The USO Giving Tree at The Headquarters at Seaport
The USO Giving Tree at The Headquarters at Seaport

OMG, it’s already mid-November! I can’t believe I’m thinking about holiday gift ideas and where to shop. Earlier this week I spent a day at The Headquarters at Seaport to get some ideas, and also a cup of gelato. It’s a great alternative to the malls this time of year (I dread the parking lots the most).

For my local friends, I love getting gifts that scream San Diego and have that handcrafted feel. Urban Beach House is perfect for that, and I already bought a few cutesy items for friends who seemingly have everything. They have mugs, dishtowels, necklaces, shirts, wall art, throw pillows, tote bags, etc. that include San Diego maps or iconic landmarks. And yes, I have also bought a few of these items for myself.

My other favorite store is Seaside Papery, a stationary and card shop that literally has a card for every occasion. Since I’m a sucker for everything local, I bought postcards with a map of the San Diego coastline, as well as stationary that has a print of the Coronado bridge. Since I get a ton of cute holiday family photos in the mail every year, I end up sending out handwritten notes or thank you cards to return the favor.

To take a break from all the energy I exerted during shopping, I stopped by Gelato Paradiso to get a frozen treat. Their gelato is handmade in small batches every morning using Sicilian recipes and Italian ingredients. Not only does it look beautiful, but OH MAN is it good! My favorite part is that you can chose up to four flavors in a single cup. I opted for three to show some kind of restraint. I’m obsessed with anything that has coconut or peanut butter flavoring, so those two were a given. And since pumpkin is only available for a limited time, I went for it. That has got to be the most random flavor combination in gelato history.

I popped in to the boutique next door called Lolo that has trendy clothes and accessories. You’ll see a lot of clothes with asymmetrical silhouettes and bias cuts because the Belgian owners brought a bit of Euro flair with them to San Diego. The prices are pretty affordable, but I realized that I was really there to shop for me… not other people. So I quickly bought a pair of gold dangle earrings and left.

I made my way over to Madison San Diego, another boutique that has a ton of jewelry. I’ve always thought that jewelry makes the best gifts, and it’s usually hard to screw up (unless you’re a man, and then somehow you guys manage to find the only dud in an otherwise amazing collection – just saying). I bought a rhinestone bracelet that may or may not go to my sister. The shop also has clothes, accessories, travel items and home decor.

Since Venissimo Cheese was RIGHT there, I stopped in for some samples and to ask about creating a cheese platter for holiday parties. I learned that the rind is the most flavorful part of cheese and that you’re supposed to eat it—not throw it away. How have I gone my whole life without knowing that?! And, more importantly, how much beloved cheese have I wasted over the years? To prevent waste, Venissimo actually sells odds & ends pieces ($3 for three pieces) so you can try new cheeses without committing to a whole wedge. I really want to go back so that I can try some of their sandwiches (mmm grilled cheese).

A cheese platter at Venissimo
A cheese platter at Venissimo

To get back on track, I went to check out Simply Local, a store that’s basically a compilation of local, handmade products. More than 55 artisans have booth space there, including everything from spices to jewelry to clothing to stationary. My favorite is the collection from Ashley Ann Bennett – she paints on leather to create earrings, bracelet cuffs and headbands, and also paints really cool designs on leggings, purses and scarves. Many of the designs have feathers or tribal-inspired prints that are so on trend right now. Since Ashley is gorgeous, you totally want to buy her stuff so that you can look like her – or at least steal her style.

Instead of buying leggings, though, I went over to Dallmann Fine Chocolates to get my mom her favorite triple chili dark chocolate. Fact: chocolate makes for great gifts. My family always has a few boxes circulating around the living room during the holidays. Dallmann has really rich, high-quality chocolate, and they offer free samples (if you ask)!

For the second consecutive year, The Headquarters has partnered with USO San Diego to do a holiday giving tree to benefit local military families. Beginning Nov. 28, you can donate toys or gift cards that will go to deserving families. The tree is already up in the courtyard, but the lighting ceremony will be held the day after Thanksgiving.

Holiday shopping often makes me hangry. Once you’ve spent the day browsing the shops at The Headquarters, head over to Puesto for some tacos and a margarita. Puesto is my favorite taco shop in town, which is a pretty bold statement considering how much competition is out there. They recently added new menu items, like the swordfish taco, milanesa taco, carne asada bowl, Puesto perfect guacamole (with big chunks of parmesan cheese – it’s amazing), and pumpkin flan. I really like the Puesto perfect margarita, but if you’re not in the mood for tequila, get one of their housemade agua frescas. I also love their esquite street corn and the regular flan, too.

Happy shopping!

Some of the new menu items at Puesto
Some of the new menu items at Puesto
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