The List: Top Eleven Things to Do this Month at the Smithsonian After Work

Date night at the Smithsonian, grab your special someone and head out to these after-hours events

Film still from 55 Days at Peking (1963)
Film still from 55 Days at Peking (1963) Courtesy of Freer/Sackler Gallery, SI

There’s a wonderful little nip in the air that’s invaded the Metro area, and finally taken the edge off that dreadful humidity that had been lingering like in-laws that just won’t take the hint to leave. It’s the perfect time for you and that special someone to go out for the evening and kick up your heels, or get out to learn something.  And wouldn’t you know it, the Smithsonian museums have a full slate of varied evening events scheduled for pretty much every night this month. We’ve selected an uneven eleven, because that’s just how we roll.

1. See a film: If you’re a fan of Asian cinema, Friday nights at 7:00 at the Freer Gallery this October could be your bag, baby. The ambitious Boxer Rebellion tale, 55 Days at Peking, featuring Charlton Heston and Ava Gardner, is playing October 7. You can check out Bernardo Bertolucci’s The Last Emperor, the aptly-titled film about Puyi, the last emperor of China on October 14. And in Rebels of the Neon God, October 21, a street hood gets a overly zealous student admirer.

2. Gaze into the starry, starry night: Get all romantic and hold hands with that special someone while you do some stargazing at the museum’s Public Observatory at the Air and Space Museum. No excuses, guys. You’ve got three dates to chose from—October 8, 21 or 22.

3. Get your dose of intellectual: Share an art outing Wednesday, October 12 at 7:00 and head over to the Smithsonian American Art Museum for figurative painter and portraitist Elizabeth Peyton’s lecture on the creative experience. Peyton is best known for her smaller-scale paintings of stylized, elongated, androgynous figures.

4. Play ball: True, the Nationals didn’t make the playoffs, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have to stop loving baseball. The authors of Baseball Americana: Treasures from the Library of Congress will be on hand for signing and discussion at the National Portrait Gallery Wednesday, October 12 at 6:00 7:00. The book uses the Library of Congress’ vast trove of baseball goodies to cover over two centuries of baseball history.

5. Expand your music horizons: Go hear the performance of American composer Daron Hagen’s new concerto for Japanese koto and string quartet Thursday, October 13 at the Freer Gallery. The piece is based on the eleventh-century work of Japanese literature, Tale of Genji, and the soloist Yumi Kurosawa has appeared at Carnegie Hall.

6. Go the sophisticated route: Take your date to After Hours at the Hirshhorn for modern art, cocktails and live music October 14 at 8:00. Tickets are $25 in advance, and the event usually sells out!

7. Chase storms like the pros do: Head over to the IMAX Theater at the Natural History Museum October 20 at 7:00 to catch Tornado Alley 3-D. Director Sean Casey, along with featured scientists Josh Wurman and Karen Kosiba, will be on hand to answer questions like, “Why the heck do you go outside while there’s a gigantic tornado going on?” Tickets are $10 for members, $13 for general admission.

8. Do the locomotion: Receive a history lesson in cinematic form, courtesy of the Smithsonian American Art Museum. American Experience: Transcontinental Railroad covers the six-year construction of the Transcontinental Railroad, in all its laborious glory Thursday, October 20 at 6:30.

9. Be a problem solver: Head over to the Anacostia Museum Thursday, October 20 for the lecture and book signing The Heart of the Race Problem: The Life of Kelly Miller. Author Ida E. Jones will be discussing the accomplishments of Miller, the first African American admitted to Johns Hopkins University in 1887. Miller, who pursued a doctorate in mathematics, physics and astronomy, later became interested in improving relationships between the races.

10. Go trick or treating: Have kids, or just want to remember the good old days of trick-or-treating? Head over to Boo at the Zoo at the National Zoo on either October 21, 22 or 23 at 5:30. Throw a costume on your child, or don one yourself and enjoy wildlife and treats. Tickets are $20 for FONZ members, $30 for non-FONZ members.

11. Take flight: If you and your special someone happen to dig airpower, check out the lecture over at Lockheed Martin IMAX Theatre by Captain Rosemary Bryant Mariner October 27 at 8:00. Mariner was one of the first eight women to enter military pilot training back in 1973, and was the first woman to fly a front-line attack aircraft.

Update 10/12/2011: The baseball event this evening takes place at 6 and not 7 p.m., sorry for the inconvenience.

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