If this gift guide looks familiar, that’s because you’ve likely seen it before — a version of it, anyway. Over the eight years I’ve been sharing it, the general ideas haven’t changed very much (nor has the above photo that I adore). While the specifics are always updated, the overall concepts have remained pretty consistent year after year, as 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 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!
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.
* Aquarium at Imagination Stage
* The Hula Hoopin’ Queen at Imagination Stage
* Into the Woods at Signature Theatre
* Wicked at the Kennedy Center
* Cenicienta: A Bilingual Cinderella Story at the Kennedy Center
* Les Misérables at the Kennedy Center
* Cats at National Theatre
* Jagged Little Pill at National Theatre
* Jerry Seinfeld at The Anthem
* Trevor Noah at the Hippodrome in Baltimore
* Taylor Swift in Philadelphia or Pittsburgh
* Golden Girls: The Laughs Continue at Warner Theatre
* Bruce Springsteen at Capitol One Arena
* King Lear by Shakespeare Theatre Company
* The Jungle by Shakespeare Theatre Company
* Kinky Boots at Olney Theatre
* Ride the Cyclone at Arena Stage
* War of the Worlds at Synetic Theater
* 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!
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.
* 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 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 annual Holiday Sale! 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.
* Give a gift card for a paddling excursion (for when it’s back in season).
* 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.
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.
* The Office Experience offers a tour of Dunder Mifflin…a simulated version of it, anyway. Explore re-created sets loaded with authentic, fun details and recall many funny moments from the show. It’s in town through January 16.
* 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 giftees of all ages.
* Exhibits at ARTECHOUSE are unique, immersive, and fun to experience.
* For movie lovers, dinner (or lunch) and a flick at The Alamo is a perfect present.
* Thrill them with a visit to the International Spy Museum.
* History buffs will enjoy exploring Mount Vernon, George Washington’s former digs.
* There are many awesome attractions in Baltimore that would be great to gift.
* The Calvert Marine Museum is a super interesting non-DC museum, too.
* Several holiday light displays run into January.
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:
* 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).
* 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.
* 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
* 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.
* 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.
CLASS IT UP
Has your child expressed interest in a particular activity? Give them a boost by getting them into a class! Here are some recommendations.
* Give the gift of music with lessons from the International School of Music.
* Let them act up with Imagination Stage theatre classes.
* And Synetic Theatre offers performing arts classes in Northern Virginia.
* Kids can kick it with DC Way‘s soccer offerings.
* Chess, anyone? Check (out) Magnus Chess Academy.
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 Commanders
* 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 Gallery of Art
* National Building Museum
* Planet Word
* Phillips Collection
* 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.
* 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, Maketto, Izakaya Seki, Albi, The Dabney
* Steadfast Supply is a great store to shop for maker-made and DC-inspired gifts.
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 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 just featured in Bethesda Magazine!
These ideas are a divergence from the rest, as they began in 2020 when Covid prompted a pivot from my usual experience gift theme. But while not necessarily DC-centric, many of these will help with the enjoyment of area adventures — and a few others will enhance time at home.
* I’ve recommended a Solo Stove in previous years, but this one is going on my list this year!
* Cozy blankets are perfect for outdoor fire pit hangs…and snuggling up indoors, too. (A fun one for kids.)
* These bike lights are always a hit.
* But, first, get the bike!
* Ice skates are an ideal winter gift.
* Roller skates are great for any time of year.
* For those who love to hike, a good (and cute) daypack.
* A nice fleece for cool weather recreation: For her, for him, for kids.
* For someone who digs on-the-water adventures, how about an SUP?
* Lawn games let you bring outdoor amusement anywhere (find recs for all ages via the link)
* 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 from reliable brands: Snow bibs, boots, jackets, hats.
* Cute, comfy slips: For her, for him, for kids.
* And Crocs are making a comeback with all the t(w)eens.
* Plus, Jibbitz to go with them, of course.
* The best PJ’s for kids (on super sale).
* A plush robe: For her, for him, for kids.
* Cashmere that’s nice and reasonably priced. (Splurge option.)
* Cookbooks…I have this one and want to get this new one.
* Other great gift books: This new this collection of poetry, an icon’s memoir, this beautiful book by one of the best writers, a funny read, this fun one I’m getting for Sasha, and this one I’m getting for Owen (that Sash will dig, too).
* 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)
* Random fun stuff: A kids ukelele, a dreamy coloring project, an awesome mug (and more good ones), a family board game.
* Find more gift ideas for little kids 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 day at the recently reopened Air & Space Museum.
* A trip to the National Zoo.
* A unique indoor/outdoor art adventure for ages 12 and up at Glenstone.
* A fossil hunting adventure at the Purse Area in Nanjemoy, MD.
* A visit to the Wizard of Oz playground, Old Maryland Farm, and Nature Center at Watkins Regional Park
* A bike ride on the Anacostia River Trail or another great area route.
* A polka-dotted experience at Yayoi Kusama’s One with Enternity at the Hirshhorn.
* A visit to Planet Word, the fantastic, language-focused museum downtown.
* A geocaching excursion on an area hike.
* A family game of disc golf at a local course.
* A photo walk at Dumbarton Oaks in winter (when admission is free).
* A day of play at Beauvoir Playground.
* 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 2022 KFDC Guide to the Holiday Season Around DC is full of ideas for doing just that. Happy Holidays!