The holidays are just around the corner, and while some always seem to be ahead of the game and finish their Christmas shopping by the time Black Friday hits, others (like me) wait until the last minute. By then, the malls are flooded with well-intentioned but anxious people looking to nab some last-minute gifts. The entire experience becomes frenzied, and the joy of picking out gifts for your loved ones’ withers.
And then comes the second wave of anxiety—what do you get for your friends and family members, who are all very different from each other? What can you get them that will leave a lasting impression? If you’re like me, you pride yourself on giving thoughtful, unique gifts, making downtown the best place to find all your gifts this holiday season! Forget the headache of navigating mall parking lots and the throngs of people inside. Winnipeg’s downtown area has amazing shops, every one of them specialised in merchandise you can’t find at the mall.
For the Lover of the Outdoors: MEC
303 Portage Ave
Mountain Equipment Co-op has long been the go-to place for travellers and naturists. It’s the best place to find weather-related essentials, sturdy backpacks, comfortable footwear, books on the outdoors, and even advanced gear for the true adventurers amongst us. On the main floor, there’s a wide selection of accessories that would make the perfect little gift for the outdoorsy adventurer in your life. Unbreakable Nalgene bottles, water purifying tablets, Swiss Army knives, wool socks, and sweat-wicking clothes are but a few products that would go a long way for someone who’s planning a trip. You can even pick up a cool gift for your four-legged hiking partner.
For the Stationery Lover: Tiny Feast
217 McDermot Ave
Tiny Feast is a stationery-lover’s dream. The store is well-known for keeping its shelves stocked with beautiful stationery goods and charming gifts, so you’re sure to find a little something for everyone. Tiny Feast curates a fabulous selection of high-quality journals, paper, pens, high-end office accessories, handmade cards for every occasion, and beautiful prints. They even carry stylish accessories you didn’t know you needed in your life, like sleek water bottles, mugs, enamel pins, and jewellery.
For Someone Special: Hilary Druxman
258 McDermot Ave
If you’re looking for a gift to celebrate an occasion or a special person, do yourself a favour and take a gander inside Hilary Druxman’s studio boutique. She handcrafts each piece of jewellery so they’re easy to wear with any outfit—be it rings, bracelets, necklaces or earrings. You can even get your piece customised! Everything is simple, beautiful, and definitely special.
For the Cinephile: Cinematheque
304-100 Arthur St
Cinematheque, located in the Artspace building, is the movie theatre for true film aficionados. This small cinema offers a diverse program of foreign and award-winning films, world documentaries, and local premieres. Kevin McDonald also curates a selection of classic comedies, presented monthly. For the gift that keeps on giving, Cinematheque’s annual pass lets the movie lover in your life enjoy unlimited regular admission screenings for an entire year.
For the New Homeowner: HUT K
200 Princess St
HUT K is primarily a furniture store, but it’s also a must-stop for those who appreciate architecture and timeless style. If you’re looking to buy for someone who cares about their space – whether they’re a twenty-something who just got their own place, or just looking to revamp their home—don’t miss HUT K’s curated showroom. The staff of architecture grads carefully selects every piece, so each item is chic, modern, and can complement any space. I know gifting someone with a sofa is a little extra, so be sure to check out their selection of home accessories.
For the Frequent Traveller: U.N. Luggage
175 McDermot Ave
If you’re looking to buy for a globetrotter who always travels in style, U.N. Luggage is the perfect place to shop. They have a wonderful selection of bags (including backpacks, handbags, toiletry bags, and laptop bags), passport covers, wallets, Moleskine notebooks, Corkcicle canteens and tumblers, and beautiful fountain pens. Many of their products are made of leather, so they make very sleek, very stylish gifts.
For Your Quirky Friends: Tara Davis Studio Boutique
246 McDermot Ave
Tara Davis is a beautiful, colourful, whimsical shop and gallery. It focuses on handmade items from all over Canada. The store sells jewellery, clothing, ceramics, pillows, candles, soap, baby items, and so much more. You can also find the cutest Winnipeg-related items from local makers, including tea towels, cards, and coin purses. There’s also a gallery in the back of the shop, where art by local artists rotates every month. Everything in the boutique is quirky and lovely, and you can easily buy gifts for everyone on your list in a single stop.
For the Little Ones: Toad Hall Toys
54 Arthur St
If you’re looking to buy for a little one (or a grown-up who’s just a child at heart!) this holiday season, look no further than Toad Hall Toys. A Winnipeg staple since 1977, they carry books, miniatures, trains, puzzles, games, and much more from over 50 countries. Whether you’re buying supplies for an aspiring magician or a small scientist’s first microscope, their selection is massive! You can easily spend a nostalgic afternoon at Toad Hall Toys, lost in your own childhood memories.
For Everyone: SoGa Artisan Soaperie
84 1/2 Albert St
Everyone can benefit from SoGa, the artisan soaperie where everything is handmade, vegan, and cruelty-free. It all smells good, looks good, and feels so, so good. They have beautiful soap slices of all scents and colours, activated charcoal bars, shower smoothies, gelato mini bubble scoops, and amazing bath snowballs. They even have a soap for Jets fans! All the products at SoGa make the perfect holiday gift: they’re small, smell lovely, and say, hey, relax this holiday season—you deserve it.
Whether you’re looking to buy for a friend, a family member, a loved one, or a colleague, skip the stress of going to the mall and head downtown for some of the most unique gifts in the city. I promise you’ll find something memorable for everyone on your list. Tell us—are you shopping local this holiday season?