Though it's hard to beat Baltimore for holiday cheer, that suburb to the south — also known as the District of Columbia — puts its own distinctive spin on the season. Below are a few activities in the nation's capital that are worth checking out in the coming weeks:
•Washington Ballet's "The Nutcracker": Dance lovers can choose from among many fine renditions of the beloved balletic sugar plum, from performances by the Moscow Ballet to the talented young students at the Baltimore School for the Arts. But it's fair to say that choreographer Septime Webre's version for the Washington Ballet, which is set in the Georgetown neighborhood around 1882, is the only production to feature historic figures, with George Washington as the Nutcracker. Through Dec. 28 at the Warner Theatre, 513 13th St. $42-$200. 202-397-7328 or washingtonballet.org
•Downtown Holiday Market, F St. between 7th and 9th streets NW: Now, in its 10th year, the market in front of the Smithsonian's American Art Museum has grown to 150 artisans — or 60 on any given day — who offer one-of-a-kind jewelry, pottery, paintings and textiles to help finish off your gift list. Musical entertainment ranges from jazz to hip-hop to swing, while food trucks will be selling doughnuts, Peruvian-style empanadas and vegetarian offerings. Exhibitors and acts rotate daily, so if you're in the area, it's worth checking back. From noon to 8 p.m. daily through Tuesday. 202-215-6993 or downtownholidaymarket.com
•"Messiah" Singalong at the Center for the Performing Arts, 2700 F St. NW: Admit it, you can't get enough of belting out "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Halle-ee-lu-jah!" at the top of your lungs. You sang along to Handel's triumphant oratorio on Friday with the Baltimore Choral Arts Society, and you're ready to do it again at 8 p.m. Tuesday in the Kennedy Center's Concert Hall under the baton of conductor Barry Hemphill. A tradition since 1971. Free, but tickets are required. 800-444-1324 or kennedy-center.org
•Christmas at Mount Vernon: Located just a few minutes by car past the nation's capital, George Washington's estate overlooking the Potomac River offers candlelight tours, fireside carols, chocolate-making demonstrations, dancing, music-making and 12 decorated Christmas trees. Kids will enjoy a visit to see Aladdin the Christmas camel. Through Jan. 6. $8 through $22; children 5 and younger free for the daytime programs. 703-780-2000 or mountvernon.org.
•"Bad Jews" and "Choir Boy" at Studio Theatre, 1501 14th St. NW: Technically "Bad Jews" by Joshua Harmon, and "Choir Boy," by Tarell Alvin McCraney, aren't holiday-themed. But both plays grapple with issues of faith, culture and identity — and what could be more in keeping with the spirit of the season? "Bad Jews" is about three siblings — "super Jew" Daphna, secular Liam and somewhere-in-the-middle Jonah — who battle over a family heirloom. The show runs through Jan. 4. "Choir Boy" is about a student at an elite prep school for young black men who must decide whether to ignore a gay slur and take his place as the leader of the school's acclaimed gospel choir. The show runs Jan. 7 through Feb. 22. $20-$78 for each production. 202-332-3300 or studiotheatre.org.