Sure, good things come in small packages, but sometimes amazing things can’t be contained. This year’s gift guide shines some (holiday) light on experiences — memory-makers you can share and savor long into 2019 and beyond.
Of course, we still have plenty of tangible treats to wrap and hand over, too. And for the first time, we included a section with a few ideas for making a donation in someone’s name — a way to reverse some of the negativity that seemed particularly pervasive in 2018.
However you choose to celebrate, we hope you and yours have a very happy holiday season!
Gifts with Class
735 Water St., SW
With 21 harbors from Nantucket to Miami, this club recently added another at D.C.’s Wharf. Popular outings include a Potomac cruise to see some of the capital’s famous sights and stops in Georgetown and Old Town Alexandria for shopping and dining. The premiere yachting club gives members unlimited access to a nationwide fleet of captained Hinckley yachts year-round. Yachts come staffed with 50-ton Coast Guard-certified captains who can cater to any plan, such as an onboard clam bake, champagne toast, trips to private islands and harbor cruises.
Neon Light Sculpture Class through Smithsonian Associates, $215-$265
1239 Good Hope Road, SE
Explore the mesmerizing qualities of neon light and create your own illuminated object with this six-session evening course. Held at instructor Craig Kraft’s D.C. studio, it covers how to bend glass tubing and the process of tube bombarding and rare-gas filling. Kraft has been creating sculptures for 35 years and has participated in international sculpture exhibitions in South Korea and Mexico.
1525 15th St., NW
Know someone with a sweet tooth who also loves to bake? The fully customizable Milk ID baking class lets students select from various Milk Bar cake flavors to create their own special multilayered confection chock full of icing, filling, crumbs and toppings.
Big Night D.C. New Year’s Eve Gala at POSE Club, $249.99
Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center
201 Waterfront St., National Harbor, Md.
This bash has 15 themed party areas, five dance floors, bands, DJs, food and party favors. POSE Club tickets buy access to all main event and VIP party areas plus the Pose Ultra Club on the 18th and 19th floors at the hotel. Cuisine selections include chicken lemongrass pot stickers, a chop salad station, braised short ribs, crab cakes and assorted mini desserts. All beverages are also included in the price between 9 p.m. and 2 p.m.; other ticket options available.
901 Wharf St., SW
Check out D.C.’s newest concert venue at The Wharf. Shows during the holiday season include a Dec. 15 show by O.A.R. ($45-$75), an American rock band that started right here in Rockville, Md., and the 31st Annual Zinzi Christmas Party on Dec. 16 ($125), which includes an open bar and gourmet cuisine. All proceeds from that event benefit the St. Ann’s Center for Children, Youth and Families, as well as the Doctor Bear’s Closet at Children’s National Medical Center. In the past 20 years, this event has raised $980,000 for local and national charities.
1350 Okie St., NE
This new space offers concert-friendly plates of food and a full drink menu featuring City Winery’s own concoctions. This month, the venue welcomes China Crisis (Dec. 6, 8 p.m., $20-$25) an English pop/rock band formed in 1979; a sensory-friendly holiday sing-along (Dec. 16, 11:30 a.m., $20); country musician Chely Wright (Dec. 20, 8:30 p.m., $24); and D.C.’s premier “old-school” go-go ensemble, the Proper Utensils Band featuring Jas. Funk (Dec. 28, 8:30 p.m., $20).
1104 24th St., NW
12430 Park Potomac Ave., Suite R-13, Potomac, Md.
Available through the end of December, this package combines the spa’s most popular services: the Total Hydration facial and eye treatment; Ultimate Marine manicure and pedicure; shampoo and blow-dry; full makeup application; and a skincare gift to take home. The total value of the package is $510 to $570. The higher price reflects a session with Gomez himself.
The Mall Recovery Massage at Ritz-Carlton, Tysons Corner, $215 for 80 min.
1700 Tysons Blvd., McLean, Va.
After a holiday shopping spree, return aching muscles to peak condition with this tension-relieving treatment, which uses cooling spearmint and therapeutic rosemary to refresh and revitalize the body, along with exfoliation, a full body massage and foot reflexology.
4915 Cordell Ave., Bethesda, Md.
1924 8th St., NW, Suite 135
40 District Square, SW, Suite 215
Winter and summer weather can a toll on the skin. To keep your loved one fresh-faced year-round, the professionals at Blush Med Skincare provide curated monthly “Skinfit” facials that stimulate your skin to exfoliate, hydrate and repair at a cellular level. Designed to combat the harmful effects of UV radiation, humidity, pollution and more, the monthly treatments aim to restore pH and hydration levels.
5236 44th St., NW
1201 24th St., NW
Founded by a mother-daughter team, this nail and waxing salon is waterless, which removes the risk of waterborne infection and saves up to 15 gallons of water per service. Fingers and toes are instead cleaned with all-natural oil cleansers and warm towels. This particular treatment starts with that and is followed by nail shaping, buffing and cuticle care. Next, the technician exfoliates the hands with a natural sugar scrub and moisturizes with paraffin wax, all followed by a massage before the polish is applied. Extras include gel polish for an additional $16 and an extended massage for $10.
The Extended Retreat at Veritas, $2,000
72 Saddleback Farm, Afton, Va.
Send a loved one on a three-day retreat to recharge in Virginia’s Blue Ridge Mountains. This hiking and yoga retreat program partners with Veritas Vineyards & Winery and the Farmhouse at Veritas Bed and Breakfast to offer a range of wellness options. The three-day, four-night getaway includes yoga, hiking, a cooking class, a wine tasting class and a vineyard tour. It also includes all meals paired with wine. Upcoming retreat dates are Jan. 3, 4 and 5, as well as Feb. 15, 16 and 17.
As one of the country’s fittest cities, there is no shortage of exercise class options in D.C. If you know a gym rat who’s always looking for something new, a ClassPass membership is just the thing. It lets members try out all kinds of classes — yoga, cycling, barre, high-intensity interval training — in person at local gyms and from anywhere through streamed videos. ClassPass works in 50 cities, so frequent travelers can stay on point with their fitness routines. The $125-per-month deal gets 75 credits to eight to 13 classes, while the $45-per-month deal gets 25 credits to two to four classes.
233 M St., NW
It’s game on for a round of squash — one of America’s fastest-growing sports — at this new eight-court, high-end facility (housed inside one of D.C.’s oldest fire stations — hence the name). Gift cards are available in various amounts, and there’s an onsite café where players can refuel after duking it out in the best possible way. Participants pay as they go or opt for package deals or even private and semi-private lessons. Youngsters can also get in on the action with Junior Academy packages ($545-$1,780).
Tasting Menu at Métier, $200
1015 7th St., NW
Named D.C.’s best restaurant by Washingtonian magazine, this French eatery by chef Eric Ziebold and Célia Laurent sits in a building that dates to 1907 and seats only 36 guests who access the restaurant by private elevator. The menu changes regularly, but to get an idea, the recent online one listed Maine bluefin tuna sashimi, braised oysters and seared foie gras, and a dessert called Moroccan Memory with orange-scented semolina cake, poached quince, pomegranate and honey-almond ice cream.
8372 West Main Street, Marshall, Va.
This whole, bone-in or boneless spiral-sliced ham comes from the company’s own heritage breed pigs raised on Ayrshire Farm in Upperville, Va. During production, the team sugar-cures and slow-smokes the ham so it can simply be heated and served at holiday dinner. Order it online and pick up in the store or have it shipped.
800 16th St., NW
This all-inclusive tableside presentation is available only on Dec. 2, 9, 16 and 23 and includes teas from the Mighty Leaf Tea Co., a glass of Taittinger Champagne and a tiered tray with savory and sweet treats. Tea sandwiches include an English cucumber with tomato and mint, farmhouse egg salad with Bibb lettuce, and salmon and lemon chive cream cheese. Confections include warm orange and cherry scones with Devonshire cream and organic strawberry preserve, chocolate choux puffs, and salted caramel macarons. Children 12 and younger are welcome for $35 per person and get their own menu of hot chocolate, fruit teas, ham and cheese sandwiches, and peanut butter and marmalade sandwiches.
3807 McKinley St., NW
Former Brazilian lawyer June Drummond brings tiny brigadeiros (bree-gah-DAY-ros) — small Brazilian desserts similar to a bonbon — to the nation’s capital. This box of 16 tiny treats includes up to four flavors, such as milk chocolate, pistachio, rose water and salted caramel. The boxes are available for shipping, delivery or in-store pickup.
Opus One at ZachysDC, $6,000
3521 V St., NE
This 2013 red blend wine made in Napa Valley is one of the most expensive at ZachysDC, a wine store that opened last year. It is 79 percent cabernet sauvignon, 7 percent cabernet franc, 6 percent merlot and the rest petit verdot and malbec. Flavor descriptions say it has aromas of berries, wood, flowers and sweet tobacco.
124 Blagden Alley, NW
This James Beard-nominated craft cocktail bar offers a seasonal menu of light bites paired with signature drinks. They include a martini made with gin, coconut oil and dry vermouth, along with a Manhattan made of bonded whiskey, dry vermouth, Amaro liquor, turmeric and beets. Meanwhile, the “Battle of the Beltway” combo pits a Maryland concoction — made with rye, bonded applejack, Yellow Chartreuse, apricot, grapefruit and lemon — against its spirited Virginia rival, which features Brandy de Jerez, Verdelho Madeira, Jamaican rum and mint.
1369 New York Ave., NE
This woman-owned and -operated craft distillery offers a special spirits gift set for $49, with a percentage of proceeds going to Giffords, an anti-gun violence nonprofit that’s close to co-founder Pia Carusone’s heart. She was chief of staff to Democratic Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, who survived a gunshot wound to the head in 2011. The set includes 200-milliliter bottles of Borough Bourbon and CIVIC Vodka plus a branded glass.
Samsung QLED Smart 8K TV, $14,999.99
This 85-inch TV with 8K resolution and HDR technology provides brilliant color that makes watchers feel like they’re inside the screen. The TV optimizes sound for each scene, adjusts brightness to the room and customizes content recommendations. What’s more, users can set it to ambient mode in which the set mimics the wall pattern behind it.
FeiyuTech G6 Plus, $269
This portable gimbal is built to support all cameras in the 800g range and is compatible with GoPro, smartphones, pocket video cameras and micro-single lens reflex cameras. It has a “magic focus ring” to control zoom, and its three axes mean the tool can pan, roll and tilt as needed.
IRIScan Mouse, $69
It looks and feels like a regular computer mouse, but it also has a portable 300 dpi resolution scanner that can be activated with the push of a button. Users swipe the mouse over a paper document and the images appear on the computer screen. They can be converted to PDF and Microsoft Word and Excel formats, and the device recognizes 130 languages. When it’s not scanning, it works as a mouse normally does.
Tiny Jewel Box
1155 Connecticut Ave., NW
The 70-year-old Harry Kotlar brand of hand-fabricated diamond jewelry recently partnered with D.C.’s iconic jewelry store to create the first and only Harry Kotlar boutique on the East Coast. The boutique will feature one-of-a-kind museum pieces, each representing seven decades of world artistry. But for some not-quite-everyday sparkle, the Sunflower Bloom vault diamond cluster earrings are just what Santa or Hanukkah Harry ordered. Set in platinum, the diamonds weigh 3.58 carats.
Delsey Luggage Chatelet Soft Air Shoulder Bag, $280
This vintage-inspired bag with a chevron pattern fabric and vegan leather trim is lined with Bordeaux fabric and has a hidden, zipped front pocket for quickly and safely storing travel documents. The shoulder bag also has three zippered compartments plus a laptop sleeve. It’s available in gray or white and at of press time was on sale for half off.
Designer Jason Wu teamed with ELOQUII, a trend-driven brand for sizes 14 to 28, for a holiday collection of eveningwear that launched Nov. 1. The Tux Pant draws on the menswear trend for women by giving the traditional men’s look a feminine flair with sleek lines. The pants are made with medium-weight bi-stretch woven fabric and have four pockets. Other pieces in the collection include a matching tux blazer ($119.95) and a one-shoulder sequin down ($189.95).
This is Washington, home to the greatest number of spies in the world, so if you can’t beat them, maybe it’s time to join them. Give it a try with this Secret Agent Experience in which four participants (or, rather, adrenaline junkies) fly to Las Vegas on a private jet for a three-day adventure organized by The Invictus Experience. It includes activities such as skydiving and racing cars alongside Special Operations Forces veterans who are free-fall parachutists, combatant divers and reconnaissance Marines. Then they recharge at the Waldorf Astoria Las Vegas for the night. With the purchase of each of these packages, Neiman Marcus will donate $25,000 to the Heart of Neiman Marcus Foundation and Invictus will donate $5,000 to Mission Volant and another $5,000 to Warfighter Made.
Knockdown Club Collar Golf Sweater at Bonobos, $128
Keep your favorite golfer comfortable on the course with this 60 percent cotton, 40 percent Coolmax sweater. Ribbed details make it interesting, and the quarter zip at the collar lets the wearer customize the look. The slim-fit sweater is available in charcoal marl and pale gray. Please note that shopping is available by appointment.
1745 L St., NW
Tysons Galleria, McLean, Va.
Available in time for the holidays, this kit includes the Our Best Smeller body wash and Our Best Smeller Cologne. The scent draws on notes of Italian bergamot, Meyer lemon, cracked clove, black peppercorn, leather and vanilla. The kit also comes with sample-size packets of the body wash, a face scrub, Beard Destroyer Shave Cream, Best for Last Aftershave, and the Shavior for razor burn and bump relief.
Electric Scooter by Ferrari, $1,999.99
Available in black, red and yellow, this aluminum scooter with a battery-powered motor can go up to 20 miles per hour and has a brake and front headlight. Fully charged, the lithium battery lets riders zip around for 30 miles before it needs to be recharged.
American Girl Package at the Watergate Hotel, $799 per night
2650 Virginia Ave., NW
Know someone uber girly? Get them a night in the Watergate Hotel’s Rose Celebration Suite, including the American Girl doll brand package. The 14th-floor, two-room suite features pale pink tones, and the package includes a take-home doll bed and access to the brand’s Grand Hotel set of dolls and outfits. Options include an afternoon tea for kids and dolls, mommy-and-me manis and pedis, and an American Girl movie and popcorn night.
Challenge Courses at Zavazone, $19.50 for one hour
40 Southlawn Court, Rockville, Md.
45685 Oakbrook Court, #110, Sterling, Va.
Got a kid who wants to be an American Ninja Warrior? Take them to this multi-attraction indoor playground and let them test their skills on a warped wall, rock walls, trampolines, and low- and high-ropes courses. Equipment is designed for children age 5 and up.
Pay it forward by making a donation in someone’s name to a charity that matters to them. Here are a few options:
Doctors Without Borders (doctorswithoutborders.org) provides medical and mental health care to tens of thousands of families affected by violence. The group also vaccinates millions of children worldwide against diseases such as pneumonia and measles. A $25 donation covers the cost of medication to prevent and treat life-threatening hemorrhages in 47 new mothers; $50 can purchase chlorination equipment to give 650 people clean drinking water for a week after an emergency; and $100 can provide therapeutic food to treat four children suffering from severe malnutrition.
On Dec. 16 from 12 to 4 p.m., the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown hosts the email@example.com event to benefit Children’s National. This family-friendly community fundraiser highlights collaborations between Children’s National patients and nearly two dozen notable area designers and artists. Together, they will create holiday trees, mantelpieces, wreaths, menorahs and artwork — all available for purchase. Proceeds benefit Children’s National. activities for all ages including holiday cookie decorating, ornament making, musical performances and visits from Santa and Dr. Bear. For more information, email
Plant a tree in Israel in someone’s honor through the Jewish National Fund (usa.jnf.org/jnf-tree-planting-center/). It costs $18 per tree and the honoree will receive a certificate stating that a tree has been planted, why and from whom.
Not sure where to give? Check out Global Giving (globalgiving.org), which vets organizations and presents them by theme and country. Choose from more than 4,000 projects and they’ll send the honoree a personalized card.
About the Author
Stephanie Kanowitz is a contributing writer for The Washington Diplomat.