Looking for the perfect memento during your next trip to the nation’s capital? We've got the scoop on what to buy in Washington, DC.

By Amy McKeever
November 09, 2015
Courtesy White House Historical Association ornament
Credit: Courtesy White House Historical Association

There’s a seemingly endless supply of cheesy souvenirs lining the streets of downtown DC and the National Mall. But you don’t need to buy a fake FBI T-shirt to prove that you were in our nation’s capital. Here’s a look at some of the city’s best souvenirs celebrating its history, its beloved neighborhoods, and, crucially, all the great booze and brews. These are gifts that the locals love.

White House Christmas Ornaments

Where to find them: The White House Historical Association runs gift shops both in the historic Decatur House on Lafayette Square, as well as at the National Park Service White House Visitor Center. You can also buy them online.

Why you should buy: The White House Christmas Ornaments are a longstanding collectibles tradition in Washington, DC. Since 1981, the White House Historical Association has created a new ornament each year to celebrate various chapters of American presidential history. This year’s ornament depicts the lighting of the first-ever National Christmas Tree, presided over by President Calvin Coolidge in 1923. Also, this is the first-ever ornament that comes equipped with LED lights so that you, too, can light up the National Christmas Tree.

Cost: $18.95

Plus: Consider expanding your shopping list when visiting the White House Historical Association. They’ve got tons of other great DC souvenirs, from a LEGO White House set to stuffed animal versions of past and present First Family pets.

DC Brau Tees

Where to find them: Choose from a selection of t-shirts in the DC Brau tasting room or online.

Why you should buy: One of the highest forms of expressing your Washington pride is embracing the “taxation without representation” motto printed on all the city’s license plates. Washingtonians are also exceedingly proud of DC’s burgeoning craft beer scene, which kickstarted a few years back with the launch of DC Brau. So it’s only fitting to grab a shirt that plays on both the iconic city flag as well as its logo, declaring: Fermentation Without Representation.

Cost: $20

Plus: If you visit the tasting room in person, take a tour of the brewery and grab a couple of six-packs while you’re at it.

Courtesy White House Historical Association
Credit: Courtesy White House Historical Association

DC Statehood Glassware

Where to find it: Hill’s Kitchen

Why you should buy it: You have to drink cocktails out of some vessel, so why not a beautiful piece of glassware etched with the outline of Washington, DC? Hill’s Kitchen has three different styles of DC statehood tumblers in stock, perfect for serving a drink made with Green Hat gin or any other local booze you pick up while in town.

Cost: Call for price.

Plus: The adorable Hill’s Kitchen also has plenty of other great DC-related housewares for your shopping needs. Now that the holiday cookie season is coming around again, take a look at their collection of state-shaped cookie cutters, which honor not only this capital city but the rest of the American states, too.

Anything From the International Spy Museum

Where to find it: International Spy Museum

Why you should buy it: The International Spy Museum has one of the best museum gift shops in town, thanks to the wide variety of spy gadgets, accessories, and apparel they have in stock. For kids, you can pick up an Ultimate Spy Kit with a night vision light, a UV spy pen, rearview glasses that enable you to see what’s behind you, and a motion detector. The museum store also offers t-shirts emblazoned with “Deny everything,” glasses with mustaches attached, and Rubik’s cubes that are actually safes.

Cost: Varies.

Plus: While you’re there, it’s worth paying the $22 entrance fee to tour the museum, an international favorite.

Cherry Blossom Creative’s DC Neighborhood Prints

Where to find it: Online at http://shop.cherryblossomcreative.com

Why you should buy it: The key to truly knowing and loving DC is to know its many neighborhoods. The designers at Cherry Blossom Creative have built a following with the release of their neighborhood prints, in which the streets of Adams Morgan, Logan Circle, Georgetown, Shaw, Columbia Heights, and more are colorfully rendered in a 13”x19” matte print.

Cost: $20 each.

Plus: Though Cherry Blossom Creative has prints depicting many of DC’s neighborhoods, they haven’t gotten all of them represented just yet. If your favorite is missing, reach out to them and make the request.

Amy McKeever is on the D.C. beat for Travel + Leisure. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.