Supporting the local arts community can be tough during the holiday season, but it’s also the best time to do so. While it’s easier to grab a book or some gear or jewelry for a reduced price on Amazon, dropped to your front door within days, the magic is lost. This area is full of shops with unique and handmade treasures. There also are hundreds of artists operating independently–sharing their work on social media or craft sites like Etsy. Stalk your favorite local artist online for an upcoming open studio or flash sale. Have a family member or friend with a favorite local haunt? Stop by to check for gift certificates and save them a bar tab. Taking a stroll around one of the neighborhoods closest to you, you’re bound to find something perfect for your loved ones and you’ll know where your money is going. Here are just a few I recommend:

Downtown Troy is a great place to start. Last year I picked up a great set of mittens from Ekologic, the recycled cashmere boutique on Fulton Street, for my mom. They’re impossibly soft and fingerless, but the top folds right over when it gets into brutal winter. At $78, they’re pricey, but they’ll last. On River Street, I’ve also picked up great stuff for her at AMC Jewelry and Decor. Their nature-inspired and stone necklaces and rings (starting at $60) are delicate, gorgeous and don’t give out or fade with time. 

We’re really lucky to have local music shops like Collar City Guitar on 4th Street and Love of Fuzz on Fulton that are run by people who really care about their instruments, gear and customers. I don’t think I’ve passed Love of Fuzz since it opened without seeing owner TJ Heimel deep in conversation with a recognizable local artist with a repair or trying out one of his displayed guitars and amps. I’ll be picking his brain about a new pedal for my brother. (Prices depend on the market and other factors.) 

Stepping out of the Collar City, I’ll snag a couple of my dad’s collection of growlers and head to Pint Sized (located both in Albany and Saratoga) to check out what they have on tap. He’s a big fan of a Belgian brew. so a drive to Cooperstown may be in order to hit Brewery Ommegang for their winter collection. 

On Broadway in Saratoga, I’ll get a fresh bag or two of Uncommon Ground Coffee for the grandparents who swear by their beans, as well as a gift card for Mrs. London’s, the boutique bakery that keeps them coming back for scones. Oscar’s Adirondack Smokehouse up in Warrensburg has their favorite selection of meats and cheese spreads. Lennon’s Irish Shop on Jay Street in Schenectady has the Celtic merch that warms Grandma’s heart. 
Nadine Medina Designs (by our very own dance columnist) has one-of-a-kind jewelry pieces starting around $30 that have personalities of their own and are perfectly tailored to the people you love. Trust me, it’s almost eerie. You can find her stuff at @tinydancertroy on Instagram.