The 10th annual Downtown Holiday Market is in full swing in the District. While most people were out shopping on Black Friday, I enjoyed free parking in DC and even felt a few snowflakes during opening day of the Holiday Market.
Arriving right at opening time proved to be a good time to scout for gifts and trinkets. The market is small only taking up two blocks. The booths are covered in little tents which are both great for keeping out the elements, but also forces you to enter the space to discover what treasures are in store. Featuring art, clothing, crafts, jewelry, antiques, and more, this is a great place to find one-of-a-kind gifts. Plus, it’s a wonderful way of supporting local businesses.
There’s a small, yet unique selection of items for children. Lil’ Fishy carries adorable onesies, Babus creates fiber art toys for babies, Baby Alpaca and Luxury Co. are known for finger puppets and colorful sweaters. At least three vendors on the day of my visit were selling crocheted animal hats. For the adults, there is pottery, cutting boards, bison hats, and my favorite, a booth called Laughter Pieces which features comedic sketches of animals.
The Downtown Holiday Market is a low key way to get the kids out of the house. If you have visited Eastern Market, the holiday version in Penn Quarter showcases some of the same vendors with a twist. Not all the exhibitors are at the market daily. Several vendors rotate or move booths so I recommend checking the website in advance to decide the best time to go.
For example, I really wanted to visit Whisked!, a highly rated and coveted gem selling pies, quiches and baked goods exclusively at farmers markets and stores. However, Whisked! is only at the Downtown Holiday Marked on December 4 to 7 at booth #15 and December 12 to 14 at booth #29. Unfortunately, my schedule wouldn’t allow me to make it during those dates.
Another vendor I will miss at the market is Joyful Bath Co. They have a boutique in Bethesda, but you can also find them at the Market on December 20 to 23. Selling bath salts and luxurious soaps, they donate a portion of their sales to help military families. If you’re looking for a gift of beauty, Booda Soap Box will be at the Market daily. The owner is quite nice and passionate about the bar soaps he creates. The soaps looked like artwork on display.
A must visit is to Migue’s Magnificent Mini Donuts stand. Watch the famous mini donuts being made in small batches. While they taste delish plain, take a trip to the toppings bar. Dress the donuts with cinnamon, lemon, chocolate or powdered sugar, sprinkles, chocolate, caramel or white chocolate syrup. A bag of 6 donuts is $3 or 12 for $5. Trust me, you’ll want the bigger bag. Migue’s also serves up coffee and several varieties of hot chocolate. Warm up with locally sourced java from Vigilante Coffee, which are situated across from the entertainment stage. The only other food stand present during the entire “season” is a booth selling empanadas. If you can’t get enough cold, Nicecream Factory will be scooping ice cream on December 16 to 19. A German speciality food booth and chocolate stands rotate throughout the event. If you have a hankering for a meal, there are several eateries within a block from the Holiday Market. Family friendly choices include Shake Shack, Austin Grill and District of Pi.
There are two ATM machines on the premises. Free performances take center stage daily with a range of music genres. I had the pleasure of grooving to John G. Lewis & ElectroKoustic. There’s even a small seating area in front of the stage which is a respite for kids. Due to the narrowness and small booths, leave the strollers at home. The closest metro station is Gallery Place.
My only complaint was the lack of variety of holiday and Christmas themed items. Other than a few giant Nutcrackers and white lights dotting the landscape and one vendor selling vintage Santa hats, I couldn’t get into the Christmas spirit.
Since the market doesn’t take long to go through, I took my family to the Smithsonian American Art Museum and National Portrait Gallery which are located in front of the Downtown Holiday Market. The museum is free to enter, a great place to warm up and has free lockers to store your market wares. The Downtown Holiday Market is open the day after Thanksgiving until December 23, 2014. The event takes place from 12 to 8 pm rain or shine.
Photos by Kathleen Molloy.