Christmas in July — or anytime

Sometimes the same old FBI T-shirt and Washington monument snow globe just won’t cut it. When it comes to unique gifts, Old Town Alexandria has many options.

It’s Christmas Eve in Washington, as the song goes — except when you step out of The Christmas Attic, it’s more than 90 degrees outside. The Christmas Attic, at 125 S. Union St., is currently celebrating its 40th year, and co-owner Cheri Hennessy is proud of what the shop has to offer.

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Imagine stepping into a nostalgia lover’s paradise. Old standards are crooning from tiny speakers on the wall, and a train whizzes around the perimeter of the store. Christmas trees dot the scene, some decorated in a patriotic theme, others an international theme.

“The store has been in our family,” said Hennessy, who owns the shop with her sister. Their father handed down the store after their mother passed away.

“I remember at age 10 running the cash box opening weekend,” Hennessy said. 

The shop receives many out-of-town visitors, particularly tourists from overseas. “We had two different men who mentioned to me that their wives drag them to Christmas places all the time,” Hennessy said. “They both said our shop was different.”

If Christmas trinkets aren’t your cup of tea, up King Street is Candi’s Candies, a sweets shop with an old-timey feel. If you’re a fan of saltwater taffy, peek in the back room of the candy shop: it’s brimming with barrels of the sticky, chewy goodness. The shop makes any candy lover feel as if Willy Wonka opened up a branch of his chocolate factory in Old Town.

Candi’s is also home to many ghost stories, including a Romeo-and-Juliet-style story and a tale from the 1868 Alexandria Gazette about Laura Schafer, a young girl whose kerosene lamp exploded as she was getting ready for bed. As the story goes, she caught on fire and ran down the stairs, but no one could save her.

After overdosing on candy, stop by Lou Lou Boutique at 132 King St., one of the newest shops in Old Town. Home to more affordable jewelry and accessories, Lou Lou is a haven for shoppers who just can’t seem to get enough sparkly scarves or handbags.

The Middleburg, Va.-based company opened this month and already has clothing stores in Middleburg and Leesburg, as well as accessories stores in D.C.’s Dupont and Georgetown neighborhoods, downtown on F Street and in Bethesda, Md.

While shopping for unique gifts, you can’t forget your furry best friend. Chateau-Animaux is your dog’s version of Georgetown Cupcake, minus the long lines. Bring Fido in to cool off during the hot summer months and treat him to a gourmet doggie pastry.

“All of our treats are wheat-, corn- and soy-free,” said Chris Baldino, who manages the Old Town location, at 101-A S. Saint Asaph St. “They’re like the three horsemen of animal allergies.”

Every weekend, Baldino sees about 60 to 65 dogs wander through the store, he said, and as many as 10 visit each weekday.

Guests can also shop for toys for their pets, as well as leashes in bright colors. Baldino mentioned that the shop holds animal adoption events monthly inside the store as well. 

All treats from Chateau-Animaux are baked at a Beltsville, Md., bakery.