Best places to shop for holidays gifts in Chicago

Ask almost anyone where to go shopping when you visit Chicago and you’ll likely be directed to the Magnificent Mile which does offer some great shopping if you’re in the market for national and international brands. However, if you want to get into the heart of Chicago’s retail scene, venture into Chicago’s neighborhoods where you’ll find loads of handmade and local finds that will make anyone on your Christmas shopping list thrilled to receive.

In the downtown area, head to the gift shops at the Art Institute of Chicago and the Museum of Contemporary Art where it will be easy to satisfy art and design buffs on your list. Just a few blocks west of the Mag Mile is P.O.S.H. best known for its vintage and hotel silverware finds. Wolfbait & BGirls stocks the goods of more than 250 local artisans and Rotofugi has won five Designer Toy Awards for Best Store.  

Chicago's markets, pop-up and permanent, hold one-of-a-kind treasures so consider Randolph Street Market, One of a Kind Holiday Show  and an interactive pop up at the Chicago Athletic Association Hotel.

With so many name brand, designer and great independent stores offering local and handmade items, it’s easy to find something special for everyone on your Christmas list in Chicago.


P.O.S.H. is known for its extravagant Christmas displays and this year staff has created a romantic Christmas in Paris display that includes an assortment of glittering ornaments that capture the spirit of the holidays with a decidedly French accent. Shop gorgeous antique picture frames, beautiful Majolica pitchers, fine French jacquard towels, exquisite etched glass barware and expect to find something for the person on your list who has "everything." The owners just returned from a big European buying trip, so in addition to holiday items, shelves are stocked with stunning French flea market finds and gleaming hotel silver from England. Wouldn't an ornate Belle Epoque picture frame or an antique Gentiane Quina Bonal Matchstrike which once served as a promotional piece for use in French bistros and cafes delight your gift recipient? There is also a lovely selection of jewelry and a selection for children.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Within walking distance of the Magnificent Mile is this sweet shop is filled with European flea market finds and hotel silverware plus new housewares and gifts.

Jacky's expert tip: Expect to see an eclectic assortment of vintage hotel and estate silver mixed with an ever--changing array of European Flea Market Finds.

Read more about P.O.S.H. →


Every imaginable national clothing store chain is inside this massive, indoor mall, one of the largest in the United States. You'll find everything from Claire's Boutique to Coach, plus kiosks inviting customers to sample new products. Nearly 30 full and quick service eateries are scattered throughout and a new dining pavilion is in the works. The holiday shopping season offers the Simon® Santa Photo Experience through Monday, Dec. 24. Other seasonal happenings coming up at the mall include Caring Santa (a sensory-friendly event in partnership with Autism Speaks for special needs children); Pet Photo Nights with Santa; the 23rd Annual Good Neighbor Radiothon; and a Breakfast with Santa. You'll find Santa inside Woodfield Mall's Ice Palace. Check the web site for a complete list of extended holiday hours and special seasonal programming.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Shopping is indoors and all in one place so you can ostensibly get it done in one go and dine on some decent food.

Jacky's expert tip: If you can take even more retail exposure, hop the trolley to additional shops outdoors at Woodfield Village Green and The Streets of Woodfield.

Read more about Woodfield Mall →

Gold Coast

Helen Yi, the new MCA Director of Retail Experience, boasts over 20 years of experience in luxury fashion and presents a sophisticated perspective in the MCA Store. It's not intimidating but rather a giddy retail experience browsing unique items for holiday season gift giving. The java junkie will go for the Marisol Holiday Wake Up Gift Box that Includes two made by hand Jono coffee cups selected by Chef Jason Hammel and a bag of Marisol's special blend of Metric Coffee. There's a Valentina Kova Prehistoric Shark's Tooth Necklace on 18k Gold Chain; Jane Berg jewelry; a beautiful gilded porcelain collection; limited edition cookie jars; unexpected home decor like a banana lamp or a rock 'n' roll mug shot coaster set. How about whimsical "Yoga Joes" as opposed to GI Joes? Choose among art objects, books, fashion, dining needs, and lots of cool kids' stuff.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: You won't find as many unusual and beautiful items at any other retail location in the city.

Jacky's expert tip: Stop by the wonderful Marisol, the restaurant and bar at the MCA starring innovative flavors and an artistic continuation of your shopping experience.

Read more about MCA Store →

Lincoln Park

Fans of vinyl figures will find Rotofugi a little slice of heaven with its diverse selection. Since opening up shop in a vintage Lincoln Park building in 2004, it has become one of the world's premier sellers of designer toys from artists all over the world including those much-coveted vinyl figures, capsule toys, plush and more from both eastern and western designers. You won't find large branded toys from Mattel or Hasbro here so it's probably best for teenagers and older collectors (unless you have a budding comedian kid asking for a bunny smoking a cigarette). The shop is large and makes browsing easy. Ask to see the gallery in the back where you'll find a mix of local and national artwork.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: It's an award-winning designer toy store, that also sells pop culture collectibles.

Jacky's expert tip: Ask to see the gallery where you'll find a mix of local and national artwork.

Read more about Rotofugi →

Randolph Street Market
Photo courtesy of Randolph Street Market

Located in Chicago's historic West Loop neighborhood, this shopping wonderland provides locals and visitors with over 125 vendors offering an eclectic mix of smartly priced antiques, vintage and modern goods, perfect for the gift-giving season. Discover vintage pieces from top designers like Dior, Coach, Gucci, Prada, and signature jewelry from Miriam Haskell and Judith Leiber. For the kids, shop cool items from Macko's Antique's & Vintage, or handmade hair trade stuffed animals from Nepal. Home design items like geometric side tables and mid-century glasses sets from It'sVeryCool are on the menu. There's a Holiday Market Bar pouring a selection of wine and spirits, signature cocktails, quick bites and a wrapping paper station, too. The 2018 Indoor Holiday Markets take place on Saturday, Nov. 17 and Sunday, Nov. 18, followed by Saturday, Dec.15 and Sunday, Dec. 16 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Free onsite parking in Plumbers Hall.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: The European-style antiques and vintage market in Chicago's historic West Loop/Fulton Market district is called "the Barney's of Vintage."

Jacky's expert tip: Guests can participate in #BagIt, a mystery shopping bag sweepstakes that includes up to $1,000 in shopping bucks.

Read more about Randolph Street Market →

A collection of art-inspired items is sold at the gift shops inside the world famous Art Institute of Chicago. There are two shops - one near the Michigan Avenue entrance and another at the Modern Wing's entrance on Monroe Street. Expect some unique pieces this holiday season among a wide assortment of gifts, jewelry and museum adaptations from around the world. There's merchandise inspired by exhibitions as well as exclusive pieces developed in tandem with the School of the Art Institute of Chicago. Browse a comprehensive collection of current books on modern art, design, architecture, photography and contemporary art and culture. Look for the psychedelic colors of Andy Warhol's pop art palette in a set of 28 double sided wooden dominoes in a collectible wooden box. Wonderful holiday-themed items, such as a set of two Murano glass angels or a Noah's art figurine with ornaments, round out the collection.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: It's a centrally located place to find colorful, uncommon gifts, and proceeds support the Art Institute.

Jacky's expert tip: Become a museum member, and you'll get a 10 percent discount on everything.

Read more about The Museum Shop of the Art Institute →

If you can't find it here, it may not exist. The Magnificent Mile offers more than 460 retailers, major department stores; international luxury labels and designers; and three vertical shopping centers - 900 North Michigan Shops, The Shops at North Bridge and Water Tower Place. 900 North Michigan Shops also celebrates the opening of its new gourmet food hall, Aster Hall. Count on street tacos to sushi, bread-bowl chowder to vegan bowls and coffee to cocktails. The mile-long shopping strip along Michigan Avenue lies between the Chicago River and Oak Street and boasts award-winning dining at more than 275 restaurants. Consider an overnight at one of the 70 hotels and a spa service to sooth a shopped-out body and mind. Dozens of museums and attractions add to the decisions, so make a plan.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: It's Chicago's most popular shopping area, with more than 400 stores, holiday lights, street performers and decorated window displays.

Jacky's expert tip: Check the web site for discount codes for parking and details on shopping packages available at area hotels.

Read more about Shopping on Michigan Avenue →

If mall and Michigan Ave. shopping are the last places you want to tackle this holiday season, get to this interactive shopping event that takes over two spaces within the Chicago Athletic Association hotel - the property's original gymnasium circa 1893 and known as Stagg Court and The Tank which served as the building's pool. Sauced: The Night Market Before Christmas takes place on Thursday, Dec. 6, from 5 - 10 p.m.. The holiday version of the popular roving night market brings together emerging chefs, local artisans and producers for shoppers to peruse unique, one-of-kind of gifts. The night also features Glitter Guts photo booth and DJ Greg Feelgood on the ones and twos. Food vendors include Mac Dynamite (mac and cheese) and retail vendors include Rust Belt Americana (jewelry), The Box Berry (greeting cards), Gingerland (scarves), Soothsayer (hot sauce), Bitter Ex (cocktail bitters), Milton and Margie's (candles) and Federal Moto (motorcycles).

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Big box retailers, department stores and malls aren't everyone's cup of Christmas tea. This a local, interactive night of shopping.

Jacky's expert tip: It's free to attend and open to all ages.

Read more about Sauced: The Night Market Before Christmas →

The female owned and operated independent Wolfbait & BGirls carries the work of more than 250 local designers which is pretty remarkable considering it's a tiny retail space. Local goods at reasonable prices include clothing, tees and onesies; an incredible range of jewelry, accessories; bath and beauty items; books; wall art: stuff for pets and kids; edibles; and home goods. The featured product this holiday is Zodiac Fragrances by Intuitive Essence. Each scent is crafted from essential oils and botanical extracts, creating a custom fragrance built from research. Vegan, cruelty free, paraben free, sulfate free, phthalate free,and custom made in the USA, the product fits everyone.

Read more about Wolfbait & B-Girls →

The 18th annual One of a Kind Holiday Show is a refreshing alternative to traditional retail and is a fun place to find unique gifts for everyone on your holiday list. More than indie 600 artists from across North America bring their imaginative, handmade items to The Mart from Dec. 6-9. Get ready to browse a wide range of media and categories including: accessories; ceramic kitchenware; recycled paper; home decorations; tons of fashion from warm wool hats to travel inspired scarves in bold prints; furniture; gourmet treats; jewelry; kids' stuff; pet products; painting and sculpture; and a heck of a lot more. Speak with the artists and see artist demonstrations, watch fashion shows and listen to live music.

Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Shoppers can attend fashion runway shows, purchase fine art, indulge at the gourmet market, and get holiday shopping finished - all in one place.

Jacky's expert tip: Tickets are $12 per adult and provide entry for all four days. A portion of all ticket sales benefit Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children's Hospital.

Read more about One of a Kind Holiday Show® →


Meet Jacky Runice

Born in Bucktown when bulletproof was a home safety choice and not a coffee order, Jacky Runice has been knocking around Chicago as a professional print, online and broadcast journalist and...  More About Jacky