One of the most common complaints transplants have when they move to D.C. is that the city — capital of the nation though it may be — lacks a distinct sense of culture. Those of us who have been in the District for a while, however, know the truth: this is the city that gave the world Go-go music, Marvin Gaye, Dave Chapelle, some of the most iconic 80s punk bands, and even Howard Stern. Anyone who says there’s no culture here just doesn’t know where to look.
To that end, fall in D.C. happens to be a great time to catch some of the city’s many arts, culture, and food festivals. Ranging from mainstream to the indie, from massive to intimate, there’s a little something for everyone in the next few weeks. Below is a quick rundown of our top picks.
DC Shorts Film Festival
Atlas Performing Arts Center 1333 H Street NE
Show tickets are $15 at the door for a 90 minute marathon, party tickets are $20 (21+)
Over 153 films from 23 different nations will be screened at this year’s festival. The ten day program focuses on Russian filmmakers and boasts the largest collection of short films by Russian artists in the U.S. The parties that accompany the festival feature food and drinks, and give you a chance to mingle with your favorite directors.
H St Festival
H St SE
This has quickly become one of D.C.’s most popular street fairs and for good reason. Overflowing with crafts, performance art, live music, drinks, and tons of great food, this is an awesome way to spend a Saturday. My most memorable trip through this festival involved a friend losing an arm wrestling contest to a roller derby girl for a dollar. It’s something I’ve never let him forget, and just one example of the kind of memories you’re sure to make at this festival.
National Book Festival
Not just for kids, this annual festival transforms the National Mall into a book lover’s paradise. Now in its thirteenth year, the Library of Congress sponsored event features booths upon booths of authors, illustrators and poets spanning all genres. Highlights include a pavilion honoring the literary traditions of all fifty states and appearances by authors Margaret Atwood, Don DeLillo and Mark Helprin among many others. There is also plenty of swag so make sure to bring your NPR tote bags.
DC State Fair
Running since 2010, the fair’s goal is to promote and celebrate local (yes LOCAL) talent in gardening, photography, cooking, baking, and all the other things D.C. residents are secretly great at. So if you want to see just how big your neighbors can grow their tomatoes or think you make the best cherry pie in the DMV, go take a look. This is part of the larger Barracks Row Fall Festival, so even if this isn’t your jam (pun very much intended), you might still find something up your alley.
Art of both the tactile and performance variety will be on display at this festival on the Southeast Waterfront. While the kids enjoy attractions like a moon bounce, face painting, and cupcake decorating, Mom and Dad can listen to live jazz and participate in the Virginia wine tasting. Walking tours of the surrounding neighborhoods will be given throughout the festival as well, making this a great opportunity to explore a new part of the city.
Crafty Bastards Arts and Crafts Festival
Union Market parking lot
$5 in advance
Not to play favorites, but this is probably the festival we’re most excited about. Sponsored by Washington City Paper and yours truly, the Corcoran, Crafty Bastards celebrates the independent crafters of the Nation’s Capital. With over 140 vendors selling everything from baby clothes to pottery to jewelry, there will be something for everyone during the two day event (we’ll be beelining for the reconstructed vintage clothes). Plus, you have the great opportunity to come check out our booth to pick up some materials about the College and our Continuing Education courses, watch art-making demonstrations, and just say hello! If that’s not enough of a reason (which it should be), maybe we should mention that we will be raffling off a $250 Etsy gift certificate to booth visitors who provide some very general info, like name and email. Bring your Christmas list and get a head start on holiday shopping.