Holiday shopping is widely known to be the absolute worst. Malls are depressing, your online order may or may not arrive on time, and your dad is still impossible to shop for after all these years. Luckily there’s an antidote: buying from locally owned brick-and-mortar shops. Though life for small business owners gets harder every year—with continually rising rents and online shopping a click away—plenty of stores are still sticking it out. 

D.C. is home to several great arts and retail hubs, like Union Market, Anacostia Arts Center, and the Arts Walk at Monroe Street Market, where you can find a range of vendors and products for different people on your list. Hyattsville is a hotspot for handmade arts gifts. And some neighborhoods seem to be built for browsing: While we can’t exactly recommend Chevy Chase for its thrilling nightlife, it has a dense concentration of independent businesses, and Alexandria has a charming array of shops tucked away in historic homes. The folks who run these places are practically guaranteed to be more invested in and knowledgeable about what they’re selling than the average big box associate. Especially when you’re harried by the season, that personal touch and expertise can go a long way toward making your experience more pleasant. 

The thing is, if we want to have these stores, we have to go shop in them. When you buy local, you’re pouring your dollars back into your city and your neighbors who aren’t Jeff Bezos. (Hasn’t this region given him quite enough this season?) Beyond that, shopping local is a way to decide what kinds of stuff you want to see in your city. Supporting that local gift shop or bike store and helping them keep their doors open means supporting a neighborhood, a vibe, a culture. 

So go see some art and hit up the museum gift shop on the way out. Get a snack at the local cafe and window shop a bit. Make a point to stop by a market or pop-up where you can find a bunch of presents in one stop. Try visiting a part of town you haven’t been to in a while, or haven’t been to at all. Here, we’ve selected presents from 68 different businesses in 12 neighborhoods around the area, to bring a little joy back to your season. Happy shopping.


Ripe Christmas

Credit: All photographs by Stephanie Rudig

For the health foodie who thinks pizza slice decor is so last year. 

Avocado ornament, $18. Urban Dwell. 1837 Columbia Rd. NW. urbandwelldc.com

Feather Your Chest

For those equally concerned with fitness and fashion, this vibrant and earthy print is a great choice. Nike sports bra, $34.99. 

Fleet Feet Sports. 1841 Columbia Rd. NW. fleetfeetdc.com

Burning Desire

These candles are hand-poured in Baltimore County, and come in a range of sizes and scents like Meyer Lemon and Lavender. 

228 Grant Street Candle Co candles, $10-34. Hudson & Crane. 1781 Florida Ave. NW. hudsonandcrane.com

Sugar Caddy

Each Peach has pre-made and custom gift basket options for every kind of palate. Try the Sweet Tooth, featuring goodies from local companies like Chocotenango and Paisley Fig.  

Sweet Tooth gift basket, $50. Each Peach Market. 3068 Mount Pleasant St. NW. eachpeachmarket.com

All is Pom

Keep little heads warm in this spotty knit hat. 

The Blueberry Hill pom-pom hat, $32. Little Birdies Boutique. 1526 Wisconsin Ave. NW. shoplittlebirdies.com

Soft Opening

This adorable mama and baby sloth set can velcro together into a hug. 

Sloth plush toys, $49 large, $29 small. Tugooh Toys. 1355 Wisconsin Ave. NW. tugoohtoys.com

Tis the Sippin’

Tea lovers will appreciate this seasonally appropriate packaging as much as the luxe brew. 

Ambessa lingonberry green tea, $11. Just Paper & Tea. 3232 P St. NW. justpaperandtea.com

Jaded Love

For that beauty trend-chasing friend, try a roller that purports to massage and tone your facial muscles. 

Jade roller, $40. Take Care. 1338 Wisconsin Ave. NW. takecareshopdc.com

Tommy Two Tone

For the friend whose split personality can’t be limited to one color of ink. 

Color changing pens, $20. Cherry Blossom Creative. 2128 8th St. NW. cherryblossomworkshop.com

Protect Your Neck 

A bold yet classic houndstooth pattern is timeless enough to appeal to anyone from a hip teen to Great Aunt Myrtle. 

Houndstooth scarf, $34. Violet. 1924 8th St. NW #115. violetdc.com

Blue Plate Special 

Even amateur chefs can feel like pros with the pretty presentation of this baking dish. 

Ceramic dish, $14.99. Home Rule. 1807 14th St NW. homerule.com

Cactus Makes Perfect

Even your spacey cousin will have a hard time killing this plant offering. 

Potted cactus, $26. Little Leaf. 1401 S St. NW. littleleafshop.com

Dicey Subject

Both game night enthusiasts and grandpa will appreciate this beautifully painted, unique wood backgammon set. 

Backgammon set, $122. GoodWood. 1428 U St. NW. goodwooddc.com

You Better Work

Workaholics will be grateful for the bath soak, sheet mask, and energizing skin serum in this kit. Ivy Wild has various limited edition themed kits, all including items at 10 to 15 percent off retail pricing.   

“Overworked” beauty kit, $75. Ivy Wild. 1328 Florida Ave. NW, Lobby #2. ivywildbeauty.com

Striped for Cash

These wallets are handcrafted by artists in Ethiopia and feature unique, traditionally inspired patterns. 

ZAAF wallet, $56. Nubian Hueman. 1231 Good Hope Rd. SE. nubianhueman.com

Swing Out

NOVA-based Kwame Alexander recently released the follow-up to his New York Times-bestselling book Solo, co-written with Mary Rand Hess. Their book Swing explores jazz, the high school experience, and political protest. 

Swing, $18.99. MahoganyBooks. 1231 Good Hope Rd. SE. mahoganybooks.com

Photo Finish

Celebrate the tail end of Frederick Douglass’ bicentennial year with this coffee table book that explores the man who was the most photographed in the world during his lifetime.   

Picturing Frederick Douglass, $49.95. Frederick Douglass National Historic Site Bookstore. 1411 W St. SE. nps.gov/frdo/learn/bookstore.htm

D.C. to a Tee

But seriously, only get this for someone who actually has been here. Check It prints these shirts as well as custom designs in their headquarters. 

“Not a Tourist I Been Here” T-shirt, $20. Check It. 1920 Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. SE. checkitenterprises.com

Oil Ye Faithful

This infused olive oil can be used as a base for a salad dressing or a marinade.

Lavender pepper olive oil, $20. The SpiceSuite. 6902 4th St. NW. thespicesuite.com

Leg Day

An eco-friendly cephalopod toy made entirely of lamb’s wool. 

Octopus dog toy, $25.99. The Big Bad Woof Takoma. 6960 Maple St. NW. thebigbadwoof.com

Putty Party

Kids will get into the spirit of the season with putty colored to look like Hanukkah gelt, candy canes, and snow. 

Aaron’s Thinking Putty, $2.99. Fair Day’s Play. 7050 Carroll Ave. #102, Takoma Park. fairdaysplay.com

Bird Feeder

Suitable for dipping sauce, nuts, or candies—depending on who you’re buying for. 

Bird dish, $20. Tabletop. 6927 Laurel Ave., Takoma Park, Maryland. tabletopdc.com

Trivet Up Already

This hand-painted trivet is perfect for the potluck host trying to find a place to set dozens of hot dishes. 

Trivet, $12. The Covered Market. 7000 Carroll Ave., Suite D, Takoma Park. thecoveredmarket.com

Give a Shit

A fantastic stocking stuffer for your potty-mouthed uncle. 

Hand shit, $15. S & A Beads. 235 Carroll St. NW. beadstore.com

Nectar Wonderland

Why settle for a bear full of honey when you could give an elegant flute full? 

Savannah Bee Company wildflower honey, $25. Hill’s Kitchen. 713 D St. SE. hillskitchen.com

Wine Colors

The burst of color on these cups can make even a mediocre merlot sparkle. 

Frosted glasses, $28 for set of two. DCanter. 545 8th St. SE. dcanterwines.com

Speck the Halls

For the girl who keeps wearing those leggings that are full of holes, these tights with a spattering of metallic are a serious upgrade. 

WITH leggings, $95. Summit to Soul. 727 8th St. SE. summittosoul.com

Gold Digger

Drop off a poinsettia in a classy and cheery pot. 

Pot, $16.95. Ginkgo Gardens. 911 11th St. SE. ginkgogardens.com

Tile by Fire

Score points by collecting tiles and creating intricate patterns in this award-winning board game.

Azul, $39.99. Labyrinth Games & Puzzles. 645 Pennsylvania Ave. SE. labyrinthgameshop.com

Field Canvassing

Quavaro travel bags are designed by a husband and wife team in D.C. and ethically produced in Mexico.

Canvas and leather tote, $165. Quavaro. 323 7th St. SE. quavaro.com

Cute Coo Ca Choo

These animal toys can be paired with an augmented reality app. 

Walrus toy, $14.99. Fairy Godmother. 319 7th St. SE.

Pup on the Housetop

Get your holiday greeting cards ready to send out with this plethora of doggo holiday messages. 

Dog greeting cards, $16. Groovy dc Cards & Gifts. 321 7th St. SE. groovydc.com

Blanket Statement

Antiochia’s Turkish fabrics are made from extra soft natural materials and come in a multitude of colors, versatile enough to cross off even the trickiest people on your gift list. 

Throw, $70. Antiochia. 760 C St. SE. antiochiahome.com

Coasting on My Looks 

These festive coasters are letterpress printed with fun patterns. 

Coasters, $10. Pyramid Atlantic. 4318 Gallatin St., Hyattsville. pyramidatlanticartcenter.org

Let’s Spoon

This teensy little vessel is just the thing to hold a sprig of mistletoe for your beloved. 

Spoon bud vase, $14.50. Tanglewood Works. 5132 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville. tanglewoodworks.com

Protect What’s Wine

Your favorite wine enthusiasts can keep a bottle at the ideal temperature in this container, and you can pick up an accompanying bottle at Franklins, to boot. 

WINESULATOR, $28.99. Franklins. 5123 Baltimore Ave., Hyattsville. franklinsbrewery.com

Basket Baller

Local artist Norma J. Brooks makes coiled baskets from vibrant fabrics. 

Popsicle hand-sewn basket, $69. Brentwood Arts Exchange. 3901 Rhode Island Ave., Brentwood. arts.pgparks.com/1910/Fine-Craft-Store

Show Your Hand

Give your poker night buddies a touch of class with this decadent double set of playing cards in a handy storage box.  

Christian LaCroix playing cards, $38. Write For You. 3807 McKinley St. NW. writeforyoudc.com

Texture Circuit 

Not sure what the kids you’re shopping for are into these days? Whether they’re artsy types or STEM geniuses, they’ll get a kick out of this sculptural electricity kit. 

Klutz Circuit Clay Science Kit, $21.99. Barstons Child’s Play. 5536 Connecticut Ave. NW. barstonschildsplay.com

Down to the Wire

Help your tech-challenged parent get their gear together with a stocking stuffer that includes extra cables and screen cleaner. 

Emergency Tech Kit, $8. Periwinkle. 3815 Livingston St. NW. periwinklegiftsdc.com

Warming Signs

This blanket is made of the same kind of material as a durable sleeping bag, and works great either indoors or outdoors. 

Rumpl blanket, $129. core72 – Chevy Chase. 5502 Connecticut Ave. NW. core72dc.com

Dino and Dash

Send your favorite tot to lunch with the appetite of a T. Rex. 

Cloth lunch bag, $28. Full of Beans. 3813 Livingston St. NW. facebook.com/DCFOB

Glitter Bug

Make the season brighter with a shimmery gemstone necklace.

Necklace, $198. Catch Can. 5516 Connecticut Ave. NW. catchcan.com

Berry and Bright

This printed towel is inspired by the painting They Call Me Redbone but I’d Rather Be Strawberry Shortcake by Amy Sherald, who also painted Michelle Obama’s official portrait. It was created by The Neighborgoods as part of the National Museum of Women in the Arts’ collection around the piece. 

The Neighborgoods dish towel, $18. Steadfast Supply. 301 Tingey St. SE, #120. steadfastsupplydc.com

You Are Frida Go

Eccentric aunts and art freaks alike will love these Frida Kahlo socks. 

Sock Smith socks, $8-12. Willow. 1331 4th St. SE. willowstores.com

Make It Drain

This brightly colored colander collapses for easy storage for your friend with a galley kitchen. 

Squish colander, $20.99. District Hardware and Bike. 730 Maine Ave. SW. districthardware.com

It’s a Wash

This luxurious little box contains individual sheets of soap that are perfect for traveling or one-time use.

Senteurs d’Orient mint tea soap leafs, $40. d/eleven. 11 District Square SW. d11concept.com

Puddle Jumper

A precious animal print will brighten up any little one’s rainy day. 

Hunter boots, $55. Purple Goose. 2005 Mt Vernon Ave., Alexandria. thepurplegoose.com

Sheep Dog

Furry friends will have a blast ripping the guts out of this icon of children’s television. 

Lambchop toy, $11.99. The Dog Store. 2301 Mt Vernon Ave., Alexandria. thedogstoreva.com

Tray Chic

Spot your keys or jewelry on this vibrant tray. 

Cheetah tray, $55. Kiskadee. 2205 Mt Vernon Ave., Alexandria. kiskadeeshop.com

Glass Fed

Upgrade your host’s cheese plate with a colorful cutter. 

Blush glass handled cheese knife, $6.99. Cheesetique Del Rey. 2411 Mt Vernon Ave., Alexandria. cheesetique.com

Scarf Ace

Classic Irish knitwear techniques can suit just about anyone’s style. 

Scarf, $45. The Irish Walk. 415 King St., Alexandria. irishwalk.com

Slippery People

Let your bestie know it’s really OK if she wants to stay in tonight with these comfy lounging slippers. 

Fox slippers, $15. Bloomers. 924 King St., Alexandria. shopbloomers.com

Sleep Like a Baby

Great for a love nest, or a small dog named Baby. 

Oh, Baby pillow, $30. Royal Street Barn Vintage Decor. 128 S Royal St., Alexandria. facebook.com/pg/vintagerx

Grinding on That Wood

With such a gorgeous  wood grain, home chefs will look for excuses to grind things with this mortar and pestle. 

Olive wood mortar and pestle, $65. Cromwell’s Wood Products. 1121 King St., Alexandria. cromwellwoodproducts.com

Between Two Worlds

This whimsically illustrated puzzle is double sided, with a different hemisphere on each side. 

Janod puzzle, $24.99. Pink & Brown Boutique. 1129 King St., Alexandria. pinkandbrownboutique.com

Rainbow Connection

For the person who’s sticking to veganism for real this time, this tote has sturdy straps made of faux leather. 

Rainbow tote, $35. Penny Post. 1201 King St., Alexandria. facebook.com/shoppennypost

Flashing Out

For the friend who’s spent hours explaining to you why DC is better than Marvel. 

Flash figurine, $25. Aftertime Comics. 1304 King St., Alexandria.

X Factor

Written by the daughter of Malcolm X and Dr. Betty Shabazz, this story follows the life of the latter civil rights icon and explores her life before she married. Auntie Maxine Waters wrote a blurb for the back of the book, which speaks for itself. 

Betty Before X, $16.99. Hooray for Books. 1555 King St., Alexandria. hoorary4books.com

Clucky Day

Toddlers will flock to the soft, feathery texture in this tactile board book. 

If I were a chicken, $13. Chocolate Moose. 1743 L St. NW. chocolatemoosedc.com

Frame Job

Channel a little Kusama with this spotty black and white frame. 

Picture frame, $50. Proper Topper. 1350 Connecticut Ave. NW. propertopper.com

Crate Expectations

Shop Made in DC has gift crates containing an assortment of locally made products. Try one of their themed boxes or request a custom box. 

DC Groom gift box, $155. Shop Made In DC. 1330 19th St. NW. shopmadeindc.com

Vision Hero

Read local author and former CIA officer Tom King’s new take on the Marvel universe. 

Vision (The Vision), $39.99. Fantom Comics. 2010 P St. NW. fantomcomics.com

Blue Ribbon

Jenni Bick journals are individually handmade in shop and hand dyed in a variety of colors. 

Leather journal, $34. Jenni Bick Custom Journals. 1300 Connecticut Ave. NW. jennibickdc.com

A Lip on the Radar

Find the perfect cosmetics for any skin tone at this new store focusing on makeup and hair products for people of color, which officially opens on Dec. 8. 

Marie Hunter lipstick, $22. Brown Beauty Co-op. 1365 Connecticut Ave. NW. brownbeautyco-op.com

Manicure the World

For the forward-thinking fashionista, 20 percent of the proceeds from this polish go to EMILY’s List. 

Claws nail polish, $15. Shelter. 1258 5th St. NE. shopshelter.com

Resistance is Brutal

For the architecture nerd who keeps insisting that those concrete federal buildings are actually really beautiful. 

Massive, Expressive, Sculptural: Brutalism now and then, $49.95. Politics and Prose Union Market. 1270 5th St. NE. politics-prose.com

Lit as a Feather

Elegant match sets are all the rage right now, but this one comes in a reusable tin with a match striker built into the lid. 

Match tin, $16. Salt & Sundry. Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE. shopsaltandsundry.com

Sharp Objects

A stainless steel blade and an olive wood handle make this knife both an heirloom and a tool that can last through the coming apocalypse. 

F. Dick folding knife, $64.99. District Cutlery. Union Market, 1309 5th St. NE. districtcutlery.com