The “Shop-Local Workout” is a Forest Hills Connection holiday tradition.
In 2012, Marlene Berlin laced up her walking shoes and took us on a walking and shopping tour of Van Ness, Forest Hills, Chevy Chase, Cleveland Park and Tenleytown. We’ve published a new version with updates almost every year since.
The 2021 updates, sadly, include removing Sullivan’s Toys & Art Supplies, which closed last July after delighting local kids for nearly 70 years. Newcomers to our guide include Tennis Zone Plus, which moved from Glover Park to Tenleytown in 2019, and Shemali’s Market, which recently opened a Van Ness location.
And now, without further adieu: The Shop-Local Workout.
Those who know me best know I hate to shop. So you might wonder why I am writing about holiday shopping. I do hate to shop in large department or big box stores. They overwhelm me. My favorite type of shopping is only a walk away.
I like supporting the local shops. All you need is a backpack with one or two reusable bags and off you go on a pleasant shopping excursion. You don’t have to walk, but it’s healthier and much more fun.
Some of the best shopping for the holidays is right here in the Forest Hills neighborhood, at Politics and Prose. There is nothing I enjoy more than browsing through books for friends and family, and its 2018 expansion opened up more shelf and floor space for all sorts of gifts for adults and children, including jigsaw puzzles.
The next stop is a few steps up Connecticut Avenue at Little Red Fox. Shop an assortment of uncommon beers, wines, hard ciders, vinegars, sauces (made there!), pastas, chocolates, coffees and teas. You can also peruse the selection online, make your purchase, and pick it up at the store on your way to the next place on the list.
From here you could head north to Chevy Chase or south to the Van Ness commercial strip.
Southbound shoppers will first reach neighborhood newcomer Shemali’s Market at Connecticut and Albemarle. The Van Ness outpost carries Lebanese, Turkish and Greek sauces, spices, teas, syrups and other items sure to delight the foodies on your list. In fact, this section of Connecticut Avenue is a foodie haven, and the selections at Bread Furst and Uptown Market would fill out your gift baskets nicely.
For those trekking north on Connecticut Avenue instead, Chevy Chase is a treasure trove of locally-owned and operated shops. Around the corner from Starbucks on Livingston Street, you’ll find Park Story. The store sells women’s shoes and apparel, jewelry and home accessories, all made or designed locally or by independent brands.
On McKinley, a half block off Connecticut, is Write for You stationary and gifts. One day I went into explore and came out with a watch. For the local movie buffs on your list, stop at the Avalon Theater, a wonderful neighborhood institution, for a gift card. Another great stop for kids is Ramer’s Shoes on Northampton. You don’t have to worry about getting the right shoe size – just pick out one of the colorful umbrellas hanging festively from the ceiling.
I think that’s enough for one day. Whether you’re in Van Ness or Chevy Chase, sit down at one of the local restaurants and treat yourself. You’ve earned it.
Another shopping excursion from Forest Hills is to take a hike through Soapstone Valley to Peirce Mill, and then walk up the hill on Tilden. Yes, you can make it. Turn right at Lenore Lane and head to the Hillwood Museum, which has a terrific gift sale in December.
Or continue to follow the trail under Tilden that leads to Cleveland Park, just below Sedgwick. This is part of the Melvin Hazen Trail system. Shops in Cleveland Park that are worth the hike include Transcendence-Perfection-Bliss and Town Jewelers. Or stop into All Fired Up to make a gift.
If you still have energy to burn, walk north on Connecticut to Sedgwick, then follow Sedgwick west to Tilden. Upon crossing Tilden, you will find a bank of 98 steps (yes, I have counted them) leading to International Drive.
If you want a good cardio workout, take the steps. Hook a left when you get to International Drive, which sweeps around in front of a bunch of embassies and leads to the corner with the Israeli Embassy and the Chinese Embassy (map). Take another left onto Van Ness Street and walk to Wisconsin Avenue.
On the southeast corner of Van Ness and Wisconsin is Sequels. It is a consignment shop located in an apartment building and packed to the gills with stuff. They have some funky jewelry.
Next, head north on Wisconsin to Tenleytown Ace Hardware, a employee-owned member of the national Ace cooperative. I love hardware stores, and you really can find unusual gifts. What about a double jumbo inflatable snow tube?
Just up Wisconsin, Middle C Music is a don’t-miss for the music lover in your life. It has sheet music, gifts and musical instruments you could give as gifts. How about a recorder or a ukulele? And a few lessons?
Continue north on Wisconsin to check out the bikes at City Bikes and across the street, Tennis Zone Plus. This shop supplies gifts for tennis players, but also everything you need for squash, badminton, racquetball and pickleball, the newest racket sport that all ages are playing.
If you are looking for pet gifts or a pet to adopt, try the PetMac pet store on Fessenden just west of Wisconsin.
Your final stop in this journey is York Flowers, just north of Fessenden.
It has plants, flowers and arrangements that you can peruse in person, or order online. They have a holiday catalog and their own delivery service to make sure your order gets handled with care in the wide Metropolitan area – even as far as Reston.
Well, it’s time to head home to put your feet up and relax. Frankly, I have worn myself out just thinking about all this shopping.
What did we miss? Tell us about your favorite holiday shopping experiences… just a walk away.