Shopping malls and online stores have their place, but the cool gifts are usually local, handmade and one of a kind. If you're still looking for that special — or wacky — Christmas gift, here are 10 ideas, found only in Laguna Beach.
10. Cool surf stuff. Thalia Surf, 915 S. Coast Hwy, thaliasurf.com.
Whether it's hats, suits or boards, the venerable Thalia Surf shop does a solid job of keeping things fresh. Since 2001, owner and surfer Nick Corcores has been catering to his core audience: surfers looking for the real deal — with soul. Store branded hat, $27.95.
9. Handmade jewelry. Gorjana, 190 Beach St., gorjana.com.
Laguna is home to a lot of custom jewelry stores, so it's easy to find unique, handmade pieces, but Gorjana is a new store that mixes it up with affordable earrings, bracelets, necklaces and rings — all made in Laguna. Plus, almost all items are less than $100.
8. Interior redesign. Pacifique Maison, 278 Beach St., pacifiquemaison.com.
Another new store, Pacifique Maison, takes over for a prior designer, A. Tesselaar, at this location. Owner Bree Kennedy has been in the business for nearly 20 years and is known for her creative interior touches, especially the Diamond Head Upholstery Tacks. She also has cool, whimsical pillows for $200.
7. Be a Cuban exile. Cubana Cigars and Lounge, 1400 S. Coast Hwy., cubanacigarslounge.com.
It's easier now to go to Cuba but you still can't buy Cuban cigars. The next best thing is Laguna's Cuban lounge, where patrons can enjoy their favorite cigar, including a nice Montecristo, and have wine or beer. Frequent visitors can rent their own humidors. Cigar prices are less than $20 and often under $10.
6. Relive 1960s Laguna. Mystic Arts, 664 S. Coast Hwy, mysticartslaguna.com.
No other place epitomizes hippie Laguna more than Mystic Arts, headquarters for counterculture and mind expansion. Since 1967, the collective has featured a range of art, clothing, books and alternative performances. Right now there is some nice, affordable blown glass by Laguna artist Gina Lunn — ornaments for $15 and unique glasses for about $25.
5. Give someone a state park. California State Parks, www.parks.ca.gov.
In Laguna, we claim Crystal Cove State Park as our own. The problem is our local shoppers parking permit doesn't work at the park, which means we hate paying the $15 daily parking fee. Solution? Buy an annual pass for $195 and enjoy every California state park.
4. Pop-up store surprises. Sourced Collective, 950 Glenneyre St., sourcedcollective.com.
The location is a historically tough spot for retail but worth the visit. Sourced Collective is not a traditional store but a shared space that combines freelancers, artisans and pop-up businesses. The unpredictable outcomes are often brilliant, like Ian Bryan (doing business as Jonathan Seagul), who creates custom skateboards and butterfly art. The framed butterflies range from about $80 to $140.
3. Private label sweets. Gecko Cookie Company, 3295 Laguna Canyon Rd., geckocookies.com.
Have you ever had that Death by Chocolate Caramel Fudge Walnut Brownie thingie at Koffee Klatch? Or the Roasted Almond Butter-crunch Chocolate Covered Toffee sin bar at La Sirena? If so, you were eating a Laguna-made confection of decadence from Gecko Cookie Company, a private bakery in the canyon. Several stores in Laguna buy from Gecko. In addition, the company will make corporate gift baskets or goodies for private events. You're welcome.
2. Antique suit of armor. Philosophy Antiques & Design, 3305 Laguna Canyon Road., philosophyantiques.com.
What Laguna castle is complete without a 19th century suit of armor? Yes, you heard right — authentic ceremonial armor. For $7,000, you too can impress the neighbors and start throwing around knightly expressions. Store owner Nina Naderchi has another suit from the 20th century for $2,000. Naderchi, by the way, loves medieval and gothic antiques. Thankfully for us.
1. Charities. And the No. 1 gift suggestion is to give to local nonprofits.
While giving to friends and family is a nice tradition, consider donating money or time to something that will result in real value. Some of my favorites: the Boys and Girls Clubs of Laguna Beach, the Friendship Shelter, the Laguna Beach Community Clinic and No Square Theatre.