New Hampshire Gift Ideas

Stay out of the malls and the big box stores with these local gift ideas

Give gifts your friends and family will love while sticking within the borders of New Hampshire. The Granite State really does have something for everyone, from local music and cozy winter clothing to Shaker goods and gorgeous art. Start making a dent in your list with some of the suggestions below.

Music to Their Ears

Okkervil River's “The Silver Gymnasium” is named after an actual building in Meriden where band leader Will Sheff grew up.

For the music lovers on your list, pick up CDs from local musicians like New Hampshire fingerpickin’ virtuoso, Ed Gerhard’s “Christmas” or if you’re celebrating the Jewish holidays, you can’t go wrong with a CD from Nashua’s Raymond Street Klezmer Band. Serenade your friends and lover with the latest iTunes download by Manchester pop singer Josh Logan, a featured performer on the TV show “The Voice.” Or order a CD by Francestown jazz prodigy, Matt Savage, a jazz pianist and Berklee College grad who has 10 albums to his credit. The rock band Okkervil River has received national attention for its latest album, “The Silver Gymnasium,” on which lead singer and songwriter Will Sheff looks back on his childhood in Meriden. Recordings by locally oriented folk singers Tom Rush, Cosy Sheridan and Bill Staines are perennial favorites.

– Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer

Want more music? Here are a few more bands and musicians from New Hampshire as recommended by the NH Magazine staff:

A Peterborough Challenge

The collectable Honest Abe lunch basket from Peterboro Basket Co.

Purchase a handcrafted container at the Peterboro Basket Company and challenge yourself to fill it with gifts strictly from Our Town (that’s Peterborough’s literary nickname, in case you’re wondering).

The basket company has been making containers that are utilitarian works of art since 1854. We suggest a classic picnic basket or an Honest Abe collectible lunch basket with the president’s image on it.

May we suggest browsing in antique stores like Grove & Main Antiques, which features French linens, lavender sachet and cunning vintage German porcelain baby dolls.

Don’t overlook grocery stores. Who wouldn’t love organic soap from Nature’s Green Grocer or craft beer from Roy’s Market, where friendly clerks actually carry your bags to your car?

It doesn’t have to be Thornton Wilder’s famous play, but do visit the Toadstool Bookstore’s local authors section to add a little literary flair to your gifting quest.

And kill two turtledoves with one stone by sating your shopping-induced hunger at the Peterborough Diner, and picking up a special T-shirt made this year for the iconic green-and-yellow dining car’s 60th birthday as a nice finishing touch for your basket.

– Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer

Explore Holiday Fairs With a Creative Edge

Sculpture by Lotus Yueh-Ju Lien
Courtesy of lotus yueh-ju lien

Want to make that a festive experience rather than a cookie-cutter schlep? Hit holiday fairs and open houses at galleries and co-ops.

You can take your pick of one-of-a-kind items and meet the creators when the artists and artisans with studios in the Picker Building in Nashua hold a holiday open house on Dec. 7. More than 20 creative types will exhibit and sell their wares including Lotus Yueh-Ju Lien, who makes surreal and functional ceramics. Fiber artist Tanya Prather’s Earthtones Gallery features garments like ties and blouses made from up-cycled clothes imprinted with images of real leaves and petals with the use of vegetable dyes. You can have a photograph transformed into stained glass at Gator Art Glass or sport a T-shirt from Mint Printworks, which has a line of “Nashstalgia” Ts inspired by the late, great Benson’s Wild Animal Farm, Miller’s Department Store and other gone-but-not-forgotten iconic Nashua area landmarks.

It’s off to the racetrack if you want to pull off some one-stop shopping at the 14th annual New England Holiday Craft Spectacular. More than 200 craftsmen and craftswomen are expected to participate in the indoor sale in the grandstand at Rockingham Park Racetrack in Salem on Dec. 7 and 8.

– Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer

A few more fairs the NH Magazine staff recommends:

  • Craftworkers' Guild Holiday Shop - Open 10 a.m.-4 p.m. daily until December 22 at The Oliver Kendall House, 5 Meetinghouse Rd., Bedford. Featuring over 60 juried artisans and craftspeople participating in the seasonal shop. The Craftworkers' Guild is a group of more than 50 artisans and craft workers dedicated to producing fine-quality handcrafts.
  • The Downtown Manchester Holiday Market from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. on December 19, The Brady Sullivan Plaza at 1000 Elm Street, Manchester.
  • Find more great fairs by visiting our calendar of events.

Great Gifts From Nooks and Crannies

Stop in at the Common Man Company Store for locally produced items

Classy Gas Station Gifts: One-of-a-kind and offbeat gifts can be found in places you’d never think to look. Even the corner gas station — no kidding. Hudson Bridge Gulf on Ferry Street in Hudson has a wide variety of reasonably priced, homemade jarred goods, including dilly beans, pickles and spicy cocktail sausages, not to mention some pretty impressive bottles of wine.

Hospitable Gifts: You won’t find frantic crowds of shoppers at hospital gift shops, but you will find truly unusual gifts, carefully selected to make one feel good. At the gift shop at Southern New Hampshire Medical Center, for example, is a basket of cutesy cloth Dammit Dolls — designed to rid one of frustration and aggression by throwing them across the room while screaming a purgative epithet — an apt gift for what can be a stressful time of year.

Treat Yourself First, Then Shop: Go out to eat and shop at a restaurant gift store. At The Common Man restaurant compound in Ashland, the flagship of the New Hampshire restaurant chain, is The Common Man Company Store, two stories of locally produced items including Common Man Bloody Mary mix, tomato pickles and pancake mix as well as coffee mugs, pottery and fleece vests. While some items display The Common Man logo, many do not, but they all do demonstrate a New Hampshire-style country sensibility.

You’ll See ‘em at Museums: There’s also a lot of fine, non-stressful shopping to be found at museums — not the least of which is Canterbury Shaker Village, which sells Shaker boxes, baskets and brooms just to name a few items. The shop is open daily 10 a.m.-4 p.m. through Dec. 23 and 3 p.m.-8 p.m. during Christmas at Canterbury Shaker Village on Dec. 7 and 14.

Gifts of Light: And for those who celebrate Hanukkah or just collect Judaica, synagogue gift shops like the Sisterhood Judaica Shop at Temple Beth Abraham in Nashua offer carefully selected artful menorahs, dreidels, jewelry, toys and other Jewish treasures. And the mitzvah gets thrown in for free — proceeds are used to support synagogue and Sisterhood projects.

– Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer

Gifts to Stay Warm and Cozy

Boy’s striped sweater jacket from Newfound Farm Wool Works

To keep warm during your holiday frolics, pick up mittens, hats, coats and bags made from recycled textiles at the Newfound Farm Wool Works in Bristol. They’ll even take dad’s favorite ratty cardigan and repurpose it into a new and beautiful garment. You can pick up a toasty alpaca hat or sweater at Someday Farm in Canterbury, which was founded by Dean and Barbie Tilton, who bought an abandoned property in 1993 and hoped to turn it into a working farm someday. And indeed they did — an alpaca farm.

– Tom Long and Stacy Milbouer

Support Local Authors

Unmitigated Plug
Along with overseeing (and sometimes underseeing) New Hampshire Magazine, our esteemed leader, Editor Rick Broussard, has a uniquely NH-centric side gig that he's been managing for the past few years. It's the NH Pulp Fiction Project, which is actually a series of anthologies of short fiction set in the Granite State and typically written by new or up-and-coming local authors. The third volume in the series, titled "Live Free or Sci-Fi," has just been released by Concord's Plaidswede Publishing and it's available from them at or at good independent bookstores across the state.

The two previous volumes — "Live Free or Undead" (horror pulp) and "Live Free or Die, Die, Die!" (mystery pulp) are also available and the fourth, "Love Free or Die" (pulp romance), is in the pipeline for a February 2014 release. Those four books  cover all of the popular pulp genres with the exception of the Western. That genre seemed like a stretch (how many stories of the Wild West can you set in the Northeast?) but it takes a bigger stretch than that to stop our intrepid editor.

The fifth and (perhaps) final installment in the series is now in the works, titled "Live Free or Ride!" The local connection is the Concord Stagecoach, built by the Abbot-Downing Company of Concord, and one of the great icons of westward expansion (and featured in countless movies and TV shows about the "taming of the frontier"). Interested contributors should check out for details.

Oh, did we mention that they make great holiday gifts? Well, they most certainly do.

It Doesn't Get More Local Than ...

For Home Cooks and Bakers

More Local Book Ideas

Did you know that we review a local book each month? If there's an avid reader on your list, then check out the archive of reviews for some great reads from novels and memoirs to history books and mysteries.

– The New Hampshire Magazine Staff

Want some more excellent local shopping advice?




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