Why not do a little holiday shopping after you stroll through the Corcoran's Annie Leibovitz show or ferry out-of-towners to one of the Smithsonian's Mall museums? There are gifts to pick up even as you enjoy some cultural enrichment. The key is to think about each museum's specialty--contemporary art, design, Americana--and then focus on that theme in its gift shop.
Corcoran Gallery of Art
Got some hip folk on your shopping list? The Technicolor selection of Raybowls ($18 to $20) are made from lengths of Lycra--imagine pantyhose in high-voltage hues--stretched over metal frames. Or consider something from Block China's line of Andy Warhol-inspired items. The artist's famous Marilyn Monroe silk-screen shows up on a set of four dessert plates ($40) while his soup can is captured on a variety of glassware sets ($30 each). (17th Street and New York Avenue NW, call 202-639-1700)
George and Martha could never have imagined how much merchandise they could generate from their famous home. For the wine-loving history buff, why not a small assortment of stuff? A Mount Vernon-inspired wine (Cabernet Sauvignon, $16), a canvas wine bag ($3.50) with a rendition of Mount Vernon's west front, a cobalt-blue reproduction wine rinser ($18) and wine glasses ($18) much like those the Washingtons would have used. (Mount Vernon general information, call 703-780-2000)
National Building Museum
This gem has high-style kitchen gizmos and architect-designed products. Among the colorful line of plastic kitchen utensils from Gemusenburste, there's a fun-loving scrub brush ($6) called Tweetie. Seagull Pewter has a set of four die-cast metal chairs--in miniature---that hold place cards ($42.50). As for actual food, paw through the collection of snack items from the famous Stuckey's, part of the museum's current "See the U.S.A." exhibition. (401 F St. NW, 202-272-7706)
You can do a whole lot of shopping at the Smithsonian--in person, via its catalogue (call 1-800-322-0344) or online (www.smithsoniancatalogue.org). For those who plan to visit one of the museums in person, here's an idea of some of the food-related gifts available both on the Mall and off. Head to the Freer Gallery of Art if you've got a tea lover on your list. It boasts a nice collection of Yixing Ware, the fired-clay vessels that date to the Sung Dynasty. Highlights here include a small green tea pot ($40) and a sculptural tea scoop ($17.95). There is more tea gear plus a nice selection of interesting food products at the adjacent Arthur M. Sackler Gallery of Art.
If you've got tea, you'll need dainty cookies and sweets. There are plenty of those at the Arts and Industries Building, which concentrates on the Victorian era both here and abroad. Look for the Smithsonian's own line of cookies in decorative tubes ($6.75) as well as a great little strip of chocolate bars ($5.95) wrapped in famous portraits and boxes of Wilkinson's Original English Liquorice Allsorts ($3.95).
For really different stocking stuffers try some of the freeze-dried snacks at the National Air and Space Museum. Maybe ice cream ($2.50), cookies ($2.95) or even pizza ($2.95). There's a regional bonanza of foodstuffs at the National Museum of American History including Indian Fry Bread Mix ($5.95) and Bubba Brand's Screamin' Crabboil ($2.50). At the National Museum of Natural History there's another great stocking stuffer: Amber InsectNside ($2.75), a toffee-flavored candy reminiscent of Jurassic Park. (Call 202-357-1300 for museum shop locations and hours; special after-hours Friday Night Shopping Festival, Dec. 10 and 17 from 6 to 9 p.m. at Natural History; 202-633-7400.)