If DuPont Circle happens to be your destination, then shopping should be on your to-do list because, as in many urban centers such as our nation’s capital, finding good places to shop usually means finding great neighborhoods rather than stores. As with some other popular neighborhoods in our capital city, there are a few options within the DuPont neighborhood and of course plenty of things to do in DC. You most certainly won’t be disappointed exploring the diverse selection of bookstores, clothing boutiques, art galleries, and gift shops, making it all but certain that the experience will be to your liking.
Given that DuPont Circle is basically named after a traffic circle, located just about in the center of the neighborhood, you’ll find that shopping here will take you in a roundabout way through a few popular areas in the community. Much like the spokes of a wheel, the primary streets in the neighborhood all lead to the Circle and the shopping tends to be on these major thoroughfares. Connecticut Avenue and P Street, in particular, are where many retailers are located.
By far, most of the shopping in the DuPont Circle neighborhood can be found along Connecticut Avenue, both north and south of the Circle, though more traditional clothing stores such as Brooks Brothers, Ann Taylor and the Gap are south of the Circle. Head north on Connecticut Avenue and you’ll find trendy shops, coffeehouses, and restaurants. One of these is Kramerbooks and Afterwords Café, a DC institution since 1976, where you not only can leaf through an enormous collection of books, but also spend the day indulging in their fine coffees, breakfast, lunch, dinner, or drinks. This place is more than just a great bookstore, it's truly a hangout.
Head a little further north, away from the Circle, and you’ll find rare beauty products at Bluemercury, where you can treat yourself in the store's spa while testing the products. Though now a major retail cosmetics chain, this luxury beauty retailer originally began in Georgetown before spreading around the country, so in DC it really is more like a local boutique shop. Keep going north up Connecticut Avenue and you’ll run into Secondi, a consignment store that specializes in women's clothing and accessories with attention to vintage lovers and bargain hunters. Secondi is particularly fussy about their inventory, where everything is as good as new and not more than two years old. What sets this consignment store apart from many others is its selection, from Chanel to Kate Spade to Prada to Miss Sixty to Anthropologie to Vuitton, all of which can be snagged at bargain-basement prices.
Shopping on P Street is primarily west of the Circle, where one will encounter a couple great bookstores just a stone’s throw from the Circle. Second Story Books and Antiques is an intricately laid out store that’s filled from floor to ceiling with used and rare books as well as many out-of-print books. This long-time DC institution has one of the largest used and rare book collections in the world. Catering to the literary junkie in all of us, the store also has collectible maps, prints, manuscripts, and posters, as well as used CDs, records, and DVDs.
Just a few steps away is Fantom Comics, which opened in 2005 and in addition to comics also carries magazines and novels from local authors and small press publishers that can’t be found in the major bookstores. This isn’t just an ordinary comic book store, but rather it’s a comic lovers’ community, where book clubs are hosted along with ladies’ nights, geeky burlesque shows, meetings for local comic book collectives, artist workshops, and make-your-own comic drawing sessions. Go a few more steps and you’ll be at 1 West Dupont Circle Wines & Liquors. You can be sure that nothing goes better with a good book or comic than a great bottle of vino, a mug of beer, or a good scotch, and you’ll find all of that here. Every customer receives personal attention and their selection of beers, wines, and spirits from around the world seems almost endless.
Given the fact that the DuPont Circle neighborhood is on the National Register of Historic Places, you’re bound to find that it’s simply perfect for exploring on foot as you pass the palatial mansions and residences, as well as three-and-four-story row houses, all built in the styles popular at the turn of the 20th century. As you’ll find out walking these streets, the many things to do in DC are often found in the best neighborhoods.
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