97.1 Wash FM is blaring Christmas tunes non-stop, there’s a pile of Amazon Prime boxes in front of your apartment building, tourists are literally fighting over their respective places in line to see the National Christmas Tree, and someone bought the last box of candy canes from Costco. It’s Christmas in the District, and there’s a lot of reasons to feel fed up about the holiday season before it even begins.
But for every part of this season that might get you down, we here at Brightest Young Things have a contingency plan. We’ve thought of every possible scenario wherein things could go desperately wrong, and found your escape route. It’s Christmas, dear hearts– the season of lights, hope, giving, and joy. No need to feel trapped.
Where to Take Your Relatives for a Holiday Visit
Let’s pretend your Aunt and Uncle are in town from Muskogee for three days, and they want you to show them around. Look, we know the logical next step is for you to drop them off at Pentagon City Fashion Center, and tell them it’s the National Mall. You can’t do that, though; you live in the District now, and you need to act as an ambassador. You’ll have to be the one to explain “No, the reason we don’t have a ‘J’ street isn’t because Pierre L’Enfant had a rivalry with John Jay,” or “no, the word ‘Lobbying’ wasn’t invented because meeting Ulysses S. Grant in the lobby of the Willard was the only way to get a hold of him.”
You’re a cultural attaché to the District. Don’t leave diplomacy to the Duck Tours.
One of the oldest land grants in D.C., going back to Queen Anne, the birthplace of the United Nations, and a staggering collection of miniature figurines from pre-contact central-American indigenous groups– there’s something here for everyone. It’s an old mansion, passed from one family to another over the last three centuries. The last residents elected to turn the house and grounds into a museum, and keep it open to the public. This is a perfect spot to bring your folks for a long afternoon, or a short trip from one spot in Georgetown to another.
The Frederick Douglass House
His memory, his words, and his work continue to survive the ages. Not many of us have looked into his personal life, though. He’s easily one of America’s most influential figures, and we still manage to sidestep looking at how he lived. At the Frederick Douglass National Historic Site, visitors get a chance to walk the halls Douglass once walked in the last seventeen years of his life. Because the site is operated and maintained by the United States National Park Service, the guided tours are offered by Park Rangers. Admission to the site is a whopping $1.50.
What was once a federal office dedicated to paying out pensions to US troops is now a museum dedicated to architecture. Quartermaster General Meigs built the grandiose Pension Bureau in 1887, with lavish appointments at every turn. A century later, after changing hands a few times, and nearly getting demolished, it re-opened as a museum focusing on buildings, and how they’re built. Current exhibitions include a look at St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, a collection of eighty paper models of famous buildings, and a photo exhibit from Clark Construction’s photographer-in-chief.
Sure, they’ve got books– but they’ve also got maps, manuscripts, tapestries, clay tablets, sheet music, and access to virtually every printed volume from the past thousand years. They still have a Gutenberg Bible, for Christ’s sake. Furthermore, the Library’s Jefferson Building is, for all intents and purposes, the prettiest building in D.C. If you can convince your friends and/or relatives to go to a library during their Christmas break, it’ll be worth it enough to see the looks on their faces when they turn into the grand foyer.
Dunn Lewis Motorcycles
It’s a simple, and incontrovertible fact: motorcycles are cool. The good folks at Dunn Lewis take this fact to heart with their new shop on Fenwick in Ivy City. They have some motorcycle hear on-site, and they’ll help you figure out what kind of helmet fits your skull… but they have classes, too. Workshops, instructional seminars, DIY-meetups, and events are all a part of what the shop does. Stay tuned for whatever shenanigans they have on their calendar.
Where to Buy Stuff, and Who to Buy it From
I need you to stop what you’re doing right now, and go to the nearest mirror. I need you to take a good long look at yourself in the mirror, and repeat the phrase “I am better than giving my loved ones gift cards for Christmas again” until you believe it. Once you’ve done that, you’re ready to get a move on your holiday shopping.
Christkindlmarkt at Heurich House
Forty vendors are coming to the grounds of the Brewmaster’s Castle in Dupont for a by-the-numbres Christmas market. This is an old-world kind of holiday shopping. It’s outdoors. You buy stuff from the people who made it. You walk under fairy lights while drinking glüwein, listening to the murmurs of merchants and craftsmen all around you. I personally believe a gift isn’t worth giving, unless it has a story. Each of the merchants at Heurich House have plenty of stories. Keep your ears open.
Art Show 17 @ Hole in the Sky
Mike O’Brien at Red Table Press will open the doors again on December 2 for D.C. art collective Hole in Sky’s seventeenth art show. It’s a chance to not just walk through an exhibition of artwork from some of the District’s finest, but also a chance to buy those pieces of art right off the walls. If you’ve ever wanted to feel like Andrew Melon, and start your own art gallery, this is a good place to start.
Union Kitchen Grocery
You don’t skimp on the lights, you don’t hold back when it’s time for an ugly holiday sweater party, and you don’t buy shitty beer for Christmas dinner. So, why the hell would you take it easy on the snacks for the potluck? Union Kitchen has you covered. This creative alliance of chefs has the perfect snack food for any kind of holiday party. Vegan “pork” rinds, frozen cookie dough ice cream bites, fresh-pressed juices… it’s the cutting edge of food innovation, and they’re ready to serve you.
Downtown Holiday Market
The rows of white tents are already up, and the throngs of tourists are already shoulder-to-shoulder. The market is busy as ever this year, with a slew of new faces, and a few familiar favorites. They brought back the mini donut guy, which is naturally my first stop. After that, it’s merchant after merchant, each offering something made by hand, and made with love.
It’s a little like a relic from a bygone era, back before big-box grocery stores, when D.C. citizens would buy their food off the street. For the month of December, Eastern Market transforms into a whirlwind of smells and tastes, with scores of vendors and merchants hawking their wares from their stalls. The Amish and Mennonite farmers have done away with their apple bushels, and moved on to selling trees and wreaths. The soap lady has pushed the bright red and green bars to the front. Agora Farms has a giant carafe of cider bubbling away behind the stall. It’s the busiest season of the year for some of these folks, and they’ve brought their best out for the District to see. This market is a must for any holiday shopping.
Music for the Holidays
Whether you’re at home by the hearth for the holidays, or you’re traveling far and wide, these are some tunes to help you celebrate the season. Keep warm, dear hearts. Stay bright.