There's nothing quite like the holiday season. It's the time of year when we show our thanks to all those people–significant others, family, friends, colleagues and employees–who make our lives more enjoyable and a little easier.
Some people thrive on the challenge of getting everyone on their list the “perfect” gift, while others go blank at the mere thought of setting foot in a shopping mall. (Check out our possibilities for online ordering!) No matter what type of shopper you are, here are some ideas to give you a little inspiration and get you in the holiday spirit. — By Shari Held
If you're stumped for what to get him this year, look no further. We've rounded up some of the best.
The Morris Performing Arts Center
Located in South Bend, this award-winning cultural venue dates back to the Big Band era and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, but it's still a hot spot! It consistently makes Pollstar magazine's Top 100 Theaters Worldwide, and has earned a Prime Sites Award every year since 2006. Upcoming shows include a “Mannheim Steamroller Christmas,” “Home for the Holidays” featuring the South Bend Symphony Orchestra, “Shrek the Musical” and “Wicked.”
We recommend: Purchase the Dinner/Show Ticket Package and enjoy a buffet at the Morris Bistro Restaurant before the show.
Star Plaza Theatre
Merrillville's Star Plaza Theatre is another fantastic option for a gift of an evening out on the town. Upcoming shows include “A Chorus Line” and “Salute to the '60s” featuring Peter Noone, The Grass Roots and The Buckinghams. With the Dinner Show Package, $30 plus the cost of your ticket (rows 8-20) you can enjoy a buffet dinner at the Radisson Star Plaza Hotel.
We recommend: Make it extra special by going VIP. Star Plaza's new VIP Elite package gives you tickets within the first seven rows, preferred parking in front of the theater and access to the venue's Celebrity Circle Lounge. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster (800/745-3000) or the Star Plaza Box Office and vary depending upon the show.
Lost Marsh Golf Course
Gift cards are the most popular Christmastime gift for Lost Marsh in Hammond. You can put any denomination on them. The Pro Shop stocks gloves, tees and golf balls from Calloway, Nike and Top Flite. When it comes to attire, check out the Calloway golf shoes and Cutter and Buck shirts and jackets.
We recommend: The NFL and collegiate Pro Team golf head covers, so he can proclaim his allegiance while he's on the course.
Swan Lake Resort
Swan Lake in Plymouth features two 18-hole golf courses, PGA pros and a spa and fitness center. Treat your guy to a massage or a mani-pedi after a day on the links.
We recommend: Spending the weekend in a resort room and enjoying the resort's pools, whirlpools and saunas. Don't forget to get a massage for yourself!
David's Men's Clothier
Located in Valparaiso, David's Men's Clothier is known for its service. You can purchase a suit and get same-day alterations at no additional charge by the onsite tailor. Suits range from $299 to $1,495 for a top-of-the-line Hickey Freeman, and each is the highest quality for its price-point. David's merchandise runs the gamut from formal to casual wear and classic to eye-catching styles, with looks that appeal to all ages. The store is known for its collection of unusual ties ($39.50 to $200)–some hand-painted–colorful sports shirts with a bit of flair and a great selection of sport coats. One of only a few full-service men's clothing stores in the area, David's provides personal wardrobe consulting services and can help you coordinate your selections right down to the accessories.
We recommend: According to David, purple is big for the fall/winter season and men are dressing up more than they used to. That makes a sharp-looking sport coat a must-have.
Besides giving a dressier look to jeans, sport coats are slimming and practical–their five pockets provide the functionality of a woman's purse! Try a purple, gray and black tweed sports coat with pair of black Agave jeans ($175 to $225) and a nice leather belt for your trendsetter. Switch out the sport coat for a black or brown microfiber one by Visconti ($295) for a more conservative look.
Fishing, Flying, Cheering
The fishermen in your life will appreciate a gift card to the Bass Pro Shop in Portage, which also has boating, camping and hunting gear. Airline tickets to his favorite getaway place–preferably somewhere in the sun–are always appreciated as well.
Sports enthusiasts always enjoy tickets to watch their favorite play–order tickets for the Chicago Bears games from United Club tickets at 866/842-1050. You can order him an official, licensed Classic Chicago Cubs Gift Basket (includes a shirt, cap, tumbler, pennant, lanyard and playing cards) for $79.99 from www.gourmetgiftbaskets.com.
We recommend: Go for the Deluxe basket ($119.99) which also includes a logo hooded sweatshirt.
There's nothing like a bit of pampering to help her de-stress after the hectic holidays. Here are some places for her to try. And don't forget the bling!
The Color Room Salon & Day Spa
The Color Room in Dyer features two package deals–a Ladies Day Out (Swedish massage, facial, aromatherapy oil body wrap, mani-pedi, haircut and style, light makeup and lunch) for $415 and a Ladies Day Out Mini Day Spa (facial and mani-pedi) for $160. It even offers Children's Spa Day parties and children's pedicures ($29) and manicures ($14) for the 12-and-under crowd. The most popular services around the holidays are pedicures, manicures, facials and massages. Try its newest massage–a raindrop massage with essential oils ($90). The spa boutique features unique accessories, earrings, belts, hats, scarves and clothing. Online gift card purchases can be made in any denomination.
We recommend: The Ladies Day Out is the ultimate in pampering, but a raindrop massage and a great new accessory are also great options!
Vanis Salon & Day Spa
With locations at Crown Point, Schererville and Valparaiso, Vanis offers a full range of services from $35 to $370. Spa packages for her include the full-day retreat for $370; half-day retreat for $240 and mini-day retreat for $170. If she enjoys aromatherapy, treat her to an aromatherapy manicure ($35), pedicure ($60) or the Sea Salt Glow with Aromatherapy Oil Wrap ($90), or choose from several massages. For those special occasions, she'll appreciate a full-face makeup application for $45. The salon specializes in hair and eyelash extensions and carries Aveda, Dermalogica, Minardi and GlyMed products. Gift cards can be sent anywhere and can be used at all three locations.
We recommend: The full-day retreat is the ultimate in luxury, and the aromatherapy manicure and pedicure are always welcome.
Inspire Salon & Spa
The atmosphere of this Valparaiso salon and spa is tranquil yet sophisticated. Relax with a motherhood massage or a hot stone massage. Or get rejuvenated with an energizing herbal massage. Gift certificates are available by the package, the service or the denomination.
We recommend: Let them help you put together a gift basket of all her favorite things.
ANOTHER RECOMMENDATION FOR HER: A gift certificate for a stress-busting weekend getaway at the Inn at Aberdeen, blending great food, relaxing accommodations and cheery holiday decor–not to mention a great gift boutique.
Engstrom is known for having “different” and “unique” pieces as well as custom jewelry, extraordinary customer service and repair work. The stores–the main one is in Valparaiso and the second one is in LaPorte–feature brands such as Parade Designs, Belle Etoile, Gelin Abaci, Natalie K, Chamilia and Citizen watches. The trends in jewelry, according to Amy Perry, include white gold or sterling silver in larger, bold items and round center stones for diamond engagement rings, with a princess cut or cushion cut running a close second.
We recommend: Depending on her style, either something fun and a little out of the ordinary from the Belle Etoile line or something more traditional such as diamond stud earrings. They never go out of style and prices range from $200 to $20,000 or more.
For Him & Her
Albert's Diamond Jewelers
This family-owned jeweler carries lines such as Cartier, Chopard, David Yurman, Tacori, Simon G, Breitling, Tag Heuer and Mikimoto and features in-house appraisals and a custom design jewelry shop. Albert's also has a terrific selection of loose diamonds. There are two convenient locations, in Schererville and at Southlake Mall in Merrillville.
We recommend: His and Hers watches. Albert's carries more than 35 brands of watches at every price-point from $100 to $60,000. The Tag Heuer and Movado lines are a good bet for His and Hers watches. Stainless steel and white metal are best sellers but rose gold, sometimes just as a trim, is also popular.
Besides the bags and clubs and other golf paraphernalia, J&M carries golf clothing, including a full line of women's skorts, shirts, rainwear and hats. Clothing is an important part of the game. Manager Tony Lane says when golfers look and feel good, their play improves. The store, located in St. John, also carries the most popular items in official logo merchandise–sports, collegiate and military–year 'round. Logo shirts range from $39 to $59.
We recommend: Golf is a highly personal game, so a gift card will be most welcome. At J&M you can get a gift card for any denomination.
Westfield Southlake Mall
Merrillville's Westfield Southlake Mall has more than 150 shopping options and 30 restaurants to please everyone on your list.
We recommend: The Westfield gift card from American Express. It can be used anywhere within the mall. Buy yours online in denominations from $20 to $500.
Don't forget your employees around the holidays. A holiday bonus or cash gift is always welcome, but here are some additional ideas in a wide range of price points.
Consider gift cards for Amazon.com, Best Buy or several of the area's great restaurants such as Gino's Steakhouse in Dyer, The Lighthouse Restaurant in Cedar Lake or Ciao Bella Ristorante in Schererville.
Memberships to AAA or a fitness club are other options. A one-year contract to Omni Health & Fitness in Schererville runs about $732, plus a one-time initiation fee. One-month memberships are a flat $75.
We recommend: Gift cards are always appropriate and appreciated.
Food And Floral Gifts
Nothing says “holidays” better than some extra-special goodies. The elegant packaging is just icing on the cake!
Beautiful holiday floral arrangements make nice gifts for administrative assistants or managers, and this Chicago family-owned and operated shop has been making them since 1924. The shop maintains records (names, addresses and specific instructions), so for reorders all you have to do is give them the person's name. Businesses can make corporate arrangements for ongoing deliveries. Besides flowers and plants, Fasan offers decorated baskets, starting at $39.95, filled with fruit and other goodies.
We recommend: Upgrade to a gourmet gift fruit basket. Just tell them what you want to add–a bottle of wine or a box of Godiva chocolates perhaps–and they'll make it for you. Allow a couple extra days for specific items.
DeBrand Fine Chocolates
Who can resist chocolate that not only tastes delicious, but is beautiful to behold? DeBrand's classic collection, from $23 to $92, is the top-seller year round. For the holidays, try stacking a few boxes to create a tower and add a couple chocolate bars that say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays.” Holiday place settings ($10.50) –a couple of chocolate bars with a small box of classic pieces–are great for entertaining or to use as favors. Other great gift ideas that will make your mouth water are the Gourmet S'mores Kit ($35) and anything from the Truffle, Connoisseur or Chocolate Indulgences collections.
We recommend: DeBrand's truffle wreath box at $132 comes in milk or dark chocolate and is filled with truffles. After you eat the truffles, you can eat the box! And who could say “no” to a chocolate gift basket such as the Indulgence Pyramid at $40.50 or the Abundant Tray for $260.
What would a holiday be without great food? Here are some options to make your mouth water.
Lucrezia Cafe and Restaurant
Both the Chesterton and Crown Point locations feature quite a selection of incredible Italian food. The Crown Point restaurant, housed in the historic William Barringer Brown Mansion, has two private dining rooms on the upper level that can accommodate from 20 to 70 people. Lucrezia also does offsite catering. You can choose from a diverse selection of appetizers, soups and salads, party trays, entrees, side dishes and desserts. The most popular catered entrees are the chicken Vesuvio, the pasta primavera and the tasty tiramisu.
We recommend: The restaurant favorites–braised lamb shanks and spaghetti with veal meatballs.
Teibel's Family Restaurant
For fresh, home-cooked food, have your holiday party at Teibel's in Schererville. The restaurant has private banquet rooms that can accommodate 40 to 400 guests and serves a buffet-style breakfast as well as luncheons and dinners. Try the dinner and cocktail package for $40. Teibel's catering service will take care of your office party (groups of 20 or more) starting at $10.95 per person, and that includes chicken plus two other meats or main dishes. They deliver to the greater Northwest Indiana area.
We recommend: The house specialties–fried chicken, lake perch, homemade coleslaw and rolls.
With its stone fireplace and rustic log cabin ambiance, Northwoods in St. John is a popular spot for corporate functions. Private dining rooms are available on the main level and upstairs, and the restaurant can accommodate parties from 20 to 80 guests. There are special party menus for banquets. Catering is also available, and you can order off the menu or create a custom menu.
We recommend: Try the pot roast or the lake perch!
Don Quijote Restaurante
You'll dine on authentic Iberian cuisine, featuring two versions of paella and 25 kinds of tapas while the decor–murals, balconies and outdoor street lamps–transports you from Valparaiso to Old Spain. There's no additional charge for the banquet room, which seats 24 very comfortably and can hold up to 30 people, and the restaurant also caters office parties so you can bring the taste of Spain to your company's next party.
We recommend: The paella, the house specialty and selection of tapas.
This Merrillville restaurant features a distinctive circular exterior with copper accents, and as you would expect, the cuisine and presentations are upscale and elegant. For starters, try the foie gras or oysters and continue on to Affettato Di Vitello (veal tenderloin) for the main course. The restaurant's banquet room accommodates up to 175 people, and guests can order their favorites off the menu. For a Gamba catered affair, try one of the risotto dishes.
We recommend: The ravioli di ricotta and pennoni rigate Amatriciana are two fantastic pasta dishes and house favorites.