“Tis the season for giving and there is no better way to give back to the community than by shopping local. This year—more than ever—it’s important to support DC’s local shops and entrepreneurs to ensure those amazing small businesses that make Washington the city we love are still around when the pandemic is over. Plus, it’s a win-win; you keep your hard-earned dollars in our community while finding AWESOME gifts. From toys for kids to the best gifts for DC parents, here are our favorite places to check off a holiday shopping list locally.
Invest in DC-Entrepreneurs
Skipping cocktails because of pregnancy, being the designated driver or staying sober for whatever reason used to mean sipping Shirley Temples or another bland drink. One DC Mom said no more and founded Mocktail Club to ensure that everyone has access to tasty drinks weather they want alcohol or not. A four-pack of Mocktail Club’s bold flavors makes a great gift to get any parent who doesn’t drink through the holidays. Bonus: kids can upgrade from juice for a festive holiday toast!
Insider tip: Mocktail Club is sold at local Whole Foods and served in some restaurants so look for it in the wild.
When a couple of DC Moms got tired of seeing only fair-skinned princesses and could not find many images portraying Black and Brown boys in positive ways they decided to do something about it. The result is Epic Everyday, a collection of backpacks, t-shirts, towels and more featuring kids in a range of mocha-hued skin tones and hair types.
Insider Tip: make sure you kids know that the “epic” in Epic Everyday stands for Empowered, Positive, Innovative, and Creative!
Countdown to Mama
A Capitol Hill Mom came up with the idea for Countdown to Mama after having a rough time through the last weeks of her own pregnancy. She wanted to find a way for all expectant Moms to get through the end of pregnancy and came up with the idea of an advent-calendar style gift box where the Mom-to-Be opens one gift per day until her due date. It’s a great gift for any expectant Mom!
Insider Tip: the high quality box can be refilled with additional gifts. Surprise Mom with some treats when she gets home with her newborn!
A Howard University professor started Vela Negra candles as a hobby but now sells her sustainable candles as way to share elements of her Afro-Cuban and Guyanese heritage. Vela Negra candles are all black because, according to the founder, "black absorbs and dispels negative energies and provides new beginnings and clarity as when the light of the vela appears, the darkness is illuminated." That sounds like the perfect gift for 2020.
Insider Tip: the fragrances of Vela Negra are designed to evoke places like Cuba and Puerto Rico which may help you feel like you are on vacation even when stuck at home this holiday season.
Shop Made in DC
Shop Made in DC is a store dedicated solely to promoting DC’s makers and artists. This store carries more than 5,000 items created by hundreds of locals, from baby bibs to self-care boxes, so you can check nearly everyone off your list in one place.
Insider Tip: they carry a large selection of locally created cards so be sure to pick one up to go along with your gift.
Shop Made in DC
1710 Connecticut Ave. NW
District Local isn't a shop, but it made our list because of it's one-stop convenience for finding some of DC's best makers. This online directory is a gateway to finding brands created or made right here in our nation’s capital. Search by categories including Black-owned businesses or children and babies to find the right gift for anyone. Looking for some inspiration? They curate stand-out products on their featured page, like these holiday chocolates from Bethesda-based Chouquette.
Insider tip: share your favorite local brands to ensure they are listed on the site here.
Support Local Museums
The Playseum’s two locations in Bethesda and Annapolis both have large giftshops filled with toys hand-selected by the owner to promote family togetherness, creativity and learning. A membership to the Playseum also makes a great gift. The Playseum has strict COVID protocols in place, including extra cleaning, only allowing one family at a time in each room and mandatory masks.
Insider tip: Both locations have large art studios where kids can make personalized gifts, including handprints and ornaments.
7000 Wisconsin Avenue
Bethesda, MD 20815
The International Spy Museum has the best gifts for young sleuth solvers, from books about espionage to authentic spy gear. It’s also a great place to find novelty stocking stuffers, like decoder pens and invisible ink. Plus, a membership to the International Spy Museum makes a great gift. Many of their exhibits are highly interactive and family friendly.
Insider tip: the museum is open NOW, but you don't have to admission to stock up on spy gear.
International Spy Museum
700 L'Enfant Plaza SW
The National Building Museum
The National Building Museum’s giftshop is one of the best in DC to find unusual gifts that are guaranteed to be fun. The back of the shop has a large section dedicated just to kids, but there is something for everyone from truck aficionados to purveyors of fine homeware so it’s a great spot for one-stop shopping. A membership to the museum comes along with discounts in the gift shop and access to the Building Museum’s popular Play Work Build exhibit and the much anticipated Summer Block Party. Strict COVID procedures are in place. Want to play it safe? Their online giftshop is always open!
Insider tip: the museum's exhibits and Great Hall are temporarily closed due to COVID, but the new Planet Word museum is a quick 15 min. walk away if you're looking for hands-on fun.
National Building Museum
401 F Street, NW
Shop Mom & Pops
Child’s Play Toys & Books
If you want the biggest selection of quality toys, Child’s Play Toys & Books is the place to go. Staff travel the world to find the best toys, games and art supplies. Their enormous variety is perfectly curated include high quality, good value, fun toys to be cherished for years to come. Their very knowledgeable staff can made recommendations based on age, budget and interest.
Insider tip: their book section is also outstanding, and the staff will make recommendations if you ask
Barston’s Child’s Play
5536 Connecticut Ave NW
One Two Kangaroo Toys
One Two Kangaroo has been in business for nearly half a decade, and that experience shows. Tell the owner a little info about who you are buying for and the occasion and they will give you a personalized recommendation that is spot-on.
Insider tip: The space is super cramped and tight, so strollers might not fit.
One Two Kangaroo Toys
4022 Campbell Ave
This adorable shop in Frederick, MD is worth the drive. It’s Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium come to life! Dancing Bear just celebrated their 20th anniversary so they know fun and can help you chose the perfect gift.
Insider tip: All of the toys featured at this downtown shop require no batteries.
15 East Patrick Street
Fair Day's Play
Fair Day’s Play offers high quality toys that are all fair-trade or union-made. They also stock unique, beautifully crafted toys from Germany and Sweden, and lots of real wood toys with no lead paint worries.
Insider tip: the hours are sometimes unpredictable. You might want to call before you head out to make sure they’re open.
Fair Day’s Play
7050 Carroll Ave
Takoma Park, MD
Labyrinth Games & Puzzles
Labyrinth Games & Puzzles offers the largest selection of board games and puzzles in the DMV. From beginners to experts, ages 1-100, there is sure to be a game here that everyone will love. Labyrinth Games is open for limited in-person shopping. They also offer curbside pick up and shipping.
Insider tip: they carry handmade wooden games and puzzles you aren’t likely to find anywhere else!
Labyrinth Games & Puzzles
645 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Tugooh’s Toys offers eco-friendly educational toys, keeping toxic chemical compounds away from little hands. From beautiful wooden toys to stuffed animals to books, you can complete your shopping list in one trip.
Insider tip: the selection for infants is limited.
1426 Wisconsin Ave NW
Transcendence Perfection Bliss
This store lives up to its unique, zen-like name. If you’re looking for books, stickers, and other toys that are more tranquil than turbulent, this is the place for you. They have a selection of toys, books, and craft supplies that are perfect for quiet, relaxing play.
Insider tip: they also have candles and other gift items, so you can knock more than just the kids off your shopping list here.
Transcendence-Perfection-Bliss of the Beyond
3428 Connecticut Ave NW
Browse Independent Bookstores
Politics & Prose
This legendary bookstore has an extensive children’s selection in the basement filled with books for babies through teens. Unique gifts include their Signed First Editions and their Book of the Month program which sends books selected based on highly personalized information is sent right to a lucky child’s door. Politics & Prose also stocks book-themed clothes and bags for kids.
Insider Tip: grab a pastry in the attached café, The Den, right next to the kids’ section.
Politics & Prose
5015 Connecticut Ave. NW
Black books matter! That's why this DC husband and wife team founded MahoganyBooks. They have a brick-and-mortar shop in Anacostia and an online store with one of the most largest inventories of Black books online. The shop is open, but you can also request curbside pickup or conveniently shop online and have your holiday order shipped.
Insider tip: MahoganyBooks is located in the Anacostia Art Center, home to a number of galleries, small boutiques and restaurants; be sure to stop in Elife for some vegan nibbles post-shopping.
Anacostia Arts Center
1231 Good Hope Rd. SE
—Jamie Davis Smith and Wendy Miller
featured photo: Freestocks.org via Unsplash