date published: December 27, 2004

Find that perfect holiday gift for everyone on your list right here in the Hub
by Christine Celli

You've made your list and you've checked it twice. Now you just need to decide what to buy-which, we agree, is the hardest part. If you already have some gift ideas in mind, Boston boasts several malls, outdoor shopping areas and a slew of quirky shops and department stores. We encourage you to take a stroll through historic Faneuil Hall's popular outdoor market; bargain shop at off-price retailers in Downtown Crossing like H&M, TJ Maxx and Filene's Basement; and peruse the Shops at the Prudential Center for popular department stores like Lord & Taylor and Saks Fifth Avenue. For higher-end items, try Neiman Marcus and Gucci at Copley Place or hit the CambridgeSide Galleria for more mainstream chains, from J Crew to Best Buy. For the eccentric to the eclectic, from Newbury Street to Harvard Square, Boston is a sprawling shopping mecca and we've found the hottest spots for the coolest gifts. So if you're hoping to head home this holiday season with a unique slice of Beantown and don't know where to start, our gift guide has the solution for everyone on your list!

We know moms aren't supposed to choose favorites, but that doesn't mean you can't try to persuade her. Since most moms claim to love functional gifts above all else, consider a handcrafted mahogany or cherry wood bowl (A) made in Vermont. These teak or clarendon bowls are beautiful, durable and practical and are available in a variety of sizes (from $25-289) at Bowl and Board (1063 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-661-0350). If you need to step it up a notch, we know just where to send you. The elegant, handcrafted jewelry at John Lewis (97 Newbury St., 1-800-266-4101) is the best way to spoil mom rotten. The store's unique array of 18k gold bands soldered together into one breathtaking piece (B), with or without stones, is sure to be the talk of the season. For more affordable items that still inspire awe, surprise her with an open-forged sterling silver bracelet ($50-119) or 18k gold-hammered circle earrings ($91).

Whether dear old dad enjoys travelling as much as you do, or just likes to learn about history and far off places from the comfort of home, head to the The Globe Corner Bookstore (28 Church St., Cambridge, 617-497-6277), which boasts one of the largest selections of travel guidebooks, maps, literature and more, right in Harvard Square. For books about the Hub, the store's staff recommends The Good City: Writers Explore 21st Century Boston ($11) (C), a collection of essays by local writers. If he's a sports fan, we suggest The Curse of the Bambino by Boston Globe sports scribe Dan Shaughnessy ($14). Now that the Red Sox have finally won the World Series, he may enjoy learning what all the fuss was about. When he's ready to start globetrekking, send him out in style with a pair of wingtips or oxfords from Allen-Edmonds (36 Newbury St., 617-247-3363) (D), world-famous for its expertly crafted shoes.

If you have any new moms on your list, they'll be thrilled by the one-of-a-kind gifts available for wee ones from Mulberry Road (46 Gloucester St., 617-859-5861). Still in its infacy itself, Mulberry boasts hand-crafted toys such as the brightly colored wooden My First Train ($34) (E) and colorful knitware-from monogrammed sweaters to hats-created by local designers.

Don't let the name fool you. Although Curious George paraphernalia is plentiful (stuffed animals, $13.95) (F), Curious George Goes to Wordsworth (1 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-498-0062) in Harvard Square offers plenty of other options as well. Its two floors are chock full of stuff for newborns through teenagers, from Beatrix to Harry Potter. You can even find favorites from your own childhood.

Shopping for teenagers is never an easy task, so skip the daunting department stores and head to Urban Outfitters (361 Newbury St., 617-236-0088 and 11 JFK St., Cambridge, 617-864-0070), home to more affordable (and hip) clothing and accessories. And for the latest in DVDs, CDs and video games, just stroll across the street to the Virgin Megastore (360 Newbury St., 617-896-0950). But if you really want to make the teen in your life think you're the coolest ever, head to Diesel (G), the Italian jean designer that has had trendy hipsters going gaga over its denimware since Brooke Shields outgrew her Calvins. The clothing line just opened a new store hocking its latest designs at 339 Newbury St. (617-424-6555). But just down the way at 160 Newbury (617-437-7344) is a privately owned franchise that sets itself apart from the flagship store by selling only hard-to-find or out-of-stock products from the company's line.

Perhaps a lady's favorite gift comes in a tiny box with a hefty price tag, but jewelry isn't the only way to show you care. Since we know picking through fashion trends is almost as frightening as trying to guess her size, we suggest skipping clothes altogether and heading to Lush (166 Newbury St., 617-375-5874). This popular U.K.-based company creates the freshest-possible beauty products made from all natural ingredients. Its soaps and bath treats resemble baked goods (H) and come in pre-wrapped gift boxes that range in price from $10-200. If your best gal really had her heart set on clothes, consider Helen's Leather (110 Charles St., 617-742-2077), which specializes in Western-style clothing, including classic, handmade Lucchese cowboy boots ($395 and up) (I). And for something truly unique, try the International Poster Gallery (205 Newbury St., 617-375-0076) (K), which sells original vintage posters, considered to be one of the fastest-growing areas of art collecting. Choose a poster advertising her favorite hobby or an art nouveau or art deco travel poster and prove you know what she likes with a gift that may even appreciate in value.

Thanks to the simplicity of men's fashion, buying clothes for your best man often requires little more than picking out a new pair of khakis. Ladies who are hoping to help their man's work attire look more Clark Gable than Clark Kent should try Simon's (220 Clarendon St., 1-877-266-2345) (J), which has been in the business of dressing Boston's men in the latest fashions for more than 100 years and sells finely tailored suits at reasonable prices. For something more hip, designer du jour Marc Jacobs has just opened a boutique (81 Newbury St., 617-425-0707) selling the latest from its popular men's line. Or you could stick with casualware by heading to the Levi's Store (The Shops at Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St, 617-375-9010). And since punctuality is the best way to make a good impression in life, it's hard to go wrong with a timepiece from Alpha Omega (The Shops at Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St, 617-424-9030; 1380 Mass. Ave., Cambridge, 617-864-1227) (L). America's watch and diamond specialist offers watches from all the popular designers, from Calvin Klein to Fossil, as well as its own precision watches and high-end time pieces from century-old watch manufacturers including A. Lange and Sohne. If your guy prefers toys, try Bang & Olufsen (30 Newbury St., 617-262-4949), purveyors of innovative, high-end gadgets, including the Beoplayer 2, a lightweight, pocket-sized MP3 player and headphones that finally gets comfort and sound quality in one tiny package.

Let's face it: a lot of us love our pets more than the people in our lives. To pamper your furry friend right, head to Polka Dog Bakery (256 Shawmut Ave., 617-338-5155) (M). This unique pet bakery and boutique proffers the finest homemade treats with no salt, sugar or preservatives to muck up your dog's health. You can purchase your pup a lunch box filled with pizza or peanut butter flavored treats for $12, or a treat tin filled with after-dinner mints made from parsley and mint for $24. The boutique also offers playfully designed leashes, collars and a Polka Dog calendar ($24) that benefits the Animal Rescue League and is filled with black and white photographs of man's best friend.

Whether it's for a Christmas stocking, a Yankee swap or something for a friend or co-worker, we have a ton of smaller gift ideas for all ages and interests. Founded in 1883, Leavitt and Pierce (1316 Mass Ave., Cambridge, 617-547-0576) is primarily known as a tobacconist, but the historic shop has long been popular with Harvard University folk as much for its pipes and cigars as for its array of chess boards ($20 and up) (N) and game supplies, including satirical playing cards depicting politicians and antique board games. For the hard-to-buy-for, Levenger (The Shops at Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., 617-536-3434) offers items that are equal parts useful and unique, with especially good gift ideas for bookworms, from simple writing implements ($28 and up) and leather journals ($34 and up) to a luxurious, deluxe leather Scrabble set ($2,499) (O) for the person who has everything. Gift sets from Sephora (Shops at the Prudential Center, 800 Boylston St., 617-262-4200) provide the perfect solution for that emergency, last-minute gift or grab bag item. Try the Shea Travel Treasures Set ($32), a travel bag filled with bath products from France's L'Occitane en Provence, or Philosophy's Kiss Me Trio ($25) of lip glosses in sugar cookie, peppermint patty and the unscented yummy red. Since making your home pretty seems even more popular these days than making ourselves pretty, local interior decorator Susan Sargent's new book The Comfort of Color ($30) (P) makes a great gift for nesters hooked on TLC's "Trading Spaces" and its ilk. Sargent even owns a local boutique (132 Newbury St., 617-262-2226) that sells colorful items from holiday mugs and pottery to throw pillows and welcome mats that will inspire even the novice decorator to kick-up the festive feel of their home during the holidays.

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