Unusual Places to Shop for the Holidays: A Breath of Fresh Air

I enjoy shopping, whether I’m window shopping, going to a few favourite stores at the mall (Nordstrom, Kiehls, Polarn O. Pyret, Victoria’s Secret (they have the best pyjamas), Williams Sonoma) or popping into local stores I love (Half Crown, Didriks, Hatched, Magic Beans, Henry Bear’s Park, Porter Square Books, Crate Escape/Raining Cats & Dogs, Polka Dog Bakery, Flock, Olives & Grace, Follain, Laura Preshong Jewelry Gallery, Art Beat).  On the other hand, a weekend at the mall this time of year brings out anything but Christmas spirit in me and a weekend at the mall or driving from shop to shop is not a weekend well spent in my book.  I tend to do most of my shopping before Thanksgiving just to avoid the crowds, but I always need a few more things.  My solution is to shop in unexpected places.  Then I can enjoy the experience.  Grab a coffee and shop for a few items here.  Stroll through a garden and pick up a few more gifts there.  Then the holiday remains something I look forward to and not something I resent.  Here are a few places to find great gifts without the crowds.

Tower Hill Botanic Gardens has a beautiful gift shop.  Take the family to see their light display or just for a walk through the gardens.  Then stop in the shop for everything from books for the family gardener to colouring books for your tween, ornaments for your relatives, and edible treats for the hostess.  

Huron Village is a fun little village to shop in.  With Observatory Hill just down the road you can have two shopping experiences in one.  If you bring the family, you can leave one parent at Full Moon with the kids for dinner while the other pops out to do some shopping.  Huron Village has: Susi, the Ouimillie pop up at Half Crown, Grey Mist, Marimekko, Magic Beans, Bryn Mawr Book Store and Easy Chair Antiques.  Observatory Hill will host their holiday stroll on Sunday, December 13th from 4:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.  Stop by Hi Rise Bread Company for their Holiday Bazaar, decorate cookies, eat freshly roasted chestnuts, shop, have your face painted, enjoy sweet bites and savory nibbles as you stroll and gget a holiday photo taken as well.  

 Pantry in Brookline is a great place for this busy time of year to grab the ingredients and recipe for dinner, a gift card for a local teacher, and believe it or not a few gifts for the cooks in your family (or soon to be cook – like your college student).  

Hi Rise will have plenty of wares for sale from artisans at the Holiday Stroll today, Sunday, but they are also a great stop for holiday shoppping.  Their perfectly curated wine crates and shelves with whiskey, gins, and more.  There are coffee cakes, Panetonnes, spice cakes, jams and more that make great gifts as well.  

Forge Baking Co. is another great spot to stop for your morning coffee and pick up some unique, fabulous gifts.  Their boutique has whiskey maple syrup, caramel sauce, gorgeous wooden cutting boards and so much more.  

Gather Here is a fiber crafter’s paradise. The gift of a class for just the right person young or old will make someone’s holiday. If you are the crafter in the family then stop in and get materials for a short project (there’s still time!).  

Praliné in Belmont is a newcomer and the definition of a hidden gem. It is a taste of Paris (some say even better than some of what Paris has to offer). In addition to being able to pick up a treasure box full of Macarons with flavours like blackcurrant violet, lemon, cookies and cream, chocolate and pistachio amont others, there are also classic French candies. There are also shelves full of beautiful dragées (sugar coated almonds), stunning tins of tea, French jams, and tiny jars of drunken cherries. For the holidays they also offer three types of Bûche de Noël (yule log) that you can order now for Christmas. I have my eye on the berries and cream yule log.

Formaggio Kitchen has everything from condiments and pasta to their world famous selection of cheeses and charcuterie. Special maple syrups, jams, beers ciders, and even little gifts like soaps and lotions can be found near the checkout counter. 

Fairs and Markets are not the church craft fairs that they used to be. You can still go to your favourite church bazaar but between the winter markets (Somerville Winter Market, Wayland Winter Farmers’ Market, Cambridge Winter Farmer’s Market or a market in your community), Eat Boutique’s pop up Holiday Market is fabulous and has parking (bonus!!), and all the neighbourhood pop ups there really is no need to head to a mall. These markets all have a great variety of gifts, the experience is a party in itself more often than not with little treats and sips for you as you shop. 

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