Best Music

1. Washington National Opera: Russian bass Ildar Abdrazakov stars in the title role of Mozart's "Don Giovanni" with an all-star cast including Meagan Miller as Donna Anna, Barbara Frittoli as Donna Elvira and Andrew Foster-Williams as Leporello.

Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St. NW

When: Thursday through Oct. 13

Info: $25 to $300; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324;

2. Nathan Gunn: The popular operatic baritone makes his Washington National Opera debut singing arias and popular favorites in the WNO Celebrity Concert Series.

Where: Kennedy Center Opera House, 2700 F St. NW

When: 4 p.m. Sunday

Info: $25 to $180; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324;

3. Thelonious Monk International Jazz Drums Competition Finals: The all-star gala event co-hosted by Herbie Hancock and Thelonious Monk Jr. will honor Madeleine Albright for her long-time support of jazz and the Thelonious Monk Institute of Jazz.

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

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Info: $50 to $75; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324;

4. John Hiatt & the Combo: With Joe Pug, the group performs music from Hiatt's latest release, "Mystic Pinball."

Where: The Birchmere Music Hall, 3701 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday to Sunday

Info: $55; 703-549-7500;

5. Leon Russell: Music legend and one of the most accomplished and versatile musicians in the history of rock 'n' roll performs one show only.

Where: The Howard Theatre, 620 T St. NW

When: 8 p.m. Saturday; doors open at 6 p.m.

Info: $30 in advance, $35 at the door; 202-803-2899;

Best Galleries

1. In the Tower: Barnett Newman: Culled from the National Gallery of Art's significant holdings of Barnett Newman's work, this exhibit focus on two pivotal periods of the pioneering artist's career: his shift during the 1940s from biomorphic imagery to blunt, linear forms, and the 14-painting cycle he created between 1958 and 1966, entitled The Stations of the Cross.

Where: National Gallery of Art, East Building, Fourth Street and Constitution Avenue NW

When: Through Feb. 24, 2013

Info: Free; 202-737-4215;

2. Jules Olitski: On an Intimate Scale: Featuring work from throughout Jules Olitski's long career, this exhibit of works on paper and prints shows us just how much we lost when he died in 2007.

Where: George Washington University, Luther W. Brady Art Gallery, Media and Public Affairs Building, second floor, 805 21st St. NW

When: Friday through Dec. 14

Info: Free; 202-994-1525;

3. Perspectives: Al Weiwei: Prolific artist and activist Ai Weiwei's monumental installation "Fragments" is an "irrational structure" of ironwood salvaged from various dismantled temples of the Qing dynasty.

Where: Arthur M. Sackler Gallery, 1050 Independence Ave. SW

When: Through April 7, 2013

Info: Free; 202-633-4880;

4. African Cosmos: Stellar Arts: This exhibit considers the way African "cultural astronomy" -- the way artists of the last 200 years have taken inspiration from the sun, moon and other celestial objects -- influences and reflects traditional and contemporary African art.

Where: National Museum of African Art, 950 Independence Ave. SW

When: Through Dec. 9

Info: Free; 202-633-4600;

5. Out of the Vault: Early Prints and Drawings, Benjamin Abramowitz, 1917-2011; Benjamin Abramowitz's career as a celebrated and versatile D.C. painter, sculptor, draftsman and watercolorist spanned eight decades. This exhibit features 15 of his original lithographs and drawings, as well as six intimate portrait paintings that have never before been displayed.

Where: Woman's National Democratic Club, 1526 New Hampshire Ave. NW

When: Through Nov. 28

Info: Free; 202-232-7363;

Best Outdoors

1. Antietam 150th Battle Anniversary: Tours, hikes, living-history lectures and memorial ceremonies coincide with the sesquicentennial of one of the Civil War's most famous clashes, the deadliest single-day battle in American history.

Where: Antietam National Battlefield, 5831 Dunker Church Road, Sharpsburg

When: Through Saturday

Info: $4 per person, $6 per car; 301-432-5124;

2. Pups & Pilsners: Fly solo or bring Fido to the inaugural Pups & Pilsners outdoor beer festival in Crystal City. This dog-friendly festival features a massive beer garden with 10 stations -- each with a different craft brew -- including offerings from local breweries. Crystal City restaurants will serve up food to satisfy appetites.

Where: Festival grounds, 1405 Crystal Drive, Arlington

When: 2 to 6 p.m. Sunday

Info: $15 in advance, $20 at the door; 703-971-1525;

3. The Great Frederick Fair: It's everything you could want in a fair: agricultural displays, food vendors, rides, activities and live music.

Where: Frederick County Fairgrounds, 797 E. Patrick St., Frederick

When: Through Saturday

Info: $7, children 10 and under free; 301-663-5895;

4. Mount Vernon Colonial Market & Fair: This annual event features dozens of America's finest craftsmen and plenty of family fun, entertainment, music, food, puppet and magic shows.

Where: 3200 Mount Vernon Memorial Highway, Mount Vernon

When: 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday

Info: $15, children ages 6 to 11 $7, children 5 and under free; 703-780-2000;

5. Fall Plant Sale: Take advantage of an opportunity to help support Long Branch Nature Center, where the majority of the plants for sale at this event are propagated. The sale offers everything from sun-loving, butterfly-attracting plants to shade lovers and ferns. Rain date: Sunday. Cash or checks only. For adults. No registration required.

Where: Long Branch Nature Center, 625 South Carlin Springs Road, Arlington

When: 1 to 3 p.m. Saturday

Info: Free; 703-228-6535;

Best Family

1. Rocknoceros: Coach Cotton, Williebob and Boogie Woogie Bennie take to the stage to perform their upbeat pop tunes.

Where: Jammin' Java, 277 Maple Ave. East, Vienna

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Info: $10; 703-255-6718;

2. "Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox: The Great Pancake Adventure": Matthew Luckhurst will discuss his children's picture book, in which Paul and Babe are big friends with bigger appetites. When a logger offers to hire them and pay them in pancakes (their favorite!), they agree immediately and leave their farmstead home behind. Will their lives be as delicious as they think? Ages 5 to 8.

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

When: 10:30 a.m. Friday

Info: Free; 202-364-1919;

3. "The Carnival of the Animals": Saint-Saens' music provides inspiration for Bob Brown's puppets in this bilingual show.

Where: The Puppet Co., 7300 MacArthur Blvd., Glen Echo

When: Friday through Oct. 7

Info: $10; 301-634-5380;

4. "Once Upon a Time": Bright Star Theater Company presents this comedy of two actors playing more than a dozen roles each to tell the stories Cinderella and Jack and the Beanstalk. The production will tickle the funny bones of all audience members.

Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

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

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

5. "The Wizard of Oz": Dorothy and Toto struggle to get home again after being carried to Oz in this classic story.

Where: Gaithersburg Arts Barn, 311 Kent Square Road, Gaithersburg

When: Through Sunday

Info: $18, Gaithersburg residents $16, children through 12th grade $9; 301-258-6394;

Best Gatherings

1. "Sancho, Dulcinea, Their Knight and His Quest": Local contemporary dance troupe Company E performs a work accompanied by song, puppetry, film and shadow.

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

When: 6 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Info: Free; 202-467-4600;

2. "Read: White and Blue": Hip-hop duo Hueman Prophets teams up with director Psalmayene 24 to explore the rift between social classes.

Where: Mead Theatre Lab at Flashpoint, 916 G St. NW

When: Through Sunday

Info: $15, students, teachers and seniors $12; 202-315-1305;

3. South Asian Designer Showcase: Part of what distinguishes DC Fashion Week is its international flair. Designers from all over South Asia display at this event.

Where: Indique Heights, 2 Wisconsin Circle, Chevy Chase

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Info: $10; 202-600-WASH (9274);

4. "Becoming Calvin": The play profiles John Calvin on the 500th anniversary of his birth.

Where: Capital Hill Presbyterian Church, 201 Fourth St. SE

When: Through Sunday

Info: $20, $15 matinee; 202-547-8676;

5. Return to a Native Place: Algonquian Peoples of the Chesapeake: Meet the native peoples of the Chesapeake Bay region (what is now Washington, Maryland, Virginia and Delaware) through photographs, maps, ceremonial and everyday objects, and interactive installations. This compact exhibition educates visitors on the continued Native presence in the region and provides an overview of the history and events from the 1600s to the present that have impacted the lives of the Nanticoke, Powhatan and Piscataway tribes.

Where: National Museum of the American Indian, Fourth Street and Independence Avenue SW

When: Ongoing

Info: Free; 800-242-NMAI (6624);

Best Brainfood

1. Cafe Variations: SITI Company presents a theater/dance piece that examines the power and importance of our relationships to other people and our environment.

"Cafe Variations" recalls a time when a cafe was a place for lively civil discourse. The short plays of Charles Mee are set to the infectious and seductive music of George and Ira Gershwin.

Where: Kogod Theater, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Stadium Drive and Route 193, College Park

When: 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday

Info: $40, seniors and alumni $35, faculty and staff $32, students and children $10; 301-405-ARTS (2787);

2. "Brigham Young: Pioneer Prophet": After Joseph Smith was assassinated in 1844, Brigham Young, an impoverished craftsman from New York, galvanized Smith's straggling followers and led them to the promised land of the American West. John Turner, a George Mason University professor of religious studies, depicts Young as equal parts prophet and pioneer, focusing on his extraordinary charisma and leadership skills.

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

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Info: Free; 202-364-1919;

3. "The Longest Way Home: One Man's Quest for the Courage to Settle Down": Brat Pack member Andrew McCarthy will discus his travelogue. Part one of a three-part travel series.

Where: National Geographic Live!, 1600 M St. NW

When: 7:30 p.m. Friday

Info: $20, members $18; 202-857-7700;

4. Dana Tai Soon Burgess: The company concludes its 20th anniversary season with the premiere of "Caverns," an exploration of memory set to "Fur Alina" by Estonian composer Arvo Part.

Where: Dorothy Betts Marvin Theatre, George Washington University, 800 21st St. NW

When: 8 p.m. Friday to Sunday

Info: $15 to $25; 202-994-8072;

5. "The President's Czars: Undermining the Congress and the Constitution": The word "czar" may seem inappropriate in a republic, but it has been used to describe independent executive branch officials with significant authority over a policy area. Mark Rozell discusses the history of the presidential czars since Franklin Delano Roosevelt's administration. A book signing will follow the program.

Where: William McGowan Theater, National Archives, 700 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

When: Noon Sept. 26

Info: Free; 202-357-5000;

Best Theater

1. "Black Watch": Viewed through the eyes of those on the ground, "Black Watch" reveals what it means to be part of the legendary Scottish regiment, what it means to be part of the war on terror and what it means to make the journey home again.

Where: Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW

When: Through Oct. 7

Info: $40 to $85; 202-547-1122;

2. "The Government Inspector": In Gogol's witty and hilarious satire of provincial Russian bureaucracy, a civil servant whose imagination runs rampant has arrived in a small town and is living it up on the government's dime. When bumbling town officials mistake him for an incognito inspector investigating them for corruption, a comedy of errors begins and chaos ensues.

Where: Lansburgh Theater, 450 Seventh St. NW

When: Through Oct. 28

Info: $43 to $95; 202-547-1122;

3. "Jekyll & Hyde": Synetic Theater takes on Robert Louis Stevenson's classic Victorian tale of good and evil, adding its signature physicality and darkly dramatic aesthetic. Updating the story's setting from 19th-century London to modern-day America, Synetic's version puts a new spin on the strange case of the charming and sociable Dr. Jekyll and his sinister friend, accused murderer Mr. Hyde.

Where: Synetic Theater, 1800 S. Bell St., Arlington

When: Thursday through Oct. 21

Info: $15 to $55; 703-824-8061;

4. "Suite Surrender": It's 1942, and the luxurious Palm Beach Royale Hotel is under siege as two of Hollywood's biggest and neediest divas vie for the same suite. Mistaken identities, overblown egos, double entendres and one pampered little lap dog round out this fall-down-laughing riot of a comedy.

Where: 1st Stage, 1524 Spring Hill Road, McLean

When: Through Oct. 14

Info: $25, students $15; 703-854-1856;

5. "Shape": A play regarding black vaudeville and the Tulsa race riot of 1921, "Shape" begins in 1900 Ambrose Park, Brooklyn, at the end days of "Black America," a historically documented, vast spectacle of vaudeville dances, variety acts, folklore and songs.

Where: Atlas Performing Arts Center, 1333 H St. NW

When: Through Oct. 6

Info: $25, seniors and military $20, students $15; 202-399-7993;