Entertaining Family & Friends: Hot Spots to Shop

by Casey Higgins | Posted: Nov 24, 2015

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It’s the time of year when the most treasured people arrive on your doorstep to spend quality time reconnecting and catching up. Joyous, to be sure, but filling every waking moment with something fun for your guests is … a challenge. May we help?

Shopping is a favorite pastime for the ladies of the family (in my family, anyway), but there are opportunities for the guys and kids to get in on the action as well. Consider these places where everyone will have something to get excited about.

This is the first of a three-part series of ideas to help you maintain your sanity while showing gracious hospitality and LOVE this holiday season.



This is a great place to spend the day with incredible decorations, the kids train, and high-end shopping and dining. The brand new L.L. Bean store is a draw for the outdoorsy folks, and Orvis can be found there, too. After lunch, take a time-out with the kiddos at the Children’s Museum. It’s a great opportunity to burn off energy and get the grumpies out. Techies will spend time at the Apple Store or Bose while purse lovers will flock to Kate Spade New York and Michael Kohrs. When it’s time for another break, hit up the Elizabeth Arden Red Door Spa or make a new friend at Build-A-Bear Workshop. Guys, hit up Rock Bottom Brewery while the gals check out White House | Black Market and Pottery Barn. Reconnect for dinner and then call it a day.

Photo courtesy of Short Pump Towne Center.

Photo courtesy of Short Pump Towne Center.



This suggestion can actually help you plan more than a day out of the house as Merchants Square is alongside Colonial Williamsburg, which can easily take a day or more to fully explore.

There are about 40 stores and restaurants in Merchants Square for your holiday shopping and dining pleasure. Of interest to those looking to replicate some of the Williamsburg experience are specialty shops like WILLIAMSBURG at HOME, which carries the full line of Williamsburg® brand linens, prints, dinnerware, and more. Additionally, find apparel retailers like Chico’s and Tablots, and kitchenware at Williams-Sonoma. The kids will enjoy a trip to Wythe Candy & Gourmet Shop for handmade fudge, but don’t forget to treat them to a Spirit of ’76 drum or fife from Everything Williamsburg.

Also of Note: Williamsburg Premium Outlets – More than 135 top name-brand stores offering big discounts.

Photo courtesy of Merchants Square.

Photo courtesy of Merchants Square.



Families enjoy a trip to MacArthur Center in downtown Norfolk for a number of reasons, but one of the coolest is MacArthur on Ice, the seasonal ice skating rink and kiddie rink. Shop awhile at stores like Banana Republic, Aveda, and Abercrombie & Fitch while the men in your life visit The Art of Shaving. Enjoy a meal together and then lace up your skates and glide beneath the evening’s falling snow. Are you multi-gen shopping? Send the little ones home with grandma and take in a show right across the street at The NorVA.



Virginia’s downtowns are known for their hospitality and gorgeous holiday decorations. The streets are lined with gift shops, spa-like boutiques, artisan galleries, music stores, paint-your-own pottery studios, and typically, a movie theater and park can be found nearby. Split up and conquer the day.

Culpeper. Photo by Bo Corbin.

Culpeper. Photo by Bo Corbin.

DOWNTOWN CULPEPER – The Lollipop Station’s Storytime Saturday entertains little ones while you shop from their Christmas list. My Secret Stash has cool nostalgic candy that’s perfect for stuffing stockings, and Harriet’s General may be the place you have trouble pulling him away from. For the wine or cigar lover in your life, check out Vinosity. For chocolate, head to The Frenchman’s Corner. Before you go, take the family photo in front of the red and white LOVEwork. It’s the perfect backdrop for your holiday photo.

* CHARLOTTESVILLE HISTORIC DOWNTOWN MALL – This pedestrian-only mall easily lends itself to a day out of the house. Head to Rock Paper Scissors to score awesome stationery, writing utensils, 2016 calendars, and more. Blue Whale Books specializes in antiquarian books and maps, as well as chromolithographs from the 1800s; you’re sure to find something for the person who has everything. Do the “shop local” thing by buying a sweet children’s frock or bib from Boutique Boutique. Speaking of children, they’ll enjoy a mid-day break for lunch as well as another for play at the Virginia Discovery Museum right on the mall. Shopping til you drop? That’s okay. There may be entertainment at The Paramount to give you a break.

* DOWNTOWN LEESBURG – Several blocks of shopping will keep couples and friends busy all day long. For the gentleman, note the locations of McDowell Brew Kitchen and Crooked Run Brewing (both on Harrison Street) so you’ll know where to go when you’re ready for a break. Ladies, Very Virginia Shop must be on your list if you’re seeking tasty Virginia-made treats or gifts. Lou Lou is a fine accessory boutique and Crème de la Crème is a home accessory boutique. Both are perfect places to  secure a BFF, MIL or LYLAS gift. To the east is Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets where more than 110 additional stores await. Hop the Leesburg Trolley for easy transportation and fewer parking headaches.

* DOWNTOWN STAUNTON – Staunton has been hailed “Best Small Towns in America,” so why not shop it out? It’s the perfect place to shop with and for the tots with places like Grandma’s Bait and Pufferbellies Toys & Books. They’ll also love blowing their own glass ornament at Sunspots! Have a culinarian on your list? Purchase a unique gift from Staunton Olive Oil Company, Yelping Dog or Lewis Creek Market. Gents, Shenandoah Hops and Redbeard Brewing are calling when your dogs are barking. Kick ’em up and tip one back before reconnecting for a lively holiday show at Blackfriars Playhouse.

Carytown. Photo by Beth Furgurson.

Carytown. Photo by Beth Furgurson.

* CARYTOWN RICHMOND – Affectionately known as “The Mile of Style,” Carytown is comprised of the business along Cary Street from Thompson Street to Colonial Avenue. You’ll find quirky gifts at places like AlterNatives and Mongrel while children’s fun and gifts can be found at World of Mirth and Franklin Goose. Kitchenistas will love Ladles and Linens while the guys may want to check out Carytown Tobacco or Walkabout Outfitters. Everyone will agree that a break at Dixie Donuts is in order.

Old Town Alexandria. Photo by R. Kennedy.

Old Town Alexandria. Photo by R. Kennedy.

* OLD TOWN ALEXANDRIA – No holiday outing is complete without a stop at The Christmas Attic. Pick out this year’s family ornament and maybe buy one for the teacher, too. The diva on your list will appreciate a gift from one of the many stylish boutiques. Check out Bishop for fine threads or Gossypia for eclectic, international flair. Treat the overworked mom to something special from Ladybug Bath and Body Apothecary, a sensual space you may delay departing. Take the kids to window shop at Why Not? where they’ll surely ask, “but why not?” when you say “No, it’s too close to Christmas.” Then send them on with another family member while you seal the deal and win on Christmas morning.


Where do you enjoy shopping with the whole gang during the holiday season? Tell us your favorite by leaving a comment!


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