Online shopping may be convenient, but when it comes to supporting your city, shopping local is best. And since most businesses are still recovering from the pandemic shutdown, spending our dollars at the neighborhood small businesses has never been more vital. Luckily Chicago has countless businesses and shops to help readers find the perfect gift for everyone on their list.
For people who deserve some pampering…
After the past two years, basically everyone we know deserves to be treated to a little something nice. Help your stressed-out loved one get the TLC they need with these blissful ideas.
- Merz Apothecary, this lotions-and-potions mecca, also sells favorite European skincare brands, unique fragrance lines, wellness items, and a curated list of beloved products. It’s been in business for 147 years, so you know it’s legit.
- Chicago boasts a endless range of spa options: From the luxurious (Aire Ancient Baths, Kohler Waters Spa Lincoln Park) to the Old World Turkish bath (Chicago Bathhouse) to the 24-hour full-scrub experience (King Spa in Niles) to wellness center with intuitive readings (Ruby Room in Wicker Park), gifting some much needed “you time” for a loved one is easy and affordable.
- For those who need a deep relaxation (or don’t mind closed, dark spaces), try a gift certificate to Float Sixty in River North. Participants spend an hour floating in a sensory deprivation tank, letting all their cares melt away.
For the fun friend who has eclectic taste…
These are the friends we like to shop for, because the experience in these shops is just as fun for you.
- It’s such a delight to poke around RR#1, the original bric-a-brac store for all sorts of thoughtful, artisanal, carefully curated gifts. You never know what you might find.
- For the design-savvy, Architectural Artifacts is the place for beautiful home décor and furniture pieces that are a far cry from the offerings at Ikea or Target.
- Strange Cargo is probably best known for their screen printing services, where you pick your favorite design from an entire wall of options, or design your own from a binder of offerings, then wait while the staff presses it onto your chosen clothing. It’s a one-of-a-kind, irreverent, and Chicago-specific gift any friend will love.
- Quimby’s in Wicker Park has long been a hub for all things avant-garde and bookish. A stalwart of the independent zine scene, Quimby’s has a wide array of books, zines, knick-knacks and tchotchkes for every taste and style.
For your crafty maker-DIY-artsy friend…
- For the fashionista or the clothing clueless, learning how clothes are constructed can go a long way in feeling comfortable in what we wear. Sew Anastasia hosts a wide range of classes, from basic skills to sewing your own hoodie to fashion design classes.
- Finding your personal scent is a fun and tactile experience at Aroma Workshop in Lincoln Park. Learn about layering scents as you sniff through a store of delightful and delicious smells.
- If your friend just likes to make stuff, point them toward Lillstreet Art Center, where classes range from pottery to sketch drawing to fiber arts and textiles. Maybe they’ll gift you a creation to say thanks!
- One way to nudge that friend to dust off the guitar in the corner is to gift them a class or two at Old Town School of Folk Music, the granddaddy of accessible arts and music classes.
For your younger sibling, who maybe could use some help adulting…
Learning to be on your own and setting up a grown-up life takes time, energy, effort, and a few false starts. Help your younger sibling (or older…or yourself…no judgments!) get a leg up on things that make transitioning into adulthood a lot more fun.
- Learning to cook for yourself and others can be a challenge for many, especially those of us who live on pasta and takeout. Give the gift of good food and confidence with cooking class gift cards or premium kitchen gadgets at the Chopping Block or the Wooden Spoon.
- If you think a makeover show would be right up their alley (and they won’t be offended!), give the gift of a personal stylist. Prices will vary from each consultant so do your research on who might be the best fit for your time and budget. The personal shopper program at Macy’s is renowned but we also love KS Style Consulting for solid sartorial advice from a local.
- Whatever their beverage of choice, there’s more to learn and appreciate. Gift a wine tasting event at WC Winery, a brewery tour with Barrel Run, a home-brew kit from Brew & Grow, or a mixology class with Hollow Leg.
For your parents, who only want to spend time with you…
When your parents say they want nothing, don’t listen to them! If they are not familiar with the city, prepare a personal tour of all the things you love about the city. If they are locals themselves, put a special twist on a tourist day with experiences they might not have had yet.
- Treat them to a classic Chicago dinner. Enjoy a steakhouse (we love Smith & Wollensky, Gene & Georgetti, or Erie Café for authentic steakhouse experience) or introduce them to what real Chicagoans eat for pizza (Our top picks: Pequods, Piece Pizza, and Spacca Napoli for wood-fired excellence).
- Take a leisurely stroll through any of Chicago’s fine museums. There’s the incomparable Art Institute, of course, but also the Driehaus Museum (which is housed in a Gilded Age mansion), the Chicago History Museum, and Hull House Museum for the social justice backstory of our famed city.
- For a guaranteed good time, jump aboard one of the many stunning options for an Architecture Boat Tour, or try one of the more off-kilter tours, such as Gangsters and Ghosts Tour or Chicago Food Tours.
Some people are just tough to buy for. When in doubt, try these local favorites, where the knowledgeable staff and wide array of options are sure to offer something to appeal to every style, taste, and budget.
- Lincoln Square has several small businesses that specialize in fun, functional, and funky items. Visit Enjoy, an Urban General Store, Neighborly, or Hazel, for Chicago-themed products, elegant gifts, and one-of-a-kind wares from Chicago artisans.
- The indie bookstore scene is thriving in our literature-loving city. Check out the Book Cellar, Volumes Book Cafe, Exile in Bookville, or Women & Children First for impeccable recommendations for every type of reader.
- For the culture vulture in your life, you can’t go wrong with tickets to a great show. Check out the Neo-Futurists, Lookingglass Theater, Steppenwolf Theater for cutting-edge live theater; the Lincoln Lodge, Don’t Tell Comedy, or Second City for top-tier comedy; and Chicago Symphony Orchestra, Lyric Opera, and Broadway in Chicago for unparalleled performances.
Whatever ideas you land on, if it comes from the heart — and from Chicago — you know it’ll be good.