Holiday Shopping, North Carolina Style

Holiday shopping can be stressful, but not if you’re armed with gift suggestions unique to North Carolina for everyone on your list. From the foodie to the hard-to-shop-for, use our gift guide to find the perfect presents for your friends and family this year.

For the Art Lover

North Carolina is filled with artist communities that produce pieces any art lover would treasure. Consider Seagrove for an original piece of glazed, earthenware pottery made from North Carolina clay, and leave with an encyclopedic education covering everything from kilns to glazes, not to mention a gift sure to delight.

In the mountains, art offerings include Asheville's River Arts District. Here, multiple microbreweries are nestled among an active community comprised of more than 280 artists working with paint, clay, glass, paper, wood and more. The studios are housed in 20-plus factories and historical buildings.

Just northeast of Asheville is Spruce Pine, where the Market on Oak – a nonprofit benefiting local craftsmen and small businessmen while providing scholarships to high school kids – hosts artisans and farmers who purvey everything from quilts to CDs, all laced with the undeniable local flavor of Appalachia.

On the coast, both New Bern and Wilmington are great options to stroll from gallery to gallery and pick out pieces your family will love. Time your trip to coincide with a Friday evening gallery walk – New Bern's is on the second Friday of every month, while Wilmington's is on the fourth Friday – to make shopping even more fun. 

For the Foodie

Impress foodie friends and family with gastronomic treasures from native North Carolina culinary offerings. Dewey’s Bakery of Winston-Salem offers a selection of Moravian Cookies – one of North Carolina’s finest exports – in flavors ranging from classic sugar to key lime, as well as a fully outfitted bakery for customized cakes and pastries.

Staying with sweets, visit French Broad Chocolate Lounge in Asheville, where chocolatiers craft caramels, truffles and scratch-made cakes. Gift various collections for an indulgence of artisanal chocolate. Additional sweet stops include Videri Chocolate Factory in Raleigh for gift boxes and bars with custom wrappers, or Burry Chocolates in Hampstead (a half-hour north of Wilmington) for bourbon cherries and almond butter crunch.

For the health-conscious epicurean, try a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) membership from Elysian Fields Farms in Cedar Grove (in the Triangle area) for fresh, seasonal produce each week throughout the farming season.

For the Adventurer

When something from the store won’t suffice, try an experience gift that promises adventure. For the thrill-seeker, gift an all-sport season pass to Charlotte’s US National Whitewater Center, where whitewater rafting, mountain biking and zip lining are among several activities to quench adventurous spirits in a man-made park that still exudes authenticity.

Two people going down zip lines with crowd of people on lawn below and whitewater river in background
photo credit: US National Whitewater Center

For rafting or kayaking without restrictions, give a gift card or guided tour from the Nantahala Outdoor Center of Bryson City. Known for its swirling, spitting rapids, the Nantahala River challenges the seasoned adventurer.

Along the coast, hang gliding, kiteboarding and kayaking classes are available from Kitty Hawk Kites of the Outer Banks, while Wilmington offers lessons from its popular Indo Jax Surf School.

For the Fashionista

In the hierarchy of hard-to-buy-for folks, the fashionista often triumphs. Fortunately, North Carolina offers multiple luxury shopping destinations fit for the fashion forward. At North Hills in Raleigh, browse freestanding boutiques nestled along a walkable square, all surrounding a twinkling Christmas tree. Stop into Monkee’s for shoes and handbags from designers Tory Burch or Kate Spade, Charlotte’s for exquisite trinkets and monogrammed everything (even rain boots), or Lululemon for high-end athletic apparel. If buying name brands, SouthPark mall in Charlotte shops like the pages of Vogue. Options include jewelry from Tiffany & Co. or handbags via Louis Vuitton.

Of course, if buying on a budget, flock to the Tanger Outlets of Mebane and pick up something from Polo or Saks Off Fifth. Another popular stop is Charlotte Premium Outlets, which features high-end retailers such as Kate Spade New York, Michael Kors and Under Armour.

Don't forget the many locally owned boutiques statewide, including Lucky Penny in Boone, Pink Poppy in Greensboro, Edge of Urge in Raleigh and Wilmington, and Lilbelle in Charlotte.

For the Hard-to-Shop-For

Step away from the generic gift card and try something new for those hard-to-shop-for friends and family. Stop in to Biltmore Village in Asheville, a shopping experience that reflects the mountain town’s bohemian vibe. Visit Estate Jewelry for exquisite jewelry, Gardners Cottage for unusual plants or Olde World Christmas Shoppe for a personalized tree ornament.

Though seemingly unassuming, Raleigh’s Village District hosts original stores with character, including Antiques Emporium for international art, furniture and decor. Try Tin Roof Teas, a family-owned tea emporium with international tea choices ranging from South Africa to Japan, not to mention stone and porcelain tea pots to pair.

For a journey to the days of old, visit the original Mast General Store of Valle Crucis, known for carrying everything from “cradles to caskets.”

Updated November 9, 2023
About the Author

Blair Rumley Cofield

Blair Rumley Cofield is a graduate of University of North Carolina with a degree in Southern Studies. She lives in Raleigh and restricts her barbecue intake to eastern-style only.

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