This holiday season: Think outside the box

This holiday season, skip the campus bookstore and take advantage of the unique shops speckled all over the city and check what the Internet has to offer. South Street, the Italian Market, Antique Row, the

This holiday season, skip the campus bookstore and take advantage of the unique shops speckled all over the city and check what the Internet has to offer. South Street, the Italian Market, Antique Row, the Gallery and Liberty Place are full of specialty shops that rival suburban malls for their variety. Ten Thousand Villages (1122 Walnut St.) is a fair-trade retail store selling handmade crafts from around the world. Check out the musical instruments from South America and Africa and jewelry and holiday ornaments from Asia.

Always a favorite place for fashion, home decorating and stuff you might not want your parents to find, Urban Outfitters (1627 Walnut St. and 110 S. 36th St.) matches many styles and budgets.

The Black Cat (3426 Sansom St.) is a pricey shop with a variety of accessories, jewelry, ceramics and note cards. Be sure not to miss the vast collection of patterned socks neatly displayed in dresser drawers.

With its wide array of kitchen gadgets, Kitchen Kapers (213 S. 17th St.) has products to liven up the daily chore of cooking.

Philadelphia abounds with museums that capitalize on their collections and temporary exhibits with well-stocked gift shops. Younger siblings will love science-themed gizmos from the Sci-Store at the Franklin Institute Science Museum. Parents and grandparents will enjoy stationary, jewelry or prints from the gift shops at the Mutter Museum, the African American Museum in Philadelphia, Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

Frequented by many tourists, the street level of the Bourse (Fifth and Chestnut streets) is home to nearly a dozen shops packed with Philadelphia memorabilia. Here you can find T-shirts, magnets, games and even Liberty Bells made of chocolate, which are perfect for family members who reside outside of the city. Vision Graphics has prints and photos of Philadelphia past and present. Vivianna Jewelry has a unique collection of purses and bags. Enjoying a sandwich at the food court at the Bourse also allows a good respite while shopping, but don’t trip over the baby strollers and the rambunctious, roaming kids who were just dragged through Independence Hall.

While studying for finals, it might be difficult to find the time to tear yourself away from the computer. If that’s the case, a few minutes on the Web during study breaks are all you need to finish your holiday shopping.

For friends who love magazines, magazine gift subscriptions are available for a fraction of the listed subscription prices through Web sites like and

Scanning or downloading a favorite photo to the Web is a quick way to create your own cards, calendars and more at

Don’t underestimate the value of homemade gifts that can be put together in about the same amount of time you’d spend hunting for a parking spot at the King of Prussia Mall. If your parents or grandparents loved that Life Savers Christmas ornament you made in elementary school, they’ll love your homemade projects today.

Chocolate-covered pretzels or chocolate-dipped spoons are quick and easy with bulk chocolate purchased at Trader Joe’s (22nd and Market streets). Many ingredients can be purchased at local supermarkets.

Also, soap, bath salts and lotions are easier to make than you might realize. For more ideas, an online resource is Click on “Gift Ideas” and “Hair & Skin Products” and “Mixes” (at the bottom of the page next to “Miscellaneous”).

Get in touch with your crafty side by creating a mosaic frame or beaded jewelry with supplies from craft stores like Pearl (417 South St.) and Beadworks (225 South St.). Alternatively, create a craft kit for friends or family members so they have all the supplies they need in one package.

Finally, don’t forget that the gift of your time can mean more to a grandparent or parent than anything you could ever buy or make. Access to a computer and printer is all you need to create a coupon book that contains coupons for washing the car, cooking dinner for the family or helping around the house.

Mindy Ehrhart can be reached at

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