Old Town Alexandria: Unique shops and great buys!

Alexandria, Virginia has been a magnet for shoppers since its founding in 1749 when the port on the Potomac River unloaded the latest luxuries from London and fashions from France. Today, shopping in the colonial Old Town is as exciting now as it was when George Washington picked up some baubles for his beloved Martha.

The best shopping is along King Street which runs from the river for about a mile to the Metro Station. The more interesting stores are near the river. Fine jewelry, Tibetan handcrafts, and a sushi bar are side-by-side on one side on the street; fine art gallery, a Thai restaurant, and a chic boutique rub shoulders on the other.

Three Sisters Boutique (213 King St.) manages the tricky feat of giving very trendy styles a classic treatment what works for both young dance clubbers and the more “mellow”-agers headed for jazz bars. The display of gold and amber jewelry at The Silver Parrot (113 King) is hard to miss – or resist. For accessories, lou lou (132 King) displays its soft-as-a-spring-breeze scarves, feather brooches, hand bags, and accessories by color group.

Decorium (116 King) is reminiscent of the Paris flea market. Take the time to explore every corner of this charming maze that’s filled with unique home décor accents. The staff has as much fun as the customers. Their children’s corner has great, unusual things – like big blue plush “tickle monster” mitts.

Why Not? (200 King) is another treasure for children’s toys. Brace yourself—there are no commercial tie-ins; no action heroes or characters created by Pixar or Disney. No video games. Games, puzzles, magic sets, and play sets that rely on imagination and creativity. What a concept! There’s also a small, but good, selection of newborn-to-toddler clothing.

The mélange of aromas that greet you when you enter The Spice and Tea Exchange (320 King) transports you to the Great Silk Road or Moroccan souks. Over 30 different tea blends line the shelves, arranged by the degree of caffeine in each. A wall of spices tempts you to experiment in the kitchen. Exotic salts – apple wood, smoked, Hawaiian, and Red Sea, and sugars – sweet onion, Espresso, coconut, Habanero – come with food pairing suggestions.

The side streets are worth a wander. Encore (110 S. Union) overflows with high quality consignment fashions. Owner Ginny Barlow has built a strong customer and consignment base in her 16 years, carrying labels like St. John, Gucci, and Prada. In winter, she even has a choice selection of furs. More high-end consignment is at Diva (116 S. Pitt) with more Prada and Diane von Furstenberg.

The Red Barn Mercantile (113 S. Columbus) sells furniture which mixes clean, contemporary lines with a classic feel. It’s how George & Martha would furnish Mt. Vernon if they were alive now. Random Harvest (810 King) shows off rooms which mix both contemporary and antique furnishings and accents.

After all that, slip into Sugar House Day Spa (111 N. Alford St.) for a massage and body treatment. After all you’ve done to stimulate the economy, you’re earned the treat!

For more information about Alexandria, check their website: www.visitalexandriava.com

Photos: Fran Severn