Holiday Gift Guide: Last second gift ideas for the holiday straggler

Holiday Gift Guide: Last second gift ideas for the holiday straggler
Photo/AR Workshop AR Workshop has a variety of holiday-themed DIY to-go kits, including a create-your-own ornament kit.

By Cody Mello-Klein |

Life can get busy, and sometimes that means the holiday shopping you wanted to do weeks ago is still on your to-do list. Luckily, the Alexandria Times is here to help with a gift guide all about those last-second gift purchases and stocking stuffer shopping trips.

From DIY at-home kits to some of 2021’s best books and presents for your furry friends, there are plenty of ways to check off those remaining items on your shopping list, all while shopping locally. And if you decide to go the gift card route, many of your favorite Alexandria restaurants are offering something special this holiday season.

Hit the road, go online and get ready to cross off those last few items on your list with the Times’ final gift guide of the season.

Local restaurant gift cards

Gift cards are a classic last-minute gift, but they don’t have to be for big box retailers or chain restaurants. Restaurants across Alexandria are offering physical or digital gift cards this season that will both satisfy your hunger and support local business.

From Old Town favorites, like Landini Brothers, Union Street Public House and Haute Dogs and Fries, to Del Ray hot spots, including Del Ray Café and Spike Kraft Indian Bistro, and West End up and comers, like Taqueria Picoso, you can find a gift card for any appetite.

Photo/Alexandria Restaurant Partners
Many of Alexandria’s restaurants have physical or digital gift cards available during the holiday season.

For the spice lovers in your life, Dishes of India, located at 1510-A Belleview Boulevard, has e-gift cards available for any amount between $10 and $500.

E-gift cards are also available at Lena’s Wood-Fired Pizza & Tap, a Del Ray pizzeria located at 401 E. Braddock Road, for between $5 to $1,000. Personalize your message and give the gift of pizza for the holidays.

Other local eateries are offering special gift card deals for the holidays. Alexandria Restaurant Partners, the restaurant group behind local favorites like The Majestic and Mia’s Italian Kitchen, is giving bonus $20 gift cards on every $100 gift card purchase between now and Jan. 1. Gift cards can be purchased for any amount between $5 and $500. They are usable at any of ARP’s restaurants, including Theismann’s; The Majestic; Vola’s Dockside Grill; Mia’s Italian Kitchen; Ada’s on the River and Barca Pier and Wine Bar.

AR Workshop

Every family has a maker or a crafter, someone who would rather build their own ornaments and advent calendar than receive a gift card. In that case, AR Workshop, located at 1212 King St., has you covered.

AR Workshop sells do-it-yourself project kits and provides group classes for DIYers in the making. Recently, AR Workshop released its line of holiday DIY to go kits that should easily satisfy the crafters in your life.

Select from a variety of festive DIY projects, ranging from a wooden holiday countdown calendar, priced at $65, and a winter wood block village, priced at $49, to a create-your-own ornament set, $45, and holiday porch sign, $94.50.

These maker gift packs include all the materials needed to DIY during the holiday season: stencils, wood and canvas, paint, a paint mixing guide, brushes and instructions. DIY to go kits are available for curbside pickup or delivery.

For pets and pet lovers

Alexandria is known for a lot of things, including its history, waterfront and restaurants, but one thing that’s impossible to ignore about the Port City is just how much people love their pets here. On a warm summer day, you’re likely to find just as many dogs as people walking the streets of Old Town or Del Ray.

So, when you’re on your last-second shopping spree, don’t forget your furry friends.

The Dog Store, located at 2301 Mt. Vernon Ave. and run by Your Dog’s Best Friend, makes shopping for dogs and dog lovers easy with its wide selection of treats, toys and equipment for dogs. If the pup in your life has been nice, not naughty, this year, consider browsing The Dog Store’s raw bar, which has enough bones and wings to get any dog salivating. Give your pup their own turkey dinner with the bestselling turkey wing, go traditional with bones or get wild with dried turkey and chicken heads. Prices vary but start at $4.

Photo/Cody Mello-Klein
The Dog Store sells a variety of festive treats for pups.

Santa’s not the only one who should get to eat cookies. Find a selection of gourmet dog treats and cookies at Your Dog’s Best Friend, decorated with festive frosting, from Bosch and Roxy’s starting at $8. Or shop The Dog Store’s own homemade selection of festive treats.

You might also consider one of The Dog Store’s holiday-themed toys as a reward. Toys come in a variety of shapes and sizes, including a plush, dark blue snowflake, tug-of-war ready reindeer and “Dear Santa” fluffy red bone. Prices range from $9 to $16.

When browsing for last-second gifts don’t forget about the pet owners in your life either. Owning a dog is both rewarding and a lot of work, and a Pet House candle, priced at $22, is one way to relieve the discomfort of the less rewarding parts of the dog life. Candles come in a variety of scents, including evergreen forest, blackberry tea, wildflowers and fireside, and are all designed to get rid of, or at least cover up, that familiar dog odor.

If you know someone who is not quite ready to accept a four-legged friend into their lives, consider buying them a gift card to Mount Purrnon, Alexandria’s first cat café. Located at 109 S. Alfred St., Mount Purrnon offers customers the opportunity to support cats in need of a home, all while enjoying some wine and light bites. The felines at Mount Purrnon are brought in from local shelters and are adoptable.

“It’s a good holiday break from the drama and the chaos of life,” Kristin Cowen, owner of Mt. Purrnon, said. “You can just come and have a furry cat on your lap or play with a cat, and it just makes everything better.”

Photo/Mount Purrnon
The cats at Mount Purrnon, Alexandria’s only cat cafe and wine bar, come from local shelters and are all adoptable.

Gift cards can be purchased on Mount Purrnon’s website for a custom amount, or you can purchase hourly, daily and monthly passes starting at $21.70 for an hour-long visit and going up to $84.80 for a monthly pass. Mount Purrnon also sells a collection of feline-themed merch for cat lovers, including candles and scarves.

Holiday sponsorships are also available for those who want to support a specific cat. Priced at $25, sponsorships help pay for the expenses of a cat at Mount Purrnon and include a painted, wooden ornament as well as a certificate and photo of the cat you’re supporting.

“Whether you’re buying a glass of wine or a t-shirt or a sponsorship or coming in to visit, it’s all going towards cats and saving their lives and having them here until they get adopted and just helping reduce euthanasia,” Cowen said.

Ten Thousand Villages

Ten Thousand Villages has plenty of knick knacks and stocking stuffers, but a gift from this fair trade-focused store, located at 915 King St., goes beyond a last-second purchase. With goods produced by communities around the world using local materials, purchases made at Ten Thousand Villages are a gift not only for your loved ones but craftsmen in India, Peru and elsewhere.

Consider Ten Thousand Villages’ rejuvenating vegetable soap. Available for $6 in a variety of scents – from green tea and rose to lavender and sandalwood – the purchase goes toward providing artisans in India’s Palam Rural Centre with housing, water, medical assistance and education.

Photo/Cody Mello-Klein
Andes Kids’ cup cozies at Ten Thousand Villages are handmade in Peru and Bolivia.

Introduce your children to ethical gift giving with Fair Friends, a selection of cotton, fair trade stuffed animals. Each stuffed animal, priced at $16, is made by women artisans in India and includes a customizable adoption card that tells a little more about who made your child’s new favorite toy.

For something a little more seasonal, the Andes Kids cup cozies are a bestseller. Priced at $13 and hand-knitted in Peru and Bolivia, these cozies will keep your drink – and heart – warm throughout the winter.

Mr. Ellie Pooh’s notebooks take ethical consumption to a more creative place. These notebooks, which come in a small and large size for $9 and $17 respectively, are made from a mix of Sri Lankan elephant waste and recycled paper and pay homage to the hardworking elephants of Sri Lanka on their covers. 

Sonoma Cellar

Sonoma Cellar takes the festive phrase “Drink and be merry” seriously. Memberships to the local restaurant and wine vendor’s monthly wine club are the perfect gift for wine drinkers, whether they are a connoisseur or not.

According to Sonoma Cellar CEO Elizabeth Myllenbeck, customers often sign up their loved ones for a couple months of the wine club in order to gain access to a special selection of wines from around the world.

“We scour the wines of the world to just come up with the most fun, interesting, delicious, good, high quality wines that we can find,” Myllenbeck said. “That’s our quest. We have a monthly quest to find some great wines for our wine club members that they’re really going to enjoy.”

Every month, Myllenbeck and her staff find six wines that are available exclusively to wine club members. The club is set up in three tiers: crew, captain and master. At the crew level, members pay $60 per month and choose two of the six wines available for the month. Captain level members pay $120 per month and get access to four wines, and master level members get all six wines per month for $180.

All members, regardless of their level, are able to attend monthly wine soirees at Sonoma Cellar, located at 207 King St. Soirees take place the first Sunday and Monday of the month and give members the opportunity to sample all the wines available that month. Members can also get five bottles at a discounted price at the soirees.

For Myllenbeck, the soirees and wine club are not just about the wine; they are about building a sense of community.

“It creates a sense of camaraderie,” Myllenbeck said. “There are some really great friendships that have been created as a result of the wine club. People have been in the wine club with us for years.”