A must-see market in the heart of Washington

Looking for a place to buy affordable gifts? Know somebody who likes jewelry, clothing, accessories, soaps, knickknacks or even salsa? Eastern Market has it all.

This flea market may be one of Washington, D.C.’s best-kept secrets. While locals are likely familiar with the neighborhood and its popular attractions, tourists may be unfamiliar with the market. It’s not on the beaten path for everyone — malls or other neighborhoods might be closer.

But people are missing out. At Eastern Market, tents are filled with colorful, beaded jewelry and interesting rings, wooden, handmade, hand painted bangles and dangly earrings, cowboy boots and sandals, pretty, unique clothes and sunglasses with fun colors and cute details. I got a $5 pair with thick, white rims, a little pink plastic bow in the top corner and short black whiskers that look like Hello Kitty.

And then there’s the food. Walk by the outdoor market and you’ll find samples of delicious, fresh peaches, tomatoes, berries, apples and whatever else is in season from local vendors. On a weekend recently vendors offered samples of 10 different types of fresh salsas ranging from mild to set-your-mouth-on-fire spicy.

Don’t want to spend very much money but also don’t want to leave empty handed? Look through the tangle of necklaces, bracelets and jewelry and you’re sure to find something you like for just a dollar.

While the jewelry at the various tents is relatively uniform, it’s unlikely that somebody will have the same bracelets as you when they leave.

Visitors to Eastern Market face the conundrum: Share the experience with their friends or try to keep it on the down-low. For me, it comes down to this: I don’t want to see anybody else wearing my Hello Kitty sunglasses.