, you’ll hear multiple ensembles perform gorgeous choral pieces and a capella doo-wop carols, but with a side of leather-clad reindeer and an over-the-top take on “The Nutcracker.” Whichever music you come for, you’ll leave with a smile on your face. Dates and time vary. $25-$65.
'An American in Paris' at the Kennedy Center, opening Dec. 12
After rave reviews on Broadway, “An American in Paris” makes its D.C. premiere at the Kennedy Center as part of its first national tour. Inspired by the 1951 Gene Kelly film of the same title, the Tony-winning musical tells the story of an American painter who falls for a French shopgirl he meets in Paris right after World War II. It’s an irresistible combination for musical theater lovers, pairing George and Ira Gershwin tunes (“I Got Rhythm” included) with the romance of the City of Light. Through Jan. 7. $59-$175.
Take the stage at Sixth and I backed by the karaoke band HariKaraoke to sing Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah Song — or “Sweet Caroline,” if that’s more your speed. Besides karaoke, there’s a make-your-own latke bar and Hanukkah drinks. 8 p.m. $15-$18.
Breweries around the world make winter ales, but few countries are as renowned as Belgium when it comes to these seasonal beers. For its first winter beer showcase, the Sovereign includes a wide range from flavors, from the blonde and effervescent Dupont Avec Les Bon Vouex to the dark, malty and potent Sint Bernardus Christmas Ale. The menu also features some American takes on Belgian-style ales, including selections from Allagash, Saint Somewhere and Oxbow. In the spirit of the season, bring hats, gloves and handwarmers to donate to the Georgetown Ministry Center and receive a free four-ounce pour of any beer. 5 p.m. Free admission, beers priced individually.
It wouldn’t be the holiday season without “Messiah” — Handel’s oratorio, that is, which is de rigueur this time of year for orchestras. But if you want to participate rather than just listen, there’s the Kennedy Center’s annual singalong, led by conductor Nancia d’Alimonte, with members of the Opera House Orchestra and a 200-person chorus. Be sure to arrive early: Tickets will be distributed in the Hall of Nations beginning at 4:30 p.m., with a limit of two per person. 6 p.m. Free.
Anacostia History Museum Kwanzaa Celebration, Dec. 26-28
The Anacostia History Museum's Kwanzaa program features three days of family-friendly activities, including traditional storytelling, music and arts and crafts. The Melvin Deal African Heritage Drummers and Dancers, a venerable Washington institution, performs a Kwanzaa concert at 11 a.m. on Dec. 27. Locations and times vary. All events are free.
— Fritz Hahn, Adele Chapin, Sarah L. Kaufman, Peggy McGlone and Anne Midgette