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18 Of Our Favorite Holiday Gifts Your Friends Will Actually Want

By Staff in Arts & Entertainment on Dec 16, 2015 5:30PM

The holidays are quickly approaching and if you haven't marked off every good girl or boy on your shopping list you might just be freaking out right now. Have no fear, the Chicagoist staff has put together a handy list of inventive gifts that will wow every recipient on your list.

Assorted Oddly Greeted holiday cards

For Your Entire Holiday Card List
Still haven’t gotten around to this year’s holiday cards? Why not send a unique seasons greeting designed by a local artist instead of grabbing whatever’s left on the shelf at Walgreens. Chicago-based illustrator Jacob Elijah has designed a new line of twisted holiday cards called Oddly Greeted, and if you enjoy reading our site, these cards are probably right up your alley. There’s a skull and crossbones card made up of cookies and candy canes, a gingerbread man coup, a snowman losing his snowballs and more. A little snark, a little dark and all fun, the cards are available in four different packs for purchase. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

Sea Urchin Mug. Photo by Anjali Pinto, Courtesy of Lettuce Entertain You.

For The Cocktail Aficionado
Tiki lounge Three Dots and a Dash (435 N. Clark St.) serves up some of the best cocktails in the city in epic mugs. From a skull mug to a sea urchin mug, their glassware makes a statement. What many of the bar’s patrons don’t realize is that you can purchase one of the fun mugs at the bar or online. If you purchase one at Three Dots, it comes ready to give tucked away in a pretty blue bag with tissue and packed in a cardboard box. —Kate Shepherd

For the Aviation Fan
Chicago is home to Boeing’s World Headquarters along the Chicago riverfront in a building that occupies the airspace above the rail lines leading into Amtrak’s Union Station (airspace for which Boeing pays $1.3M a year to rent!). Boeing has given large donations to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry which features a Boeing 727 that was given to the museum by United Airlines. After exploring the fuselage and trying one of the flight simulators at the museum, go browse one of only three public Boeing stores in the 100 N Riverside building (410 W. Washington) where you can see past and present models of Boeing’s commercial, defense, and space related aircraft. It’s a unique opportunity for the aviation fan in your life. —L. Stolpman

A page from the 2016 Above Chicago Desktop Calendar

For The Acrophobic
Those of us who spend our days at desks appreciate any window dressing. Why not organize your time with images by Choose Chicago’s Artist of the Year? Photographer Nick Ulivieri has created a desktop calendar featuring a unique aerial or rooftop view of Chicago for each month. Seeing the city from these stunning elevations is enough to banish your fear of heights in 2016.—Jessica Mlinaric

For The Yogi
Yoga Six (1150 N State St., 2105 N Southport Ave. and 1136 S Delano Court) has made a big splash into the highly competitive Chicago yoga market.  With beautiful studios in the South Loop, Gold Coast and Lincoln Park, the Solana Beach, California-based yoga program keeps growing in popularity, so a gift card or class pack would be the perfect choice for any of your yoga enthusiast friends. The teachers and staff make an effort to remember your name and to personalize the classes by asking you about any injuries or preferences before class. Classes range from Power Yoga to Boot Camp to Meditation to Vinyasa to Deep Stretch.  A few class formats are heated (about 103-105 degrees) and a few are warm (about 85-88 degrees) and the choice is a refreshing change from the Bikram trend. There’s also a fantastic retail section with nice yoga clothes for men and women, mats, accessories and more. —Kate Shepherd

For The Bold Flavor Fan: Lillie’s Q Barbecue Sauce Gift Set
Barbecue is always fun, but I enjoy it most when accompanied by the spectrum of sauces at Lillie’s Q. Gift your favorite grillmaster by the bottle or in gift sets of three or six. Just don’t skimp on the Hot Smoky!—Jessica Mlinaric

Local H's 'Twenty-Five Years Of Skin In The Game' book, cat not included

For The History Hungry Rock And Roll Fan
Local H: Twenty-Five Years of Skin In the Game is a 140-page coffee table packed with photos and stories tracking the Chicago group’s history through different line-ups, labels and eras. Not only is this is the first comprehensive history of the band, it also comes with a free download a download card that allows readers access to more than 20 rare tracks including demos and outtakes. —Jim Kopeny / Tankboy

via Etsy

For The Aspiring Jedi Knight
We all have someone in our lives who has been talking about the upcoming Star Wars movie for months, if not years. Thankfully, the reinvigorated film franchise has also reinvigorated the market for off-beat Star Wars merch. Tell the Star Wars haters they aren't welcome in your home this holiday season with one of these "unwelcome" mats from the Damn Good Doormats Etsy shop. Options include "This Isn't The House You're Looking For," and "Go Away, You Should." It will set you back $45, but with 1 to 3-day shipping, at least you'll have it before the holidays. —Rachel Cromidas

For The Chicago Enthusiast
If you’re looking for a highly curated selection of Chicago-centric prints, gifts, and ephemera, Foursided Card And Gift (2958 N. Clark St.) has it covered from every side imaginable.  This gift shop/custom frame boutique boasts an alluring mix of newly produced and retro items—from vintage inspired flashcard-turned-wall art, to Chicago skyline soy candles, Chicago airport luggage tag prints, and Chicago Transit Authority map cards, prints, and tote bags.  If you’re a Chicago expat, or a new Windy City resident, odds are Foursided has the Chicago-themed gift you never knew you needed. —T. Peregrin

Vieni Via Con Me Ring from the MCA Museum Store
For The Lover of Unique Jewelry
Give the gift of endless compliments to that jewelry-lover on your list. The Museum of Contemporary Art's museum shop (220 E. Chicago Ave.) has an incredible selection of sensational timepieces, necklaces, rings and more in a wide range of prices. An artful accessory from the MCA Store will be a gift that keeps on giving as the lucky wearer of a signature necklace or exhibition-themed earrings are showered with compliments on the subway, in the workplace and at parties. And if you are a member, you will receive an additional discount for giving this gift of thought-provoking and intensely unique conversation pieces. —Carrie McGath

For The Biker In Your Life
We all have that friend who likes the convenience of biking, but isn’t to the level where they’re commuting up and down Milwaukee Ave. The city’s Divvy Bike system has grown in popularity over the last two years, and is a great alternative to owning your own bike. Best of all, you can take one-way trips if you’re in a hurry and not worry about leaving your bike locked up somewhere. A membership is $75, and makes a great gift since it’s an annual expense. We also spotted the NOMO XFR Tote Kickstarter that would make the perfect accompaniment, or a great smaller gift for the frequent Divvyer. It’s a great looking bag on it’s own, but it’s made specifically to fit the Divvy basket. The Chicago Architecture Foundation’s also got some Divvy branded gear for sale plus other bike-lover items. —Michelle Meywes Kopeny

Chicago by Vincent Laforet, author of AIR

For The Photo Geek
What happens when you dangle a Pulitzer Prize-winning photographer out of a helicopter above the world’s greatest cities? Vincent Laforet demonstrates the spectacular results of his pioneering aerial photography in this hardcover collection, titled AIR, published in Chicago. The gorgeous HD images of Chicago, London, New York, Sydney, and more are mesmerizing not only for their beauty but for what they reveal about urban planning.—Jessica Mlinaric

For Downton Abbey Aficionados
Fancy Christmas tea with the Crawleys? Perhaps the next best thing to visiting the fictional Yorkshire country estate of Downton Abbey is purchasing tickets to the upcoming Dressing Downtown: Changing Fashion for Changing Times exhibit at the Richard H. Driehaus Museum (40 East Erie St).  Opening February 9th, 2016 (tickets are on sale now), the exhibit features more than 35 period-perfect costumes from the popular British television series. Produced by the renowned London costume house Cosprop Ltd., many of the garments were constructed using original fabrics and embellishments from the early 20th century.  The Driehaus is also offering visitors the opportunity to enjoy a traditional English tea including scones, cake breads, and tea sandwiches before or after viewing the exhibition. We’re certain Mrs. Patmore (and the Downton Abbey fan in your life) would approve. —T. Peregrin

Picasso Bulls t-shirt by Just Visiting

For The Streetwear Savant
There are a few streetwear labels in town that play around with corporate logos and the subversion of them, Health Goth and DBM for example. I think my favorite thing I’ve seen so far in this genre of fashion is the Picasso Bulls t-shirt by the Toronto-based Just Visiting. It takes on the Chicago Bull’s iconic logo and reimagines it as a cubist artwork.  “I’ve been to Chicago a few times and really love the city. I went to Pitchfork music festival for the past two years. I just thought it would be a fun challenge.” Just Visiting told us via email. The shirt has sold out a few times over the last few months, and has to ship all the way from Toronto. So if you’re into it as a gift idea for the holidays, I’d act quick. —Justin Freeman

For The Tea Lover
Loose-leaf tea is one of the finer things in life. TeaGschwender (1160 N. State Street and 557 W. Diversey Pkwy.) has one of the biggest loose-leaf selections around and any tea drinker will be impressed with your gift. With a selection ranging from fun tea accessories to pre-packaged gift boxes to the countless flavorful teas, you’re bound to find something here for the tea drinker in your life. The staff is very helpful and knowledgeable about all of their selections and can easily help you find the right thing and give you some flavors to test. The German tea purveyor’s only two U.S. locations are in Chicago so it’s the perfect gift for an out-of-state friend.  —Kate Shepherd

'Great Lakes Maritime' Artisan Soap from the Chicago History Museum
For The Chicago History Lover
For Chicago swag from books to jewelry to reproductions of historic posters to handmade soap inspired by different neighborhoods to a Chicago flag mug to anything and everything Chicago, the Chicago History Museum’s store (1601 N. Clark St.) has it. They have merchandise inspired by each of their special exhibits, a big kids section with fun toys and books, plenty of Lincoln books and a great selection of items from local vendors. There really is something for everyone here plus your purchase helps keep the museum running. You don’t have to buy a ticket for the museum to shop at the store. —Kate Shepherd

For Your Foodie Friends
Chicago’s best chefs swear by the Spice House in Old Town (1512 N. Wells) for fresh and flavorful spices, herbs and seasonings. With a whole line of seasonings inspired by the city’s neighborhoods like Back of the Yards Garlic Pepper, Bronzeville "Galena Street" Rib Rub, Old Taylor Street Cheese Sprinkle and Pilsen Latino Seasoning, you can choose based on the receiver’s neighborhood. They also suggest seasonings based on the food you’re cooking (i.e. they recommend Rocky Mountain Season as a great all purpose vegetable blend) or you can grab the spices or herbs you need like basil and cinnamon. They have gift boxes ready to go or you can make your own. —Kate Shepherd

For The Hard To Shop For Or Person Who Has Everything
Gifts that give back to the community are always rewarding. For people who don’t want a gift or who have everything or you just don’t know what they want, you really can’t go wrong by helping a non-profit in their name. Making a donation in honor of someone (or giving a museum membership) is a gift most people would be thrilled to get. Chicago is full of fantastic charities that make a huge difference in the city. Choose your favorite or a cause close to the heart of the recipient.  

Here are a few suggestions: Gilda’s Club Chicago (provides support groups and activities for local cancer patients and their families), Ronald McDonald House near Lurie Children’s (gives families of child patients at Lurie Children’s Hospital and the Rehab Institute of Chicago a nearby place to stay during treatment), PAWS Chicago (Chicago’s largest no-kill shelter and adoption organization for cats and dogs), Greater Chicago Food Depository (one in six Cook County residents benefits from the food bank’s services each year) and Inspiration Corporation (provides housing, training and job placements for the homeless).  

For more ideas, check out Chicago Magazine’s most recent list of the best charities in Chicago. —Kate Shepherd