When America's first six presidents needed a place to celebrate, they headed to Gadsby’s Tavern. Home to Thomas Jefferson's inaugural banquet and two of George Washington's Birthnight Balls, the tavern also hosted plenty of community dances, musical performances, and meetings for local organizations.
These days, at the circa-1780s tavern—plus its neighboring 1792 hotel—guides teach visitors about 18th-century decorative arts and social customs. Visitors can also learn about the tavern's recently restored historic subterranean ice well. Designed along with the buildings by architect John Wise, the well could store up to 68 tons of ice, enough for the tavern plus Alexandria's citizens and vacationing polar bears.
In addition to regular guided tours, the museum plays host to frequent programs and events throughout the year. Along with lectures and candlelight tours, these include an annual recreation of George Washington's ball, complete with costumed actors filling in for George and Martha.
The readers of Washingtonian magazine voted the family-owned Princess Jewelers "Best Jewelry Store" in 2008, winning the company well-deserved notice for the careful, custom craftsmanship of its talented, certified jewelers. Two elegant showrooms display engagement and wedding rings set with diamonds or semiprecious stones, as well as earrings, necklaces, bracelets, and cufflinks that make a glittery gift for significant others or surprised trick-or-treaters. The company imports a large inventory of loose gemstones and diamonds, which may be fashioned into original designs or replicas of pieces in photographs, and jewelers can also restore damaged pieces to their previous beauty and wearability. On-site graduates of the Gemological Institute of America are capable of identifying legitimate gemstones by scent alone, using their bling-based expertise to appraise customers' new and antique jewelry and assist them through each step in the selection of a quality showpiece.
Part art gallery, part cocoa bar, Artfully Chocolate was established in 2007 when owner Eric Nelson quit his job as an executive in order to pursue his artistic passions. Needing a little something extra to draw attention to his shop and unwilling to sound a tornado siren after every purchase, Eric called on the services of a friend and chocolatier who helped infuse the colorful gallery with a sweet allure.
Today, Artfully Chocolate delights customers with artful masterpieces parading across the walls, and a culinary expertise revealed in sips and bites of decadent drinks and pastries. Travel and Leisure has also named Artfully Chocolate as one of the nation's best places to get hot chocolate. They also host tasting classes, including a wine- and chocolate-pairing class, chocolate-tasting class, and art classes with chocolate and wine.
Reunions owner Barbara Geyer Watts describes her charming jewelry and gift boutique as "a blend of old and new where the merchandise changes daily." The shop's antiques, milled soaps, knickknacks, and jewelry have earned the patronage of countless loyal customers, as well as a place on Washingtonian magazine’s Best Gift Shops in Washington list.
The shop adorns bodies with one-of-a-kind earrings made from pearls and pewter and gold earrings and bracelets in the shape of hastily tied metal bows. It also inspires decorating creativity with its collection of candles, Waterford crystal, china, and robot butlers. Each purchase can be gift wrapped at no extra charge, and 5% of all sales each October benefit worthy local charities.
Diva Boutique thrills savvy fashion hunters with gently used designer apparel, earning the store the title of Best Consignment Shop of 2009 from the Washingtonian. A dachshund mannequin stares benevolently from the 1880s townhome's front window, ushering shoppers inside for an obligatory ear scratch and exploration of the boutique's ever-changing selection. Rack upon well-organized rack of clothes by designers such as Tory Burch, Diane Von Furstenberg, Prada, and Chanel greet visitors alongside accessories and a line of new jewelry designed to compliment the sophisticated stock. Those hoping to consign their own gently used duds can schedule an appointment for staffers to examine the items' condition, determine their sell prices (generally 1/3 to 1/2 of the original price), and assess their intellect with a brief written exam.
When owner Cindy McCartney isn't pampering her beloved pet dachshund—after whom she named her boutique—she strives to make a difference in the world. Recognized for her social activism by Northern Virginia Magazine, Cindy believes in tapping into her inherent "visibility as a retailer to support community causes" such as the American Heart Association's Go Red for Women movement and the Susan G. Komen National Race for the Cure.
Before Comfort One Shoes' sole experts are allowed to fit a single shoe to a customer's foot, they must graduate from Comfort One University and undergo a mentorship process. It's only then that they can help shoppers find their desired footwear, whether it be lace-up Ziera boots, On running shoes with CloudTec technology, or Thierry Rabotin shoes, handmade without uncomfortable, rigid components. Alongside men's and women's footwear, the shop stocks an assortment of bags and accessories such as colorful iPhone cases from Triple C Designs that protect phone exteriors and conceal scratches from the last time you transformed into a werewolf.
Comfort One Shoes also seeks to better the world through creative philanthropic efforts, such as collecting 25,000 shoes for those without and offering their employees half their pay and time off to volunteer in the community. Perhaps such initiatives are part of the reason Comfort One Shoes earned the National Shoe Retailers Association’s Retailer of the Year Award in 2011.