Old Town has hundreds of boutiques, antiques stores, art galleries, and gift shops selling everything from souvenir T-shirts to 18th-century reproductions. Most of the best stores are interspersed among the multitude of restaurants and offices on King Street from the waterfront to the Metrorail station. Plan to spend a fair amount of time browsing between visits to historic sites. A guide to the city's 50-plus antiques and collectibles stores is available at the visitor center (you'll pay a premium for antiques here, so you may want to wait to buy if you're going to Fredericksburg).
One essential stop is the Torpedo Factory Art Center, 105 N. Union St., between King and Cameron streets on the Potomac River (tel. 703/838-4565; www.torpedofactory.org). This block-long, three-story waterfront structure was built by the U.S. Navy in 1918 and operated as a torpedo shell-case factory until the early 1950s, then used as storage for artifacts from the Smithsonian Institution. Today, it houses 84 working studios where artists and craftspeople create and sell their works. The shops and galleries are open daily 10am to 5pm, to 9pm on Thursday. It's closed New Year's Day, Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving, and Christmas.
Another highlight here is the nonprofit Winterthur Museum Store, 207 King St., between Lee and Fairfax streets (tel. 703/684-6092; www.winterthur.org), the only off-site venture by the renowned museum of decorative arts on the estate of horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont, in Delaware's Brandywine Valley. It's a delightful browse, including the back garden, which features all sorts of garden plants and ornaments. You'll come across fine reproductions from the Winterthur collection, including lamps, prints, ceramics, brassware, jewelry, garden furniture, and statuary. The store is open Monday to Saturday 11am to 6pm, Sunday noon to 5pm (6pm in summer).
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.