Unique New York: Shopping advice and fun gift ideas for everyone on your list


The tree at Rockefeller is lit, the “Believe” sign shines brightly across the outer wall of Macy’s on Sixth Avenue, and finals are just around the corner– December is finally here! Try as one might to push back Christmas shopping until the stress of finals has passed, the commercially focused epicenter that is New York City refuses to let us forget what time it is.

Rather than adding to academic pressure, students should follow some simple guidelines for city shopping that ensure a pleasurable and successful gifting experience:

1. Stop the madness  Go to specialty stores that are unique to the city. Avoid the massive department stores that are more like museum exhibitions—viewing spectacles—than realistic venues for a sane shopper. These places, while aesthetically impressive and perpetually crowded with customers, are tourist traps that offer nothing different from what your friends and family back home will be able to get at local branches of the same stores. If you’re looking to save money and still get gifts that display thought and creativity, see the list of suggested stores below. As an added bonus, you’ll beat the mass chaos of the holiday rush.

2. Shop online Most stores you will encounter in the city—even quaint little specialty shops—have their inventories available for purchase online. Many stores even offer holiday specials, gift wrapping and free shipping that will save you time and money. Even if you are set on venturing out and buying presents yourself, go online ahead of time and search for items to compare prices and check availability.

3. Make your rounds This tip is essential for shoppers on a budget (i.e. college students). Circle the block. As NYC residents, we have access to thousands of great little shops and boutiques that are all in close proximity with one another, making it easy to compare prices of several stores without trekking more than a few blocks.

4. Brace yourself Arm yourself with a list of people and possible gifts. It’s easy to get sidetracked and end up spending most of your money before realizing that you left out your little sister, or that you already had a gift for your best friend and still need something for your dad. Having a list will help you gauge how much money you should be spending on each gift, avoiding a last-minute purchase like an “I heart NY” keychain for your grandma (unless, of course, she’s into that sort of thing).

Suggested places that are unique to the city: Alice’s Tea Cup – Wide variety of delicious teas and baked goods. Relaxing and whimsical setting—dine-in or take-out.

Dylan’s Candy Bar – Novelty candy, fudge, ice cream, gourmet hot chocolate, candy-themed gifts and souvenirs. Owned by Ralph Lauren’s daughter, Dylan Lauren.

Gift Rocket – A great gift idea for your friends at King’s: purchase online gift cards to stores, restaurants and entertainment venues in the city and email them to recipients to spend how they want.

Jim Hanley's Comic Universe – Comics, games and celebrity events.

Laduree – New York boutique that sells French macaroons from Paris.

L'Occitane – Natural soaps, creams, and perfumes that hail from Provence, France. Gift wrap, online shopping, gift set deals.

MoMA store – Art prints, apartment decorations, clothing, innovative kitchenware and technology.

NYPL store – Books, NYC souvenirs, stationary, jewelry and quirky gifts.

Rudy’s Music – Guitars, musical equipment and souvenirs.

The Strand – Books, souvenirs, music and movies. Tip: The Strand hosts book readings and author signings; get a booked signed for someone special on your list by an author they like.

Whisk – Creative, modern and elegant cookware, bakeware and kitchen tools.