Why go now: For a while, it seemed like all the boutiques along Ballard Avenue Northwest were closing, but once again this hip old hood is full of good finds.
Big news: The Kolstrand Building, a former marine-supply warehouse, has been carved into chic shops and restaurants.
Dress code: Faded jeans, rain jacket, and a (stylish) reusable bag for your haul.
Best window shopping: Local artist Curtis Steiner’s jewelry and paper gallery, Souvenir (5325 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/297-7116), has outrageous displays.
Holiday party prep: Horseshoe Boutique (5344 Ballard; 206/547-9639), for affordable fashions far cooler than the little black number you’ve worn the last four years.
The latest bike: Step into the Dutch Bike Co.’s new digs (4741 Ballard; 206/789-1678), and you’ll want a Bakfiets-style cargo cruiser as badly as that banana seat you craved as a kid.
Beer break: The library nook at the Noble Fir ($; 5316 Ballard; 206/420-7425).
Candy cane central: Blackbird Candy Shoppe (in the Field House; see below) carries giant ones, plus a killer Pop Rocks selection.
Men shop too, you know: The gal behind guys’ boutique Blackbird has opened the Field House—part general store, part grocery, all nostalgia. Stock up on handmade shoes, flannel shirts, and cast-iron pans. Stuff a Pendleton stocking with ornaments made from spent rifle shells, and come home with your tree, sold here by the foot. Friday nights, it’s the Skinned Knee, when speakers share tips on handy stuff like shoe repair. 5465 Leary Ave. N.W.; 206/297-6093.
Sweets with a Japanese twist: Fresh Flours is a Japanese-inspired bakery known for cross-cultural treats like adzuki bean brioche and lemon-ginger muffins. Try a green tea latte, and pick up a bag of black sesame shortbread. Puts those old holiday cookies to shame. $; 5313 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/706-3338.
Way better than a poinsettia: An open-root air plant (tillandsia) from the Palm Room is the ideal gift for those who occasionally forget to water. 5336 Ballard Ave. N.W.; 206/782-7256.