Best Music

1. Joshua Bell: The Washington Performing Arts Society presents the acclaimed violinist performing works by Schubert, Strauss, Dvorak and Prokofiev, accompanied by pianist Sam Haywood.

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

When: 8 p.m. Thursday

Info: $49 to $115; 202-785-9727;

2. NSO: Maestro Christoph Eschenbach begins the third of the orchestra's three-year exploration of Beethoven's works by conducting the rarely performed "Missa Solemnis" with the Choral Arts Society of Washington and soloists.

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

When: 7 p.m. Thursday, 8 p.m. Saturday

Info: $10 to $85; 202-467-4600, 800-444-1324;

3. Midori: The remarkable violinist celebrates her 30 years in music with a recital of Beethoven sonatas and works by Webern and Crumb, accompanied by pianist Ozgur Aydin.

Where: Kennedy Center Terrace Theater, 2700 F St. NW

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

Info: $60; 202-467-4600, 800-444-1324;

4. American Symphony Orchestra: Leon Botstein conducts works by Brahms and Beethoven using thematic programming around the visual arts, literature, politics and history.

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

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Info: $30 to $60; 888-945-2468;

5. Jonathan Edwards: The singer, songwriter and master of the acoustic guitar performs bluegrass, folk, honky-tonk and protest songs with his special flair.

Where: The Barns at Wolf Trap, 1635 Trap Road, Vienna

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday

Info: $24; 877-WOLFTRAP (965-3872);

Best Galleries

1. Ai Weiwei: According to What?: The pre-eminent figure of China's contemporary art scene, Ai Weiwei has expanded this first North American survey of his work from the 2009 version that appeared at Tokyo's Mori Art Museum.

Where: Hirshorn Museum and Sculpture Garden, Seventh Street and Independence Avenue SW

When: Through Feb. 24

Info: Free; 202-633-4674;

2. Women Who Rock: Vision, Passion, Power: This exhibit tells the story in artifacts of women in music from early blues singers like Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith to the girl groups of the 1960s to Lady Gaga and Carrie Underwood. Whether you prefer Madonna's cone bras from the Blonde Ambition Tour or Patti Smith's boots, you needn't choose. It's all here, some 250 objects in all.

Where: National Museum of Women in the Arts, 1250 New York Ave. NW

When: Through Jan. 6

Info: $10, $8 seniors (65+) and students, free for members and 18 and under; 202-783-5000;

3. Katherine Tzu-Lan Mann: Clove: Katherine Tsu-Lan Mann's large-scale paintings draw you in with their allusions to East Asian landscape painting, inviting you to contemplate the balance of order and chaos in nature.

Where: Project 4 Gallery, 3rd floor, 1353 U St. NW

When: Saturday through Dec. 15

Info: Free; 202-232-4340;

4. Before and After the Derecho: Just as D.C. brushes off its shoulders from Hurriane Sandy's visit, painter Yolanda Frederikse debuts this series documenting the alterations to the landscape wrought by last June's derecho -- a storm that left D.C. Mayor Vincent Gray, among tens of thousands of others, without electricity for days.

Where: Washington Printmakers Gallery, Pyramid Atlantic Art Center, 2nd floor, 8230 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring

When: Through Nov. 25

Info: Free; 301-273-3660;

5. Paintings by Gary Fisher and Anne Manley: Justice Department lawyer-turned-painter Gary Fisher specializes in landscapes and still lifes, while Anne Manley's provocative abstractions offer an ideal counterpoint to Fisher's more figurative work.

Where: Gallery Plan B, 1530 14th St. NW

When: Through Nov. 18

Info: Free; 202-234-2711;

Best Theatre

1. "My Fair Lady": When Professor Henry Higgins wagers he can transform a Cockney flower girl into an aristocratic lady, he never guesses that Eliza Doolittle will in turn transform him. Lerner and Loewe's sparkling score includes such enduring favorites as "I Could Have Danced All Night," "Wouldn't It Be Loverly" and "The Rain in Spain." Based on George Bernard Shaw's most incisive social satire, "My Fair Lady" is a joyful celebration for the entire family.

Where: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW

When: Friday through Jan. 6

Info: $45 to $94; 202-488-3300;

2. Fall Fringe Festival: An autumnal version of the summer Fringe Festival you've come to know and love.

Where: Various venues around Washington (see website)

When: Thursday through Nov. 18

Info: See website for prices; 866-811-4111;

3. "Atheist's Paradise": "Atheist's Paradise" is the story of "Doc" Johnson, an aging but defiant faculty member at a small Christian college, and his students, including Sheila, who changes greatly in her freshman year.

Where: Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, Melton Rehearsal Hall, 641 D St. NW

When: Saturday through Nov. 25

Info: $15.35; 202-355-6330;

4. "You For Me For You": A comic fantasy about two North Korean sisters who, facing starvation at the hands of a corrupt regime, make a bargain with a smuggler to flee to the United States. When one of the sisters is too weak to make the treacherous crossing, the other sister makes a promise to save her. With heart and humor, "You for Me For You" delves into our imagined picture of North Korea and subverts the American fantasy of the immigrant experience.

Where: Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company, 641 D St. NW

When: Tuesday through Dec. 2

Info: $20 to $67.50; 202-393-3939;

Best Outdoors

1. Horses and Wine: Horseback riding, Western lunch and vineyard tour with wine tasting: This event combines the thrill of a horseback ride with the elegance of a first-class vineyard tour and wine tasting.

Where: 5305 Marriott Lane, Hume, Va.

When: 11:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sunday

Info: $117;

2. Go on an adventure: Try your hand at white water rafting, tubing, zip-line canopy tours, kayaking, canoeing, mountain biking and fishing on the beautiful Shenandoah and Potomac rivers.

Where: Harper's Ferry

When: See website for times

Info: See website for prices;

3. Airplane Flying Lesson for Beginners: After an introductory class to learn the basics of airplane flying, each attendee will get 30 minutes in a plane (hour long lessons may be arranged). After a mandatory safety lesson, each person will learn the procedures for checking in the plane, communication with the tower, reviewing all necessary instruments, take-off procedures, and how to fly, steer and control your plane.

Where: Manassas Regional Airport

When: 10 to noon Saturday

Info: $159;

4. Billy Goat-Gold Mine Loop Hike: Woods and water, rocks and dirt, easy and difficult hike. 6 miles round trip. For hikers, dogs.

Where: Potomac, Md.

When: Year-round

Info: Free; Ranger: 866-677-6677; Info: 301-767-3714;

5. Columbia Heights Heritage Trail: This lively city neighborhood began as an elite suburb on the high ground overlooking Washington City. Follow the trail to experience both the old and new Columbia Heights with all its cultural and economic diversity. You'll find 19 poster-sized street signs combining storytelling with historic photographs and maps. Two-hour self-guided tour.

Where: The first sign is at 14th and Irving streets NW

When: Any day


Best Family

1. Encampment of the 3rd U.S. Regular Infantry: Everyone is invited to drop in and visit with the 3rd U.S. Infantry. Enlisted for 5 years at $13 a month, the Regular Units were the professional backbone of the largely volunteer armies of the Civil War. Visit in camp with both military and civilian re-enactors

while they portray everyday life. Presentations including military drilling and equipment, cooking and ladies' activities will occur throughout the day.

Where: Fort Ethan Allen Park, 3829 N. Stafford St., Arlington

When: 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday

Info: Free; 703-243-4342; no registration necessary

2. Medieval Story Land: Elves, wizards, knights clash in fantasy parody of the medieval fantasy genre.

Where: The Shop at Fort Fringe, 607 New York Ave. NW

When: Thursday through Nov. 18

Info: 866-811-4111;

3. GoodLife Theatre: Native American Tanka Tales: Artful puppets recreate two ancient tales from Native America, one about fire, one about the seasons.

Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

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

Info: Free; tickets required; 202-783-3372; see website for details;

4. Coyote Stories: Bring the whole family to this campfire to enjoy songs, stories, and s'mores. For more info, call 703-228-6535.

Where: Meet at Long Branch Nature Center, 625 S. Carlin Springs Road, Arlington

When: 6 to 7 p.m. Saturday

Info: $5 per person; registration required: 703-228-4747; program No. 612952-E

5. Kids Euro Festival: Plays, dance, music, cinema, workshops by outstanding European artists in theaters, schools and libraries throughout D.C., Virginia and Maryland.

Where: Various venues; see website

When: Through Nov. 14

Info: Free; 202-944-6558;

Best Gatherings

1. Peter Sis: The children's book author and illustrator will discuss his first book for adults, "The Conference of the Birds," based on a 12th century Sufi epic poem.

Where: The Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St. SE

When: 8 p.m. Friday

Info: $47 to $60, $10 with valid student ID; 202-544-7077;

2. "An Ideal Husband": Picnic Theatre Company does "party-style" performances with a cocktail hour followed by short productions. This time around, the group presents Oscar Wilde's comedy.

Where: Dumbarton House, 2715 Q St. NW

When: 6:30 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Info: $12; 202-337-2288;

3. "Pride and Prejudice": L.A.Theatre Works: To celebrate the 200th anniversary of this masterpiece, America's premier radio theater company brings Jane Austen's glorious novel to life with this rich adaptation. Set in the English countryside, the story navigates through the intricacies of marriage, manners and morals among polite British society.

Where: George Mason University, Concert Hall, 4400 University Drive, Fairfax

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Info: $20 to $40; 703-993-8888;

4. Dance to Live Music at Tropicalia: Walk by the corner of 14th and U streets NW on a weekend night and you'll hear bubbly, joyful dance music blasting out of a new nightclub called Tropicalia. What makes this basement bar stand out from other recent arrivals in the neighborhood is that several times a week the sounds drawing crowds onto the dance floor come from musicians instead of a DJ.

Where: 2001 14th St. NW

When: Tuesday through Sunday; music starts at 7 p.m.

Info: No cover charge; 202-629-4535;

5. From Belgium: "The Child with a Violin," an interactive performance featuring a world-famous accordion player who, upon meeting a young violin virtuoso living on the street, takes the child on a tuneful journey around the globe to places determined by the audience.

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

When: 6 p.m. Friday

Info: Free; 202-467-4600;

Best Brainfood

1. "Amarillo": A man departs for the U.S.-Mexican border and vanishes. This is a powerful dance-theater show that weaves together real and imagined landscapes of geography and cultural identity.

Where: GALA Hispanic Theater, 1333 14th St. NW

When: 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday

Info: $18 to $25; 202-234-7174;

2 David Von Drehle -- "Rise to Greatness": Von Drehle's account of President Lincoln and the Civil War focuses on the events of 1862. At this point it was far from clear that the North would prevail. The Union's coffers were depleted, its military demoralized, its top general ill. By contrast, the South was thriving. How Lincoln turned this situation around is compelling historical drama.

Where: Politics and Prose Bookstore, 5015 Connecticut Ave. NW

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Info: Free; 202-364-1919;

3. The Suzanne Farrell Ballet: The Kennedy Center's own Suzanne Farrell Ballet presents two mixed programs, including four company premieres by Balanchine: "Valse-Fantaisie," "Danses Concertantes," "Prodigal Son," and "Intermezzo from Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet."

Where: Kennedy Center, 2700 F St. NW

When: Nov. 7 through Nov. 11

Info: $29 to $84; 202-467-4600;

4. Folger Shakespeare Library: Ricky Jay: While Jay has long been considered one of the world's great sleight-of=hand artists, his career is further distinguished by the remarkable variety of his accomplishments as an author, actor, historian and consultant.

Where: Folger Shakespeare Library, 201 E. Capitol St. SE

When: 8 p.m. Nov. 8

Info: $35; 202-544-7077;

5. "Our Class": As 10 Polish classmates (five Catholic, five Jewish) grow up, their lives take dramatically unexpected turns as their country is torn apart by invading armies, first Soviet, then German, then Soviet again. Friend betrays friend and violence quickly escalates, reaching a crescendo that will forever haunt the survivors.

Where: Theater J, 1529 16th St. NW

When: Through Sunday

Info: $25 to $35; 800-494-8497;