Local Gift Guide! Great Finds & Experiences Near You

You’ve made your list. You’ve checked it twice. Now get shopping! This year, support local businesses and pick a gift from a store near you. Flip through our guide for ideas to get your brains churning.

For Your Favorite Water Bug: Swim Lessons with Goldfish

Outdoor pools are drained, but that doesn't mean the water play has to stop. Help keep kids in the swim of things through winter with the gift of swim lessons from Goldfish Swim School Chicagoland. They'll be unwrapping more than the usual present, they'll be unwrapping life lessons mixed with smiles and confidence that comes from progress and mastery. More importantly, they'll be building on water safety skills—a gift that can save lives.

Swimming is always in season at Goldfish, so get ahead of the Winter Blues and gift the Golden Experience! Holiday gift packages include free lessons, a special Goldfish towel, dry bag and in-school credit.

Cost: Packages vary by location
Locations throughout Chicagoland. Visit goldfishswimschool.com for pricing and purchasing.

photo: Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum

For Members-Only Access: Give the Gift of Membership to Chicago Favorites

If you're a super-fan of a particular museum, play space or attraction, maybe it's high time you became a card-carrying member. Along with scoring sweet perks like access to special events, discounts and free parking, you're helping an awesome family destination thrive. Often in the case of some of the biggies, after just two visits, the museum membership has paid for itself — and you can avoid those long admission lines. Read our story for the scoop on memberships you should consider gifting to your gang (or grandkids!) this holiday season.

photo: LEGO

For the Builders: LEGO Chicago & LEGOLAND Discovery

No matter the age, LEGO appears at the tippy top of most Christmas lists. We have one that builders and Chicago lovers alike will love to add to their collections. This 444-piece Chicago skyline set features Willis Tower, the building formerly known as John Hancock Center, Big Red, Wrigley Building, DuSable Bridge and Cloud Gate (aka The Bean), finished off with a Chicago nameplate.

For the kid that can't get enough LEGO, consider an annual pass for the LEGOLAND Discovery Center in Schaumburg, which has attractions for families that includes a Miniland, rides, a 4D cinema, a master builder workshop, an opportunity to build and race your own LEGO car and much more!

Cost: $204 for LEGO Chicago Skyline set on Amazon, $44.95+/person for annual pass
LEGOLAND Discovery Center Chicago; Streets of Woodfield, 601 N. Martingale Rd.; Schaumburg; Online: legolanddiscoverycenter.com

To Show West Town Pride: Holiday Bundles

Give the gift of West Town with a West Town Holiday Bundle, or split the items between loved ones on your 'nice' list. Three themed packages are available, each set features items from 5+ neighborhood favorites.

The Snow Day — The perfect collection to keep anyone comfy and cozy during a Chicago winter.

The Holiday Party — Show or share your West Town neighborhood spirit.

The New Year — Everything you need and want to kick off your "new year, new me" or "new year, same me" routine.

Cost: Valued at $140+, each bundle costs $75
Online: westtownchicago.com

For the Candle Obsessed: Chicago Neighborhoods

Annie from Vicinity Candles Etsy shop sells candles inspired by local Chicago neighborhoods, with scents like Lakeview, West Loop, Old Town, Lincoln Park, Andersonville, Gold Coast, Pilsen, Wicker Park and Hyde Park. Each includes an insert that provides a glimpse into the neighborhood history which led to the inspiration for the scent.

Cost: $28 
Etsy Shop: Vicinity Candles

For Showing Rainbow Pride: Chicago Skyline Print

Whether you're parenting with a same-sex partner or want to show LGBTQ+ pride support, this colorful twist on a traditional black and white Chicago skyline print is a subtle way to start your tiny human down a path of inclusivity and kindness.

Cost: $20.40
Esty Shop: TinyHumanPrintCo 

For Those Who'd Like an On-the-Go Snuggle Buddy: Pockimals

Pockimals is making getting dressed ridiculously adorable with their Pockimals. These tiny stuffed animals come equipped with buttons that secure them directly to their custom-designed clothing pockets making them impossible to lose. All items are organic and produced with soft cotton to ensure comfort and no-scratchiness happiness. This Chicago-based company is made up of a team of friends who wanted to create the best children's toy to enhance creativity and focus on the magic of childhood.

Cost: $12.99-$60
Online: pockimals.com

For a Fun Night Out: Sauced at Chicago Athletic Association Hotel

Combine a fun night out with holiday shopping and support local artisans at Sauced: The Night Market Before Christmas at the Chicago Athletic Association hotel Dec. 9 & 10. The event will include more than 30 vendors, food options and a DJ. While you're there, stop into Happy's, the hotel's over-the-top Christmas pop-up bar. 

Chicago Athletic Association, 12 S. Michigan Ave., Loop; Online: saucedmarket.com

To Celebrate Chicago's Favorite Street Food: Hot Dogs

It is never too early to teach kids the proper (Chicago) way to eat a hot dog, sans ketchup, of course. Have them slip into this adorable hot dog-themed shirt and then hit up your favorite hot dog stand in Chicago

Cost: $16.20
Etsy Shop: RobeeCollective

For the Puzzlers: Chicago-Themed Puzzle

Raise your hand if you love a good puzzle! If you have your hand up, you'll love this 1,000-piece neon Neighborhood Map of Chicago puzzle. Puzzle-lovers get to learn more about the layout of our city while assembling the map.

Cost: $30
Etsy Shop: TransitTees

photo: Amy Krouse Rosenthal

For the Book Worms: A Book by a Chicago Author

Chicago has a rich literary history and is home to so many award-winning authors covering every genre under the sun. Introduce your little bookworm to Chicago’s brightest and best authors with our list of kid-approved, classic and contemporary children’s books. From picture books to chapter books to graphic novels for advanced readers, these are the Chicago-authored tomes to add to your kid's bookshelf ASAP

For All Your Toy Needs: Small Local Toy Shops

Shop local and show support for local businesses that navigated their way through the pandemic. Your kids have likely already penned their Christmas lists (and have checked it way more than twice) and we can guarantee all their biggest wishes can be granted on the shelves of a local Chicago toy store. Show love to your favorite neighborhood go-to toy store or venture out to discover a new-to-you gem!

photo: Ben Tatar

For Music Lovers: Ben Tatar and the Tatar Tots' New Album

Fans of the Chicago kiddie music scene love Ben Tatar and the Tater Tots. Lucky for us, he's back with his second family album of delectable songs about food just in time for the holidays, Seconds, releasing Nov. 12. Kids will giggle when they hear this savory gastronomic extravaganza, jam-packed with tasty treats for the ears and the dance floor.

Available for digital download or on CD. Online: ben-tatar.squarespace.com

photo: Gallagher Way

For Fans of Christkindlmarket: Shop In-Person or Virtually

Christkindlmarket — Chicago's take on a traditional German Christmas market — is back with locations in the Loop and Wrigleyville. Browse the goods in the market's signature wooden cabins topped with festive red-and-white-striped canopies, or visit Christkindlmarket's virtual shop. If you shop the Wrigleyville location, be sure to check out Gallagher Way's Winterland programming. 

photo: Oasis Face Bar

For Tweens: A Bit of Pampering at Oasis Face Bar

It's never too early to teach kids, boys or girls, the importance of a good skincare routine. Newly opened Oasis Face Bar in Lincoln Park is the perfect intro for tweens because it takes the facial out of the spa, making it more budget-friendly and less time-consuming than a traditional spa experience. Bonus: It's locally and woman-owned. Stop by and grab a gift certificate, and maybe some masks and fun face products, to slip in your favorite tween's stocking.

From now until Christmas, for every $100 gift card you purchase, you'll receive a "Facial in A Box". Each box provides everything needed for one or two at-home facials. Wrap it along with the gift card, or take a self-care pampering day for yourself. 

Cost: Treatments for as low as $49
Oasis Face Bar, 2136 N. Halsted, Lincoln Park; Online: oasisfacebar.com

photo: Metta Baby via Yelp

For the New Moms: Metta Baby Bucktown

Give new or expectant parents the gift of a one-of-a-kind experience with their new baby! Metta Baby is Chicago's premier infant wellness studio with offerings including water stimulation, infant massage, baby yoga, parent/baby classes, music classes and more! You can check out their full class schedule here.  The Metta Baby team is dedicated to promoting early developmental activities starting at two weeks that support motor, sensory, and cognitive skills while nurturing secure attachment between infants and their parents. The mission is to provide a solid socialization and support system for infants and their caregivers in the earliest stages.
 
Cost: Gift cards in various increments are available for purchase online or at the Bucktown location. 
Metta Baby; 1921 N. Damen, Bucktown; Online: mettababy.com

— Maria Chambers

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