Unique 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 winter mittens 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 album, “The Silver Gymnasium,” on which lead singer and songwriter Will Sheff looks back on his childhood in Meriden. In celebration of the 10th anniversary of "Black Sheep Boy," you can now order the special edition that includes the original record, plus the “Black Sheep Boy Appendix,” and “There Swims A Swan,” (a collection of folk and blues covers we recorded six months before the record came out). This deluxe edition also includes new limited-edition screen-printed artwork and expanded liner notes. Recordings by locally oriented folk singers Tom Rush, Cosy Sheridan and Bill Staines are perennial favorites.

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 picnic baskets at Peterboro Basket Company make lovely gifts that are both functional and gorgeous.

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. You really can't go wrong with one of their classic picnic baskets. 

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

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

The Peterborough Holiday Stroll is an excellent way to get into the holiday spirit and to get ahead on some gift shopping. This picturesque town celebration, happening November 21, also features a bake sale and a chance to visit with Santa.

The Nashua Holiday Stroll, November 28 from 5 p.m.-10 p.m., is filled with entertainment including music and ice sculpture carving, food, fun, shopping and a craft fair held at the gym on Main St. across from the town hall.

It’s off to the racetrack if you want to pull off some one-stop shopping at the 16th 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. 5 and 6.

A few more fairs the NH Magazine staff recommends:

Great Gifts From Nooks and Crannies

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

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. 5 and 12. Shop for the artsy person on your list at the Currier Museum of Art's shop that has items including prints from the collection, textiles, jewelry, paper and home goods, books, and hand-crafted gifts made by artisans both locally and worldwide.

Local Artisans: Any of the New Hampshire League of Craftsmen Fine Craft Galleries around the state offer unique items made by New Hampshire artisans. Or, pick up this year's annual ornament, "Sweet Season," that depicts the traditions of maple sugaring.

– 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 fourth volume in the series, titled "Love Free or Die," has just been released by Concord's Plaidswede Publishing and it's available from them at nhbooksellers.com or at good independent bookstores across the state.

The three previous volumes — "Live Free or Undead" (horror pulp), "Live Free or Die, Die, Die!" (mystery pulp) and "Live Free or Sci-Fi" (science fiction pulp) are also available. 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").

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?

  • Check out shopping expert Lisa Brown's monthly column "Retail" where she explores a different town's offerings each month. Her latest two cover Dover and Milford.
  • Susan Laughlin, in her monthly "Artisan," features artists and craftworkers from around the state. This archive is a treasure trove of local gift ideas! See November's Adele Sanborn.