With streets lined with evergreen-filled hanging baskets and twinkling trees, Georgetown is one of Washington’s most stylish and nostalgic destinations for holiday shopping. There are 350 stores, according to the Georgetown Business Improvement District, many offering tempting giftable treasures for the home, both hipster-savvy and old-school. Eateries and coffee bars, some tucked into the brick-sidewalk-lined side streets, provide respite from the winter chill.
A good place to begin is at the top, Wisconsin Avenue and R streets NW in the part of Georgetown known as Book Hill; then just keep walking down. It’s a stroll full of individually owned shops selling home accessories, gifts, artwork, antiques and furniture.
Two of my perennial favorites up there carry a curated assortment of treats. One is Oliver Dunn, Moss & Co., Catharine Roberts (1657 Wisconsin Ave. NW), where little live olive trees ($35 each) or six-inch preserved boxwood wreaths ($15) make great holiday hostess gifts or mantel decorations. At A Mano (1677 Wisconsin Ave. NW), where owner Adam Mahr is celebrating his 20th year in business, find the fun and the frivolous, from Rat Pack candle-lighting matches ($6.50) to an elegant Agraria perfumed tassel ($45). There’s lots more all the way down to K Street — plus don’t forget the side streets and the Cady’s Alley enclave, which is also hosting a holiday bazaar of vendors.
Georgetown provides a storybook holiday backdrop. There are swags and garlands and wreaths throughout, and clever holiday windows. Tall lighted trees greet shoppers at either end of the village, one at Meigs Park and another at Francis Scott Key Park near Key Bridge. Some shops have been around for decades, others are new to the scene. In addition to many independent boutiques, there are also plenty of the nation’s top retailers, from Restoration Hardware to Anthropologie to West Elm to CB2 to Urban Outfitters.
Shoppers may stroll side streets and take in Christmas trees glittering in bay windows of historic homes and decorative cabbages and red berries tucked into window boxes and urns. In the evening, flickering lanterns and the scent of burning fireplaces provide just the holiday boost you need.
→ Jonathan Adler (1267 Wisconsin Ave. NW) Need a gift for your quirky aunt or your office cubemate? New York potter, designer and tastemaker Jonathan Adler will have something fun and stylish. Who wouldn’t love to get a Mohawk Lollipop Holder to fill with Tootsie Pops or tulips? The shop is full of bright colors and a tempting assortment of home accessories, tableware, pillows and pottery. Woodland (and other) creatures take the shape of candlesticks, candles and vases.
→ Moleskine (3029 M St. NW) Fans of Moleskine, who include urban nomads, obsessive sketchers and diary keepers, will be heartened that a shop dedicated solely to Moleskine’s designs has landed in the heart of Georgetown. This location of the Milan-based company just opened, and a remodel is planned for the spring. The Moleskine notebooks, journals, bags, travel items and reading accessories in many wonderful colors are displayed as if in a museum. Some products are made for use with digital services, including Evernote and Livescribe.
→ The Phoenix (1514 Wisconsin Ave. NW) Georgetown insiders know that the Phoenix is the go-to place for presents you won’t see all at every mall. Since 1955, the shop has featured many decorative objects in addition to its clothing and jewelry. There are pottery, mirrors and pewter from Mexico and Blenko glass from West Virginia. This year you will find whimsical carved, painted animals from Oaxaca. Collectors come in to see the shop’s creches in wood, ceramic and tin.
→ Via Umbria (1525 Wisconsin Ave. NW) Suzy and Bill Menard adore Italy (especially the historic hill towns of Umbria) and have filled their new store with the best of Italian tableware, pottery, table linens, kitchen gadgets and gourmet goodies. You might think you’ve seen everything there is to buy from Italy, but I was blown away by the great giftable items, including colored-glass seltzer bottles ($12) and jewel-toned tumbler and carafe sets ($17.50). There is a beautiful collection of Arte Legno olive wood bowls and cutting boards. The Menards’ previous business was Bella Italia in Bethesda.
CELEBRATE SMALL BUSINESS
Check out the first block of P Street on the west side of Wisconsin Avenue. The cobblestone street looks particularly festive this year, since New York designer Sheila Bridges decorated the store windows for the holidays as part of the Small Business Saturday program sponsored by American Express. Bridges’s reindeer theme is cleverly interpreted for each business including her reindeer selfie display at P Street Gallerie (3235 P St. NW).
WRAP IT UP
→ Just Paper & Tea (3232 P St. NW) Splurge on some special wrapping paper and ribbon in this shop, known also for invitationsand stationery. This tiny outpost has been around for 25 years and for the holidays it stocks Caspari prints, German designs and Italian handprinted papers. You’ll find fine luxurious ribbons in satin and organza. If you buy your paper and ribbon here, small to medium gift boxes are wrapped on-site at no charge.
GRAB A BITE
Check out a new place tucked on a cute side street: Chez Billy Sud (1039 31st St. NW) will comfort tired shoppers with a cafe au lait or a bowl of mussels. For nostalgic Georgetown holiday charm, ease yourself and your shopping bags into one of the cozy booths at Martin’s Tavern (1264 Wisconsin Ave. NW), which has been around since 1933.
Georgetown Glow lights up Georgetown this weekend (Dec. 12-14) with public light-art installations and lighting of buildings by global firm Citelum. This event, sponsored by the Georgetown BID, includes installations to be lit nightly from 6 to 10, plus carolers strolling the neighborhood. During the day there will be special in-store holiday promotions including free hot chocolate and gift wrapping. For more information on village holiday happenings, go to www.georgetowndc.com.