Keep in mind that kites are not only a good gift idea for outdoor fun but also perfect for decorating a big room.
717 Grant, SF. (415) 989-5182, www.chinatownkite.com
GINN WALL CO.
Not just one of the few places in town where you can still buy a cast-iron pan, Ginn is also a source of adorable garnish cutters, charming cake molds, and delightful cookware.
1016 Grant, SF. (415) 982-6307
Everyone's favorite hidden gem (well, it was until journos like us started writing about it), West Portal feels like a small town with the benefits of a big city. Sure, the shopping selection is limited. But it offers a lot of bang for the buck in products as well as personality.
This is one of those old-fashioned small gift stores that have a little bit of everything and all of it carefully chosen by someone (or someones) with great taste. The items in the baby section and the Christmas ornaments are particularly good, but you just might find something for everyone on your WTF-do-i-get-them? list.
44 West Portal, SF. (415) 759-7487, www.plainjanesgifts.com
WEST PORTAL ANTIQUES
This antique collective is a treasure trove of vintage goodness and has offerings in every price bracket.
199 West Portal, SF. (415) 242-9470, www.westportalantiques.com
LITTLE FISH BOUTIQUE
The only thing you'll love more than this shop's unique clothing and accessories for him, her, and baby is the phenomenal customer service.
320 West Portal, SF. (415) 681-7242, www.littlefishboutique.com
You can't talk about shopping in West Portal without mentioning this brilliantly unconventional toy store (which also has a location in the Financial District but why brave the traffic?). Nearly everything here is educational or alternative in some way finding a Barbie or a toy weapon will be harder than finding a wooden train set.
186 West Portal, SF. (415) 759-8697, www.ambassadortoys.com
If panicked, harried customers noisily rushing to buy holiday gifts aren't your thing, escape the city for the quieter, quainter quarters of the East Bay. Better parking and pedestrian-friendly districts mean you can enjoy the trappings of charming boutiques without the tourist hordes or the headaches.
CE SOIR FINE LINGERIE
This cozy space in Berkeley's Elmwood District offers bedroom playwear in a decidedly unFrederick's of Hollywood environment. The dim lighting and rich interior say "sexy" (not "sleazy"), as do carefully chosen boudoir goods by Cosabella, Hanky Panky, Princesse tam.tam, Betsey Johnson, and Roberto Cavalli. Add the complimentary fittings from Ce Soir's sweetly attentive owner, and you've got the East Bay's best-kept secret since, well, Victoria's.
2980 College, Berk. (510) 883-1082, www.cesoirfinelingerie.com
Well-selected clothes vie for attention with wall-hung art at boutique-cum-gallery August, located in North Oakland's Rockridge District. Both men and women will enjoy the laid-back staff, premium denim selection, luxe cashmere sweaters, and hard to find avant-garde labels not to mention the sustainable housewares and nature photography.
5410 College, Oakl. (510) 652-2711
Who doesn't dig candles and lotions, preferably many and in a variety of different scents and permutations? (C'mon, men, don't pretend you don't.