If you’ve been reading KFDC awhile, this gift guide — including this very intro — may look familiar. And that’s intentional. In its seventh year, the general suggestions haven’t changed very much (nor has the above photo that I adore). While the specifics have been updated, the overall concepts have remained consistent over the years. That’s because I want my recommendations to reflect the spirit of my blog — of adventure, discovery, local culture, and family time — and these ideas do just that. (Plus, I think they’re really good suggestions! 😉 )
So just like the last many years, I’m sharing some things our family has really enjoyed around DC and/or think would make fantastic presents for a variety of people. This also gives me a chance to highlight local businesses offering unique experiences and products as well as people and organizations that are doing great things. And then there are ideas that are simply fun and enriching and showcase the incredible, dynamic city that is Washington, DC. None of these recommendations are sponsored; they’re just experiences, places, adventures, and products that I truly like and think you and yours might, too. Happy gifting!
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 here as you may be able to get discounts to some productions (I’ve noted some, but more deals may come up). Here are recommendations for shows coming up soon and even a few running during the holiday season.
* Make Way for Ducklings at Adventure Theatre
* Poop! The Musical at Adventure Theatre
* Corduroy at Imagination Stage
* P.Nokio: A Hip-Hop Musical at Imagination Stage
* Once Upon a One More Time by Shakespreare Theatre Company (find discount)
* Our Town by Shakespreare Theatre Company
* The Merchant of Venice by Shakespreare Theatre Company
* Tootsie at National Theatre (find discount)
* Pretty Woman: The Musical at National Theatre (find discount)
* The Simon & Garfunkel Story at National Theatre
* RENT – The 25th Anniversary Farewell Tour at National Theatre
* Come From Away at National Theatre
* John Oliver at the Kennedy Center (find discount)
* Beautiful: The Carole King Musical at the Kennedy Center (find discount)
* The Prom at the Kennedy Center (find discount)
* Jesus Christ Superstar at the Kennedy Center (find discount)
* Mean Girls at the Kennedy Center
* Catch Me If You Can at Arena Stage (find discount)
* The 9:30 Club is legendary and welcomes all ages to most shows
* The Anthem has a great line-up of concerts
* For holiday season shows, look here
* You can also give a gift certificate to one of the venues mentioned above
From action-packed activities to more mellow pursuits, there’s a perfect adventure for everyone. And there are many around the DC area that would be ideal as holiday presents. A gift card for one could be a small stocking stuffer with a big, happy impact.
* 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. They are having a Holiday Sale on November 19. In the meantime, read more about the adventure in this KFDC post.
* Many local ice skating rinks have season passes available for peeps who want to practice their triple lutzes and spins — or just like to glide around.
* Ski season is starting, and White Tail is an easy-from-DC place to go for downhill fun. Read more about it and find links for other regional ski resorts here.
* Trapeze School New York in DC has classes in flying trapeze, static trapeze, balancing and acrobatics, trampoline, and more. Read more about it here.
* iFLY Loudoun offers a one-of-a-kind opportunity to experience sky diving without stepping foot in (or out of) an airplane. Read more about it here. (Post is about my experience, but my kids have done it, too!)
* Plan for a paddling excursion when it’s back in season — 2022 passes are available for many locales.
* The St. James has Super, Awesome, & Amazing fun at its activity center and indoor waterpark.
* Kids love scaling the colorful walls at ClimbZone.
* TopGolf, with area locations at National Harbor and Germantown, is a fun place to practice driving balls from their hitting bays.
* Exhibits at ARTECHOUSE are unique, immersive, and fun to experience. See the latest one here.
* There are many awesome attractions in Baltimore that would be great to gift.
* The Calvert Marine Museum is an interesting non-DC museum to check out.
* A sightseeing boat tour is a cool way to get a new view of DC — and have some fun on the water.
* Many holiday light displays continue into January.
Membership really does have its benefits! You can first dibs on tickets to events and shows, exclusive access to special offerings, and/or free admission to places, perfect for those who have favorite spots they frequent often. Here are some local attractions with membership options that would make for excellent gifts:
* At the National Children’s Museum, get a year of free admission, invites to special programs, members-only hours, & 10% off in the gift shop. (Starts at $190) Read more about the museum and get a glimpse here.
* The Lane Social Club for families in Ivy City offers unlimited visits, 10% off cafe purchases, and access to members-only events. (Starts at $95/month)
* Sign kids up for their favorite sports team fan club that offers all kinds of fun benefits, for low cost or even free. A few of our local pro sports team have them: Nats, Spirit, Wizards, Caps
* National Building Museum memberships get you all into exhibits and some programs free of charge, members-only birthday parties, advanced camp registration, preview invites, and more. (Starts at for $90/year for families).
* For adults who enjoy performing arts, the Kennedy Center gets them ticket priority, special event invites, and discounts on parking, dining, and the gift shop. (Starts at $75/year)
KEEP IT CLASSY
Has your child expressed interest in a particular activity? Give them a boost by getting them into a class! Here are some recommendations.
* Kids can kick it with DC Way‘s soccer offerings.
* Chess, anyone? Check(mate) Silver Knights Enrichment.
* Give the gift of music with lessons from the International School of Music.
* Explore the magic of opera with Opera Lafayette.
* All ages can twirl and groove with CityDance.
* Young Playwrights Theater offers playwrighting programs
* For kids who like to be on stage: Young Artists of America.
* Boolean Girl has cool STEAM classes and more.
The gift of sports is no-brainer for those who love them. Our local sports teams, pro and college, have experiences (ie, games) and merch that fans will cheer about when they receive them. Here are links for all of them, and note that some are offering special holiday packages, too!
* Washington Nationals (Holiday Packs | Merch)
* Washington Capitals (Tickets | Merch)
* Washington Mystics (Pandamonium Holiday Pack)
* Washington Wizards (Tickets | Merch)
* DC United
* Washington Spirit
* Washington Football Team
* University of Maryland Terrapins
* Georgetown Hoyas
* George Washington University Colonials
* Howard Bison
* American University Eagles
* George Mason Patriots
* Catholic University Cardinals
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 — I’ve purchased gifts over the years at every single one of these.
* International Spy Museum
* National Building Museum
* Planet Word
* Phillips Collection
* National Museum of Women in the Arts
* Library of Congress
Shop for unique gifts and support independent businesses around the city. Here are some of our go-tos for gift shopping close to home.
* Labyrinth Game Shop on Capitol Hill is the place to go for the best board games and puzzles. Period.
* The Pretzel Bakery is our hands down neighborhood fave for savory & sweet treats.
* Book it to one of these local, independent shops to find good reads for your giftees: Kramerbooks in Dupont Circl, East City Book Shop on Capitol Hill, Solid State Books on H Street NE, Hurray for Books in Old Town Alexandria, Loyalty Bookstore in Petworth and Silver Spring, Politics & Prose at Union Market, The Wharf, and Northwest, and Capitol Hill Books, a legendary used books shop.
* Check the above shops for Secret Washington DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure by JoAnn Hill — it’s a fantastic book, filled with intriguing stories and interesting facts about DC.
* Local organization Rosie Riveters has books, notecards, and STEM kits for girls.
* Food for thought: A gift certificate to a local restaurant.
* Steadfast Supply is a great store to shop for maker-made and DC-inspired gifts.
* Not an actual store, but started locally, Artifcts is a unique online service that helps people for organize, preserve, and share special memories. A subscription would make a wonderful gift.
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 several years, she’s 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 update to 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 (and in mine!) to the pretty 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.
These ideas are a divergence from the rest, as they are inspired by last year’s guide when Covid prompted a pivot from my usual gifting theme. But while not necessarily DC-centric, many of these will help enjoy area adventures — and a few others will help enhance time at home.
* These bike lights are always a hit!
* The Solo Stove was one of our very best purchases last year for fire pit hangs that became more popular during the Covid winter — and are still a fun activity on the home front.
* A portable projector makes movie nights cool for kids (and adults). They can be outdoors… or anywhere, for that matter.
* Cozy blankets are perfect for outdoor hangs…and snuggling up indoors, too. (Fun ones for kids.)
* Those who love to hike will dig a good backpack.
* For someone who loves on-the-water adventures, how about an SUP?
* Lawn games let you bring outdoor amusement anywhere (link has recs for all ages)
* Bubble umbrellas for rainy days are genius, and these are so pretty, your peops will want to stand under them when the sun’s out, too.
* Winter gear for kids: Snow bibs, boots, jackets, hats.
* Comfy kicks: For her, for him, for kids.
* A plush robe: For her, for him, for kids.
* A few things inspired by the year’s best TV show: This, this, and this.
* Subscriptions keep the gifts coming: MasterClass, Washingtonian Magazine, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Bon Appetit, New York Times (just the Cooking and Games sections are great, too)
* Find more gift ideas for little kids here, here, here, here, and here.
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 tour of the newest exhibitions at the National Museum of Natural History.
* A bike ride on the National Mall — see the memorials and visit museums.
* For ages 12 and up, Glenstone offers an incredible, unique art experience.
* A fossil hunting adventure.
* A DYI scavenger hunt on an area hike.
* A geocaching excursion.
* A visit to Planet Word, the super cool museum downtown.
* A photo walk at Dumbarton Oaks in winter (when admission is free).
* A nature walk at Kenilworth Aquatic Gardens.
* A day of play at Beauvoir Playground.
* The Fairy Lolly and art experiences at Annmarie Sculpture Garden.
* A trip to Watkins Regional Park Wizard of Oz playground, Old Maryland Farm, and Nature Center.
* A family game of disc golf at a local course.
* Find inspo for even more!
*Perhaps the best gift of all is quality time with the people in our lives, so be sure to take advantage of it during the season. The 2021 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season in DC is full of ideas for doing just that. Happy Holidays!