The 2023 Holigay Gift Guide with Carson Kressley

259
Carson Kressley
Carson Kressley photo credit: Matt Monath

Year after year, the elves at Out In Jersey scour the marketplaces for fun and thoughtful gift ideas to consider buying your friends and family. We’ve had a lot of unique gifts featured from candles to cameras, custom ornaments to, well, we’ll call them “sexy accoutrements” to really jingle those bells.

This year, I sat with Carson Kressley over some eggnog with a splash of holigay cheer included to see what types of gifts he finds for his loved ones. With an array of options on an array of different budgets, here are the gifts that Carson suggests are best:

Books

Books sitting on a bed
Books

“Books as gifts can range from inexpensive flea market finds from places like Strand Books in NYC or at the Slatington Market Place in Slatington, Pa., to more high-end stores like Rizzoli and Assouline, available online.”

Curling up with a good book has become a bit of a lost art for many of us who prefer 280 characters or less, but even if you don’t have an avid reader in your life, there’s room for reading. Think of the passions and hobbies of your gift recipient and consider finding a few beautiful coffee table books. Not only will you get them something relevant to what they love, but you might elevate their design too.

Broadway Tickets

A person is holding a glass of wine and standing in front of a red curtain.
Broadway

“There are tons of productions happening in New York for the holidays. The Rockettes are a classic, and even though I’ve been a million times (okay, 7 actually) it’s always a great memory maker. It’s the quintessential holiday experience in New York. But, if that’s not your style, you can find a zillion other great ideas at broadwayworld.com.”

Living in New Jersey, it’s easy to forget that New York City is so close. More than material things, a memory to be had is one of the longest-lasting gifts. Get a couple of tickets to a Broadway play and go into the city for the day. There’s nothing like an amazing production and a great dinner to take a break from the day-to-day grind.

Art

Abstract art yellow and black splatters on a grey background
Art

“From flea markets to ‘make your own’ to online resources like Oliver Gal, art makes a great gift that can be enjoyed for a lifetime. I think this is especially good for new homeowners looking to personalize their space.”

Receiving unique artwork can be one of the most thoughtful of gifts. Often, we’re inclined to decorate our homes with what could be considered “Hotel’s Greatest Hits.” Big-box home decor shops often offer very generic artwork without meaning. Instead, find a local artist or, to Carson’s point, go to a flea market or antique shop to find something no one else has in their home. Don’t be afraid to make it weird either; artwork that sparks a conversation is the best type of spark.

Plants

Plants on a window ledge
Plants

“For the green thumb or even not-so-green thumb, plants always brighten up the holidays. Places like Harry & David usually carry a great amaryllis set where you just add water to a pre-planted pot and the bulb springs into action! How easy and fun is that?”

Houseplants, particularly ones that are easy to care for, can add an incredible visual element to any decorative motif. Live greenery can completely transform a space and add so much texture to a room. Consider a local dealer to find a fantastic house plant, pick out unique pottery, and wrap a bow on it. It’s even more helpful when you let the recipient know how to care for their new foliage friend.

Self Care

A man is massaging the back of a man on a massage table.
Self Care

“I think some of the best holiday gifts are the indulgent self-care treats we often don’t give ourselves. A massage, facial, or mani-pedi gift card will be so appreciated after the holiday rush when we all need a little TLC.”

Self care is something too easy to neglect. Consider gift cards to local masseurs and salons for your loved ones. Many traditional barber shops also include a drink and hot towel service with their trim and beard packages. Make sure wherever you land on getting a gift certificate that the experience the recipient will have is elevated and excellent.

Cashmere

Twisted grey cashmere cloth.
Cashmere

“Cashmere is easier to find and more affordable than ever. Try quince.com for luxurious cashmere for men and women at super reasonable prices, often from the same mills and makers as high-end designer brands!”

With the cold weather ahead, there is nothing like being comfortable and cozy, while also stylish. Cashmere is a timeless style that belongs in anyone’s closet, sure to please any gift-getter in your life.

Bourbon

A glass of Bourban
Bourban

“You could do a really fun and functional ‘old fashioned’ gift basket with a bottle of bourbon, some artisanal bitters, oranges, and a cocktail shaker all in an ice bucket.”

As the winter holidays near, there’s nothing like making a cozy cocktail to pair with family and fun. This gift is sure to max the relaxation, and for your sober friends and family, consider Seedlip as a good alternative to booziness without the wooziness.

Museum Memberships

A photo of a Museum with busts on grey stands in the middle of a room.
Museum

“These great gifts help support local arts institutions and, at the same time, will delight the recipient. Just make sure you choose a museum whose collections or programs they would enjoy!”

New Jersey offers tons of amazing museums and attractions. Whether it’s a day trip to the unique Thomas Edison museum, a membership to the exciting Liberty Science Center, or a walk through the charming Hunterdon Art Museum in Clinton, this type of gift is one of those aforementioned “memory makers.”

Anything Monogrammed

Monogramed book, glasses and a ornament.
Monogram

“From a fluffy robe to a real wood charcuterie board, monogrammed items always feel so personalized and thoughtful to me. Places like American Stationery and Mark and Graham have great options. But order now as these gifts take a bit longer to be whipped up!”

Personalized gifts are often some of the most heartwarming. In addition to having something monogrammed, consider adding to it with a personalized saying, an inside joke, or maybe a term of affection shared with your loved one. A beloved song lyric can also go a long way, inscribed on the side of a box for oddities or a gold plated pen. We’ve found that Etsy has fantastic personalized gift options, while also supporting small businesses.

Fabulous Foods

A wooden platter with pretzel sticks, cheese, nuts and fruit.
Food

“It seems everyone’s a foodie nowadays. I’ve seen some impressive olive oils, jams, and even gorgeous copper pots at HomeGoods (my gift-giving secret weapon). But don’t forget local markets with regional gems like Delicious Orchards in Colts Neck, Zabar’s in New York, and Wally’s online.”

In addition to curating your own gift baskets, New Jersey is filled with sensational, locally-owned bakeries and cheese shops. Clinton not only has a beautiful museum, but they also have a fabulous cheese and gift shop called Fourchette. Owners Brahim and Meredith will welcome you with open arms and a gorgeous cheese or olive oil sample in hand. A short drive south, you’ll find similar charming shops in Frenchtown and Lambertville. Too far west? Head east to Red Bank or south to Cape May for a day of great gift-getting with great experience-gaining.

Johnny Walsh
Johnny Walsh is Out In Jersey magazine's special features editor. He is a pianist, writer, and entrepreneur who has performed in over 20 states and two countries. Johnny is passionate about human rights, creativity, and the arts, and longs for the sentiment of social justice to flow through his writing.