The phrase “[insert any annual occurrence] is going to look a lot different this year” is becoming all too redundant. But it’s fitting for so many situations, including this guide. If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, then you know my annual holiday gift recommendations usually are heavy on local experiences to reflect the spirit of adventure and exploring that (I hope) my blog captures.
However, like much of life these days, it’s going to look a lot different this year. With the lack of live entertainment and in-person programs combined with a cautious view of what’s safe to do, major sections of the guide had to be scrapped. But — and here’s another ubiquitous term of 2020 — we pivot. Where there used to be listings for upcoming shows to snag tickets to gift, you’ll find ideas to elevate your at-home entertainment. Instead of recs for indoor experiences that are now considered iffy, there are products to enhance your outdoor adventures. And suggestions for awesome on-site classes are replaced with tips for online enrichment.
Some of these ideas will still look familiar because, as I’ve said in the past, I think they’re really good suggestions.😉 Plus, many of them give me the chance to highlight local businesses offering unique products and services as well as organizations that are doing great things. I hope you’ll find all of these, old and new, helpful as you head into the holiday season. Happy gifting!
Since live theatre, concerts, or even movies at local venues aren’t really options right now, help bring the entertainment home instead. The right devices, accessories, and treats can create alternative environments to enjoy those experiences you miss and have socially distant hang outs with company. Even better, they make great gifts! Here are some to check out, with something for everyone on your list:
* With a portable projector, kids (and adults) can have friends over for outdoor movie nights.
* A real projector screen completes the outdoor theatre set up.
* Put on your own concert with a karaoke machine or microphone.
* The perfect accessory for gamers.
* For staying warm during winter backyard hangs, the Solo Stove or a patio heater are worth the splurge.
* Cozy blankets are great to gift. (Another style. Splurge option.)
* Kids can wrap up in fun ones, like this and this.
* Footwear for hang-at-home occasions. (Budget option.)
* Make it all sweeter with City Bonfires, created by two local dads.
* Or spice it up with a popcorn kit.
These days, our best bets for getting out of the house and social distancing safely are activities outdoors. So, make those al fresco adventures better for everyone on your gift list with gear that supports their favorite hobbies, encourages them to try new ones, and keeps them happy outside in all conditions.
* Everyone needs a bike these days. (More options.)
* Most important accessory for it: Bike helmet — for kids & adults.
* We have and love this bike bag.
* Make rides sparkle — and visible — with these lights.
* Sleds are a must-have for the snowy season
* As is the right apparel for kiddos.
* Good winter boots, too. (More options: These and these.)
* Grown-ups also need good winter wear: For moms & dads.
* Fuzzy pullover is on trend. (Splurge option.)
* Bombas are warm and fun for all aged tootsies
* Yeti drinkware…or go all out with a cooler.
* Winter hats: Littles, kids, mom, dad.
* For rainy days, a bubble umbrella is practical, and these are so pretty.
* Roller skates are making a come back — for kids and adults.
* Take game playing outdoors with Spike Ball.
* It’s a good time to get into disc golf.
* Of course, all outdoor activities should include masks (as should any 2020 gift guide): For kids, for working out, for a pretty look, for fashion, for Christmas, for Chanukah, for fun.
THE INSIDE STORY
Between closures due to Covid and cold months ahead, there will be more time spent indoors this winter. Gifts to make it cozy and fun for people you love are perfect to give. Here are some ideas, a mix of practical, indulgent, amusing, and unique items.
* Tea time, anyone?
* Or hot chocolate stocking stuffers?
* Enjoy it in these map mugs — fun and educational!
* Very handy instructional hot toddy mugs.
* And how cute are these personalized family mugs?
* Take advantage of soup and stew season.
* The Always Pan is the cooking item of the season
* Shop for even more cookware locally at the wonderful Hill’s Kitchen.
* DIY food & drinks kits have something for everyone.
* Holiday PJ’s for the whole fam.
* A cozy essential: Slippers for kids, mom, & dad.
* A comfy robe to top it all: For kids, mom, dad.
* Can’t go wrong with a cute sweater from Anthro.
* Totally getting our kids cat pillows.
* Per Sasha, these LED lights complete any room.
* Some of our classic board game faves: Rummikub, Catan, Scrabble, Clue.
* New family game night recs: Kids Against Maturity, Just One, Fun Employed, Anomia.
Here’s where to go locally for those recommended games above. 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 — or to the website for socially distanced browsing. 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 10 years ago, it’s gotten even better, so much that they expanded to a second space next door. They have something for everyone — all ages, every interest. Even better, there’s always a fun, friendly vibe in the store, plus the service is just as great as the inventory. All of the staff are very knowledgeable about what they sell — give them a few details about who you’re shopping for, and they’ll show you just the right game or puzzle to buy. (You can do this through their online Holiday Gift Assist, too!)
Almost everyone has made some kind of work transition to their house over the last year — from the office, school, or even the gym. And since it looks like it’ll be going on at least a little while longer, these gifts that improve those at-home set-ups will be much appreciated — for job work, class work, and working out.
* This stand up desk converter gets great reviews.
* A new desk chair for kids will make online school more comfy.
* Wireless headphones for work — and leisure. (Splurge option.)
* A map wall decal could come in handy for geography class.
* There are all kinds of blue light glasses available.
* The new Echo Dots are pretty cool (my kids love their older models).
* Any yogi can always use a new mat.
* Weight sets and exercise bands for at-home workouts.
* Local shop Summit to Soul also has awesome workout wear.
* Lululemon has some great deals right now.
* Black is a Rainbow Color: A timely children’s book
* Kamala Harris: Rooted in Justice: Kids can learn about their VP
* All of the Andrea Beaty books
* Give a set of your childhood faves
* Stamped: By DC’s own Jason Reynolds, for tweens and up
* Humans: The perfect gift for any HONY fan
* A Promised Land: Sure to be a holiday bestseller
* Accidentally Wes Anderson: For fans of his films or the IG inspired by them
* What Kind of Woman: Poetry that will take her breath away
* Caste: One of the best reads this year
* That Cheese Plate Will Change Your Life: And so will this book!
* Subscriptions keep the gifts coming: National Geographic, Washingtonian Magazine, The New Yorker, Bon Appetit
B(U)Y THE BOOK
Look for the above recs and more great reads for everyone at a local independent bookstore. You can shop just about all of them online, too.
* Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle is a DC institution and always a great place to browse and have a bite at Afterwards Cafe.
* Combine your shopping trip to Labyrinth with a stop next door at East City Book Shop.
* On H Street NE, Solid State Books also has a nice selection.
* Find reads just for kids at Hurray for Books in Old Town Alexandria.
* Politics & Prose, one of the city’s most well known bookstores has locations at Union Market, The Wharf, and its original Connecticut Avenue shop.
* Go secondhand at Capitol Hill Books, a legendary used bookshop.
BOX IT UP
This category includes two kinds of gifts, but one theme: They come in a box. Subscription boxes that are delivered on a regular basis keep the surprises coming. And then there are gift boxes curated just for the holidays, including some really good ones from local businesses.
* Local retailer Steadfast Supply has a fantastic variety of gift boxes.
* Little Loving Hands, started local moms, lets kids can get creative & give back.
* Raddish Kids delivers monthly cooking inspo.
* Time 4 Mom is a subscription service especially for busy mamas.
* Kiwi Co. now has maker boxes for kids of all ages — and adults.
* Birchbox delivers beauty each month.
* There’s even one for pooches: Barkbox.
KEEP IT CLASSY
Has your child expressed interest in a particular activity? Give them a boost by getting them into a class! Many programs that used to be IRL have gone digital, so kids can enjoy them safely from the comfort of home. Here are some recommendations:
* Get kiddos cooking with Tiny Chefs.
* Budding actors can learn the performing arts ropes with Adventure Theatre.
* Young Playwrights Theater offers playwrighting programs
* All ages can twirl and groove with CityDance.
* Give the gift of music with lessons from the International School of Music.
* The Lane Social Club offers some class series littles.
* For adults: An online cooking class with the Hill Center or a wine tasting with District Winery.
PICTURE PERFECT PRESENTS
How about a gift that includes your whole gang? Present them (and yourself!) with a family portrait session. And like the last few years, I’m recommending just the right photographer for it. As mentioned in previous gift guides, I have adored Darcy Troutman’s photos forever, starting with her former blog, No Monsters in My Bed. But over the last few years, she launched her own photography business capturing families and weddings, helping people make and preserve memories. Her style is unique and the photos gorgeous, but her real-life, let-the-moment-seize-you approach to her work is what really makes it special. Also, she’s hilarious 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.
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, 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 bathrooms to the amazing booties on her feet. She actually did a tear-down/rebuild of her own house, and you can take a virtual tour of it here.
ENTER THROUGH THE MUSEUM GIFT SHOP
We have some pretty amazing museums in our city, and many of their gift shops — that are also online — 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, gadgets, 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 of some of the other museums in town: The International Spy Museum, National Building Museum, and Phillips Collection all have unique and interesting inventory.
You kind of can’t go wrong with the gift of food. I mean, everyone eats, and no matter how old, we all have our favorite bites and places for them. That’s why a gift card to a restaurant or treatery (hey, did I just make up a word?) or an edible product from a local establishment will satisfy many a giftee’s appetite or craving. Here are a few ideas to chew on:
* The Pretzel Bakery is our neighborhood fave for savory & sweet treats.
* Officina offers Provisions for a week of delicious eating.
* If someone on your gift list loves sushi, they need to try O-Ku.
* Give a gift card for Rose’s Luxury for Rose’s At Home Dinner Delivery.
* You can’t go wrong with goodies from Baked & Wired.
* Cider enthusiasts will love a gift card from ANXO.
* All Purpose Pizzeria is delish and offering holiday gift cards.
* Goldbelly is an online marketplace of well-known purveyors from all over.
* Trader Joes‘ giant chocolate bars, tins of peppermint bark, and other gifty items are easy last minute (or planned) treats.
* The above are just a few recs. You can give a gift card from any place you want to support — browse Open Table and Resy for more reminders of what’s out there.
How about boxing up hope and happiness? Gifts That Give Hope, an online market this year, lets you support the community and find unique and meaningful gifts for loved ones as you make donations to local charities in their names. You can also do this through the GIVE page here on the blog, which 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 to show them the gift of giving back. While most of those opportunities are limited right now, you could do a trash pick-up or find ways for kids to volunteer from home.
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 DIY scavenger hunt at the National Arboretum.
* A holiday lights tour — many continue into January.
* A visit to Planet Word, DC’s newest, coolest museum.
* Fossil hunting adventures at the Purse Area or Calvert Cliffs State Park.
* A bike ride bookended by fun explorations and play.
* A geogcaching adventure on an area hike.
* A day of play at Clemyjontri.
* An outing to Riverbend Park, where you can hike to Great Falls to enjoy some of the area’s best nature.
* A nature/photo walk at Huntley Meadows or Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
* Find inspo for even more!
Call for more: Are you (or is someone you know) a local businesses owner or maker offering products that would make great gifts? Let us know by leaving a link in the comments, if so!
*Many of the newer recs are affiliate links (though I put a ton of thought into them), which means I could earn a small commission when you click on them and make a purchase. As a small business, especially during this challenging time, your support is very much appreciated!