The best things to do in the D.C. area the week of Nov. 25-30



ZooLights at the National Zoo: ZooLights returns in person for the first time since 2019, with over 500,000 LED lights that illuminate trees and walkways and form animated animal shapes. Animals will not be on display during ZooLights hours, but there will be musical performances from local groups on most nights (check the zoo’s website for the performance schedule). Entry pass reservations are required this year; they’re released on a rolling basis two weeks, one week, the day before and the day of the event. 5 to 9 p.m., Friday through Sunday between Nov. 25 and Dec. 11, then daily Dec. 16-23 and Dec. 26-30. Free entry; $30 parking pass.

Gingerbread House Contest at Darnall’s Chance: For most of the year, Darnall’s Chance is a living history museum, showing visitors what life was like for people who lived and worked there in the 19th century. In December, however, the Upper Marlboro house museum takes a modern twist. For more than two decades, it has hosted a gingerbread house contest, inviting cooks of all ages to submit whimsical and completely edible creations. Previous winners have crafted castles, cottages and, last year, a large reproduction of the Globe Theatre. Visit Darnall’s Chance to see dozens of entries, cast a vote in the viewer’s choice competition and explore the historic house. Beyond the gingerbread houses, Darnall’s Chance offers a Hansel & Gretel Tea for kids on Dec. 17, with story time, crafts, and desserts paired with tea or hot chocolate. Noon to 5 p.m., Friday to Sunday through Dec. 11. 14800 Governor Oden Bowie Dr., Upper Marlboro, Md. $2 (cash only); children 4 and younger free.

Holiday markets: Still trying to figure out what to pick up for that special someone? This weekend offers multiple opportunities to peruse wares from local makers. District Motherhued’s Shop and Play brings more than 25 Black-owned businesses to Metrobar, plus a Black Santa, warm cocktails and family activities. Port City Brewing features more than 30 Alexandria-based makers as part of the Holiday Makers’ Market in the brewery’s parking lot. Compass Rose has both makers and food vendors indoors and outside as part of its Shop Small Saturday Market. In Takoma Park, Market at the Bank kicks off a series of markets just across the Maryland line, with a different selection of artists, jewelers and creators each weekend.

20th anniversary of Right Round at the Black Cat: For two decades, DJ Lil’e has been hosting a different kind of ’80s night: the kind where Joy Division, the Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Dead or Alive are the bands luring crowds to the dance floor. That’s not to say you won’t be singing along to familiar new wave hits — they’re just more likely to be by the Smiths or New Order than MTV hitmakers. Celebrate 20 years of alternative sounds with Lil’e on the Black Cat’s main stage. 9 p.m. $10-$15.

Barks and Brews Festival at Shipgarten: Shipgarten’s dog-friendly festival returns with three competitions: smallest/biggest dog, best trick and hold-for-treat contests. Bring four-legged friends to the Tysons beer garden to test their skills, let them loose in Shipgarten’s dog park or give them a taste from the dog menu. Kids are also welcome — a live “Encanto” character performance starts at 3:30 p.m., and yard games, face painting and a crafts corner will be open all day. 1 to 6 p.m. Free.

CityCenterDC Holiday Tree Lighting: A 75-foot-tall tree decorated with 150,000 lights is the centerpiece of CityCenterDC’s holiday decorations, and it’s officially lit during a party featuring pop covers by the Revels, face painting, balloon art and snacks from CityCenter restaurants. 6 p.m. Free.

All Black Affair at the Grand Hyatt: Ultrasmooth R&B singer Eric Benet headlines the 18th annual All Black Affair, which is taking over multiple ballrooms at the Grand Hyatt downtown. WHUR’s Autumn Joi hosts, and the soundtrack is a mix of go-go, jazz and hip-hop from the Vybe Band, Secret Society, Blacc Print and Jeff Bradshaw, as well as DJs. An optional open bar is $95 for four hours. As you can probably guess from the name, all-black attire is “mandatory,” per organizers. 7:30 p.m. to 2:30 a.m. $60.

Mary Prankster at the Birchmere: At the end of the last millennium, Mary Prankster was a local hero in the Baltimore scene: a singer-songwriter who performed behind a moniker inspired by Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters, with a punkish streak to her music and a puckish attitude toward lyrics. Mary retired the gimmick in 2005 and went on her merry way, but returned to the stage for a one-off in 2017 and unveiled a new album two years later. Across songs that span rollicking glam rockers to jazzy ballads, “Thickly Settled” picked up where Mary left off, older and wiser but with the same attitude. “I’m the best defense, I’m a real good time,” she sang on mission statement opener “Rock N Roll Degenerate,” “and I ain’t too pressed that I’m past my prime.” 7:30 p.m. $29.50

The Eric Byrd Trio’s ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ at the Hamilton: Over the last two decades, the Eric Byrd Trio has performed on numerous continents as official jazz ambassadors for the U.S. State Department. The trio performs regularly around D.C., too, with regular gigs at clubs and jazz festivals, and it picked up a Washington Area Music Award earlier this year for its latest album, “Twenty.” But at this time of year, the focus shifts to one thing: “A Charlie Brown Christmas.” Over the course of a few weeks, the Eric Byrd Trio will perform Vince Guaraldi’s familiar, transportive jazz interpretations of holiday songs at churches and performing arts centers throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including two gigs Sunday at the Hamilton. 3 and 6:30 p.m. $15-$40.

Festive Families Walk-Through at Merriweather Symphony of Lights: On most nights, families touring the Symphony of Lights at Merriweather Post Pavilion drive along the one-mile course in their cars, listening to holiday music on the radio while gazing at animated light displays. But on three special nights, visitors can explore the lights on foot. Kids in strollers, wagons and backpacks are welcome at the Festive Families event, which is first on the schedule, with children ages 3 and younger entering the park free. The dog-friendly Tail Lights (Dec. 6) and Lit at the Lights, featuring beer and cocktail tastings (Dec. 8), are next up. 5:30 p.m. $12; children 3 and younger free.

The Queen’s Cartoonists’ Holiday Hurrah at George Mason University: This six-piece band is known for its performances of music from cartoons and animations. Now it’s bringing a festive spin to its act at the George Mason University Center for the Arts with a live soundtrack of holiday tunes played in front of a screen. Guests can expect jazz arrangements, scenes from festive films and a holiday-themed game show. 3 to 6 p.m. $19.

‘Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song’ at the Kennedy Center: When Leonard Cohen originally recorded “Hallelujah,” it was for an album that his record label didn’t want to release. Almost four decades later, that elegiac and mysterious song is Cohen’s best-known work, covered by Bob Dylan and Jeff Buckley and featured across the pop culture spectrum from “Shrek” to “Watchmen.” The documentary “Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen, A Journey, A Song,” released earlier this year, explores the song’s long, strange rise to popularity with input from Cohen and other musicians, but also tells the larger story of Cohen’s career and rebirth. It screens in the Justice Forum at the Reach. 3 p.m. Free.

D.C. Cocktail Week: D.C. Cocktail Week is the merry and bright counterpart to D.C. Restaurant Week. Instead of multicourse dinners, more than 50 bars and restaurants offer special cocktail-and-small-bite pairings. At the new surfing-themed Vagabond in Dupont Circle, the Nazaré (tequila, passion fruit and orange liqueurs, habanero agave syrup) arrives alongside roasted red beet hummus and grilled pita ($18). On upper 14th Street, Little Coco’s serves a Negroni with fennel-infused gin coupled with bruschetta topped with eggplant caponata, pine nuts and golden raisins ($17). Andy’s Pizza in NoMa keeps things simple: Pick any signature cocktail and a slice of its New York-style pie for $10. Check the cocktail week website for a list of specials, happy hours and events. Through Dec. 4. Prices vary.

Norwegian Christmas Tree Lighting at Union Station: This holiday display in Union Station’s Main Hall is Norway’s annual present to the people of D.C.: A 32-foot tree that remembers America’s contribution to the country’s liberation in 1945. The musical program at its dedication includes singer Rayshun LaMarr and the East of the River Steelband. 6 to 9 p.m. Free.

‘NPR Music Celebrates 15 Years’ at 9:30 Club: It’s been 15 years since NPR Music launched, and what better way to celebrate than with two nights of performances at 9:30 Club? The music journalists at NPR Music are known for introducing listeners to new artists, and for this shindig, Cimafunk, Leikeli47, Hurray for the Riff Raff, Amber Mark, Yendry and Cory Henry are booked to play the shows, which are being live-streamed through NPR’s YouTube channel. Both Monday and Tuesday will feature a special surprise guest, in addition to a DJ set from Tiny Desk producer Bobby Carter, also known as DJ Cuzzin B. Monday and Tuesday at 7 p.m. $45.

Lighting of the Capitol Christmas Tree: The Capitol Christmas Tree, a 78-foot red spruce that has been dubbed Ruby, arrived in D.C. after a 13-hour tour from North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest this month. The tree, lit this year by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and known as the People’s Tree, will be on display from nightfall until 11 p.m. through New Year’s Day. 5 p.m. Nov. 29 through Jan. 1. Free.

‘Elf’ Movie Parties at Alamo Drafthouse: The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear — or going to one of Alamo Drafthouse’s interactive screenings of “Elf,” where the audience dons elf hats, jingles bells and recites favorite lines with the characters — and joins in a chorus of “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town.” Screenings take place at both the Bryant Street NE and Crystal City locations. 7:30 p.m. $16.

‘Dirty Dancing’ in Concert at Capital One Hall: Belt out the lyrics to “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life” along with a packed house and a live band during this screening of the film “Dirty Dancing” at Capital One Hall in Tysons. While you watch Patrick Swayze and Jennifer Grey on the big screen, musicians will perform the hit songs from the ’80s flick onstage in perfect sync with the movie. The music keeps going with an after-party, so the audience of “Dirty Dancing” super fans can sing and dance along. 7:30 p.m. $50-$80.

Amber Mark at 9:30 Club: On her debut album, “Three Dimensions Deep,” Amber Mark tackled contemporary R&B’s love-and-life themes with an ear for songs that move and groove with the times, from the shuffling, disco-ready “FOMO” to the shifty, Afrobeats-inspired “Bubbles.” But the main attraction is Mark’s deep and rich voice, which keeps things grounded even when she aims for intergalactic heights on space-themed songs like “Cosmic” and “Event Horizon.” At this show, Mark will help NPR Music celebrate its 15th anniversary alongside indie mainstay Hurray for the Riff Raff, up-and-comer Yendry and DJ Cuzzin B. 7 p.m. $45.

GALA Film Fest: Latin American Innovation at GALA Hispanic Theatre: Tickets for this year’s GALA Film Fest are a bargain compared with a usual night at the movies: Each showing is only $10, and more than half the screenings include chats with the films’ directors. Choose among seven flicks from Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico and Panama, or snag a pass for $35 to see them all. Selections include an interwoven series of four tales about soccer in “90 Minutes” from Honduras and a documentary about Costa Rican bureaucracy titled “Moving So Slowly.” All films are shown in Spanish with English subtitles. Through Dec. 4. $10 per screening or $35 for a film fest pass.

Blu DeTiger at 9:30 Club: When she started posting on TikTok, Blu DeTiger already had 15 years of performing experience — and sincerity. It was hard for viewers to look away from her buttery bass covers of Prince and Megan Thee Stallion. Now DeTiger has 1.3 million followers, and nearly 300,000 TikTok videos feature her song “Figure It Out.” Her newest single, “Elevator,” is a tune that combines her indie-pop influences with her club kid roots, and prominently features her distinctive bass skills. The lyrics, she says, are a reminder that she’s in control of her own destiny, and that she knows where she’s headed: In fuzzed out, half-spoken vocals, she sings, “Load me up in a slingshot, send me over the moon / Baby, I can be a big shot, too.” 7 p.m. (doors open). $20.

Profs & Pints: Let’s Talk About Kanye at Metrobar: Joshua K. Wright, the host of NPR’s “Woke History” podcast and author of “‘Wake Up, Mr. West’: Kanye West and the Double Consciousness of Black Celebrity,” presents a scholarly look at the recent downfall of Ye, the artist previously known as Kanye West. This event at Metrobar takes a deep dive into the political and social conditions that created the divisive rapper and cultural icon. 6 to 8:30 p.m. $12-$15.

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