Cedar Falls: Main Street
Cedar Falls’ Main Street is exactly what a main street should be: a collection of city blocks along which you can find great restaurants and bars, visit the public library, attend a play or musical (at the historic Oster Regent Theatre), study at a coffee shop, chill at a brewery, learn a new art, get your hair done and shop for everything from furniture to jewelry to fine wines at locally owned businesses.
Browsing home decor shop Fig & Frolic (just off Main Street at 114 W 5th St) is like walking through a folksy museum featuring quirky but on-trend items such as Edison bulb light fixtures, novelty throw pillows and dozens of gorgeous art prints, many with a vintage feel — and all with affordable price tags. Another ampersand-sporting store, Hatchlings & Hens (602 State St), is a homespun feast for the eyes, selling repurposed wares and offering crafting courses. For more vintage, rustic goodness, swing by the eclectic Little Prairie Girl (206 Main St).
Want a snack, or a delightful culinary gift idea? Downtown Cedar Falls is home to the original Scratch Cupcakery (315 Main St) and the gourmet popcorn shop Here’s What’s Poppin’ (220 Main St). I recommend the apple cider cupcake and the Reese’s popcorn.
Cedar Rapids: NewBo District
I love shopping for gifts for my loved ones, but there’s nothing worse than having to make a million trips all around town. That’s why I love the New Bohemia district, because I can get all of my gift shopping done in one place. I start at Rare Bird Soap Shop inside NewBo City Market (1100 3rd St SE) to score points with my mom and my mother-in-law. My go-tos are always their soap bars. Not only do they smell lovely, but they look beautiful too. Their Citrus Blossom scent is my absolute fave!
Next is Raygun just across the street (1028 3rd St SE). My family lives in Mexico and they enjoy sporting some Cedar Rapids flare to puzzle people back home. Then I’m off to Analog Vault (215 11th Ave SE) to shop for the hubs (and myself). Even though you might not know what music treasures you’ll find here, it is almost a certainty you will find a good gift.
Just around the corner is Next Page Books (1105 Third Street SE), an adorable little book shop with a great and diverse selection of titles for everybody — here I found two of the cutest children’s books for my nieces last year. And last, but definitely not least, is one of my favorite spots in town, Almost Famous Popcorn (1121 3rd St SE) Do you know anyone that doesn’t like popcorn? Me neither. And everyone I have gifted a bag of these sometimes fluffy, sometimes crunchy treats seemed pretty darn excited.
Located along the Mississippi River, the historic Village of East Davenport provides great holiday shopping coupled with the nostalgia of the shopping district’s past as a logging town. As you peruse the shops and restaurants housed in restored 19th century buildings, you’ll find plenty to treat yo’self and your loved ones to.
Stop in at The Plaid Rabbit (1018 Mound St) for all your stationery needs. These snail mail enthusiasts even offer custom design services. You’ll feel right at home at Just Because Gifts & Home Accessories (1109 Mound St), where you’ll find cozy pillows, trendy macrame wall hangings, classic armchairs and even a section of stuffed animals and children’s books.
And don’t forget to stop at the iconic Lagomarcino’s Confectionery & Cafe (2132 11th St), complete with pastel-striped window awnings and a 1940s soda fountain. Dig in to a Reuben sandwich and a Quad Cities Special sundae in Booth No. 3, where Barack and Michelle Obama sat when they visited during the 2012 presidential campaign. Sweet.
Des Moines: East Village
Des Moines’ East Village is filled with shops of all kinds, from a jam-packed kitchen supply store to a hip, workwear-inspired men’s store and plenty in between. I can spend the better part of an hour at Eden (418 E 6th St). The bounty of lotions, potions and treats for your body will keep you busy and happy for a while; they’ve got recognizable brands like Kiehl’s, but you’re guaranteed to discover a new small-batch producer you love.
A trip to Preservation (321 E Walnut St) is a great time to find a unique piece of clothing for your impossibly cool BFF as well as a million things for yourself. They stock lines you don’t always see everywhere else and have an impeccably curated vintage selection. I can’t leave DSM without a stop at Gong Fu Tea (414 E 6th St). There are so many interesting and complex teas, but honestly, my hands-down favorite is their bestselling Spice Tea. I ran out recently and don’t think I’ve been functioning the same since. At Fontenelle Supply Co (524 E Walnut St) you can always find something for that cool dude on your list; think hand-manufactured leather goods and a super stylish selection of quality menswear that will please any sharp dresser.
Downtown Iowa City
I don’t always shop for my entire family last-minute, but when I do every single year, I go to downtown Iowa City, where I can park once and find something for everyone. First stop, White Rabbit (112 S Linn St), where I’ll adorn my loved ones with flamboyant socks, knit winter accessories and vulgar artisan stickers. Then to Om (105 S Linn St), where mystical crystally things for my beloved will clear our house of evil spirits left over from Halloween. East to The Full Kit (332 E Washington St), I’ll grab some cute skater accessories, then baskets galore at Ten Thousand Villages (105 S Dubuque St — hot tip, Ten Thousand Villages also carries menorahs, which are not easy to find around here), after hitting Java House (211 E Washington St) for my traditional last-minute-holiday-shopping dark roast pour over coffee — even if they won’t carry this magazine.
What about art supplies, you say? Why, I was just going to Blick (201 S Clinton St #180) for drawing pads, pen sets and stocking stuffers. And last stops (books are heavy), Daydreams Comics (21 S Dubuque St) and Prairie Lights (15 S Dubuque St). Everyone gets books, no matter what.