When you go shopping for your loved ones this holiday season, don’t trek to Pentagon City or Tysons Corner for video games, ties or jewelry. The esteemed gift shops on Capitol Hill have shoppers covered, especially those who are looking for something more adventurous, something patriotic and maybe even something bipartisan — although these days, you’ll have to look hard to find something like that.
Some of the stores on Capitol Hill can be tricky to find, especially those buried in the basements of the Congressional office buildings. Nevertheless, here are some government-themed suggestions you won’t want to miss.
House The House gift shop, tucked away in the Longworth House Office Building, is a good place to start. • Patriotic donkey and elephant mugs ($9.11) aren’t exactly bipartisan gifts. But these perfectly sized glass mugs are covered in Republican or Democratic symbols, depending on your political preference, and the price is no accident. • A classy, framed design print of Article I of the Constitution ($149.64) celebrates the foundation of the legislative branch of the government, looks good on any wall and sends the message that someone really, really loves legislating. • The ideal gift for the youngster in your life who doesn’t yet have complete disdain for Congress could be a red T-shirt with an image of the Capitol and the phrase “Future Member” ($9.54).
Senate The Senate gift shop, in the Dirksen Senate Office Building, also offers a wealth of politically themed gifts. • What says “I am powerful” more than golf? Perhaps golf and the Senate mixed together, with this gift of Senate golf balls ($2.50 each). • There’s no mention of Republicans or Democrats on a tasteful drinks set that includes a crystal decanter with two glasses, all emblazoned with the Senate seal ($60) — perhaps because all parties can agree on the need for a stiff drink once in a while. • One of the most classy, useful and expensive gifts the Senate offers is a presidential pen in a fancy wooden case ($195). Library of Congress Inside the Thomas Jefferson Building at the Library, the emphasis is on books. • The Presidential Crossword Book ($3.95), full of puzzles with a presidential theme, is one of the least literary items in the shop. • Your young child may already have dozens of toys all over the floor, but it’s likely he doesn’t have an action figure of Harry Houdini, Oscar Wilde or Edgar Allan Poe, complete with a raven on his shoulder ($10). • Any true American should own copies of the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights — the Three Documents of Freedom ($8) that look, feel and even smell authentic.
National Postal Museum • Did you know the Postal Service had a mascot? It was a dog named Owney (who actually had a rather checkered history with the Postal Service), and the stuffed version ($15) can be yours. This won’t come as a shock: The postal service will ship any purchase anywhere in the country. • For the philatelist in your family, pick up a framed stamp of President John F. Kennedy ($22) or a framed history of the post office, told through stamps ($45). • No joke necessary here: The National Postal Museum will sell you a real bag of shredded money for $5. The bag’s label reads, “This is real money.” • Another unique historical gift is the Civil War Sesquicentennial 2011 Calendar ($16.25), which commemorates the 150th anniversary of the war’s beginning with stamps from the era representing each month of the year.
Capitol Visitor Center • The CVC is overflowing with patriotic memorabilia, including T-shirts and sweatshirts inscribed with the phrase “E Pluribus Unum” ($15 to $50). • A set of quills ($3 each) make a nice package gift with the Three Documents of Freedom from the Library of Congress. • And to cap off your Capitol Hill shopping trip, how about the perfect gift for your elected Representative? He or she will probably be delighted with a copy of the riveting book, “Senate Procedure and Practice” ($32), as a reminder of how Congress is supposed to work.