While there’s no doubt that the rack of corporate gift cards at the grocery store checkout line makes for convenient gift buying, let’s face it—these gifts may be useful, but they’re not very exciting.  Instead of yet another big box holiday, how about trying one of these ideas for gift shopping in Arlington that are sure to result in stocking stuffers that sparkle and gifts that delight:

Gene Allen’s Gifts

Old-fashioned customer service and a charming inventory of cards and collectibles are just two of the many reasons why Gene Allen’s has been an Arlington shopping staple since the 1960s. For me, the store’s old school, non-corporate vibe and convenience are also two of its biggest draws—you can park close to the front door, get help with your selection from a friendly clerk, and there’s even free gift wrap for items over $10. Tips for gifts: Check out Gene Allen’s embroidered initial linen Christmas tea towels or Nora Fleming interchangeable serving pieces—you choose a base piece like a platter, then select mini decorative seasonal or themed attachments. Also, don’t forget about Gene Allen’s famous cream and butter fudge, available in Christmas trees or the shape of Texas.

Acorns Gift Shop

If you’re shopping for something unusual, you can’t go wrong with one of my favorite gift shopping destinations in Arlington, the Acorns Gift Shop at River Legacy Parks. Located next to the Living Science Center, Acorns offers an array of interesting nature and science-themed gifts, including books, toys, games and stuffed animals, plus birding and gardening items, home décor, jewelry and more. Tips for gifts: Acorns has hiking sticks that make fine gifts for dads and granddads, lotions and lip balms available in gift packaging for moms and grandmoms, and a collection of Folkmanis puppets that are great for kids (and kids at heart). Acorns is also the only place in North Texas where you can buy Wee Forest Folk, an absolutely adorable collection of handmade miniatures.

Main Street Soap

This Arlington- based maker of fancy organic soaps is an excellent choice for anyone looking for something different in the way of client or employee gifts. Soap styles include tea tree, goat milk, rosemary mint, Texas bluebonnet and peppermint candy, all representing a gorgeous and satisfying array of colors, textures, and fragrances. Tips for gifts: Check out Main Street’s Texas Gift Basket, which includes Texas-themed bath salts, sugar scrubs and other items.

Gifts for foodies and coffee lovers

My favorite new place for food-themed gift items is Urban Alchemy in Downtown Arlington, where you can meet a friend for a glass of wine and some lively conversation and also pick up gifts of gourmet roasts and up-market wines while you’re there—and I love taking care of two things at once! Besides Urban Alchemy, other Arlington destinations for food-themed gifts that are well worth exploring include Sugar Bee Sweets, The Popcorn Store (a favorite of mine since childhood) and Potager’s Other Stuff.

Gifts of experience

The first time I gave the gift of an experience was more than 25 years ago when I gave my grandmother  tickets to see George Strait – remembering her reaction when she opened the box still makes me smile. Gift cards get spent and technology becomes outdated, but a special memory of time spent with your favorite people, doing something you don’t always get to do, is guaranteed to last forever. For a memorable Arlington experience, my short list of recommendations includes tickets to Symphony Arlington or Theatre Arlington, an Arlington Museum of Art membership, a gift certificate for a class at the Texas Coffee School (a very cool “best kept secret” Arlington destination)—or, consider gifting a class at Board & Brush (a DIY wooden sign workshop that recently opened at Urban Union) or Sparks Creative Studio (a multi-media art studio also located in Downtown Arlington).

Gifts of self-care

Even though I know that self-care is important, I usually feel too guilty to splurge on something like a facial or massage (although I’ve been known to get over it once or twice). In other words, I’m always delighted when someone gifts me something in the “wouldn’t buy it for myself” category, and I’m betting you know lots of people who are the same way. For gifts of relaxation and wellness in Arlington, my two top choices are the wonderful Arlington Yoga Center or the Sanford House Inn & Spa, where you can gift not just a spa treatment but a whole weekend getaway.

More shopping in Arlington