Washington has three main gallery districts—Downtown, Dupont Circle, and Georgetown—though small galleries can be found all over in converted houses and storefronts. Whatever their location, many keep unusual hours and close entirely on Sunday and Monday. The Washington Post "Weekend" section (www.washingtonpost.com) and Washington CityPaper (www.washingtoncitypaper.com), published on Thursday, are excellent sources of information on current exhibits and hours.
Shopping is the perfect way to acquaint yourself with some of D.C.'s distinguished neighborhoods. A quick diversion down a side street in Georgetown reveals the neighborhood's historic charm and current glamour. Peer around a corner in Dupont or Capitol Hill to see a true D.C. architecture classic—the row house. Wandering Downtown you are sure to bump into one of the nation's great Neoclassical structures, whether it is the White House or Ford’s Theatre.
Beat the Heat
D.C.'s summertime humidity can take the starch out of any shopper. When it's sticky out, head to Georgetown, where stores are tightly packed and waterfront breezes drift up the side streets, and Dupont Circle, where you can duck inside for an iced coffee or ice cream between gallery stops.
Store hours vary greatly. In general, Georgetown stores are open late and on Sunday; stores Downtown that cater to office workers close as early as 5 pm and may not open at all on weekends. Some stores extend their hours on Thursday, while some in Adams Morgan and along the U Street Corridor don’t open until noon but keep late hours to serve the evening crowds.
How to Save Money
If you're willing to dig a bit, D.C. can be a savvy shopper's dream. Upscale consignment stores like Secondi in Dupont Circle and discount outlets like Nordstrom Rack in Friendship Heights provide an alternative to the surrounding luxury retail. Secondhand bookstores throughout the city provide hours of browsing and buying at welcoming prices.