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The Perfect Gift: Unique Holiday Shopping in Upstate New York

As any true Rochesterian would do, any time I find myself searching for a last-minute Christmas gift (which happens just about every year for me), I take a quick trip to Parkleigh gift shop on Park Ave. Consistently voted “Best Place to Find a Unique Gift,” the store has yet to fail me in my search for the perfect present.

Not to mention, the atmosphere is great. Warm and inviting smells and cute holiday music welcome you into Parkleigh. Exposed brick archways, original tin ceilings, and durable hardwood floors lead you from room to room, as the shelves burst with every type of gift and item imaginable - accessories, bath & skincare products, children’s gifts, silly novelty items, gourmet coffee, tea and chocolates, and favorite brands like Vera Bradley, MacKenzie-Childs, Michael Aram, Godiva, and Stonewall Kitchen. Oh, and did I mention the greeting card section? If you haven’t guessed it by now, I love shopping at this store.

Actually, I feel similarly about many of the local shops in Upstate New York. As the gift-giving season approaches, I often find myself skipping the malls to check out some of the smaller options in the area, and frequently come away with unique treasures I would not have found otherwise.

Like at Artisan’s Loft in Pultneyville, NY (just 30 minutes from Rochester). A fine art and gift gallery located in a renovated circa 1858 landmark, Artisan’s Loft features the work of over 60 artists in various mediums, artfully displayed on two floors of exhibitions and special event space. Gifts there are handmade, unique, and different – guaranteed to be unlike anything your loved ones have received before. The loft is adjacent to a great restaurant where you can grab a quick bite after shopping, known as The Pultneyville Grill.

Or at Dogwood Trading Company in Dansville, NY (also outside of Rochester). Dogwood is a small independent retail location that carries a wide variety of puzzles, games, children’s books, crafts, toys, candles, mugs, kitchen accessories, and items for dog, cat, and horse lovers (you don’t see that everywhere you go). An old-fashioned gift store with a modern twist, the store also stocks items from popular brands like Vera Bradley, Alex and Ani, Crabtree & Evelyn, and the Yankee Candle Company.

The truth is, you never know what you might stumble upon when you shop local. Grapevine Farms in Cobleskill, NY is a bistro, bakery, wine cellar, and gift shop. Shoppers can start with a complimentary sampling of New York State wine, grab a bite for lunch, and then finish their experience by perusing an assortment of jewelry (Alex and Ani, Lilly Dilly), handbags and clothing items (Vera Bradley, Brighton Handbags), candles (Yankee Candle, Colonial Candle), kitchen and baby gifts, and items in the store’s Adirondack room.

And some small towns lend themselves to more than a few locations to browse. Areas like the beautifully redesigned Ithaca Commons or Hammondsport, NY – voted the “coolest small town in America” by readers of Budget Travel – are easy to spend a day or weekend getting lost among the locals. The Historic Downtown Medina located on the Erie Canal has even been compared to a Currier & Ives painting complete with holiday decorations, window displays, and piped-in music.

Did I mention that Canadian visitors benefit from doing their holiday shopping in NY? In addition to lower gas prices and lower sales tax, visitors who stay at least 24 hours in NY can bring $200 (CAD) worth of goods across the border duty-free, and $800 (CAD) worth of goods after 48 hours.

Oh – and as you head back across the border, may I suggest one more stop? Make a quick trip to Oliver’s Candies in Batavia, NY and grab some Ribbon or Sponge Candy. They specialize in making both holiday treats around this time.