Another Part of the Forest: Vinyl LPs, DVDs
Specializing in hard-to-find vinyl records and eclectic music, Another Part of the Forest offers more than 10,000 LPs ($1.50-$15), including a wide selection of jazz and classical music as well as Opera music that’s hard to find anywhere else in the city. They also have spoken word records and off-the-wall finds, like a 1950s recording about salesmanship. Most LPs are used, but there are some new ones on their shelves, as well as DVDs for sale and rent.
1333 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-371-2455
Blue Manatee: Holiday-Themed Books
If books are on your little one’s list, look no further than Blue Manatee, where the knowledgeable staff will help you find the perfect book for the desired reading level and interest. While shopping, grab a piping hot cup of organic coffee from Lookout Joe and other treats right next door at Blue Manatee’s cafe. For holiday-themed books, try Llama Llama Holiday Drama by Anna Dewdney ($16.99).
3054 Madison Road, Oakley, 513-731-2665
Bonbonerie: Tea for Two
Spend a morning at the new Bonbonerie Café, sipping tea and noshing on the crepe du jour ($5.50), then head next door to the bakery to shop for tasty treats and confections that are perfect gifts. Try some Tea for Two ($20), a box set that includes caffeine-free and full bodied varieties, iced tea cookies, two holiday cutouts and a cake for two. Ideal hostess gifts include gift boxed almond macaroons ($11.95) or a pastry tray with 11 of their most popular brownies and pastries ($15.95). For a real treat, personalize a Yule log or opera cream cake for friends.
2030 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-321-3399
City Cellars: Personalized Wine Labels
This is a great place to try a new bottle of wine or pick up your favorites, but they also make it easy to spread your love of wine around. For $15, you can create your own personalized wine labels. Simply submit your favorite image or text and — voila! — you can add the message to any bottle of wine you choose. For the same amount (on a monthly basis) you can sign up a loved one for the Wine of the Month Club, and City Cellars will send one new bottle each month to the person of your choosing (even if that person might be you). You can upgrade your gift to include more wine per month, up to a case per month.
908 Race St., Downtown, 513-621-9463
Coffee Emporium: Gift Basket
Just walking into Coffee Emporium stirs in one’s soul a burst of energy and wide-eyed-awake-ness. As the name suggests, they’re coffee experts, serving up a different coffee of the day ($1.60-$2.35) or flavored coffees like the decadent white chocolate raspberry mocha ($3.50-$5.25). They also help you create a personalized gift basket for any anyone on your list and can include more than just coffee; teas, gourmet foods, serving accessories, chocolates, sauces and more that can be decoratively wrapped up for the holidays.
Dress for Success: Bargains
As the name implies, Dress for Success features quality, sophisticated work wear to help you land that perfect job or aim for a promotion. With $8 pants, $7 blouses and $15 boots, you can put together a full outfit for $30. Bracelets, watches and necklaces go for $7 each, so you can even accessorize on the cheap. During my last visit, I spied an on-trend vintage watch that looks great and keeps me on time when I’m not near my computer or Blackberry. Head downstairs to the store’s Bargain Basement Boutique to find even greater deals, since all items are priced under $5. And since all proceeds feed back into the nonprofit organization, what better way to give (and get) during the holidays?
135 W. Fourth St., Downtown, 513-651-3372
Findlay Market: Gift Certificates
Love Findlay Market but not sure how you can wrap up all that goodness into one gift? Try a Findlay Market Gift Certificate. Purchase online via phone or web site. Certificates come in $5 increments and are accepted at all Findlay Market merchants.
1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-665-4839
Four Entertainment Group: Fun Holiday Parties
Celebrate the holidays at one of their local establishments through Christmas, and 4EG will donate a percent of all sales to the Drop Inn Center in Over-the-Rhine. The Righteous Room downtown hosts DJ Matt Joy in the back courtyard Dec. 23 for a holiday party, and he returns for their New Year’s Eve shindig, with no cover charge. The Mount Adams Pavilion hosts its second annual “Santa’s Little Helper Holiday Celebration” Dec. 18, with holiday drink specials and DJs on two different levels for just a $5 cover charge. The Pavilion also hosts a New Year’s Eve bash; tickets are $30 advance. The Stand in Mount Lookout Square hosts its own second annual holiday party Dec. 18, this one with the theme of “Griswold Family Christmas” and featuring DJ Matt Joy and holiday drink specials for just a $5 cover.
Mount Adams Pavilion, 941 Pavilion St., Mount Adams, 513-721-0083; The Righteous Room, 641 Walnut St., Downtown, 513-381-4408; The Stand, 3195 Linwood Ave., Mount Lookout, 513-871-5006
Fresh Table: Local, Organic Food
You’ll be hard-pressed to find anything fresher than the dishes served at Fresh Table in Findlay Market. This chef-owned and -operated food stand uses sustainable, local and organic ingredients to serve up some of the most delicious dishes for the holidays. Some of their recent sides include brussel sprouts and bread pudding, but these change often. Call or email them (firstname.lastname@example.org) for what they’re cooking up now. You can pick up food at their Findlay Market stall or request downtown delivery and curb service.
Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-3774
Gramma Debbie’s: Comfort Food
Amid the hustle and bustle of people milling about Findlay Market looking for their groceries sits a small food stand called Gramma Debbie’s. Her delicious food is behind glass, tempting all who stop to smell. Your perfect dinner might consist of mac and cheese with three decadent cheeses paired with pulled pork BBQ (both $5.99/lb.) or roast chicken and sausage sweet potato casserole (both $5.99/lb. as well). Some of her other specialties include beef stew, meatloaf with creamy slaw, stuffed peppers, goetta and buttermilk biscuits and spicy lentil salad with bacon.
Findlay Market, 1801 Race St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-421-4726
IKEA: Soft Toys for a Cause
More than just a place to get relatively cheap, build-it-yourself furniture, IKEA also has fun, quirky holiday gifts. And their kids gifts do more than just entertain the smaller folks on your wish list; now through Dec. 24, IKEA is partnering with UNICEF to donate $1 for every soft toy purchased to help educate children around the world. Their soft toys mostly take the form of adorably cute, lovable animals from a teddy bear ($1.99) to a mouse ($3.99) to a wrinkly bulldog ($9.99).
9500 IKEA Way, West Chester, 513-779-7100
Iris BookCafe: Comfy Spot to Relax
All books are for sale in this eclectic café, from the art and architecture books to the children’s language books. And Iris uses local food with no artificial ingredients, so you can be sure you’re getting a filling, nutritious lunch. Try bread from Shadeau, Marx bagels and hot beverages, including Essencha teas. Various art exhibitions have also found a home inside this homey café, and you can view Maurice Mattei’s photographs of Italy through the holidays.
1331 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-2665
It’s Yoga: Discounted Classes
Give the gift of flexibility and peace of mind to friends by purchasing a yoga class for $13 each. With your first purchase, you get one free, doubling your gift for half the cost. Students, you can save with your ID; get a 90-day pass for $90 and attend unlimited classes. Classes include Yogalates (yoga combined with pilates), Anusara Yoga (designed to make yoga moves more efficient and prevent injuries) and Hot Yoga (yoga in a warm environment designed to increase movement and make you sweat).
346 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-961-YOGA
Keystone Bar & Grill: Feed Yourself, Help Others
Love mac and cheese? Love helping feed others? Combine your two interests with Keystone’s current promotion. Now through the end of the year, the food and drink spot will donate 25 cents for every mac and cheese dish ordered (there are 10 varieties to choose from, plus a build-your-own option). Amazingy, the Freestore Foodbank can stretch one quarter into an entire meal for someone in need. What a reason to gorge on a tasty side dish ($5.50-$11.50).
313 Greenup St., Covington, 859-261-6777
Kismet: Willow Earrings
Walk into Kismet and you’re instantly welcomed by the friendly personal and bright, flowing garments. Wood lasercut Willow earrings ($15 large, $12.50 small) give the environment as much as they do your intended giftee. Each one is made from reclaimed North American furniture-grade walnut, cherry and maple wood, and the company also plants a tree for each pair sold.
2037 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-871-7879
Meier’s Wine Cellars: Spiced Wine
When choosing beverage gifts for the holidays, choose Meier’s ever-popular Spiced Wine ($6.29). Incorporating 11 different spices, it’s served hot and is perfect for warming up the vocals before singing carols around the tree. They also offer dipping oils ($9.99) and bread mixes ($5) from Little Dipper. View their extensive web site for additional wine selections or stop in during their extended holiday hours.
6955 Plainfield Road, Silverton, 513-891-2900
MOTR Pub: Holiday Rock Shows
Motor on down to MOTR Pub (stands for Music in Over-the-Rhine) for rock-star quality food and a rockin’ good time, thanks to local bands like the Fairmount Girl’s Christmas Show (Dec. 11), Pop Empire (Dec. 23), and The Seedy Seeds on New Year’s Eve. And you’ll find great eats there, like the Vegan BLT with fries ($7) or St. Francis Monastery mac and cheese ($5.50).
1345 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-6687
Naru Gifts: One-of-a-Kind Jewelry
Specializing in unique jewelry that you’ll be hard pressed to find elsewhere, most of the pieces also come with a great story — just ask about original pieces and you’re sure to get the inside story on how it was made and by whom. If you have any amateur jewelry makers on your list, check out their wide selection of toggles (ranging from $7 to $68.60) and earwires ($2-$10).
362 Ludlow Ave., Clifton, 513-221-4432
National Underground Railroad Freedom Center: Family Events
The holiday season features two events Dec. 18 for the entire family. Deondra Means from Cincinnati Children’s Theatre performs dramatic readings at noon. The Family Activity Series allows parents and kids to create a homemade 19th-century ornament. The events are free with admission, which is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and students and $8 for kids ages 6-12. Children age 5 and under are free with a paid adult.
50 E. Freedom Way, Downtown, 513-333-7500
On Occasion: Personalized Stationery
The holidays are a perfect occasion to stop in for personalized stationery, note cards and gifts. One saleswoman spent quite a bit of time waiting patiently on me as I hemmed and hawed over what to get my sister-in-law, who has a difficult-to-find-on-traditional-monogrammed-items last name. I decided on a colorful 20-pack of personalized note cards and envelopes ($19), for which I chose the color and font style.
3440 Edwards Road, Hyde Park, 513-321-7898
Park Vine: Fun & Functional
They might have moved locations, but they haven’t changed their tune about selling environmentally-friendly goods that are fully functional and highly hilarious. On the hilarious spectrum, check out beer bottle tags: rectangular tags that fit perfectly over the neck of a beer bottle and include different sayings printed on thick paper. A set of four with different sayings is $5. Good stocking stuffers include hand-stamped vintage silver teaspoons and demitasse spoons from Sycamore Hill (starting at $12.50). One of their biggest sellers in the kids’ department is an Ohio-shaped version of a teether ($12) from Little Sapling. With the move to the new location also came the addition of more edible items, including Bourbon Barrel Food ($6-$9.50) and Upton’s Naturals seasonings, cooking ingredients and more ($3.75).
1202 Main St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-721-7275
Paula’s Cafe: Hearty Food
Hankering for a hearty homemade breakfast or lunch? Head to Paula’s downtown for hot or cold sandwiches ($6.95-$7.45) or warm up with a piping hot bowl of soup ($5.50, cup is $3.50). They serve everything from the traditional ham and swiss to the veggie-friendly garden burger. Soups range from turkey chili to cream of potato.
525 Vine St., Downtown, 513-381-3354
Pet Wants: Healthy Dog Food
If you’re the kind of pet owner who believes that what your pet wants your pet gets, you have to stop into this urban dog food store. The owners started it after struggling to find fresh, nutritious food for a dog with severe allergies, so they contracted with a third-generation family-owned pet facility to make healthy dog food that’s also incredibly fresh. And they deliver it free within the I-275 loop. The food starts at $1.25/lb. and is AAFCO certified.
Findlay Market, 1813 Pleasant St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-884-8696
Picnic and Pantry: Last-Minute Party Supplies
As the name implies, this yummy store sells everything you need for a tasty picnic at a moment’s notice or to stock your pantry for the week ahead. From artisan cheeses and organic snacks to farm raised local cage free eggs and bulk foods, Picnic and Pantry has you covered for holiday get-togethers. They even offer eco-friendly cleaning supplies for the day after. I stopped in one night after work for some post-dinner snacks, including pumpkin cookies ($3 for three) and a small cupcake-size of flourless chocolate cake ($3). I also bought some Gal Pal honey, locally made in Northside, for $3.49.
4163 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-681-8600
Shake It Records: Sampler Pack
Part music store, part record label, Shake It has an incredibly knowledgeable staff to help you pick up the perfect track for your giftee. For those on your list who like a little bit of everything, try the Shake It label sampler pack ($10.99 on CD and LP), including five songs from various label artists. Cincinnati history buffs will enjoy oldies but goodies from local legends such as Big Joe Duskin (Cincinnati Stomp CD is $13.99).
4156 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-591-0123
Shop Therapy: Vintage Stuff
Give and get this holiday season at this consignment boutique, where you can drop off your trendy, gently used clothes and buy shoes and jewelry. Brightly colored reusable shopping bags are just $8.50 and roll up into easy-to-carry sizes. I also spied some funky round bangles ($5 each) and a T-shirt that says “I go to school for the chicks” that’s perfect for my brother-in-law who just returned to grad school. Their inventory changes all the time as people bring in new items, so make this store a weekly stop on your shopping route.
4041 Hamilton Ave., Northside, 513-541-9200
Skirtz & Johnston: Food Break
Finally, a café that serves cake for lunch. This innovative and tasty idea comes from Stefan Skirtz and Andrew Johnston, two guys who know the pastry biz in and out. Stop in for breakfast and enjoy a bear claw ($2) with specially tailored coffee for the store by another local, Coffee Emporium ($1.25-$1.75), or go for an afternoon snack and enjoy that slice of cake for $1.50 with purchase of a salad or a sandwich (like the pulled pork, $6.75). Artisanal, handcrafted chocolates tempt you, along with cookies, traditional and raspberry cannoli or different daily desserts. Five pastry chefs are on hand to make these dessert delights, and everything is freshly made, never frozen.
Findlay Market, 113 W. Elder St., Over-the-Rhine, 513-381-1286
Snap: Boutique Gifts
Ever wish you could just snap your fingers and have fabulous outfits awaiting any event? You can get close at this Hyde Park boutique. Some items climbing up the trends list right now are skinny jeans by 7 for All Mankind, leather jackets from LAmade & For Joseph and Juicy Couture’s flannel dress. But if you don’t know her size and want to opt for a Christmas themed gift instead, hurry in for an oversized initial ornament ($9), holiday wine glass ($12.50) or funky holiday hand towels ($15).
2732 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-8333
Tapestry Gifts & Collectibles: Ornaments and Glasses
Lolita Holiday ornaments ($14.95) are a popular gift this year, as are wine and martini glasses ($27.95) from the same company. These hand-painted glasses include a drink recipe on the bottom for festive holiday cheer. New parents on your list will treasure their collection of Christmas baby socks ($6.99). Looking for a local gift? Stephanie Dawn handbags are made in Van Wert, Ohio, and come in a range of styles and pries for anyone on your list.
9448 Water Front Dr., West Chester, 513-759-0222
Ten Thousand Villages: Galimoto
Last year I bought a Galimoto ($9) for my friend’s son, and it became a cherished favorite. This year, this push-toy bicycle rider is still one of their most popular gift items. Made by artisans in Kenya, a bicycle rider is formed of shaped wire wrapped in fabric strips. As the child pushes or pulls the cyclist, his legs move in a circular motion to provide flashes of bright color as the child runs by. Also popular this year is a decorative Yeti ornament ($8), a bigfoot handcrafted from cotton and wool felt and made in the foothills of the Himalayas.
2011 Madison Road, O’Bryonville, 513-871-5840
World of Beads: DIY Gifts
Make your own jewelry and holiday gifts with expert guidance to ensure your homemade projects finish with professional results. This year’s top sellers include the quality bronze, 100-percent brass and copper findings, filigree, beads, charms and chains. Design personalized jewelry yourself in an afternoon, and your recipients will likely treasure your gift for a lifetime.
2725 Erie Ave., Hyde Park, 513-871-5600; 4765 Devitt Dr., Tri-County, 513-874-1883
York St. Cafe Mercantile: Vintage Ornaments and Decor
Known for truly delicious meals, York St. Cafe recently opened its Mercantile shop and delivers unique collectibles and holiday gifts. Those on your list who enjoy being in the holiday spirit year round will delight in their vintage ornaments ($2-$5) and decor ($5-$25). Know someone throwing a holiday party at home or hosting the relatives? Give them vintage tablecloths and hand towels ($3-$39). There’s also a wide selection of humorous, vintage porcelain signs.
734 York St., Newport, 859-261-9675