With the popularity of online shopping, it’s no wonder many people wait to the last minute to start their Christmas shopping. It’s easy to forget that finding that perfect gift for a loved one can actually be a fun experience. Make the experience of checking off your list a memorable day trip or weekend away. No matter the person you’re shopping for, there’s an Ontario destination that’ll fit the bill.
Richmond St, London
Most Ontario fashionistas don’t think of London as the place to spend an afternoon. However, Richmond Row – the few blocks on Richmond Street (between Oxford and Dundas St.) – has a pleasing choice of trendy boutiques that offer good collections of work and casual clothes (mostly for the 35+ woman). And compared with other North America’s other fashion centres, you’re trading crowds for attentive service and free two-hour street parking.
Queen St, Port Perry
Picture this: a pretty and historic downtown, bright blue waters reflecting scores of boats, a local history museum, and a main street full of interesting boutiques. And all this surrounded by farm markets and provided with a most friendly welcome. The town is Port Perry, just north of the 401 on Highway 7/12. While there is something for everyone when it comes to the shops here, there’s quite a few good shops for women.
Men’s fashion and shopping opportunities often seem overlooked on Ontario’s main streets, but that’s not the case here. Two mid- to high-end menswear options are within easy walking distance: Channer’s and Paul Puncher. Both offer expert service to help put together a casual smart outfit or find the perfect suit. Find brands that aren’t available on most high streets to get something that will set the men in your life apart from the crowd.
This is one Christmas shopping excursion your kids will beg to come on. First up is a visit to the ‘Toy Building Zone’ in the St. Jacobs Outlet Mall. Here it is all about Lego! From Star Wars kits to hard-to-find architecture projects, if you can dream it, this Lego store probably has it. You can even try to schedule your trip for an in-store event when staff show off the latest products in person and demonstrate advanced building techniques.
Then head into the historic heart of St. Jacobs to visit the Waterloo Central Railway’s Train Store. Pick up miniature homes and trees for your train world or a conductor’s hat to add to a dress-up box. And why not take a trip on one of the real-life trains that ferry families to Waterloo.
Celebrating the best of Canadian science and technology innovation, this museum boasts a gift shop that goes beyond the usual. There’s astronaut ice cream pouches, chemistry sets, and build-your-own battery kits designed to bring out the inventor and problem solver in kids large and small.
You won’t believe all the art galleries this village packs into their compact main street. Standing on the main corner, you can’t point to several excellent shops, particularly specialising in paintings by Canadian artists. This is a great stop on a road trip to the Blue Mountains or Tobermory.
There are communities that have more art galleries, but Bayfield has most beat when it comes to quality. There is the unmissable Marten Arts Gallery with a good mixture of jewellery, furniture, glass, and painting. Plus there are JMR Art Gallery, Main Street Gallery and Kryart, each offering unique, quality artwork.
McMichael Art Collection, Kleinburg
You’d be hard-pressed to find a more colourful and artistic gift shop nearly anywhere. Artwork by First Nations artists as well as the Group of Seven can be found adorning posters, mugs, and scarves. Skip the mall and get something truly interesting for that special person who appreciates Canadian art in all its forms.
Antiques and home decor
The Northumberland County towns of Port Hope, Cobourg, and Grafton are an antique hunter’s dream, with over a dozen inspiring shops to choose from. These towns are also picturesque and walkable as well, with many “architectural antiques” to enhance your shopping experience. Port Hope, in particular, is perhaps the only small town in the province with so many antique shops of such high calibre and spanning so many styles and eras.
Collingwood’s main street has a kilometre of fantastic boutiques, many of which are located in heritage buildings with period details, such as original tin ceilings. Although there are are shops of every type, the sheer number of home decor shops makes Collingwood the perfect place for furnishing a new home or finding that perfect piece to finish off a room.
Niagara on the Lake
Niagara-on-the-Lake is arguably one of the best tourist destinations in Ontario. Niagara-on-the-Lake appeals to those looking to connect with local agriculture and indulge in fine wine and gourmet food.
Along the main street of Niagara-on-the-Lake are a variety of stores catering to the food lover, including stores for Greaves Jam and Kurtz’ Orchard which includes gourmet sauces and preserves from these local farms and production facilities.
Stratford and Perth County
Best-known as the home to the Stratford Festival, Perth County is also famous in culinary circles for organic vegetables, high quality pork products, one of Canada’s premier chefs’ schools, and a new slow-food market. To truly appreciate Perth’s bounty, you’ll not only visit local food markets and specialty boutiques, but visit the farms where this food is grown and raised. Stratford also has a variety of boutiques with locally made fare, from chocolates to cheese.
Kawartha Lakes are home to quite a few First Nations shops, with handmade, affordable items perfect for under the Christmas tree, including moccasins, artwork, Christmas ornaments, and gift wrap and cards. Whetung Ojiba Centre is a must-visit, but there are also Rosey’s Trading Post and the Pine Tree Trading Post. While you’re in the area, don’t forget to stop by Gallery on the Lake which has an excellent collection of Canadian artists.
Many of Thunder Bay’s art galleries have a First Nations bent, including Ahnisnabae – Roy Thomas Art, Chenier Fine Arts, Lake Superior Art Gallery, Thunder Bay Art Gallery gift shop, and Fireweed Crafts.