Christmas Lights in Boston, photograph by Brian Talbot

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 are 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.

This week, we start by focusing on a few neighborhoods in Boston proper. Some of the best holiday shopping happens when you ditch your car and plan to make a day out of it by walking around some of Boston’s prettiest neighborhoods.  Grab your kids or your best pals and get out there!

SoWa Sundays, photograph by SoWa

South End

Fuel up! We love the coffee and treats at the South End Buttery, but we’ve also been known to visit Francesca’s for a big mug (bowl?) of hot chocolate too.

Shop ‘til you Drop: After coffee, be sure to visit Hudson, Michelle Willey, Gracie Finn’s for great gifts for the home—all on Union Park Street. (What can we say, we love the address!) Off Union Park Street, be sure to take a look at the upcycled gems at J.E.M on Shawmut Avenue, the cool, modern décor at Lekker on Washington Street, or funky duds for dudes at Sault or Motely on Tremont Street.

Looking for a great gift for the new mom or dad in your life? Pick up a copy of Boston Baby or the brand-spanking new North Shore Baby at either Tadpole on Clarendon Street or Coco Baby (Formerly Kiwi Baby) on Washington Street.

Do Lunch: Whether you go for pizza at Picco, a hearty salad at Union, or a solid sandwich at our perennial favorite, Flour, you can’t make a bad choice for food in the South End.

Après-Shopping Drinks: Put down those bags, put up those feet, and take a load off with a drink in hand. Grab a nice glass of wine at the Butcher Shop, Petit Robert Bistro, or Hamersley’s. For something to make your evening festive and bright, try the cocktails at The Gallows, Gaslight, or the Beehive.

Special Shopping Event: SoWa Holiday Market, December 10. For more information, check out their site. South End Holiday Night Out, December 14, 4-8pm. For more information, see southenders.com. 

Trident Booksellers & Cafe, photograph by Michael Kappel

Back Bay

Fuel up! L’Aroma Café on Newbury Street is a great place to start off the day before hitting the pavement. Espresso Royale is another java hotspot, and always serves up the perfect latte.

Shop ‘til you Drop: Amid the pricier boutiques on Newbury Street, seek out affordable, durable, and meaningful goods at the Trident Books and Cafe. Boston’s last remaining independently owned bookstore carries a wide assortment of novels and non-fiction that will please everyone on your list. We suggest taking a look at their regional section, where you will find Union Park Press titles such as Discovering the Boston Harbor Islands and Boston’s Gardens & Green Spaces. Stick around for a warm mug of coffee or cocoa at their cozy café.

Do Lunch: Old favorite Stephanie’s will please most groups, though if you are looking for a lighter meal, try Snappy Sushi, where they serve up great maki rolls. For chocolate lovers, you might want to try Max Brenner on Boylston Street, but be sure to save your appetite for dessert!

Après-Shopping Drinks: For a nice, cold beer, try Parish Café or the Rattlesnake on Boylston. For a glass of wine or a pretty cocktail, you can’t miss the drinks at Met Back Bay, Sel de la Terre, or Back Bay Social. For something a bit more elegant and quiet, score a cozy chair at the window either at the Taj or the Bristol Lounge at the Four Seasons. Bliss! 

Special Shopping Event: Newbury Street Holiday Stroll, Saturday, December 3 from 12-4 pm. For more information, click here. 

Beacon Hill during the Holidays, photograph by Eric Roth for Traditional Home

Beacon Hill

Fuel up! Café Vanille is a cozy, French-leaning café with great coffee and even tastier treats.

Shop ‘til you Drop: For fun gifts and books, visit our Charles Street favorite, Blackstone’s Beacon Hill, which carries fun Boston and New England- centered gifts, including Union Park Press titles such as Under Cape Cod Waters and The Die Hard Sports Fan’s Guide to Boston. For rich, edible holiday treats, try Beacon Hill Chocolate. For great clothes and accessories, visit the aptly named Holiday Boutique, Crush Boutique, or North River Outfitter. 

Do Lunch: Visit the beloved neighborhood spot, The Paramount, for quality comfort food. Try Figs for specialty pizza, or Panificio for a nice soup and sandwich combination.

Après-Shopping Drinks: A glass of wine at Bin 26 will warm you right up, while you might want to order something classic, like a Manhattan, at Beacon Hill Bistro. Cozy up to the bar at 75 Chestnut, which is always beautifully decorated for the holidays. For unparalleled atmosphere while you sip, go grab yourself a champagne cocktail at the Liberty Hotel.

Special Shopping Event: Beacon Hill Holiday Stroll,  December 8, from 6-9pm. For more information, click here.

Check back next week for more!