Dance, Theater, and Music

Kennedy Center

"Alighting the red-carpeted stairs, passing the bust of John F. Kennedy, is theater before the show even begins."—Karen Sommer Shalett, editor-in-chief, DC magazine. The National Symphony Orchestra, the Washington National Opera, and the Washington Ballet perform here; international visitors include Pavarotti, Baryshnikov, and the Bolshoi Ballet. Millennium Stage holds avant-garde productions, often ethnically thematic, and always free of charge; rooftop terrace offers stunning Potomac views and pre- or post-show dining. 2700 F St., NW; tel. 800 444 1324 or tel. +1 202 467 4600. www.kennedy-center.org

Strathmore

This venue offers classical entertainment—including the National Philharmonic, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra—in a suburban Maryland mansion setting; some warm-weather outdoor performances. 5301 Tuckerman Lane, Bethesda, MD; tel. +1 301 581 5200. www.strathmore.org

Wolf Trap

"Virginia's version of Tanglewood, where the music seems to rise up over the sloping, green hills."—Andrea Sachs, travel staff writer, Washington Post. In suburban Virginia; has its own opera company and hosts the National Symphony Orchestra. Warm-weather outdoor venue schedules pop and jazz performers; lawn seating from $10. Bring your own picnic, or purchase one on-site. 1645 Trap Rd., Vienna, VA; tel. +1 703 255 1900. www.wolftrap.org

Warner Theatre

"It's got that old D.C. feel, acts such as Etta James bring you back to a different time; all the seats are good."—Gabriel Einsohn, Smithsonian's Hirshhorn Museum. Stages traditional favorites, including the usually annual Washington Ballet's Nutcracker. Visiting Broadway musicals, big-name musical acts including Eartha Kitt and comedians such as George Lopez and Steven Wright. 513 13th St., NW; tel. +1 202 783 4000. http://warnertheatredc.com/

National Theatre

The venerable theater stages large national traveling productions, including Rent, Avenue Q, and Spamalot, in tastefully decorated interior. 1321 Pennsylvania Ave., NW; tel. +1 202 628 6161. www.nationaltheatre.org

Arena Stage

For great regional American productions, this home-grown theater with two stages, one of them a theater-in-the-round, is located in a vibrant, developing neighborhood in southwest D.C. "Worth seeking out."—Frommer's. 1101 Sixth Street, SW; tel. +1 202 488 3300. www.arena-stage.org

Studio Theatre

Here's the place for drama with a contemporary edge, such as Dan Studney's Reefer Madness: The Musical, an outlandish musical comedy. The setting is in Washington's once-downtrodden-now-hot neighborhood on 14th Street, near Logan Circle. 1501 14th St., NW; tel. +1 202 332 1187. www.studiotheatre.org

The Folger Shakespeare Library's Elizabethan Theatre on Capitol Hill

Experience Shakespeare, Molière, and contemporary artists in its period-inspired, wood-bedecked playhouse. Museum houses the world's largest collection of Shakespeare materials—including books, manuscripts, art, and artifacts. "The Elizabethan Garden features...herbs referenced in [Shakespeare's] works and sculptures inspired by eight of his greatest plays."—Andrea Sachs. 201 East Capitol St., SE; tel. +1 202 544 4600. www.folger.edu

Shakespeare Theatre Company

Housing the United States' Shakespeare company in a clean-lined, simple interior; a good mix of traditional and non-traditional directions of the master's plays; summer Shakespeare in the Park annually early June. "Check out their art collections, poetry readings, and films."—Robert Rouse, D.C. Chamber of Commerce. 450 7th St., NW; tel. +1 202 547 1122. www.shakespearetheatre.org

Nightlife

Black Cat

"The place to get so close to the lead singer you get sweated on."—Kate Rosenblatt, reporter, DC Modern Luxury magazine. One of Washington's premier independent and alternative music venues. Big names appear upstairs, up-and-coming local groups in the back room; no cover for front bar, $5 and up for bands on both stages; open to 2 a.m. weekdays, 3 a.m weekends. 1811 14th St., NW; tel. +1 202 667 7960. www.blackcatdc.com

Birchmere

"A live music hall with sit-down tables, waiter service, and a strict 'no talking' policy."—Larry Porges, editor, National Geographic's Washington, D.C. A highly eclectic Washington venue; located in nearby Alexandria, Virginia. Bluegrass and country (Mary Chapin Carpenter got her start here) and national acts with a mellower touch including Linda Ronstadt, Dave Matthews, and Lyle Lovett; ticket prices vary. 3701 Mt. Vernon Ave., Alexandria, VA; tel. +1 703 549 7500. www.birchmere.com

Bohemian Caverns

"Maintains U Street history and adds a new generation of D.C. urban music; open mike nights on Wednesdays combines jazz and a hip-hop flavor."—Colleen Clark, co-author, Night Day D.C. Second only to Harlem in the '20s, D.C. is still a big blues and jazz town. The club dates from an original incarnation as Club Caverns in 1926; John Coltrane and Miles Davis played here regularly, Thelonius Monk and Wynton Marsalis more recently. Interior mimics a cavern. Cover fee. 2001 11th St.; tel. +1 202 299 0800. www.bohemiancaverns.com

Blues Alley

Forty-plus-year-old supper club in Georgetown; intimate venue with superb acoustics; attracts legends (the late Dizzy Gillespie) and features big-name local acts. Open seven days till 12:30 a.m. $10 minimum; cover fee. 1073 Wisconsin Ave., NW; tel. +1 202 337 4141. www.bluesalley.com

Madams Organ

A down-scale bar that blares bluegrass on Wednesdays, sports atmospherically dirty floors, and offers redheads half-price Rolling Rocks. 2461 18th St., NW; tel. +1 202 667 5370. www.madamsorgan.com

18th Street Lounge

Quiet, couch-filled venue; dress code (no sneakers) "World famous DJs; founded by Thievery Corporation member; the roof deck is a hidden treasure."—Colleen Clark. Known for good music including international mixes (it has its own recording label, ESL Music), imported beverages, and relaxed, upscale lounge feel. 1212 18th St NW; tel. +1 202 466 3922.

9:30 Club

"A good example of the baby bear of concerts—not too big that you need binoculars, not too small that you can't get tickets. It's just right."—Kate Rosenblatt. Intimate venue booking big local acts such as Washington Social Club, popular international acts such as Travis and independent favorites such as Bob Mould. 815 V St., NW; tel. +1 202 265 0930. www.930.com

Festivals

Duke Ellington Jazz Festival

Celebrates the music legend born and raised on the District's streets. Late summer; big-name national acts and local up-and-comers featured at venues around the city. Fee for some events. Tel. +1 202 232 3611. www.dejazzfest.org

Cherry Blossom Festival

Honors the gift of 3,000 cherry trees from Japan in 1912. First two weeks of April; features fireworks, music and dance events and a ten-mile race. "Culminates with parade and huge street party down Pennsylvania Avenue."—Eve Zibart, author, The Unofficial Guide to Washington, D.C. Tip: The circular tidal basin around the Jefferson Memorial is the best spot for taking in the trees. www.nationalcherryblossomfestival.org

Smithsonian Kite Festival

Annual festival held at the base of the Washington Monument in late March; national and international competitors take home prizes for craftsmanship and technique; offers a special children's competition; free to the public. Tel. +1 202 357 3030. www.kitefestival.org

Smithsonian Folklife Festival

Features song, dance, crafting, and cooking demonstrations of various highlighted international and domestic cultures annually; two weeks overlapping 4th of July holiday; National Mall location; free. Tel. +1 202 633 6440. www.folklife.si.edu/center/festival.html

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