So you live in New York and you’re about to travel back to your birthplace to see friends and family for the holidays. How lovely! You’d think that after moving yourself to a big city the least you could do would be bring something cool back with you for everyone… but what do you buy!?

First things first as a rule of thumb (I’m sure there might be exceptions) I think it’s relatively obvious but: If it’s sold on Canal Street, it is neither real (sorry, those cheap handbags are fakes), legitimate, or of high quality. You can get some absolute bargains down there for I❤️NY shirts, but personally I just don’t think that’s what people want when you go back… they’re so 2004.

Also, on that, if you do really want to buy something from Canal Street, you should know that the prices listed are purely an indication. It’s really one place in the city where if you just stand still and stare at the thing you want, the price will come down by half without even trying. Never pay the advertised price.

So now, instead of what not to buy…

What to buy as gifts from New York

The one gift that we take back every time we visit is a slightly alternative one, but a good fun gift nonetheless.

Trader Joe’s Everything But The Bagel Seasoning

We love it. On everything. Eggs. Sandwiches. Dinner. Lunch. Breakfast. It doesn’t matter.

Why do we get it for friends? Because it’s not something I’d ever seen or heard of before, and it’s something that you wouldn’t consider buying for yourself to travel internationally. And it’s delicious.

Yes, it gets through customs in Australia even if you sweat as profusely as I did when I worried that it contained seeds.

Friends are now asking us to bring it every time we come: Win.

Starbucks City Mugs

I’d not actually heard of these but it turns out there are city mugs that can only be bought in the city itself. So if you’ve got someone who is a real Starbucks tragic, then there’s an option for you!

All in all, though, the answer is that it’s really hard to pick a particular thing that I recommend! I too have the same issue, so what about if I recommend places to go instead of things?

Places to go looking for good gifts

I think the general rule of thumb is that very rarely do people want things from New York that SAY “New York”, at least not as their only feature. They want something that they haven’t seen before that can come with a story that includes “it comes from New York”. So by that logic, you should check out these stores:

The Union Square Holiday Markets & The Holiday Shops at Winter Village at Bryant Park

Some of the things in here can be taken or left, but they do have some lovely art and some lovely little knick-knacks that you can peruse through.

Just don’t forget your jacket because it’s all outside.

Brooklyn Navy Yard Holiday Market

This one’s a bit cool because 24 out of the 40 vendors make their wares AT THE YARD! So it’s something legitimate and locally produced.

LeFrak Center at Lakeside Prospect Park Brooklyn

On December 14 and 21, Prospect Park Alliance and Brooklyn Pop-Up will host an artisan holiday fair at Lefrak Center with at least 19 vendors selling handmade, sustainable, and local goods, from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

Chelsea Market

A classic for shopping and food. If you haven’t been, well, go there. This one is less seasonal and more just nice.

Grand Central Holiday Fair

Again there’s some lovely art and creative things to look through at this market, which might at least give you inspiration.

Fishs Eddy is mentioned a lot.

They sell plates and housewares (a term that I only just learned, as I’ve always used “homewares”). Their stuff is original and from all reports, of good quality.

Final thoughts and tips

Be careful about picking fresh foods because customs can take them away. Also, be sure to look up the value of items that you are allowed to take in case you are thinking of picking something extra fancy for that special someone.

Most of all though: Don’t worry about buying too many things. Take people out, tell them a great story about your adventures, and spend your time, not your money! It’s worth every second.

Happy Holidays!

Thanks Bonnie E. for the question!!