Chicago is a gift enough in and of itself, offering an innovative art scene, stunning architecture, culture explosion, eclectic shops, and delicious food to boot. And when it comes to gift experiences, Chicago has it all.
Whether you want to send a gift to an out-of-town friend or you’re shopping for a loved one in the city, Chicago plays host to some of the most thoughtful and unique gifts, experiences, and souvenirs. This year give a piece of the Windy City with one of these best Chicago gifts.
Why give somebody a gift?
Gift giving is a custom that has stuck with us throughout human history, and it’s easy to understand why. At the very core of this tradition is appreciation – we give people gifts to demonstrate our love, to show them that we value and appreciate their place in our lives. It’s the most explicit way to tell someone actionably that you are grateful for them.
No one can question the social importance of gift-giving. Although giving is an intricate and complex aspect of human interaction, studies have shown that people tend to give gifts to people they want to build relationships with, both platonic and romantic.
Giving a present makes it easy for us to define and establish our friendships, relationships, and other social connections. In other words, giving gifts gives us an opportunity to connect and have a sense of belonging.
As a result, these social connections facilitated by the gift gives us a feeling of satisfaction and a sense of purpose. Just think about it: what would be Christmas without giving or getting a gift? A birthday without gifts is just another excuse to treat your sweet tooth to a cake.
Giving gifts helps foster the bonds we have with our friends, family, and those around us. More than that, it reinforces the feelings, like love or admiration, for someone you’re gifting. Interestingly, it’s usually the giver of the gift who reaps the most emotional benefits from giving.
Giving a gift also helps make someone feel special and acknowledged. Even if it’s a just-because gift, a present is a compelling way to appreciate someone and tell them you’re thankful for them as they are. A meaningful gift does much more than show gratification; it tells the person receiving it that you took the time to think and care about them. This can do wonders for their self-esteem and confidence, too.
A gift can also be a powerful reward, all the more so because we’re hardwired to desire appreciation and praise for a job well done. Whether it’s your sibling graduating, your dad getting promoted, or your parents reaching yet another marriage milestone, giving a gift is the best pat on their back.
Giving a gift is an experience unto itself. A ride on Navy Pier’s Ferris wheel, a dinner in a Chicago rooftop lounge, an impromptu tour on a sailboat, or even a picnic in scenic Millennium Park, all can make for unforgettable gift experiences. Not only are you helping your loved one make great memories, but you’re also having a blast while at it.
Why is Chicago a great city to get a gift from?
Chicago is a gift that keeps on giving. There’s simply so much going on in the Windy City, you’re bound to find the perfect gift for pretty much anyone. Whether you’re looking for a gift experience, buying something for a family member who lives out of town, or purchasing a souvenir to remember this enthralling city, Chicago has unique gifts that’ll fit the bill.
The Second City has no shortage of souvenir mementos, thanks to its direct association with authentic dishes, gangster history, blues, and so much more. You will definitely be spoiled for choice when it comes to selecting a bit of Chicago to take home.
Art, culture, and music buzz Chicago into life, and it can brighten your day or that of your loved one, too. The city has some of the most treasured museums and art galleries in the US, if not the world. These gems have stores teeming with precious gifts that you can take home as a souvenir.
For example, if the recipient of the gift has an eye for modern art, you won’t go wrong with the Museum of Contemporary Art. With its laid-back vibe, sleek space, and thought-evoking exhibits, you can find everything to please the art lover of any age, from avant-garde decors to sensational children’s toys. You can also gift the museum as an experience, and there are many to choose from, including the Field Museum, the National Museum of Mexican Art, the Art Institute of Chicago, and the Museum of Science and Industry.
Chicago is a foodie mecca, and you won’t be hard-pressed to find something sweet or savory to give as a gift. For one, the city has some of the most coveted candy shops, offering gift-wrapped iconic treats like Cracker Jack, Lemonhead, brownies, truffles, Frango mints, and the special Garrett’s popcorn.
If fashion is your gift of choice, you won’t be disappointed by what Chicago has to offer. In fact, some of the best Chicago gifts are artisan-made clothing. You’ll find a huge variety of locally made jewelry, vintage outfits, and one-of-kinds in eclectic boutiques located through the charming neighborhoods and downtown.
Local artisans, including ceramists, fashion designers, printmakers, dressmakers, and metal-smiths, work hard to whip up something that’s fashionable yet truly Chicago-style. It doesn’t matter whether your taste in fashion is funky, vintage, or progressive, the Chicago fashion community has got you covered.
The Windy City is also a craft brewery mecca, boasting over 160 spots in some of the trendiest neighborhoods. You can sample a few bottles of craft beer in areas including North Center, Irving Park, Logan Square, Lakeview, and Andersonville, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg.
The craft beer scene offers up a huge range of flavor profiles and bottling styles, making a tour of the breweries a gift experience on its own. You go in person, enjoy a tour with the distillers, and perhaps order a few bottles as souvenirs. Don’t forget that you can also buy them online.
Chicago’s central location plays into the whole thing, making it one of the best places to buy a gift from. Unlike Boston, Los Angeles, or New York, the Second City is best positioned for a quick dash in and out of the city. If you prefer to fly, it’s just 2.2 hours to NYC, 1.2 hours to Buffalo, and 3 hours to Salt Lake City … you cannot simply beat that. Best of all, nearly every budget airline serves Chicago.
Are Chicago gifts and souvenirs expensive?
They don’t have to be. You can find the best Chicago gifts and souvenirs to fit any budget, personality, and taste – there’s a little bit of something in Chicago for everyone!
If you’re not looking to splurge on a gift, check out budget-friendly spots like kiosks and stores at Navy Pier, Little Village, Rogers Park, or Hyde Park. The museums in Chicago, particularly the Museum of Contemporary Art and the Art Institute, have a variety of exquisite gifts, although they tend to be pricey. The trick is to set a budget and plan your gift shopping ahead of time.
Are edible gifts from Chicago nice?
Chicago’s culinary history speaks for itself, so edible gifts are definitely an option to consider. As we’ve mentioned, the city features an array of lovely candy stores and exceptional treats, including gift-boxed truffles, chocolates, caramel, toasted coconut rum candy, and other mouth-watering treats.
Need an edible candy or food basket for your friend, family, or special event? There are many treats that can surprise your loved ones and their taste buds this gift-giving season.
In previous days, someone had to visit a candy store or confectionery to have the edible gift sorted, decorated, and wrapped. Today, many places in Chicago ship the sweet stuff, so don’t rule out tasty treats as a gift to give this season. With home-made fudgy chocolate candies, decadent pastries, savory dips, and much more available at old-fashioned ice cream parlors and newer confectionary stores, these edibles are a sure alternative to traditional presents. They are most certainly some of the best Chicago gifts you can give.
If you’re after something tasty and unique that says ‘Hello Chicago,’ we highly recommend famous treats like Frango mint chocolate. Eating this signature Chicago-style chocolate mint goody is like taking a sweet bite out of Windy City’s rich and colorful history. It’s whipped up using a combo of refreshing mint and milk chocolate. To seal the deal, these sugary chocolates are gift-wrapped in an exquisite box, plus you can buy them in-person or online.
But don’t forget Chicago’s famous deep-dish pizza! You can order one from some of Chicago’s most famous pizzerias and have it shipped frozen to the person of your choice.
How was this list made?
Chicago-themed gifts, experiences, and souvenirs are everywhere, making it a little difficult to choose one. That’s why we used a multi-prong strategy to narrow down all the options to a list of only the best Chicago gifts you can get in 2021 and beyond.
To kick off the search for the crème de la crème, we tried to gather a wide variety of Chicago gifts, souvenirs, and experiences, since we know everyone has different preferences. We segmented the list, making sure to recommend something for people who love art, architecture, edible gifts, sports, beer, fashion, and other interests that speak to Chicago’s heritage.
Quality took precedence here. There can only be so many items on a best picks list like this one. That’s why we gave top priority to high-quality gifts that will put a smile on the recipient’s face. Note that each entry we featured here was independently chosen and reviewed by our in-house team.
We didn’t forget to toast to local favorites. Just as you’d want to give that special someone a gift card, we made sure no generic gifts made it to the final list. Local favorites and specialists add a personal touch and fun twist to the gift-giving tradition. A box of local edibles, for instance, might be the perfect solution for a homesick family member. The same is true for loved childhood treats that are sure to bring a big grin to your loved one’s face.
Of course, when giving someone a gift, you must consider their favorite things or meaningful memories in their life. A little personal touch can go a long way towards making the gift even more special and unforgettable. The occasion may also play a role in determining the perfect Chicago gift, and this list has plenty of presents for birthdays, anniversaries, Christmas, and just because. Whether you’re shopping for your boss, dad, mom, sibling, or a friend, you will make them super happy.
Talking of everyone, we did factor in the cost when narrowing down the list. It was imperative that we include products that are modestly-priced yet high-quality. There’s of course something for every budget and personality on this list, from the frugal looking to score a souvenir gem on the cheap to a spendthrift looking to splurge to take a slice of Chicago home.
Sometimes the perfect present is something that’s handcrafted or artisanal. In that vein, our team included a couple of handmade jewelry, artisanal edible gifts, and other elegant items that can’t be found anywhere but in Chicago.
Only meaningful presents made the cut. Naturally, your loved ones love to receive a present that seems to come straight from the heart, especially during Christmas, Hanukkah, Halloween, and other holidays, when everyone comes together to celebrate. In that spirit, we gave priority to unique and personalized gift ideas, something that shows that you spent a little more time thinking about what they would love to get this season.
With all these factors in mind, we ranked the best Chicago gifts that allow you to give more and spend even less. Which Chicago-themed gift or souvenir is your favorite?