Birding in a Winter Wonderland and More Seasonal Programs in December

Smithsonian Associates offers a slate of engaging and entertaining programs this month

Wide shot of snowy forest and a line of seven Canadian geese on the shore of a stream.
On December 7 naturalist Matt Felperin will share tips on how to make the most of winter birding in the mid-Atlantic region. Smithsonian Associates

Smithsonian Associates offers innovative, online and in-person programming that promotes learning, enrichment and creativity for people of all ages. Hundreds of seminars, studio arts classes and study tours are offered annually. To view the Smithsonian Associates digital program guide, visit


Thursday, December 1

Quintessential Québec City: Québec City is the only walled metropolis north of Mexico, but there are many other distinctions that make it a must-visit place for visitors in search of history, great eating and a uniquely European atmosphere. Emmy Award–nominated PBS television host Darley Newman is ready to tell you why you should make the trip. This program will be held online at 7 p.m. ET. $25-$30


Friday, December 2

Along the C&O Canal: The Chesapeake & Ohio Canal covers over 20,000 acres along the Potomac and is one of the nation’s most diverse national parks in terms of both natural species and historical significance. Aidan Barnes of the C&O Canal Trust surveys its colorful history, near demise and rescue and its emergence as a true national treasure. This program will be held online from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET $20-$25


Saturday, December 3

Introduction to iPhone Videography: Learn the basics of filmmaking from pre-production to shooting to post-production, working with an iPhone. Each participant creates a short video to share with the class. This online course will be held from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. ET, with a second session offered on Sunday, December 4. $75-$95


Sunday, December 4

The Holidays in Old Town Alexandria: Step back in time as you stroll along Old Town Alexandria’s red-brick sidewalks to explore how Christmases of yesteryear were celebrated here. The rich history shared by guide Lynn O’Connell covers the people, places and traditions that make Old Town a picture-perfect spot during the holiday season. This program will meet at 10 a.m. in Market Square at 300 King Street. Another tour will be held Friday, December 9. $60-$70


Monday, December 5

In Search of Sacred Sites: For the past 40 years, documentary photographer, filmmaker and National Geographic Society Explorer Chris Rainier has been in search of the sacred and the very meaning of sacredness. Rainier shares his discoveries from that exploration as he leads a visual journey into a world of spiritual landscapes and sacred sites around the globe, combining powerful and haunting images with insights from leading authors, spiritual thinkers, indigenous elders, explorers and religious scholars. This program will be held in person at the Smithsonian’s S. Dillon Ripley Center and simulcast online at 6:45 p.m. ET. $20-$25


Tuesday, December 6

Yuletide in Dixie: Slavery, Christmas and Southern Memory: The conventional wisdom that Christmas provided enslaved African Americans in the Civil War era with a respite from labor and punishment is wrong, says historian Robert E. May. He examines how slavery’s most punitive features persisted at holiday time and how false assumptions about slave Christmases later became harnessed to cultural myths that undergirded white supremacy in the United States. This program will be held online at 7 p.m. ET. $20-$25


Wednesday, December 7

Birding in a Winter Wonderland: Not all birds fly south for the winter: Many species find their way to homes in temperate North America. Naturalist Matt Felperin shares valuable tips on how to make the most of winter birding in the mid-Atlantic region and why it’s one of the most rewarding and magical times for spotting seasonal visitors from ducks and geese to songbirds and raptors. This program will be held online at 7 p.m. ET. $25-$30


Thursday, December 8

Radio City Music Hall: Front and Center for the Christmas Spectacular: There’s no more iconic holiday performance in New York than Radio City Music Hall’s famed Christmas Spectacular. And there’s no better way to see the precision dancing of the Rockettes than from prime orchestra seats in the fabulous art deco theater where the show has been a tradition since 1933. A behind-the-scenes tour of the Music Hall adds to the experience. This all-day tour meets at 6:45 a.m. and departs by bus from the Mayflower Hotel in Washington, D.C., Connecticut Ave. and DeSales St., NW. $355-$405

Rediscovering Botticelli’s Lost Drawings—and the Renaissance: The 19th-century rediscovery of Sandro Botticelli’s drawings illustrating The Divine Comedy reminded the art world of how the artist’s work embodies the spirit of the Renaissance. Joseph Luzzi of Bard College explains how and why Botticelli’s creations from the beauty of Primavera and the Birth of Venus to the drama of Dante’s Purgatorio—still move us today. Enrolled participants in the Smithsonian World Art History Certificate program earn 1/2 credit. This program will be held online at 6:30 p.m. ET $20-$25


Friday, December 9

A Traveler's Guide to the Stars: The Possibilities of Interstellar Exploration: The age-old dream of venturing forth into the cosmos and even colonizing distant worlds may one day become a reality. Physicist, author and NASA technologist Les Johnson reveals the physics and technologies that may enable us to reach the stars. This event will be held online at 7 p.m. ET. $20-$25

On December 11 historian and former White House design partner, Coleen Christian Burke, will lead a journey through Christmas history at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. The White House

Sunday, December 11

Decking the Halls at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue: Author and historian Coleen Christian Burke, a 2014 White House design partner, leads a journey through Christmas history as she reveals how the annual decorating themes developed by first ladies are turned into sparkling realities. She also discusses how the holiday White House functions as both a private home and public space and offers views of some of the most memorable seasonal settings created at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. This lecture will be held online from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. ET. $30-$35


Thursday, December 15

Spices 101: Cinnamon: The spice we love in apple pie, tagines and churros has been treasured across cultures since ancient times, and used for culinary, medicinal and spiritual purposes—even including ancient Egyptian embalming methods. Christine Rai explores cinnamon’s fascinating origins, history and variety, and shares tips on using the spice in your own kitchen. This program will be held online at 12 p.m. ET. $25-$30 

The Magic of Fred Astaire: Whether it was partnering with Ginger Rogers, Rita Hayworth, Cyd Charisse or a hat rack, Fred Astaire on film made everything appear easy and elegant. In a delightful program illustrated with video clips, media expert Brian Rose surveys the sweep of Astaire’s remarkable career, looking at his work both as a soloist and as the most romantic dance partner in Hollywood history. This program will be held online from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET. $20-$25


Friday, December 16

France’s Hidden Gems: Drink Like a French Sommelier: Sommelier Erik Segelbaum guides you through a tour-de-force presentation of some of the most incredible yet lesser-known wines and regions of France. On this journey off the beaten path, you’re sure to discover some of the most exciting wines France produces. This online program will be held at 6 p.m. ET and includes a wine tasting kit as part of its ticket price that must be picked up from a local Washington, DC wine bar. $65-$75

Donatello: Artist of the Florentine Renaissance: A technical master, Donatello broke new ground in the methods he used and the forms he chose to develop, leaving behind a legacy of creations that seem startlingly modern. Art historian Elaine Ruffolo highlights the life and work of this artist who embodied the ideas of the Renaissance in sculpture. Enrolled participants in the Smithsonian World Art History Certificate program earn 1/2 credit. This program will be held online from 12 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET $20-$25

To view the Smithsonian Associates digital program guide, visit