Georgia Johnson / Contributor
We scoured the area so you wouldn’t have to. Give the gift of Santa Cruz County this holiday season by shopping from cool local purveyors like these. They need your support more than ever.
We had all been put through the wringer in 2020, even before the latest COVID-19 yo-yo throw we learned about last week. And that gives us even more of an excuse to pamper the ones we love this holiday season — including ourselves.
Perhaps even more importantly, given the return to retail restrictiveness, is that we finish “The Year of Supporting the Local Businesses We Love” strong.
Think Local is a great start. But we need to Buy Local more than ever.
Those who have constantly swerved and adapted upon each new health ordinance that came their way, they are the true survivors. This is a county full of artists, makers, curators, creators, and purveyors making one-of-a-kind goods. One can’t-miss option: The Santa Cruz Mountains Makers Markers — for now — is scheduled for Dec. 20 in downtown Santa Cruz from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. with 40 local artisans set to attend.
While we couldn’t possibly list everything this county has to offer, here’s a list of a few dozen gifts for even the pickiest friends and family members.
Have a gift idea you’d like to share with others? Let us know at email@example.com and we’ll consider adding it to this guide.
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Stocking Stuffers Small & Large
Eggwhite & Chamomile Soap
What & Why: Sounds weird but feels, and smells amazing. This gentle soap is great for those with sensitive or acne-prone skin. Available in-store or online.
Where: Buy in-person at Stripe at 107 Walnut Avenue downtown or it can be purchased online.
Brew Cruz Tour Charter
What & Why: For beer lovers and bus lovers alike, Santa Cruz’s Brew Cruz visits more than 15 local breweries and taprooms across the county. During Covid-19, Brew Cruz can only offer private charters (and can’t run at all in during the most restrictive phases when breweries are shut down). But having this in hand will provide a nice light at the end of this tunnel for a brew crawl ahead in 2021.
Where: Online booking only.
11th Hour Coffee Dynamic Subscription
What & Why: Coming into the rainy holiday season, here’s a gift that just keeps on giving. 11th Hour Coffee’s Dynamic Subscription delivers a different coffee every week for a whole month. It’s the perfect give for coffee drinkers looking to change up their routine.
Where: Available in-store at the downtown or Westside locations and online.
$20ish & Under
Indigo Tea Towels
What & Why: Gift shopping doesn’t have to be a chore — take a drive up the coast, get some pie, and slow down. Slow coast’s cozy 1954 airstream is a one-stop-shop for home goods, wears, and snacks. Snag their hand-dyed indigo tea towels for cleaning up everyday messes in style. Call ahead to make sure they are in stock. Available in-store or online.
Where: Take a drive up to Slow Coast Airstream at 450 Highway 1 in Davenport or purchase online.
What & Why: Featuring California landscapes and ocean sunsets, local artist Elissa Nesheim hand-paints these ornaments every year. Grab one (or two, three, 10) soon — they sell out quickly every year.
Where: Available in-store at Home/Work at 1100 Soquel Avenue in Santa Cruz or online.
Doug Fir Salami
What & Why: Christmas trees aren’t for just looking at — they also go great in a salami. Who knew? El Salchichero is famous for their out-of-the-box flavors and artisan meats, and the holidays are no exception. The Doug Fir salami is an annual favorite and a must-have for all holiday charcuterie boards.
Where: Available only in-store at El Salchichero at 402 Ingalls Street in Santa Cruz
Price: $10 per ¼-pound stick
Ashby Confections Rocky Road
What & Why: No corn syrup here! Available in milk or dark chocolate and loaded with soft pillowy mallows and morsels of toasted almonds, these little babies are a glorious mouthful of perfection. It’s like a s’mores bite minus the stale graham.
Where: Available in-store at 16C Victor Square in Scotts Valley or online.
Price: $8.99 per box
Wave Finder by Pickle Pottery
What & Why: Okay, hear us out. While Santa Cruzans usually have no trouble finding waves, conditions can’t always be perfect, even here. For the days where you could use a little luck, this little car mirror trinket lends a helping hand; perfect for the ocean lover in your life. Plus, we are all still heartbroken over Sawyer’s physical location closure so give their online shop a little local love.
Where: Available online only at Sawyer Supply
Bookshop Santa Cruz Holidays in a Box
What & Why: Let Bookshop do the work for you this holiday season. Christmas boxes include a favorite Christmas book, an ornament, and a hot cocoa pack from Chocolate Restaurant. Hanukkah boxes include favorite Hanukkah books, a Hanukkah prize ball, and Hanukkah gelt.
Where:Available in-store at 1520 Pacific Avenue downtown or online.
Pajaro Valley Arts Membership
What & Why: The ideal gift for all artists, Pajaro Valley Arts Memberships include a guaranteed place in an annual member exhibit, plus the opportunity to rent the gallery for a one-day pop-up show. The gallery is also open for visits by appointment only.
Where: Purchase online.
Annual Museum Memberships
What & Why: Though Covid-19 has been hard on restaurants and bars, we can’t forget the museums that are closed, too. The Santa Cruz Museum of Natural History and Museum of Art and History are both closed until further notice, but what better way to help them get through this hard time than support future visits?
Where: Purchase online here for the Natural History museum and here for the MAH.
Price: $35-$40 individual/$50-$60 family
Live Earth Farms Gift Sets
What & Why: Purchase supports the mission of non-profit Farm Discovery. Gift sets feature a selection of fresh Live Earth Farm apples & one jar each of Farm Discovery’s: Apple Syrup, Apple Ginger Shrub and Pink Peppercorn Apple Jelly.
All are made with Live Earth Farm and Prevedelli Farms organic apples in partnership with Terroir in a Jar.
Where: Order online (quickly because supplies are limited), pick up at the farm at 172 Litchfield Lane in Watsonville or you can request local delivery.
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What & Why: H&H’s CSF (community supported fishery) program brings fresh fish to your doorstep weekly or biweekly. The sizes are customizable and the local catch varies per week. In the past, customers have had local halibut, black cod, bluefin tuna, swordfish, rockfish, king salmon, and even ceviche.
Where: Visit their harbor shop at 493 Lake Ave A in Santa Cruz or order online.
Bike Tune-Up at Cycle Works
What & Why: Here’s a gift for the bike commuter, the only-summer beach cruiser, or the diehard mountain biker. Cycle Works tune-ups ensure that your friend or family member doesn’t get left high and dry.
Where: Gift card available in-store only at 1420 Mission Street in Santa Cruz.
Whale Watching Trip
What & Why: Santa Cruz Whale Watching is again offering whale and shark tours in Monterey Bay, social distance-style. Peak shark-viewing season has passed. Be on the lookout for the winter humpbacks, gray whales, Risso’s dolphins, and maybe even puffins if you’re lucky.
Where: Order online.
What & Why: Ventana Surfboards and Supplies has got you covered with an all in one wax box could save your next surf session. The box comes with a bar of Ventana Cold Water XXL wax or two bars of warm water wax, five integrated fin screws, an Allen wrench, a leash cord, a wax comb, and scraper lid, a recycled guitar pick, and a stainless steel ring bottle opener (for the post-surf beer).
Where: Available online.
Sequoia Aerial Adventure
What & Why: Gift someone a tour of Santa Cruz’s iconic redwoods via Mount Hermon Adventures. This two-hour experience is made up of 30+ elements, including swinging logs, cargo nets, and cables set 30 to 80 feet in the air! Face masks are required.
Where: Online booking only.
Boardwalk Season Passes
What & Why: This needs no explanation, really. It will be back and every child, young and old, will want to go. Give the gift of something to look forward to in the spring and summer.
Where: Purchase in-person at 400 Beach Street in Santa Cruz or online.
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60-minute Float Session
What & Why: After a long year of just wanting to get away, but not really being able to, treat someone to 60 minutes of uninterrupted weightless relaxation at Sage Float Spa. The Epsom salt tanks allow you to float effortlessly and focus on yourself without the distractions and stress of the outside environment.
Where:Book sessions in-store at 1395 41st Avenue in Capitola or online.
Everyday Oil from Botanic and Luxe
What & Why: A longtime favorite of Santa Cruzans everywhere, this body oil smells and feels amazing year-round, but is particularly helpful for the drier months when our skin needs a little extra TLC. Also a great addition to a bath or just to wear as a mild perfume, comes in small 2oz and large 8oz bottles.
Where: Available in-store at 701 Front Street in Santa Cruz or online.
Bonny Doon Farm Lavender Bath Salts
What & Why: Treat a friend or family member a little pampering and relaxation — something few people have gotten this year— from home. Lavender bath salts reduce stress and calm the mind and body, plus these bath salts hail from just up the road at Bonny Doon Farm.
Where: Buy in-store at Artisan & Agency downtown at 1368 Pacific Avenue or order online.
What & Why: When winter temperatures creep into fall like they have in 2020, footy pajamas are good for humans of any age. And for the record, they’re actually sweatpants with feet. This Santa Cruz-spawned company has continued to innovate and add options, including their extra-fluffy Cloud Line.
Where: You can buy a gift card here or select a pair for someone here. Or you can pick them out at their downtown store at 1519 Pacific Ave.
Anemone Candle Votive from Annieglass
What & Why: This freeform, handcrafted piece is made of stunning frosted glass. It’s dishwasher safe, chip-proof, and can be engraved and gift wrapped on request.
Where: Buy in-store at 310 Harvest Drive, Watsonville or order online.
For Your Virtual Get-Together
2017 Pinot Noir Coast Grade Vineyard
What & Why: With aromas of preserved black cherry, herbs, ripe strawberry, pine, and exotic oak spices, this pinot by Beauregard Vineyards is basically the holidays in a bottle. This wine is made from grapes grown in Coast Grade Vineyard located in Bonny Doon.
Where: Available online from Beauregard while the tasting room is closed.
Holiday Wreaths from Dig Gardens
What & Why: Dig’s Protea wreaths are extra long-lasting and still look beautiful as they dry. Both the Santa Cruz and Aptos shops just stocked them for the holidays — though they usually sell out quickly!
Where: Available in store only at 420 Water Street in Santa Cruz or at 7765 Soquel Dr # A in Aptos
Venus’ Wayward Bourbon
What & Why: We love Venus Spirit’s gin as much as anyone, but don’t the holidays call for something a bit warmer? This unapologetically bold whiskey has a bit of a kick, but makes up for it with sweet caramel notes and a beautiful deep amber color.
Where: Order online and pick up at 200 High Road in Santa Cruz. E-gift cards also available.
Caramels Gift Box from Donnelly Chocolates
What & Why: Donnelly Chocolates is one of the 10 best according to National Geographic, and their chocolate caramels live up to the name. The caramel box includes dark and milk chocolate varieties of honey caramel, coffee caramel, peanut caramel, sea salt camel, and more. While you’re there, reward yourself for your holiday shopping with an ice cream bar.
Where: Available in-store at 1509 Mission St in Santa Cruz or online.