As we head into the thick of the season, many of us are still searching for those perfect gifts for family and friends. So just like the last couple of years, I’m going to try and help out with that by sharing some things I’ve really enjoyed and/or think would make fantastic presents for a variety of people. This also gives me a chance to highlight local businesses and people offering unique products and experiences as well as organizations that are doing great things. And then there are some ideas that are simply fun and enriching. You might notice some things are back from previous years, but that’s because they’re worth repeating (like the photo above…an oldie but goody that makes me chuckle every time). None of these recommendations are sponsored; they’re just things that I truly like and think you and yours might, too. Happy gifting!
Kiwi Crate, the monthly activity box subscription, has been in our lives for several years, so I know firsthand that it makes for great presents for kids. In fact, not only do mine get them, we also give them. Hence, I’m endorsing the products once again! A few kits are available — the original Kiwi comes with all the supplies needed to make an adorable craft. The Koala Crate is for ages 3-5, the Doodle Crate for ages 9-16+, and the Tinker Crate also for ages 9-16+. They’re great to have on hand for rainy days or anytime kids want a ready-to-go (ie, minimal work for you) project at home.
Are You Game?
DC’s best shop for board games and puzzles continues to offer so many fantastic options for holiday gifts, so plan on a visit to Labyrinth Game Shop on Capitol Hill. This is one of my go-tos for birthday party presents and always a stop for some shopping this time of year. Since I first wrote about the store when it opened seven years ago, it’s gotten even better. They have something for everyone — all ages, every interest. And the service is just as great as the inventory. Give them a few details about who you’re shopping for, and they’ll show you just the right game to buy.
Find presents for everyone at a local bookstore! Combine your shopping trip to Labyrinth with a stop next door at East City Book Shop. The store has an excellent selection of books, plus other fun gifts for children and adults. Politics & Prose, one of the city’s most well known bookstores, just opened a location at The Wharf along with its original Connecticut Avenue shop. Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle is a DC institution and always a great place to browse and have a bite at Afterwards Cafe. You can go secondhand at Walls of Books in Petworth, where the inventory is 99% used books (and there is regular programming for kids)! And Baby Ventures Books, started by two local moms, inspires young children to explore their world early on with wonder and compassion.
Obama: An Intimate Portrait is bound to be a big gift this holiday season. The book by Pete Souza, the Chief Official White House Photographer during the Obama administration, beautifully captures those eight years in images that are heartwarming, poignant, powerful, and inspiring with captions to accompany each one, and longer stories to illustrate a few even more. For young readers, Dream Big Dreams is a shorter, but just as inspirational, version especially for them.
There’s so much great live entertainment both currently running and coming to local stages soon, that would make fantastic presents for kids and adults. KFDC Tip: Before you buy, check for ticket deals, as you may be able to get discounts to some productions. See the round-up of winter entertainment, and here are some recommendations for shows running during the holiday season and coming up soon in the new year:
* Hansel & Gretel at Syentic Theatre
* Frosty the Snowman at Adventure Theatre
* Nina Simone: Four Women at Arena Stage (and any future shows there)
* Mr. Popper’s Penguins at the Kennedy Center.
* The American Pops’ Around the World in 80 Days
* Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood Live at Warner Theatre
* Les Misérables at National Theatre
* Monster Jam at Capital One Arena
* An American in Paris at the Kennedy Center.
Enter Through the Museum Gift Shop
We have some pretty amazing museums in our city, and many of their gift shops echo the impressive collections with items that are an extension of their programs. It’s not just prints of paintings you see; you can buy books, puzzles, accessories, games, housewares, and lots of children’s items that are artistic, clever, and innovative. Just about all of the Smithsonian Museums and National Zoo have wonderful gift shops. And I highly recommend browsing the shops at some of the other museums in town: The National Building Museum, International Spy Museum, and Newseum all have unique and interesting inventory.
Spot of T’s
Wearable gifts are a good idea, especially when they bear inspiring designs. WEErascals has “clothing inspired by heroes,” like T-shirts boasting images of Jane Goodall, Albert Einstein, John Muir as well as shout-out slogans such as “Fierce Like Frida” and “Dreamin’ Like MLK.” You can keep it DC focused with WEE the People T’s that celebrate iconic sites and figures. For adults, I love shirts from SuperLoveTees, not only because they’re supercute, but because they spread a good vibe with positive, uplifting messages.
What kid (or adult) doesn’t love a brand new bike? Sure, it might be a biggie when it comes to presents, but in our cycling-friendly town, where it’s often easier — and much more fun — to get around on two wheels than four, the gift of a bicycle is as practical as it is exciting for the giftee. REI is always good place to shop for them — their own lines are solid, plus they carry several other brands — and they often have good sales (just got a great deal there on my new ride). Conte’s is a new shop at The Yards with a nice selection of bikes and good service. You can also try to score a fixed-up find at a local refurbished bike sale on December 9.
For the people, young and old, in your life who like active thrills and challenges, a gift certificate or season pass for one of these action-packed pursuits is strongly recommended.
* The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring, one of our favorite outdoor places to play, is an exciting aerial forest experience, where adventure-goers navigate ropes courses in the trees, with climbing for kids as young as 5 years old. Check out their gift options for the season, and read more about the adventure in this KFDC post.
* iFLY Loudoun offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience “flying” without stepping foot in (or out of) an airplane. Meant to simulate skydiving, flights take place in a vertical wind tunnel on a smooth cushion of air created by high-powered fans that enable people to float. It’s quite exhilarating, but also a splurge, making it a special and unique present. Read more about the experience here.
* Trapeze School New York in DC has classes in flying trapeze, static trapeze, balancing and acrobatics, trampoline, and more. Both of my kids have tried — and loved — the circus-inspired adventure at The Yards in the Capitol Riverfront (and I want to give it a whirl myself)!
* Many local ice skating rinks have season passes available for peops who want to practice their triple lutzes and spins — or just really like to glide around.
Any sleuths on your gift list? If so, solve the mystery of what to get them with Watson Adventures. These scavenger hunts that take place at local museums are as well executed as they are fun and intriguing. There are hunts for adults as well as a Harry Potter themed Wizard School quest for younger ages, too, that has you searching the National Gallery of Art for works that echo the characters, places and enchanted objects in the famed books and movies. A gift certificate to one of these experiences is like a passport to adventure! Read more about it all in this KFDC post.
For children who aren’t quite old enough to climb, fly, or take in a big show, consider a membership to a museum. The National Building Museum offers family memberships for $90/year, getting you all into the Building Zone and most exhibits free of charge (regularly $3-10/person). Port Discovery in Baltimore is another great one with loads of hands-on, curiosity-peaking, educational, fun exhibits that keep kids engaged for hours. Family memberships for the year start at $124 (admission is $15.95/person), and right now they are offering $20 off if you purchase by December 18!
Has your kid expressed interest in a particular activity or sport? Or maybe your spouse wants to pursue a new hobby or begin a different routine? Give them a boost by getting them into a class! From soccer to sewing to dance to art to yoga to cooking to theatre to music to running, there are all kinds of sessions all around the area offering lessons and guidance that help turn curiosity into mastery and skill. Here are some recommendations for places and programs:
* DC Way has soccer and futsal for kids.
* All ages can get grooving and twirling with CityDance.
* Register really little ones for classes at Gymboree Play & Music DC
* Three Little Birds Sewing Co. and Sew Creative Lounge offer sewing classes for children and adults.
* My Gym Bethesda & Potomac have active classes for kids ages 3-10
* Budding actors can learn the performing arts ropes with Adventure Theatre.
* Check out Gabriella Boston’s Boot Camp for Capitol Hill adults who want a great workout (and like early morning fitness).
* Runners of all levels can make strides with Kathy Pugh Running.
* Activity Rocket and Course Horse are great websites to find even more classes for all ages and interests.
Gift your whole fam with a getaway! There are plenty of great not-too-far places for a family weekend jaunt. Great Wolf Lodge caters to families with an indoor waterpark and tons of fun for kids. The Chesapeake Hyatt is popular for its indoor swimming and family-friendly amenities. Wintergreen is a lovely all-season resort. Or find a great VRBO or Airbnb and get out of town for a few days — we loooved this Shenandoah Farm where we stayed in the spring.
Gifts That Give Hope
How about boxing up hope and happiness? At a Gifts That Give Hope event, you can support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones, co-workers, teachers, and holiday hosts. Learn more about 16 locally based nonprofit organizations, while enjoying festive holiday music and refreshments, visits with Santa, face painting, and other children’s activities. The Arlington Fair will take place Saturday, December 9, at Discovery Elementary School from 10am – 2pm. You can also purchase online after the event.
Along the same lines as the above event, you can give to a cause or charity in someone’s name through a donation — the GIVE Page has suggestions on where to contribute, all of them shared by KFDC readers. You can give your time and plan a volunteering outing with your kids and show them the gift of giving back. A bunch of organizations around the area have opportunities for children and parents help out in a hands-on way together. DC Diaper Bank, Wreaths Across America, DC JCC, and Capital Area Food Bank are some places to check out, and you can find even more in this KFDC post.
If there’s someone in your life who wants a facelift for their home, but needs some guidance going about it, gift them the help of an expert. Margaret Carroll is an architect and design consultant extraordinaire and, full disclosure, also a really great friend of mine. But that just means I know first hand that she has a keen eye for style and the sharpest aesthetic of anyone I know, from the perfectly picked tile in her (former) bathroom to the amazing booties on her feet. She’s actually in the midst of a tear-down/rebuild of her own house and is blogging about the process, so you can follow along as she documents the journey — and see that she’s as charming and funny as she is talented.
Picture Perfect Presents
How about a gift that includes your whole gang? Present them (and yourself!) with a family portrait session. And like last year, I am recommending just the right photographer for it. As mentioned in the 2016 Gift Guide, I have adored Darcy Troutman’s photos forever, mostly on her blog, No Monsters in My Bed. But over the last few years, she has started her own photography business capturing families and weddings, helping people make and preserve memories. Her style is unique and the photos gorgeous, but her approach to her work is what really makes it special. Also, she’s funny and sweet and really comfortable to be around, the ideal personality for the job. Plus, her photos will not only capture this time in your lives, they’ll make for great gifts for extended family throughout the year, too.
This book, written by DC mom and blogger Rebecca Green of Not-So-SAHM, is a bible of fun, educational, and just really awesome ideas for crafts, science projects, outings, and other activities with kids. And, as its title states, parents will enjoy them just as much as their babes. Banish Boredom: Activities to Do with Kids That You’ll Actually Enjoy has a wealth of ideas and tons of good tips for getting kiddos engaged in all kinds of interesting and really fun ways. It’s perfect for parents who like DIY pursuits, but sometimes need a little extra inspiration.
You can take some of the stress out of holiday shopping for kids by getting recs from someone who has already shopped and compared. Red Jellies, an online resource founded by DC mom Kimberly Stephens, is a fully independent review service that helps you discover the very best books and toys on the market. They scour major toy conventions and test loads of products so you don’t have to. Not only can get good gift ideas, you can focus more on the joy of the holidays.
Of course, not all gifts have to come with a hefty price tag. There are so many magical yet still inexpensive experiences to be had in the DC area, some without even spending a dime. You can creatively package them up — perhaps a big, fun card with a photo — and promise a visit. Some suggestions:
* A visit to the Wizard of Oz playground, Old Maryland Farm, and Nature Center at Watkins Regional Park
* Fossil hunting adventures at Purse State Park or Flag Ponds Nature Park
* Flight fascination at the Udvar-Hazy Center, the Chantilly arm of the Air & Space Museum
* A tour of Ford’s Theatre to learn about Abraham Lincoln’s assassination through a museum and performance
* A day at Rock Creek Park to visit the horses, Nature Center, Peirce Mill, and enjoy a hike
* The Washington Youth Garden, Bonsai Museum, and old Capitol Columns at the National Arboretum
* The Fairy Lolly and art experiences at Annmarie Sculpture Gardens
* A nature walk among the lily pad laden ponds at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
* A day of play at Clemyjontri
* And there are many, many, many more right in our backyard.