Washington, DC, Shopping
For quality souvenir shopping, DC has political memorabilia and White House items like official Christmas ornaments (sold all year) and the wooden Easter eggs that are given to each visitor at the annual Easter Egg Roll. Some of the best gift shopping is in the museum shops all around The National Mall.
On the fashion and home furnishings front, DC remains a conservative city overall, but even before Washington Post fashion reporter Robin Givhan won a Pulitzer Prize for her dead-on commentaries on the significance of clothing and style, Washingtonians had come a long way from their stodgy reputation.
Now, designers and retailers know that wallets open quickly for high-quality, high-style merchandise. There are plenty of good deals, too, at branches of H&M, Loehmann's, and Filene's Basement. High-, medium- and low-end price tags can be found in every sector of the city's retail universe, and malls ring the Beltway.
Insider's Guide: The Best of Shopping in Washington, DC
Since Washington is the center of the universe for political fervor, visitors enjoy Political America (corner of 14th and Pennsylvania), where you'll find authentic and reproduction campaign buttons, signed photos and letters, and a wealth of commemorative items from many administrations. Both tourists and serious collectors shop here.
The Shops at Georgetown (3222 M St NW) is a stylish urban mall with four levels of upscale shops to explore, including Ann Taylor, Abercrombie & Fitch, Polo/Ralph Lauren, Talbot's, Georgiou, and others. Don't look for a department store because you won't find any. You can receive help gift-wrapping in the Concierge Center on the lower level. The Shops at National Place (1331 Pennsylvania Ave NW) has more than 100 specialty shops and restaurants.
White House souvenirs are a big hit with the folks back home. The White House Visitor Center (1450 Pennsylvania Ave NW) is open very early, at 7:30 am, and closes early, at 4 pm, but is open seven days a week. The second White House Museum Shop (740 Jackson Place, NW) is at the White House Historical Association in a beautiful townhouse on a street that borders Lafayette Square. It's open Monday through Friday only.
A third place to get wonderful gifts with Washington flavor, also on Jackson Place, is the Stephen Decatur House (1610 H St NW), which focuses on American history and architecture. Reproductions of presidential china include 12 patterns of dinner and salad plates. Take time for a tour before or after your shopping session; Decatur House was designed by pre-eminent American architect Benjamin Latrobe.
For years, White House staff and their guests shopped for White House Situation Room T-shirts and presidential cuff links at a Secret Service gift shop that could only be reached by wandering around the basement of the Old Executive Office Building. After 9-11, the Secret Service, whose sales profits go to charities, moved to the National Press Building (529 14th St NW). In addition to White House logoed items, they sell official wooden Easter eggs and WWII Memorial items.
For clothing, in addition to the hundreds of retail stores, Washington has two fantastic consignment shops. At Inga's Once Is Not Enough (4830 MacArthur Blvd, NW), owner Inga Guen makes sure her merchandise is abundant but edited. At least one rack is always devoted to Escada, and there are sections for Chanel, St. John, and cashmere. A small men's area regularly displays Prada loafers, Zegna shirts, and Burberry raincoats and suits. Inga's prices are wide-ranging and not usually negotiable.
Another great consignment shop isn't far to the northwest. Encore Resale Dress Shop (3715 Macomb St NW) is just off Wisconsin Avenue near the National Cathedral. The main room usually has lots of great shoes and bags. Clothing labels include Escada, St. John, and Dana Buchman. The shop also seems to take in and send out a lot of fur coats. Alden's Shoes (1725 K St NW) has manufactured men's shoes since 1884.
Auction lovers will want to know about Weschler's Auction House (909 E St NW). Every Monday morning, anything not being held for a catalog auction is on display. If you can't be there during the day on Tuesday, you're welcome to leave a credit card number and bid instructions, but by 5 pm Tuesday you must pick up your spoils. Before you arrive, check the Web site, where upcoming lots are posted.
The Georgetown Flea Market (Wisconsin Ave NW) is a friendly neighborhood place that has given local collectors of antiques, jewelry, books, rugs, toys, linens, and other items a place to display their goods since the mid-1970s. You can find as many as 70 booths set up year-round offering treasures for bargains if you're willing to look. Come early for the biggest selection, and late for the best bargains.
Washington, DC, is often thought of as stuffy and serious, but the town boasts a great theater scene and plenty of hot clubs and live performances to keep you entertained after hours. Keep reading to learn more about nightlife and entertainment in Washington, DC.