This gift guide probably looks familiar, and that’s because you’ve likely seen it before — a version of it, anyway. Over the nine years I’ve been sharing it, the general ideas haven’t changed very much (nor has the above photo that I adore or most of this intro, for that matter). While the specifics are always updated, the overall concepts have remained pretty consistent over the years. That’s because these recommendations are meant 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! 🙂 )
Something that will be different this year is the extension of this gift guide. This list of all DC-inspired recommendations is the core of it, but I’ll be sharing a few separate curated guides for specific groups of giftees. You’ve already seen Emily’s post with suggestions for the 8 & under crowd. Look out for one just for the t(w)een scene along with gift round-ups for adults.
For now, just like the last many years, I’m sharing some things our family has really enjoyed around the area and think would make fantastic presents for a variety of people. This also gives me a chance to highlight local places and 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!
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There’s so much great live entertainment 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. Here are recommendations for shows coming up soon and even a few running during the holiday season.
* Disney’s Frozen at the Kennedy Center (find discount)
* tick, tick…BOOM at the Kennedy Center
* Junie B. Jones, The Musical at Adventure Theatre
* Cinderella: A Salsa Fairytale at Imagination Stage
* Paw Patrol at EagleBank Arena
* Annie at National Theatre (find discount)
* The Book of Mormon at National Theatre (find discount)
* Peter Pan at National Theatre (find discount)
* Little Shop of Horrors at Ford’s Theatre (find discount)
* Romeo and Juliet at Synetic Theater (find discount)
* Taylor Swift in Miami, New Orleans, or Indianapolis… or Europe!
* Olivia Rodrigo at Capital One Arena
* Batman Live in Concert at Warner Theatre
* Trevor Noah at DAR Constitution Hall
* HAIR at Signature Theatre (find discount)
* Bad Bunny at Capitol One Arena (find tickets)
* Bruce Springsteen at Nationals Park (find discount)
* Macbeth by Shakespeare Theatre Company
* Tempestuous Elements at Arena Stage (find discount)
* Long Way Down at Olney Theatre
* The 9:30 Club is legendary and welcomes all ages to most shows (think teen gift!)
* The Anthem has a great line-up of concerts, too (again, teen gift!)
* For holiday season shows, look here
* You can also give a gift certificate or membership to one of the venues mentioned above!
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For the people, young and old, in your life who like active thrills and challenges, a gift card or season pass for one of these action-packed pursuits is strongly recommended.
* Kraken, which opened this past spring, offers pickleball, roller skating, axe throwing, a rage room — and gift certificates!
* REI has all kinds of classes and events for those who like outdoor recreation.
* A season pass to a local ice skating rink will delight peeps who like to lace up and glide.
* For bigger winter fun, how about an Epic Pass? It grants access to ski resorts all around the country, including several within driving distance of DC.
* And for when it warms up, there are several great ropes courses in the area, with something suitable for every age. The Adventure Park at Sandy Spring is our favorite, and their annual Holiday Sale begins soon!
* A gift card for a paddling excursion is also good one for when it’s back in season.
* Capital City Circus School has classes in flying trapeze, static trapeze, silks, juggling trampoline, and more. Read more about it here (from when it was Trapeze School NY).
* iFLY Loudoun offers a one-of-a-kind exhilarating 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!)
* 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.
* A sightseeing boat tour is a cool way to get a new view of DC — and have some fun on the water.
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DC is known for its many free attractions, but there are some places and experiences that require admission. So, make a visit to one something special by giving it as a gift. Here are some to check out that are worth the splurgy entry fee.
* Enchant the kids with Disney Encanto x CAMP — part toy store/part interactive experience, and only here December and January.
* The Museum of Illusions will blow their minds.
* Clue them in with a Watson Adventures scavenger hunt – read more about it all in this KFDC post.
* An adventure at Escape the Room is a perfect present for puzzle solvers.
* Beat the Bomb is a new “real life video game” — and super fun, from what I hear.
* A Sleepover at the National Archives is like a real-life Night at the Museum.
* Give adults a day of relaxation at Balian Springs Spa.
* Cat people will love Crumbs and Whiskers, the cat cafe where they can cuddle with kitties and enjoy a coffee.
* Pinstripes takes bowling & bocce up a notch with good dining, to boot.
* The Mansion on O Street is easily one of the neatest places in DC…a self-guided tour and secret door hunt is practically guaranteed to delight any giftee.
* Exhibits at ARTECHOUSE are unique, immersive, and fun to experience.
* For cinema lovers, dinner (or lunch) and a movie at The Alamo would make their day (or night).
* There are many awesome attractions in Baltimore that would be great to gift.
* Several holiday light displays run into January.
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Membership really does have its benefits! You can get 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 $225 for families.) Read more about the museum and get a glimpse here.
* 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 $90/year for families).
* Make someone a Smithsonian Associate to get them special benefits, access, and discounts for all kinds of Smithsonian programs. (Starts at $50.)
* The Lane, a play and social space for families in Ivy City, offers unlimited visits and free coffee. (Starts at $125/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, Caps.
* For adults who enjoy performing arts, the Kennedy Center membership gets them ticket priority, special event invites, and discounts on parking, dining, and the gift shop. (Starts at $75.)
* Teen gift? Gym membership! They all seem to be joining these days (at my gym, anyway). I highly recommend OneLife Fitness (formerly Sport & Health and Results before that). Of course, this is can be a gift for an adult, too.
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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.
* Give the gift of music with lessons from the International School of Music.
* Let them act up with performing arts classes from Adventure Theatre.
* Chess, anyone? Check (out) Magnus Chess Academy.
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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)
* Washington Commanders (Tickets | Merch)
* DC United
* Washington Spirit
* University of Maryland Terrapins
* Georgetown Hoyas
* George Washington University Colonials
* Howard Bison
* American University Eagles
* George Mason Patriots
* Catholic University Cardinals
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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.
* Planet Word
* International Spy Museum
* National Gallery of Art
* National Building Museum
* Phillips Collection
* Library of Congress
* National Museum of Women in the Arts
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* Steadfast Supply, located in the Navy Yard, is a great store to shop for maker-made and DC-inspired gifts.
* Book it to one of these local, independent shops to find good reads for your giftees: East City Book Shop on Capitol Hill, Solid State Books on H Street NE, Kramerbooks in Dupont Circle, 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.
* 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 — locations on Capitol Hill & in Bethesda.
* But if it’s cupcakes you like, Sprinkles in Georgetown is our rec.
* Check the above bookstores for DC Scavenger and Secret Washington, DC: A Guide to the Weird, Wonderful, and Obscure by local author, JoAnn Hill — both are fantastic books, the former using clever clues to help you explore DC, and the latter filled with intriguing stories and interesting facts about the city.
* Give foodies a gift card for a local restaurant. Some faves: O-ku, La Collina, The Bazaar, Sushi Nakazawa, Albi, Jaleo… or try the new Michellin-starred Causa and Rania.
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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 many 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.
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If there’s someone in your life who wants an 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. Her own home was even featured in Bethesda Magazine!
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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 trip to the National Zoo.
* A visit to Planet Word, the fantastic, language-focused museum downtown.
* A fossil hunting adventure at the Purse Area in Nanjemoy, MD.
* A picnic and stroll at the lovely National Arboretum.
* A bird’s eye view of DC from the Observation Deck of the CEB Tower.
* A day at the Wizard of Oz playground, Old Maryland Farm, and Nature Center in Watkins Regional Park
* A hike through the woods to the waterfall at Scott’s Run Nature Preserve.
* A trip to the National Museum of Natural History to see the dinos (and more).
* A bike ride along the National Mall or another great area route.
* A geocaching excursion on an area hike.
* A family game of disc golf at a local course.
* A unique indoor/outdoor art adventure for ages 12 and up at Glenstone.
* Find inspo for even more here and here!
* 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 2023 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season Around DC is full of ideas for doing just that. Happy Holidays!