Best Music

1. Washington National Opera: The company's first production of "Show Boat," by Jerome Kern and Oscar Hammerstein II.

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

When: Saturday through May 26

Info: $25 to $270; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324;

2. Kennedy Center Spring Gala: Lerner & Loewe's "My Fair Lady" in concert, featuring Laura Michelle Kelly, Jonathan Pryce, Cloris Leachman, Michael York and others.

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

When: 8 p.m. Sunday

Info: $49 to $175; 202-467-4600; 800-444-1324;

3. National Symphony Orchestra: Christoph Eschenbach conducts Shostakovich's Symphony No. 5 and Elgar's Concerto in E minor for cello and orchestra performed by Alisa Weilerstein.

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;

4. National Symphony Orchestra: Christoph Eschenbach previews the NSO's "Spring for Music" program at Carnegie Hall with "A Tribute to Slava," featuring works by Russian composers Shostakovich, Schnittke and Shchedrin.

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

When: 8 p.m. Friday

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

5. National Philharmonic: Music director Piotr Gajewski conducts the orchestra, performing with mezzo-soprano Denyce Graves singing Brahms' Alto Rhapsody, the composer's Symphony No. 4 and Schicksalslied ("Song of Destiny"), sung by the Philharmonic's Chorale.

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

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, 3 p.m. Sunday

Info: $28 to $81, kids 7 to 17 free; 301-581-5100;

Also worth noting:

6. Lila Downs: The Mexican-American singer and her band present a festive concert to celebrate Cinco de Mayo.

Where: Hylton Performing Arts Center, 10960 George Mason Circle, Manassas

When: 7 p.m. Sunday

Info: $28 to $44, half price for youth through grade 12 accompanied by an adult; 888-945-2468;

7. Steve Tyrell: The Grammy Award-winning jazz vocalist and pianist performs popular favorites from his albums "I'll Take Romance," "Live at the Cafe Carlyle," "Back to Bachrach" and others.

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

When: 7:30 p.m. Sunday

Info: $45; 703-549-7500;

Best Theater

1. "Other Desert Cities": After a long absence, Brooke Wyeth returns to her politically conservative parents' Palm Springs enclave to spend the holidays with them. But the warm desert air turns chilly when news of her upcoming memoir threatens to revive the most painful chapter of the family's history.

Where: Arena Stage, 1101 Sixth St. SW

When: Through May 26

Info: Tickets start at $40; 202-488-3300;

2. "Twelfth Night": Cast away on the shores of a distant land, lost lovers and their unruly servants converge and conspire in this romance-filled comedy, one of Shakespeare's most beloved.

Where: Folger Elizabethan Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE

When: Through June 9

Info: $30 to $68; 202-544-7077;

3. "The Full Monty": A group of unemployed steelworkers desperately seeking employment come up with a bold way to make some quick cash. As they work through their self-consciousness, they come to discover that the strength they find in each other gives them the individual courage to face their demons by baring it all.

Where: The Keegan Theatre, 1742 Church St. NW

When: Saturday to June 1

Info: $30 to $35; 703-892-0202;

4. "Pas de Deux: Plays from New Zealand and Canada": "Skin Tight" and "2-2 Tango" are presented in the Studio Theatre's 2nd Stage.

Where: Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW

When: Through May 19

Info: $30 to $35; 202-332-3300;

5. "Club de Caballeros: Rotos de Amor": A theatrical showcase where tenderness and humanity surround situations whose goal is laughter and the truth.

Where: Teatro de la Luna, 3700 S. Four Mile Run Drive, Arlington

When: Through May 25

Info: $25 to $30; 703-548-3092;

Best Gatherings

1. Cass R. Sunstein: Simpler: The Future of Government: One of the achievements of President Obama's first term was the simplification of government rules and regulations. Sunstein, a behavioral economist who served for three years as the head of the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, was crucial to this process.

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

When: 6 p.m. Saturday

Info: Free; 202-364-1919;

2. Bill's Buddies: Professional actors from the Folger Shakespeare Library present samples from Shakespeare's plays. Each lively performance gets the audience up onstage and into Shakespeare's language. Appropriate for students in grades 3 to 12, these shows bring Shakespeare's plays to life in a dynamic and interactive way.

Where: Folger Shakespeare Theater, 201 East Capitol St. SE

When: 10 a.m. to noon May 7

Info: $15; 202-544-7077;

3. 26th Annual Evening of Comedy: Standup comedy performances.

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

When: 8 p.m. Friday; 7 and 9:30 p.m. Saturday

Info: 703-938-2404;

4. Smart Growth: A Perspective on Urban Transformation in the Digital Age: How do we power a community's transformation from mediocrity to excellence, from surviving to thriving, or from apathy to engagement? Ed Walker, founder and CEO of ReGeneration Partners LLC and CityWorks LLC, outlines the roles of design, real property, capitalism and interdisciplinary social entrepreneurship in evaluating our built and natural environments.

Where: National Building Museum, 401 F St. NW

When: 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. May 6

Info: Free; 888-832-9554;

5. "Big River": Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" comes to life when Huck helps his slave friend escape to freedom.

Where: Greenbelt Arts Center, 123 Centerway, Greenbelt

When: Through Friday

Info: $17 to $20' 301-441-8770;

Best Brainfood

1. "Classics in Context: Wallenstein": Engage in a lively discussion with noted community members in a roundtable format. The Shakespeare Theatre Company's Director of Education invites some of the city's leading players in many disciplines to respond to the work created onstage at STC.

Where: Shakespeare Theatre Company, Sidney Harman Hall, 610 F St. NW

When: 5 p.m. Saturday

Info: Free; 202-547-1122;

2. "Nobility and Newcomers in Renaissance Ireland": Focusing mainly on the Irish upper-class, their cultural exchange with England, and their struggle for power during a time of great change, this exhibit underscores why Irish cultural identity is challenging to define: the early-modern Irish were a profoundly international people, with roots in England, Scotland, Wales, and cities across the European continent.

Where: Great Hall, the Folger Shakespeare Theatre, 201 E. Capitol St. SE

When: Through May 19

Info: Free; 202-544-7077;

3. "Once Wild: Isadora in Russia": The Word Dance Theatre and Davis Performing Arts Center come together to produce this piece based on the life of choreographer Isadora Duncan, who moved to Russia in 1921 and opened a dance school.

Where: Davis Performing Arts Center, Georgetown University, 37th and O streets NW

When: Friday through Sunday

Info: $10 to $25; 202-687-3838;

4. Robert E. Lee Symposium on the Civil War: The Battle of Gettysburg: Historians Scott Hartwig and Peter Carmichael will host a three-day lecture exploring the battle and its effects on the whole of the Civil War.

Where: Stratford Hall, 485 Great House Road, Stratford

When: Friday through Sunday

Info: $310, cost does not include lodging; 804-493-1972;

5. "D.C. Yoga Week": Studios across town offer free and $5 classes during the eighth annual celebration of bending, stretching and deep breathing.

Where: Various locations around D.C.

When: Through Sunday

Info: Free to $5;

Best Outdoors

1. Potomac Bonsai Festival: Have you always wanted to try bonsai but weren't sure where to start? This annual festival features something for everyone, from the curious beginner to the accomplished artist. Activities include free demonstrations, special exhibits, vendors, hands-on workshops, family activities and Asian food.

Where: U.S. National Arboretum, 3501 New York Ave. NE

When: 10 a.m. to noon Friday

Info: Entrance free, some programs have fees; 202-234-2726;

2. Visit the National Garden: A natural complement to the U.S. Botanic Garden, the National Garden highlights the amazing diversity of American plants. The three-acre National Garden draws inspiration from the environments of the Mid-Atlantic region. Conceived as an outdoor laboratory for gardening in harmony with natural ecosystems, the garden opened in 2006.

Where: U.S. Botanic Gardens, 100 Maryland Ave. SW

When: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. daily

Info: Free; 202-225-8333;

3. Birding trip to Thompson Wildlife Management Area: Go on an exciting excursion to see many spring migrants, including Cerulean Warblers and Kentucky Warblers along the wildflower trails. Participants should dress for the weather and bring binoculars, a bag lunch and a drink and snacks for the day. For adults. For more information, call 703-228-3403.

Where: Meet at Lubber Run Recreation Center, 300 N. Park Drive, Arlington

When: 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday

Info: $40; registration necessary: 703-228-4747; program No. 632843-D

4. Hike Scotts Run: The trail follows Scotts Run, which is lined with tall hemlocks, then emerges from the woods beside a waterfall as the stream tumbles into the Potomac River. After passing the site of an old homestead with only its chimney still standing, the trail again turns toward the Potomac for another overlook.

Where: McLean

When: Any season

Info: Free; 703-352-5900;

5. Battleground to Community: Brightwood Heritage Trail: Lace up your walking shoes and follow the signs on this self-guided Cultural Tourism DC Neighborhood Heritage Trail to experience Brightwood. Indulge your inner Civil War buff in one of D.C.'s early communities, where you'll see the site of the only Civil War battle to take place within the District. Poster-sized, illustrated signs combine storytelling with historic images and maps for a great afternoon outing.

Where: First sign at 5427 14th St. NW

When: Any day

Info: Free;

Best Family

1. Survival Skills: ID Poisonous and Venomous: To survive outdoors, you need to know what plants and animals to use -- but knowing which ones to avoid can be even more important! For kids 8 to 12. For more information, call 703-228-6535.

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

When: 4 to 5 p.m. Friday

Info: $10; registration necessary: 703-228-4747; program No.632923-B

2. Brian Curry: Magic and Mischief: Water vanishes in midair moments before drenching a hapless volunteer, bottles appear out of nowhere, and the world's most difficult card trick happens in a flash! Magician Brian Curry keeps even the most skeptical of audiences laughing with befuddlement in a morning filled with mystery. Tickets distributed 30 minutes before show.

Where: National Theatre, 1321 Pennsylvania Ave. NW

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

Info: Free; 202-628-6161;

3. Spring Migrants for Beginners: Spring migration is well under way by May and the woods around Long Branch Nature Center and Glencarlyn Park are a local hot spot for these long-distance fliers. This walk is intended for new birders and others interested in getting a start on learning warblers, thrushes and other spring migrants. For more information, call 703-228-6535.

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

When: 8 to 10 a.m. Saturday

Info: $5; registration required: 703-228-4747; program No. 63293-I

4. Notable Nature: Marvelous Mayapples: The whole family is invited to come to Long Branch for a lesson in nature journaling. You'll begin by constructing your own nature journal, then head out to record nature's wonders, taking a close look at Mayapples and the critters that eat them. For more information, call 703-228-6535.

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

When: 3 to 4 p.m. Saturday

Info: Free; registration required: 703-228-4747; program No. 632953-J

5. Mid-Spring Ramble: Get out and see how spring has progressed near the midpoint. You'll ramble around the trails at Long Branch and Glencarlyn Parks in search of wildflowers, songbirds, turtles and whatever else you might come across. For families, age 6 and up. For more information, call 703-228-6535.

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

When: 2 to 3 p.m. Sunday

Info: $5; registration necessary: 703-228-4747; program No. 632923-N

Best Galleries

1. Albrecht Durer: Master Drawings, Watercolors, and Prints from the Albertina: One of Germany's greatest artists, Albrecht Durer is still studied nearly 500 years after his death for his unmatched craftsmanship. The Albertina Museum in Vienna, Austria, has lent the National Gallery of Art 118 works on paper and 27 engraving and woodcuts from Durer and his contemporaries, which, along with 19 related drawings and prints from the NGA's collection, comprise this fascinating exhibition.

Where: National Gallery of Art, Constitution Avenue between Third and Seventh streets NW

When: Through June 9

Info: Free; 202-737-4215;

2. Margaret Adams Parker: Signs and Seasons: Parker's elegant etchings, woodcuts and drawings mark the cycle of birth, growth, decline and death that recur constantly in the natural world.

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

When: Through May 26

Info: Free; 301-273-3660;

3. Koen Vanmechelen: Leaving Paradise: Belgian artist Koen Vanmechelen makes his U.S. debut with this installation work interpolating video, installation and live chickens, and exploring "how synergies between science and culture shape identity."

Where: Connersmith, 1358 Florida Ave. NE

When: Saturday through June 29

Info: Free; 202-588-8750;

4. Seven Variations and a Conversation: This exhibit features work by seven Foundry Gallery artists -- Fran Abrams, Naomi Taitz Duffy, Nancy Donnelly, Judy Gilbert Levey, Donna K. McGee, Robert Wiener and Patricia Zannie -- plus one collaborative piece to which all contributed.

Where: Gallery B, 7700 Wisconsin Ave., Suite E, Bethesda

When: Through May 25

Info: Free;

5. 16th Annual T.C. Williams High School Student Art Show: Thirteen students from T.C. Williams High School have been inducted this year into the National Art Honor Society in the hope these young talents will continue their studies in art at the collegiate level. This exhibition of their work offers a preview of tomorrow's rising stars of the art world.

Where: Del Ray Artisans Gallery, Nicholas A. Colasantos Center, 2704 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria

When: Through May 12

Info: Free; 703-838-4827;