Best Music

1. "A Leahy Family Christmas": The vivacious Canadian family performs, featuring Celtic folk and fiddle music and step-dancing, talents inherited from their Cape Breton ancestors and passed down to the present generation.

Where: George Mason University Center for the Arts, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Info: $25 to $50; 888-945-2468;

2. Cathedral Choral Society: J. Reilly Lewis conducts the 200-voice symphonic choir in "The Joy of Christmas" opening with the traditional Advent wreath procession, followed by Christmas music, sing-along carols and a new carol by British composer Ben Parry; joined by the Washington Symphonic Brass and guest choir, the Langley High School Madrigals.

Where: Washington National Cathedral, 3101 Wisconsin Ave. NW

When: noon (family matinee) and 4 p.m.. Saturday, 4 p.m. Sunday

Info: 202-537-2228;

3. The Washington Chorus: Recent Grammy Award nominee Julian Wachner conducts the 200 singers in Christmas classics, sing-alongs and the candlelight processional with brass, organ, percussion and harp.

Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall, 2700 F St. NW

When: 2 p.m. Saturday, 1 and 4 p.m. Dec. 22

Info: $18 to $70; 202-467-4600, 800-444-1324;

4. NSO Pops: Randall Craig Fleischer conducts the orchestra in holiday classics and family favorites.

Where: Kennedy Center Concert Hall

When: 7 p.m. Thursday and Sunday, 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Info: $20 to $85; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324;

5. Mark O'Connor: "An Appalachian Christmas," part of the Violin in America series, is presented by the virtuoso fiddler recalling the Christmas carols and American holiday music of his childhood.

Where: Music Center at Strathmore, 5301 Tuckerman Lane, North Bethesda

When: 8 p.m. Thursday; pre-concert lecture at 6:30 p.m.

Info: $25 to $55; 301-581-5100;

Best Brainfood

1. Tudor Choir: The Seattle-based group, renowned interpreters of Renaissance polyphony and early American music, offers a holiday program of vocal chamber music.

Where: Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Info: Free; 202-467-4600;

2. Candlelight Tours of Oatlands Mansion: Oatlands is a stately mansion on beautiful rolling farmland, a repository of more than 200 years of American history and culture and on the National Historic Register.

Where: Oatlands, 20850 Oatlands Plantation Lane, Leesburg

When: 5 and 7 p.m. Sunday and Dec. 21, 22, 23 and 26

Info: $8 to $12; 703-777-3174;

3. The Kirov Academy of Ballet of Washington presents "The Sleeping Beauty": Experience the beauty of Russian ballet performed by students of the internationally revered Kirov Academy of Ballet.

Where: Lincoln Theatre, 1215 U St. NW

When: 7 p.m. Thursday through Saturday

Info: $20 to $40;

4. Furia Flamenca: D.C.-based Puerto Rican flamenco dancer and choreographer Estela Velez de Paredez presents her award winning dance company Furia Flamenca for an evening of passionate and fiery flamenco music, singing and dance.

Where: Millennium Stage, Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Info: Free; 202-467-4600;

5. Kwanzaa Celebration: Join Coyaba Academy, Coyaba Dance Theater and special guests to celebrate the seven principles of Kwanzaa.

Where: Dance Place, 3225 Eighth St. NW

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday; 4 p.m. Sunday

Info: $10 to $22; 202-269-1600;

Best Family

1. "Young Robin Hood": Jon Klein's new play in which Robin is an impetuous teen and Nottingham Forest is one big playground. When his father is falsely accused of a crime and imprisoned, Robin has to grow up fast and devise a rescue.

Where: Round House Theatre, 4545 East-West Highway, Bethesda

When: Through Dec. 30

Info: $26 to $53; 240-644-1100;

2. "Rudolf Flu": Santa's reindeer are sick and it is up to Santa's dog Sirius to find a solution. A tour of the night sky follows the presentation.

Where: Howard B. Owens Science Center, 9601 Greenbelt Road, Lanham

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Info: $3 to $5; 301-918-8750

3. "Chris Davis: A Christmas Carol": Join Tim Cratchit (all grown up) and his blushing bride, Rose, in recreating Charles Dickens' classic tale. Kids in the audience take roles in the show, playing Jacob Marley, Ghosts of Christmas, and the cantankerous old miser himself to the delight and merriment of all!

Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

When: 9:30 and 11 a.m. Saturday

Info: Free; tickets required; 202-783-3372;

4. Holiday Nature Crafts for Kids: Families, ages 5 and up. Relax and have some holiday fun. Bring the kids to this special craft workshop to make natural-themed gifts and decorations. For more information: 703-228-3403.

Where: Gulf Branch Nature Center, 3608 Military Road, Arlington

When: 1 to 2 p.m. Sunday

Info: $5; Registration required: 703-228-4747; program No. 622853-G

5. "A Christmas Carol": Paul Morella stars in the one-man show that uses only the words from Charles Dickens' novella. For ages 10 and up.

Where: Olney Theater Center, 2001 Old Sandy Spring Road, Olney

When: Through Dec. 30

Info: $43 to $87; 301-924-3400;

Best Gatherings

1. Merry TubaChristmas: This year marks the 39th anniversary of this holiday tradition founded by Harvey Phillips in which tuba, sousaphone and euphonium players from around D.C. play traditional Christmas music. Grab your instrument and arrive for rehearsal at 3 p.m.

Where: Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

When: 6 p.m. Thursday

Info: Free; 202-467-4600;

2. You, Me, Them, Everybody Live!: Twice a month, Huffington Post Assistant Editor Brandon Wetherbee hosts this live tete-a-tete in the model of Craig Ferguson's "Late Late Show," mixing performances from comics and musicians with banter with local movers and shakers. Because Wetherbee is a local comedy buff, you can be sure he regularly spotlights some of the city's best comics.

Where: The Wonderland Ballroom, 1101 Kenyon St. NW

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Info: $5 donation suggested; 202-232-5263;

3. 9th and Beats Opening Weekend: A weekend of festivities celebrating the opening of 9th & Beats, an all-ages entertainment venue, begins with a Thursday night concert by the Black Sparks.

Where: Old Dominion Brewhouse, 1219 Ninth St. NW

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, 9 p.m. Friday, 2 p.m. Saturday

Info: $5 to $10; 202-289-8158;

4. Kol Dodi: Led by Israel's acclaimed female vocalist Mika Karni, this ensemble of Israeli, Moroccan, Yemenite and Ethiopian musicians and singers combines traditional Jewish melodies with African ethnic rhythms and a dash of folk.

Where: Millennium Stage, John F. Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

When: 6 p.m. Dec. 18

Info: Free; 202-467-4600;

5. "Christmas Cabin of Carnaween": Set in the days of the great potato famine, this Irish folktale follows the journey of a tinker's child who longs for one day having a home of her own. The years go by and her dream would go unfulfilled were it not for the wee people who come to her aid on a beautiful snowy night on a hillside in Carnaween.

Where: Creative Cauldron at ArtSpace, 410 S Maple Ave., Falls Church

When: Through Dec. 23

Info: $15, students and seniors $12; 571-239-5288;

Best Outdoors

1. Mormon Temple Festival of Lights: The Washington Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is open to all during the Christmas season. This impressive church and its surrounding grounds shine brightly with more than 450,000 sparkling Christmas lights. Each night, a different local musical group performs a live concert in a state-of-the-art theater. The Nativity scene is open each evening from 6 to 9 p.m. Live musical performances begin at 7 and 8 p.m.

Where: The Mormon Temple, 9900 Stoneybrook Drive, Kensington

When: Dusk to 10 p.m. nightly through Jan. 1

Info: Free; 301-588-0650;

2. Visit Meadowlark Botanical Gardens' Winter Walk of Lights: More than 500,000 LED lights and displays bring Meadowlark Botanical Gardens to life! You'll find a two-story animated fountain, a Gingerbread Village and more!

Where: 9750 Meadow Lark Garden Court, Vienna

When: Every evening through Jan. 6

Info: $7 to $12, children under 3 free; 703-255-3631;

3. Market Common Clarendon: A "Winter Wonderland" comes to Arlington on Saturday, when Santa arrives in his "big red sleigh" (an Arlington County firetruck) at 4 p.m. for visits and free photos until 7 p.m. It will be a magical event with strolling carolers, and you can even meet Jack Frost.

Where: Market Common Clarendon, 2700 Clarendon Ave., Arlington

When: 4 to 7 p.m. Saturday

Info: $5; 703-807-2922;

4. Scavenger Holiday Hunt: You're invited to race around Washington finding not only unique holiday-themed items (for all major seasonal holidays) but also taking incredibly fun and exciting challenges against each other -- that may involve egg nog tastings, dreidel spinning, mistletoe, a test of holiday appetites -- who knows?

Where: Meet at Ben and Jerry's, Old Post Office Pavilion, 1100 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

When: 11:30 to 5 p.m. Saturday

Info: $25;

5. Birding Trip, Piscataway National Park: Piscataway's boardwalk through the marshes on the Maryland side of the Potomac offers excellent waterfowl-viewing opportunities. Participants should dress for the weather and bring binoculars, a bag lunch and a drink and snacks for the day. Adults only.

Where: Meet at Lubber Run Center parking lot, 300 N. Park Dr., Arlington

When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Dec. 18

Info: $30; registration required: 703-228-6535; program No. 622943-A

Best Theater

1. "The Holiday Guys": Featuring three-time Tony Award nominee and Signature favorite Marc Kudisch and Astaire Award nominee Jeffry Denman in a nontraditional, traditional show complete with song, dance and silliness.

Where: Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Avenue, Arlington

When: Through Sunday

Info: $41; 703-820-9771;

2. "Irving Berlin's White Christmas": The classic holiday movie "White Christmas" comes to the stage at last. This brand-new musical shines with classic Berlin hits like "Blue Skies," "How Deep is the Ocean?" and the unforgettable title song.

Where: Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

When: Through Jan. 6

Info: $25 to $150; 202-467-4600;

3. "Les Miserables": Cameron Mackintosh presents this megahit with new staging and scenery inspired by the paintings of Victor Hugo.

Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

When: Through Dec. 30

Info: $40 to $118; 800-447-7400;

4. "An Irish Carol": "An Irish Carol" follows one evening in the life of a wealthy pub owner who has distanced himself from others and lost touch with his own humanity in the interest of self-protection and material success. But on this Christmas Eve, his life may change forever.

Where: Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW

When: Friday through Dec. 31

Info: $30 to $36; 703-892-0202;

5. "Holiday Follies": This end-of-year celebration features a wonderful wintry lineup of special guest performers, along with a host of Signature's closest friends and artists.

Where: Signature Theatre, 4200 Campbell Ave., Arlington

When: Dec. 18 through 23

Info: $41; 703-820-9771;

Best Galleries

1. Nam June Paik: Global Visionary: This comprehensive survey of the Korean-born "Father of Video Art" is drawn from Paik's archive, which the Smithsonian American Art Museum acquired in 2009, as well as various other public and private collections; the 67 artworks serve to communicate the complexity and enduring power of Paik's reach and vision.

Where: The Smithsonian American Art Museum, Eighth and F streets NW

When: Through Aug. 11

Info: Free;; 202-633-1000

2. Perspectives: Ai Weiwei: Prolific provocateur Ai Weiwei's monumental work "Fragments" is an "irrational structure" of ironwood repurposed from dismantled temples of the Qing Dynasty.

Where: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, Jefferson Drive and 12th Street SW

When: Through April 7

Info: Free; 202-633-4880;

3. Beetle Magic: Inside the Underworld: Joan Danziger's installations consider anew the time-honored practice of humans using animal imagery to express their identities and emotions.

Where: The American University Museum at the Katzen Arts Center, 4400 Massachusetts Ave.

When: Closing Sunday

Info: Free; 202-885-1300;

4. Lingling Lu: Lilac: These selections from the Chinese painter's series "One Hundred Melodies of Solitude" recall the finest achievements of the Washington Color School of the mid-20th century.

Where: Hemphill, 1515 14th St. NW

When: Through Dec. 22

Info: Free; 202-234-5601;

5. Artwork by Tracy's Kids: Tracy's Kids is a charity that encourages young cancer patients to express their feelings about their treatment through art therapy. This selection of work produced through that program bristles with the determination and imagination of their creators.

Where: Carroll Square Gallery, 975 F St. NW

When: Friday through Jan. 25, 2013

Info: Free; 202-638-3000;