Stop and Shop

What mall? Wrap up your holiday gift- getting during a weekend getaway

November 16, 2008|By Laura Barnhardt | Laura Barnhardt,Special to The Baltimore Sun

Holiday shopping can feel like an expensive chore, robbing you of precious weekends.

Or it can feel like a present to yourself.

We've investigated three destinations, within a few hours drive, where you can get all of your holiday shopping done in a single, concentrated weekend. Use it as a getaway with your girlfriends or a way to entice your spouse into helping you find a gift for his picky parents.

You can justify your short trip's cost because the getaway frees your other weekends so you can do something, anything, besides battling shoppers on a mall parking lot.

Each of these destinations has a mix of boutiques, where your dollars support Main Street businesses and local artists, and larger shopping complexes, where you're sure to find good deals from national chains desperate for customers.

Bring a detailed list, tape and scissors, because after shopping and dining, you'll wrap presents as you sip wine or cocoa at the inn or hotel of your choosing. You'll return home rested, mission complete: a trunk full of wrapped presents (that makes it much harder for kids to peek).

Destination: Berkeley Springs, W.Va.

If there ever were a time of year when you needed to relax, it's the hectic holiday season. That makes this historic town, known for spa treatments, the ideal escape. Being a less-than-two-hour drive from Baltimore makes it a smart choice, too.

On main street: : Mountain Laurel Gallery has items like funky jewelry and whimsical metal sculptures. The gifts are unique and made with quality materials by artists. You might choose a stunning menorah for the newlyweds on your list or a wood vase for your mother-in-law.

For a friend with a green thumb, you'll find gorgeous gardening books and supplies at Nature Niche, where even the hummingbird feeders are works of art.

For the teacher who will be overloaded with Starbucks cards, how about a soothing blend of tea from the Sage Moon Herb Shop? For hostess gifts or something for the couple who like to cook, stop in Wilkes Street Wine Shop.

Lion's Lair, Himalayan Trade and Tour, and Icehouse Artists' Co-Op Gallery are other notable nooks for shoppers.

At the mall: : The Prime Outlets in Hagerstown are just off Interstate 70, about 30 minutes outside of Berkeley Springs. Stores include LL Bean, Ann Taylor, KB Toys, Coach and Gap.

Lodging: : Cabins can be rented for weekends, and charming B&Bs and inns offer the spa services that made Berkeley Springs famous. Our favorite is The Country Inn at Berkeley Springs (1 Market St., 866-458-2210), where rates start at about $99 for a room with a private bath.

Dining: : Begin your day at Fairfax Coffee House. Have lunch or dinner at Tari's, where you'll also find local artwork and gifts. Pick up some Wild Woman salsa (the anti-fruitcake) and a hand-knitted scarf for your persnickety aunt. Other restaurant options include Corner Steak & Sea or Maria's Italian Garden.

Bonus bribe: : At the historic spa and springs, you'll find a tempting array of affordable treatments, including a 60-minute Swedish massage and relaxing steam bath. Up the hill, Lot 12 Public House is a romantic splurge and one of the finest restaurants in the Mid-Atlantic region.

Information: : berkeleysprings.com, primeoutlets .com

Destination: Chestnut Hill, Philadelphia

You'll love the shopping in the neighborhood of Chestnut Hill, with its twinkle lights and unique shops. Even the local hardware store has great gifts. If you miss huge holiday crowds or decide to go rogue, King of Prussia is within reach.

On main street: : At Kilian Hardware, you'll find paperwhite bulbs for teachers, kitchen gadgets for the foodie on your list and old-fashioned tools for Granddad.

At Lemons & Limes, you'll find one-of-a-kind jewelry, Robeez footware for babies, and unique purses.

O'Doodles Toys Unplugged specializes in wood toys, classic games, craft supplies and other treasures you won't find at big-box stores. Plus, its employees do amazing job of gift-wrapping.

More unique gifts can be had at The Happy Butterfly, Kitchen Kapers and Lavender Hill, a home-furnishings outpost.

At the mall: : You could spend a week just at The Plaza and The Court at King of Prussia, billed as the nation's second-largest mall. The Lego Store, Juicy Couture and Bloomingdale's are among the stores not in the Baltimore area. If you can't find it at King of Prussia, it probably doesn't exist.

Lodging: : Chestnut Hill Hotel (8229 Germantown Ave., Philadelphia, 215-242-5905) is on the main thoroughfare, near all of the boutiques. Rates start at $159. Or stay at the convenient Fairfield Inn (258 Mall Blvd., King of Prussia, 610-337-0700). Rates start at $109.

Dining: : Stop for a treat at Metropolitan Bakery or the Hill Tea Bar. For lunch or dinner, try the festive Solaris Grille or the popular Roller's at Flying Fish. Or, drive over to Manayunk, another city neighborhood with dozens of boutiques.

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