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Photograph: Courtesy of Steel Petal Press

12 Chicago-themed gifts to get your family and friends for the holidays

Give the gift of Chicago with a Malört onesie, Dark Matter coffee, a food tour based on "The Bear" and more.

Erin Yarnall
Written by
Erin Yarnall

In the blink of an eye, the holiday shopping season has arrived. Buying presents for all of the people in your life can be a tricky process, but if you’re shopping for a Chicago resident, or just someone who loves the city, we can help you out. Get them something made by local artists at a Chicago gift shop, or help them learn a new skill with an instuctional classFrom household items that will always remind them of their favorite city to unforgettable experiences like a food tour of restaurants featured in The Bear, show your love this year with these Chicago-themed gifts.

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The best Chicago-themed gifts

During the holidays, one of the most simple, but effective, ways to let your friends and family members know that you care about them is sending a card. While a card might not be as elaborate as some other gifts, being on the receiving end of a hand-written one is always meaningful. 

Make it even more meaningful for your friends and family by picking up one of Steel Petal Press’ Chicago-themed cards, which feature images of "The Bean," the majestic skyline and other iconic shots that will make your recipients reminisce about their favorite city. The cards can be purchased on Steel Petal Press’ website, or you can stop by the brick-and-mortar store in Logan Square. 

Where to find: 2321 N Milwaukee Ave

When it comes to the taste of Malört, you either love it or hate it, but there’s a good chance you probably hate it. The Swedish spirit, which was created by Carl Jeppson in the 1930s, is made with wormwood and tastes extraordinarily bitter. Despite that, the much-maligned alcohol is a Chicago favorite. For the true Malort lovers, pick up a Malört onesie ($75) or a Malört-inspired Christmas tree ornament ($7), a.k.a. a Malörnament. You can find a bottle at most liquor stores throughout the city, the CH Distillery where it’s made or online.

Where to find: 564 W Randolph St


We all know that one person who would rather be gifted an experience of some sorts, rather than an item. So give them a filling experience they won’t forget anytime soon by taking them on "Yes, Chef! Chicago: A Bear-Inspired Food Tour." Taking inspiration from the hit FX show The Bear, which is set in a Chicago Italian beef shop, the tour takes attendees through several of the restaurants that the show’s characters visit. The tour, priced at $129 per person, is 3.5 hours long, culminating with a stop at historic ice cream parlor Margie’s Candies. Make a reservation for the tour online.

For a lot of people, the morning doesn’t start without a cup of coffee. Show your friends who only buy brand name coffee at the grocery store what they’re missing locally by picking up a bag of beans from Dark Matter Coffee. The Chicago-based coffee company offers 12-ounce bags for $19, or if you’re shopping for a dedicated coffee lover, three-, six- and 12-month long subscriptions are available for the company’s limited monthly blend. Purchase a bag on Dark Matter Coffee’s website, or at any of the coffee company’s eight locations throughout the city.

Where to find: Eight locations throughout the city, including the mothership at 738 N Western Ave


Candles tend to make the perfect stocking stuffers, so pick one up from a Chicago-based company and share your favorite scents with friends and family. Hyde & Park Co. was first founded in 2019, and is named after the neighborhood where the company was formed—Hyde Park. The candles, which are hand poured in Chicago, are produced in small batches and come in an array of scents, including seasonal varieties, like apple harvest and pumpkin spice.

Where to find: Hyde & Park Co.'s website.

If you can’t afford to get your art-loving friend a fancy painting for the holidays, maybe get them access to hundreds of thousands of them instead? The Art Institute of Chicago, one of the city’s most beloved museums, contains more than 300,000 sculptures, paintings, ceramics and other works of art. It might take several visits to take it all in, and after a while, the costs start to add up. For regular museum-goers, it’s worth having a membership (starts at $115 per year), which allows unlimited visits and access to members-only special programs. Memberships can be purchased online.

Where to find: 111 S Michigan Ave


What do you get for the person who has it all? Or the person who really doesn’t want anything else? Or someone who loves good deeds? Donate to a charity that means something to them, like the Alliance for the Great Lakes. There’s no denying that one of the best features of the city is its lakeside location, and the Alliance for the Great Lakes helps to preserve the waters of all five Great Lakes. Donations can be made online.

Where to find: Alliance for the Great Lakes' website.

There are plenty of drinking games that have endless rules and make less and less sense as the game goes on. Why not play something that Chicagoans know all about? Their favorite city. The Chicago Handshake Drinking Card Game is a trivia game that puts players’ knowledge of the city to the test. The game can be purchased online.

Where to find: Transit Tees' website.


Help your friends develop a new skill, like, say, playing a musical instrument. The Old Town School of Folk Music has beginner classes in instruments including the violin, guitar and piano, as well as songwriting and dance classes for students to unleash their creativity even further. The music school also offers gift cards, in case you’re unsure what instrument your future rock star wants to try out.

How to find: 4544 N Lincoln Ave

Is there any gift better than a good meal? But what if your friends and family are indecisive, and you don’t know what sort of food they like? Don’t make the choice—instead, give them an abundance of options with a gift card from Lettuce Entertain You Enterprises. The restaurant group maintains dozens of restaurants throughout the city, and with so many concepts, it’s impossible to disappoint. Purchase gift cards for all of your friends online, because shoppers who buy more than $100 in gift cards receive a $25 one for free.

Where to find: Any LEYE restaurant or its website


Now that it’s nearly winter, animals have gone to hibernate, leaves have fallen off the trees and it seems as if nature is hiding away for the season. Scenes of Illinois’ nature can still be seen, though, on tea towels from Buddy, a store, located in the Chicago Cultural Center that focuses on selling products and art from local creators. The towels, made by local letterpress studio Current Location Press, capture images of plants, trees and shorelines, and have been small-batch dyed. You can purchase them online, or shop for the tea towels in person and spend the rest of the day exploring the Chicago Cultural Center.

Where to find: 78 E Washington St

If you have a friend or family member that’s a fan of, well, anything, then head out to Bric-A-Brac Records, a record and collectible shop in Avondale. The shop has everything, from used vinyl records to old movie posters, and toys from the ’80s and ’90s. Can’t make up your mind what to buy? Get your friend or family member a gift certificate to the shop and let them explore on their own. 

Where to find: 2845 N Milwaukee Ave

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