What once was a routine stroll through the leafy, historic neighborhood of Mount Vernon, full of elegant dogs and moneyed folks and tony mansions, has become a slightly more dystopian adventure. The place smells a lot like shit these days, thanks to the constant work being done on the 11 or 15 sinkholes we’ve got down there. As roads are dug up and redone, we find these obstacles have made us more present as we wander around up and down, as we climb over all of those gigantic black tubes and cross streets in complicated ways because the sidewalk is all of a sudden closed. It’s an adjustment and occasionally a bit more of a workout than we expected, but, coupled with the pervasive shit smell, these obstacles in the city’s center are visceral reminders of this city’s crumbling infrastructure, another reminder of how deeply fucked the city is all over.
Anyway, you’re here in search of places to buy gifts this holiday season, and maybe treat yourself to a snack along the way. Mount Vernon has plenty of options. Drop into Collectors Corner (403 N. Charles St.,  682-7261, collectorscornermd.com) for comics or action figures for that sweet nerd in your life. A bit further north on Charles Street, A People United (516 N. Charles St.,  727-4471, apeopleunited.com) sells comfy, flowy clothing, natural candles, stones and crystals, and beautiful antique Malaysian furniture. You can take a break and wander through the Walters Art Museum and stop at the gift shop on your way out. For the artistically inclined person on your list, Plaza (1009 Cathedral St.,  625-9000, plazaart.com) and Blick (229 W. Chase St.,  727-7004, dickblick.com) both have you covered.
Clothing shops abound here too: The Doll House (525 N. Charles St.,  874-7900, shopdollhouseboutique.com) is fancy but unique, as is Gian Marco Menswear (517 N. Charles St.,  347-7974). The Zone (813 N. Charles St.,  539-2817) has been an off-the-wall, vintage staple since the ’80s. And, lately, Read Street has been bustling too: Bottle of Bread (216 W. Read St.,  963-9388, shopbottleofbread.com) recently moved across the street into what used to be the Randall Scott Projects art gallery, and Keepers Vintage (229 W. Read St.,  444-7979, facebook.com/KeepersVintage) moved out of its tiny corner spot to the much more spacious place Bottle of Bread used to be in. Both Bottle of Bread and Keepers offer a great, curated selection of well-priced vintage clothes—from lacey, delicate dresses to statement button-downs to worn, nostalgic sweaters—and local, handmade candles, jewelry, and accessories. And inside of Keepers’ new space, Knits, Soy and Metal (knitssoyandmetal.com) has a sweet setup for their lovely soy candles and hand-knitted accessories.
And of course there’s no shortage of places to sit down and eat a full meal or just grab a quick snack in Mount Vernon: The Bun Shop (239 W. Read St.,  989-2033), Café Andamiro (241 W. Chase St.,  453-9314, facebook.com/cafeandamirobmore), Poblano (201 W. Chase St.,  244-8818), Dooby’s (802 N. Charles St.,  609-3162, doobys.com), Marie Louise Bistro (904 N. Charles St.,  385-9946, marielouisebistrocatering.com), NuBohemia (42 W. Biddle St.,  408-7723, facebook.com/NuBohemia), The Room (800 St. Paul St., theroom800.com), Indigma (801 N. Charles St.), and so many more. You really just have to go for a walk. (Rebekah Kirkman)
Chrysanthemum bangle ($34.95), The Walters Art Museum Store, 600 N. Charles St., (410) 547-9000, thewalters.org/store
Coaster set ($36), A People United, 516 N. Charles St., (410) 727-4471, apeopleunited.com
Alligator necklace ($44), The Doll House, 525 N. Charles St., (443) 874-7900, shopdollhouseboutique.com
Xicar Airtight Waterproof Travel Humidor ($27-$33) and Jet Line Triple Torch ($19.95), Mount Vernon Tobacco, 221 W. Read St., (410) 728-5669
Ceramics by Christina Haines: Pebble pipe ($80), dish ($35), ashtray ($16), Bottle of Bread, 216 W. Read St., (443) 963-9388, shopbottleofbread.com
Handmade Paper Journal ($14) and handmade leather camel journal ($24), A People United, 516 N. Charles St., (410) 727-4471, apeopleunited.com
Knight at the Dragon Puzzle ($17.95), The Walters Art Museum Store, 600 N. Charles St., (410) 547-9000, thewalters.org/store
Harley Quinn Vol. 1: Hot in the City Book & Mask Set ($34.99) Collectors Corner, 403 N. Charles St., (443) 682-7261, collectorscornermd.com