Shopping in Washington, DC
From malls to markets, there's no shortage of places to indulge in a spot of retail therapy in Washington. Along with all the big style houses, the city's boutiques also offer a mix of quirky local names and souvenirs that range from kitsch to totally cool.
The quaint streets of Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria are perfect for browsing and combine upmarket fashion and lifestyle boutiques with big name chains. The Adams Morgan neighbourhood offers an interesting international mix of clothing, jewellery, CDs and books. In particular, the shops along 18th Street, NW, between Florida Avenue and Columbia Road, are good for perusing. The shops in the various Smithsonian Institution Museums stock a fascinating collection of gifts, crafts, books, jewellery and toys. Stores linked to the museums are open daily 1000-1700. The waterfront complex, National Harbor, just minutes from DC on the Potomac, is a day out in itself with its shops and restaurants.
There are several farmers markets in the DC area. Some are year-round like the DC Farmers Market near Capitol Hill, 1309 Fifth Street (Tuesday and Saturday 0700-1730, Sunday 0700-1400), and others are seasonal, such as the Fresh Farm Market at Foggy Bottom (April to November every Wednesday 1430-1900) and on Vermont Avenue, near the White House (mid-September to end October every Thursday 1500-1900).
The Shops at Georgetown Park is a 19th-century styled mall situated at M Street and Wisconsin Avenue, NW. Under a huge skylight and surrounded by an elegant Victorian interior of chandeliers and wrought iron, there are about 100 shops and cafés with prices definitely not aimed at the bargain hunter. Union Station, found downtown on Massachusetts Avenue, has shopping on two levels with over 100 outlets. You can find more upmarket shopping at the Mazza Gallerie on Wisconsin Avenue, along the border with Maryland, which is a multi-level shopping centre, housing trendy Neiman Marcus.
Many shops are open Monday to Saturday 0900/1000-1700/1800 (with some malls open later into the evening) and Sunday 1200-1800.
Along with Barack Obama mugs and ruby slipper Christmas decorations, Washington's souvenirs are mostly themed along political, historical or botanical lines. Cherry blossom soap and sweets are well worth picking up as are amusing First Lady wine glasses. For the more cerebral, the city's bookstores are crammed with political biographies and historical tomes.
Washington DC has a sales tax of 5.75%, which is added to the purchase price at the point of sale. There is no system for visitors to claim the tax back.