Home for the Holidays: Top 10 Shop Local Tips On and Around the San Mateo Coast
As usual, I’m running late on my plans to shop local and unique in time for the holidays. Thus I’m publishing this blog so I can read it again before November next year!
Every year I resolve to avoid crowded malls “over the hill,” as we Coastsiders call any location north of Pacifica or east of Half Moon Bay. And while Amazon and the online shopping options are convenient and offer an endless array of goods, there is something very special about giving a unique gift from Half Moon Bay or San Mateo coastal communities. For me, it’s shopping local. For visitors, it’s an opportunity to find a unique gift you can’t get anywhere else.
My top 10 shopping tips for local and unique:
- Start early at the Johnston House Holiday Boutique. Held the first and second weekends in November, this is a great kickoff to the holiday season. Christmas trees are beautifully decorated in every room of this lovely Victorian home. It’s a shopping opportunity to find goods from local and regional artists and local stores and vendors, but also a time to visit historic Johnston House just south of Half Moon Bay. Johnston was a San Francisco-based real estate investor and saloon owner who acquired 1,100 acres of the Miramontes ranch south of Half Moon Bay in 1851. The house was built from 1851-1853 and stands as a unique sentinel (the style is East Coast saltbox, not old West) just south of Half Moon Bay.
- Visit Half Moon Bay downtown during Night of Lights. This is a wonderful old-fashioned holiday event attended primarily by Half Moon Bay residents, but all are welcome. Night of Lights is held the first Friday of December in downtown Half Moon Bay, with stores open late, music, tree lighting, and a parade.
- Whether at Night of Lights or visiting Half Moon Bay any day, historic Main Street is a treasure trove. Downtown Half Moon Bay is home to a number of locally owned and operated boutiques - some of which have been in business for many years. Some of my favorites include P. Cottontail for children’s clothing and gifts, Posh Moon and Personal FX for women’s clothing, jewelry and accessories, Luz Luna for fair trade goods from around the world, Abode for unique home goods, and Barterra for the gift of world-class wine and California extra virgin olive oil.
- Visit Harley Farms in Pescadero. And if this international award-winning goat dairy is having its annual Christmas Fair, you’re doubly blessed! Local crafts, wreath making, and workshops enhance the goat cheese tasting experience. And I’m all about consumables for holiday gifts. Harley Farms goat cheeses are not only delicious but they’re beautiful too. Harley has lovely gift boxes and if goat cheese is too perishable for you, try some of their bath and body products. Look for Christmas Fair announcements - usually scheduled the second weekend in December.
- While you’re at Harley, check out rustic Pescadero for unique gifts. Downtown Pescadero is small but mighty. Enjoy a soul-warming bowl of cream of artichoke soup at Duartes - I also love the homemade soups and pizzas at the Pescadero Country Store. Check out Made in Pescadero for hand-crafted goods - it’s most famous for furniture but there are also gorgeous pieces of art and crafts from local artisans. http://www.madeinpescadero.com/
- Bid on a gingerbread house at the Ritz Carlton. Want to glitz it up during the holidays with a visit to Half Moon Bay’s luxury resort while doing good for the community? The annual gingerbread house competition held the first week in December, is tons of fun and the houses are up for sale via a silent auction to benefit the Coastside Childrens Programs (preK and school age child care at local school sites). Get in the holiday spirit in elegant style - there’s a gorgeous tree, caroling, and stay around for a sunset cocktail or splurge on a dinner at Navio.
- Go to local church bazaars. During the Christmas season, check out the local churches! You have to be in the know, but there’s no harm in poking around the local churches to see if there is a bazaar the weekend you’re in town. Historic downtown Community United Methodist Church, for example, hosts an annual bazaar the first weekend in December. That’s where I get Lois’s famous olallieberry jam made from local berries and Half Moon Bay-themed shirts from local t-shirt maker Cruiser Lifestyle. Local artist Rebecca Ellis has beautiful cards and artwork - many featuring Half Moon Bay area nature scenes.
- Speaking of artists, the San Mateo Coast is teeming with talented artists. In early November, they host Open Studio where you’re invited into the artists’ homes to view their art, textiles, jewelry, and more. colonyofcoastsideartists.com. And if you’re lucky, you may be in town when this group of 85 artists from Montara to Half Moon Bay have a pop-up Open Studio weekend. You’ll see the signs along Highway 1.
- Go to the Half Moon Bay Farmers Market. Held May through December at Shoreline Station in Half Moon Bay, it’s not only a terrific spot to purchase local organic produce but also local crafts, jewelry, and edible treats appropriate for gift-giving. I love Dave St. Andrews’ Café de Mi Abuelo. He roasts the beans locally from his family’s farm in Nicaragua. The coffee is absolutely fantastic and makes a great gift (it never gets beyond my grinder, however).
- Filoli’s Holiday Traditions. Ok, so it’s "over the hill" but I’ve been performing at Filoli with my harpist friend Pamela Bowen (I’m a vocalist) for the past 10 years and it’s chock a block full of incredible gifts for the holidays. Plus, it’s an eye-popping extravaganza of elegantly decorated trees and wreaths throughout the historic mansion. I love gifts of Filoli’s own vinegars infused with ingrredients from their gardens. I often include Filoli in tour itineraries - but this time of year is very special. Holiday Traditions starts the day after Thanksgiving and is on for a week.