One way to avoid holiday lines is to shop in places where no one else would think to go. City Hall certainly qualifies. In Center City, you might also consider these off-the-beaten-path options:
* Self-serve iPods and accessories: Dispensed by an iPod vending machine in the passageway between menswear and the central court at the Center City Macy's. You pay by credit or debit card.
* Drexel Dragon gear, east of the Schuylkill: Sold at Drexel University's Health Sciences Bookstore at 1505 Race St., a satellite store for Drexel med students at Hahnemann University Hospital. Blue-and-gold insignia gifts run the gamut from sweatshirts and hats to stationery, shot glasses and umbrellas.
* First Lady gifts and ephemera: Available at the National Constitution Center gift shop in conjunction with a temporary exhibit about presidents' wives (through Dec. 31). There are China sets patterned in honor of several White House matrons, including Mary Todd Lincoln and Eleanor Roosevelt. Another highlight: Jackie Kennedy paper dolls.
* High-quality, reasonably priced toys and books for young children: At the Kimmel Center gift shop. Why? Because many orchestra patrons also happen to be indulgent grandparents. Besides the toys, "Don't make me call grandma" T-shirts are big sellers. From now through Dec. 23, the shop opens daily at 10 a.m.
* CDs by Patti Labelle, Teddy Pendergrass, the O'Jays and brethren: Available at the TSOP Souvenir Shop, 309A S. Broad St., a shrine to the Philly International sound. The shop sells CDs by many Gamble and Huff artists, plus TSOP satin jackets and other R&B gear. It's across Broad Street from the Kimmel Center. *
- Becky Batcha