While December can be one of the cheeriest times of year, it is definitely one of the most hectic and stressful too. With to-do lists brimming with tasks like decorating, shopping, baking, wrapping, on top of already busy routines, it’s amazing that we have time to celebrate at all! But it’s the hard-working people at area stores and eateries that are perhaps the busiest during this time of year. After all, they’re the ones who are acting as Santa’s local elves, dispatching gifts through bricks and mortar shops, found in each and every Boston area neighborhood and town. To celebrate their hard work, and to highlight our appreciation for these fiercely independent local stores, we’ve put together a gift-buying guide to a few of our favorite Greater Boston neighborhoods, which will appear on the Union Park Press blog each Friday through the month of December.

Last week, we focused on a few downtown neighborhoods. This week, we are heading west to Brookline, Newton, and Wellesley, all great places to do your holiday shopping.  Grab your friends, get that sleigh ready, and make a plan to hit up some of the best independently owned stores west of Boston this season!

BROOKLINE

Fuel up! Tatte Fine Cookies and Cakes near St. Mary’s T stop makes great coffee and the most beautiful French pastries. Think about buying a few edible gifts while you are there! Need a sugary pick-me-up later in the day? Treat yourself to a cupcake at Party Favors or a sweet snack from the Paris Creperie.

Shop ‘til you Drop: The Coolidge Corner area of Brookline has something for everyone: pop into stores like Mint Julep for accessories and clothing for the fashionable lady on your list. Know a bright kid who loves puzzles and games? Visit Eureka! for puzzles, games, and tricky mind-benders. For a unique gift, buy a gift card or a membership to the Coolidge Corner Theatre. The movie-lover in your life will jump with joy. And don’t forget to stop by Brookline Booksmith, where you can find the perfect gift for pretty much ANYONE on your list.

Do Lunch: Try one of the famous sandwiches at Cutty’s in Brookline Village or a classic Ruben at Zaftig’s.

Après-Shopping Drinks: Cozy up to the bar at Lineage or the Regal Beagle for a cocktail, or choose a Belgian beer at the Publick House.

NEWTON

Fuel up! You would be in caffeine heaven at either Taste Coffee House in Newtonville or Lincoln Street Coffee in Newton Highlands.

Shop ‘til you Drop: The first stop on any shopping tour of Newton has to include the historic Stoddard’s Cutlery in Nonantum. Pick up a unique shaving kit for your dad or brother, or a new set of chef’s knives for the cook in your family. You won’t leave empty-handed!

While you’re in the area, scoot over to one of the coolest indie bookstores we know of: Newtonville Books. Factor in some time for browsing: this store has a great collection of books and gifts. Think about picking up New England’s Historic Homes & Gardens while you are there— you’ll be giving the armchair traveler on your list the gift of beautiful New England photography and the fascinating personal stories of the people who inhabited these unique homes.

Next, head over to the boutiques on Union Street in Newton Centre for special jewelry, clothing and accessories. We like Duchess and Folklorica.

Do Lunch: Make everyone happy with a shopping break at Deluxe Town Diner, which features an eclectic and delicious menu and is located in a former train station right in Newton Centre. For something quieter, try Appetito, which does a lovely brunch on the weekends.

Après-Shopping Drinks: Grab a frosty brew at Union Street Grill in Newton Centre, or something a bit more festive at 51 Lincoln in Newton Highlands.

Wasik's Cheese Shop in Wellesley, from Culture Magazine

WELLSELEY

Fuel up! We admit it, we are more than a bit obsessed with the coffee and traditional tea service at the Dorset Café in Wellesley Hills.

Shop ‘til you Drop: For the foodie in your life, try Wasik’s Cheese Shop where you can pick up a gift basket with cheese or tasty chocolates. Shopping for an expecting or new mom? Check out Magic Beans (also located in Brookline, Cambridge and Hingham), where you can pick up a lovey and a copy of Boston Baby, A Field Guide for Urban Parents as well as all the gear needed for a growing family. This place has it ALL!

Be sure to stop by and say hello to our friends at Wellesley Books! While you’re there, check out Boston’s Gardens & Green Spaces, which makes for a wonderful gift for families who love to explore the great outdoors, but still stay close to home.

Do Lunch: Try the gourmet sandwiches or pizza at Alta Strada, or dig in to a big, beautiful salad at the Cottage in Linden Square.

Après-Shopping Drinks: You can’t go wrong with the Blue Ginger Gimlet after a long day of holiday shopping!

Check back next week for more!