2015 Chicago Architecture Blog Christmas Gift Guide

The number of shopping days until Christmas is dwindling and, if you’re not careful, before you know it, you’ll be at an IDOT oasis trying to figure out if little Suzie would rather have a pecan log or a fist full of scratch-off lottery tickets in her stocking. Don’t be that person.

Instead, here are some ideas for Chicago-themed and Chicago-based Christmas gifts that will make you seem smart, interesting, and perhaps a little screwy.


Chicago Starbucks Card — For the coffee lover in your life, how about a Chicago Starbucks card? In 2011, 2013, and 2014 Starbucks issued Chicago-themed cards. Those cards are long gone, but they’re not forgotten; especially by the clique of people who collect and trade gift cards. The Starbucks Collecting web site sells the Chicago-themed coffee cards for between $2.99 and $25, depending on its rarity. Once you buy the card, all you have to do is load a few bucks onto it online or at your nearest ‘Bucks store, and voila — instant caffeine addict present.

The City of Chicago Christmas Tree, back when it was huge and awesome and made out of 50 other trees like some crazy botanical Voltron.

The City of Chicago Christmas Tree, back when it was huge and awesome and made out of 50 other trees like some crazy botanical Voltron.

Snoopy+Chicago Phone Case — In case you didn’t know, there’s a new kiosk at Macy’s on State Street where you can customize cell phone cases and tote bags and other accessories with Peanuts characters and your name. It’s cute, and the tourists seem to enjoy it. But if you look closely, one of the designs available is uniquely Chicago. It’s Snoopy with his doghouse, the doghouse has the Chicago flag on it. It’s personal. It’s Chicago. And it’s Peanuts. It’s a gift-giving trifecta!

Chicago Swag — While you’re at Macy’s on State anyway, head down to the basement to the are where the gloomy watch repair desk and the bookstore used to be, and discover the shiny new Chicago and Macy’s-branded gift shop. Technically, it’s a tourist information center, but it’s mostly given over to selling merchandise. Not only can you can get all kinds of Chicago-branded items, there is a smattering of Marshall Fields-branded swag, as well.

Sustain Yourself — You say you’d like to use reclaimed old growth pine in your den, but you don’t have any lumberjack friends? No problem! Whether your home improvement project is a simple lighting fixture replacement or a total gut rehab, you can find one-of-a-kind sustainable materials at Rebuilding Exchange at 1740 West Webster Avenue.

Vintage Subscription — If you’re into decorating, vintage items, or vintage decorating then you’ve probably been to the Randolph Street Market. Did you know that you can buy a season pass to the shop-a-rama? If someone on your Christmas list is also into vintage treasures, you can feed their need for an entire year for $100, $150, or $200. Linky

Something Artsy — One of the disappointing things about art museums is that most of them have pretty much the same PBS-inspired gift shops with the same weird tchotchkes that are cool to look at, but how many Picasso drink coasters and stained glass neckties does one person need? Well, living in the big city, you’re in luck — the gift shop at the Art Institute of Chicago has all the regular art museum gifts that you’ve seen from Boston to the Bay Area, plus some actually interesting and clever items. Best of all if you keep to the right as you enter the building, you can go into the gift shop without having to buy a ticket for the actual museum. That way you don’t have to give up a month’s worth of Dunkin’ Donuts just to pick up a jeweled insect brooch for your mother. Or you can stay warm and shop ARTIC online.

Gifts With Wings — You know what little boys like? Well, they like video games. But you know what else they like? Jets. And rockets. And things that go fast. So introduce them to a different kind of joystick by buying something from the Boeing Store. Located inside the Boeing World Headquarters at 100 North Riverside (suck it, Seattle), the manufacturer of things that go fast and high has quite an assortment of goodies for the kiddies, plus USB hubs, golf balls, and logo apparel for the grown-ups. Linky

The Wurst Idea — You know what grown men like? Food. Sure, as a teen that box of summer sausage that you gave grandpa seemed hoaky. But now that you’re older, you secretly long for someone to buy you some quality processed meats. So while it still exists, head over to the Vienna Beef factory store at 2501 North Damen Avenue and just go to town. Start with traditional packs of Chicago-style red hots, and then work your way into some hard salami, Italian beef, and even Ditka-branded polish sausage. Is there a vegetarian on your list? Nothing says “irony” like a Vienna Beef hat. Linky

Four on the Floor — If you live in the suburbs, chances are you own a car. So while you’re in the suburbs anyway, head to Bolingbrook and the WeatherTech factory store. There you can buy your true love some custom-fit floor mats for her ride. WeatherTech isn’t yet synonymous with Chicagoland the way Vienna Beef and Marshall Fields are, but give it time. Linky

Core of the Season — In addition to Boeing and WeatherTech, another company people don’t usually realize is based in Chicagoland is Affy Tapple. And like the other two, it also has a factory store. This one’s out in Niles, and offers not just caramel apple gift baskets, but also nut clusters, chocolate-covered pretzels, and that most Chicago of snacks: Caramel corn. Linky

Still at a loose end when it comes to gift-giving? Check out our 2014 Chicago Christmas Gift Guide for even more ideas.

Author: Editor

Editor founded the Chicago Architecture Blog in 2003, after a long career in journalism. He can be reached at chicagoarchitectureinfo@gmail.com.

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