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Unexpected Ways to Shop Local this Holiday Season

Mon Nov 19, 2018

From memberships to last-minute stocking stockers, we’ve rounded up thirteen unexpected holiday gift ideas. Items from our guide are a little unexpected and all directly support local businesses.

1. Signed First-Edition Club

The perfect gift for any true bibliophile is a membership to the Harvard Book Store’s Signed First-Edition Club. Each month, members will receive a recently signed first-edition book selected for both its potential collectability and literary attributes making this gift the perfect way to grow your literary collection and learn about new authors.

A membership to the first-edition club also helps support the Harvard Book Store, which will help ensure that our love for reading and the local institution itself will continue to thrive and grow. Buying local is truly a win, win!

2. Chocolate Lovers

L.A Burdick’s is known for their adorable (and delicious) chocolate mice, and penguins, but did you know they also offer a seasonal chocolate subscription service? Their Birchbox-esque Holiday Club is the perfect gift for the chocolate lover in your life. Sign up and your loved one will receive a holiday themed box of chocolate confections just in time for Christmas, Valentine’s Day, Easter, Mother’s Day, Halloween and Thanksgiving! Just think: with one-click you’ll have every holiday covered.

3. Membership Passes to Museums

What if we told you that you could give access to Harvard’s Zoology collections, the exquisite Glass Flowers, famous works of art, the Planetarium and Omni Theater, robots and technology, dinosaurs, vast collections of rare artifacts, and fossils all without ever having to leave Cambridge? It’s really true, we promise!

A family or individual membership to a museum in Cambridge isn’t just your average gift, you’ll be giving the gift of knowledge and continued curiosity, two things we take very seriously around here.

We boast nine world-class museums here in Cambridge, which means that we’ll have something for everyone on your list- from the littlest minds to the biggest. They’ll even receive some added perks besides admission like exclusive V.I.P invites, discounts, and even free parking!

Click here to check out a list of the museums in Cambridge.

4. Charles River Boat Tours

One of our favorite ways to spend a beautiful, sunny day in Cambridge is to spend it cruising along the Charles River with the Charles Riverboat Company. A gift card from the Charles Riverboat Company is the perfect gift that never expires and gives us yet another reason to look forward to spring. You’ll truly get to experience Cambridge from a new perspective and learn a little more about our favorite city.

5. Exercise Enthusiast

Living a healthy lifestyle is deeply ingrained in Cambridge -- we are one of the most bike-friendly cities in the countryafter all. With juice bars, and healthy dining options popping up daily, taking care of your health has never been easier. This year, Cambridge welcomed two new exercise studios that provide a truly unique, and dare we say fun, way to get your sweat on. Giving the gift of health from The Handle Baror Barre and Soulwill make any work-out enthusiast happy!

Both the Handle Bar and Barre and Soul offer individual classes or exercise class passes (from a 5 class pass to 10 classes, and more) which allows your exercise buff to have a little fun while still getting the full experience.

6. Film or Theater Buff

If someone on your list is an expert at reciting movie lines or has a passion for the theater, these unexpected suggestions will make your holiday shopping a breeze:


With the convenience of technology, buying a gift for your movie-obsessed friend can be tricky. Make movie-watching a special outing again with a membership to Brattle Theatre. Brattle Theatre is not your traditional theatre -- they show the best of the best in classic, foreign, and cutting-edge films, and specialize in week-long themed flicks. From holiday favorites to classic love stories, your friend will enjoy movies for an entire year in Harvard Square’s most beloved landmark.


Cambridge has a wealth of award-winning theatre venues. We recommend a subscription or memberships to the Central Square Theatre, the American Repertory Theater, and the Jose Mateo Ballet Theater. You’ll be transported to new worlds, all without ever having to leave your seat.


There is quite the music scene here in Cambridge. We are proud to house some of the most significant musical institutions in the area. Give your music-loving friend an experience they won’t forget with tickets to a show from the ultra-cool Sinclair, the classic Middle East or the always hip Club Passim.

7. Pamper & Indulge

Giving the gift of pure relaxation is something everyone can appreciate! Because a masseuse or a hot tub seems pretty difficult to wrap, we suggest a gift card to Inman Oasis. Located right in the heart of Inman Square, this hidden oasis will be the answer to anyone’s stressed out prayers. With twelve different types of massages and two types of hydrotherapy tubs, the recipient will quickly forget all the hustle and bustle happening outside the doors and feel instantly relaxed and incredibly thankful they have you in their life.

8. Future Figure Skater

When we think of winter we immediately imagine ourselves ice skating under twinkling lights. Take advantage of Kendall Square's beautiful ice rink and pick up season passesto Kendall Square’s Community Ice Rink. Great for kids and adults, their inner figure skater will be able to practice their skills all winter long. You’ll help create a memory that will last a lifetime.

And since you can’t possibly ice skate without a cup of something warm, we suggest visiting Tatte Bakery to complete the traditional ice skating experience for a cup of joe or a velvety hot chocolate.

9. Hostess Gifts

We all have that friend who can turn any get-together into a night to remember. Give the hostess with the mostess a gift that will give their next party that extra special touch while supporting a local business. Lucky for us, Cambridge is full of shops that specialize in goodies for entertaining.


For the savory palate, we suggest picking up a set of fresh olive oils from Salt & Olive. Or go the extra mile by spoiling your friends and loved ones with a subscription to their Olive Oil of the Month Club. Talk about a gift that keeps on giving!


Another unique idea is a gift basket from Formaggio Kitchen– fill a gift basket full of goodies for crafting the most delicious cheese plate (champagne included). Formaggio’s even offers a ‘Made in Massachusetts’ basket full of domestically produced coffee, jams, and cookies.


If your hostesses prefers sweet over salty, visit Follow the Honeyfor everything honey related – local honey, candles made from beeswax, skincare, chocolate, jewelry, books, French macaroons, and many more treasures. The folks at Follow the Honey even curate bee-utiful gift baskets filled with bee goodies that you can get delivered straight to anyone on your list.


Cabot’s Candyin Harvard Square is another place that is sure to satisfy that sweet tooth grab a box of famous saltwater taffy and fudge.


Don’t forget about the hostesses who are throwing this year’s holiday parties! For a gift that you can grab in a pinch, head over to Central Bottle Wine & Provisionsfor an expertly selected wine and pair it with a beautiful bouquet arranged by the floral experts from Brattle Floristor Central Square Florist. Because, who can turn down flowers and wine? You’ll get brownie points for shopping local, and you’ll be the guest everyone wants to know.

10. Gifts for Her

Forty Winksin Harvard Square carries some of the most luxurious and covetable items that will even make shopping for the “woman who has everything” incredibly easy. Comfy pajamas are a definite must for the cold months ahead and are something that every lady in your life would love to find wrapped under the tree.

A gift (or gift card, or practically anything from Forty Winks) is a guaranteed way to make sure you end up on Santa’s Nice List.

11. Kids

Do the kids in your life seem to have everything? Surprise and delight them with whimsical books, toys and games from an authentic toy store that will bring you back to your own childhood. The World’s Only Curious George Storeoffers handpicked gift sets, nostalgic goodies and a wide range of gifts for children of any age.

12. For the Craft Enthusiast

Give the gift of a hobby or new skill this holiday season with a gift card to Inman Square's part sewing studio, part yarn and fabric shop, and stitch-lounge gather here. Essentially, gather here is a craft lover's wildest dream. Not only do they sell all the necessities for your passion project, but they also host a variety of classes perfect for your very crafty friend. gather here makes gifting easy as pie with online ordering which includes gift cards.

13. Last Minute Stocking Stuffers

No matter how much you plan, the holidays just seem to sneak up on us. If you’re looking for a thoughtful last minute gift, or a few extras to throw in your loved one’s stockings, consider making a stop at this local spot.


When in doubt, shop at Black Ink– aka the experts at finding those unique discoveries for literally everyone on your list. Their Harvard Square location is full of mini delights, stationery, glassware and everything in between, tantalizingly organized on floor to ceiling shelving that surrounds the tiny shop’s parameter. It’s almost impossible to leave empty handed! Once you’ve selected those unexpected some things for your special someone, you’ll have the opportunity to purchase beautiful gift-wrap and tags making this a true one-stop-shop.