Even on a tight budget, you can buy beautiful presents for the people you love - and have a joyous time gathering them. We chose these from Center City stores, favoring streets and shops where the holiday spirit is twinkly and bright and where you can pause to take in the light shows and other holiday displays. Some of these displays are new, and some may have relocated since the last time you visited, so we've flagged them with Tradition Locator arrows on our gift maps. Selections from stores east of Broad Street are on this page. Gifts and diversions west of Broad are on the flip side.
- Becky Batcha
1. Cute, mod coin banks.
The 12-inch tall big bear ($12.95) could stand alone as a gift for a child, or pair it with a baby bear ($8.95) and delight your family's pre-teen décor diva. They'd look great together on a bedroom bookshelf and might encourage said diva to set a little something aside toward her first minimalist sectional.
At the Fabric Workshop and Museum's two gift shops, 1214 and 1222 Arch St.
2. Chic cocktail ware. The swanky appetizer plates in Macy's Cellar-brand Platinum collection are on sale at four for $24.99, squeaking under our price ceiling. The even swankier cordial glasses are a bargain at $20.30.
In the new third-floor housewares department at the Center City store, 1300 Market St.
3. From Grandma, with love. Adorable kids' aprons from the San Francisco designer Mimi the Sardine ($18.95) are made from wipe-clean acrylic-coated fabric. They come in bright prints featuring ladybugs, hybrid cars and other sweet themes for sweet grandchildren who help in the kitchen.
At Amy's Place in the Reading Terminal Market, near Metropolitan Bakery on the Arch Street side of the building.
4. Holiday bling near the light show. Macy's has kept the festive costume-jewelry spirit alive by offering lots of sparkly pins for children to select for mom or grandmom. They're situated just off the eagle's right wing, and many cost less than $25.
On the main concourse at the Center City Macy's, 1300 Market St.
5 and 6. Two novel tees. The hard-core "Philly" shirt ($11.97) will soon be outta here, but you can buy one while supplies last at the Independence Visitor Center, 6th and Market streets, or the City Hall Gift Shop, near the building's eastern portal.
The "Bigfoot" design ($15 in adult, child and infant sizes) is sold exclusively at the Fabric Workshop and Museum's two gift shops, at 1214 and 1222 Arch St. It's designed by Tyler School of Art grad Cameron Gainer who's begun to make a name for himself in New York (for a sculpture of the Loch Ness Monster, among other things).
7. The city you love to tote. These Philly-themed canvas totes ($20) are designed by Kathryn Whyte, a local illustrator who also creates logos and menus for some of the eclectic "Midtown Village" shops and restaurants on 13th Street just south of Chestnut.
You can find Whyte's bags in that neck of town, at either the housewares store Open House (107 S. 13th St.) or the gourmet store Grocery (101 S. 13th St.).
8. Start a Name Train. Link up these letters-on-wheels to customize a wooden toy train for a child. Name Train letters ($3.95 apiece) connect using strong, hassle-free magnets, and they're made in America - a real novelty in toyland these days. You can build a train six letters long and stay within a $25 budget.
At SEPTA's Transit Museum Shop, Transit Museum Shop, 1234 Market St.
9. Trend-sweaters. Old Navy's front-pocket scoopnecks are well-made, fashionable and affordable ($25) - a hat trick in the sweater game this Christmas. Old Navy stores carry the scoopnecks in a rainbow of this season's trendy bright colors, many not available online.
At Old Navy in the Gallery, 1001 Market St.
10. One style fits all. This glass tealight log is a no-brainer as a hostess gift because its spare but woodsy design suits either sleek modern homes or their cozy country cousins. The log costs $20. A box of six pinecone candles ($8) puts you just over the $25 budget. Keep one of the darling pinecones for yourself - the log only holds five - and we'll call it even.
At Open House, 107 S. 13th St.
11. Enough with Alaska, already! Kmart sells the Hawaiian-themed Little People Lil' Movers Airplane for $18.59. That's a big, fun, bona fide toy for about the price of a board game.
At the Kmart in the Gallery, 901 Market St.
12. Snuggly couples, unite. What's a luxe blanket like Martha Stewart's Pom-Pom Throw doing on a budget-shopping page like this? It's on sale at Macy's for $29.99 (down from $80), and if you give it as a gift to a loving couple, the cost works out to a scant $14.99 per lovebird.
At the housewares department on the third floor of the Center City store, 1300 Market St.
13. Barbering bargain - exclusive to the Daily News. For you, the posh Art of Shaving emporium is extending a special deal. Bring in this page between now and Christmas and you can purchase a gift certificate for $25 that entitles the recipient to a special service the store is calling a Power Shave. It's a spalike indulgence that includes hot towels and special skin softeners, along with a close, expert shave.
At the Art of Shaving, 1528 Walnut St.
14. Little luxe clutches. Hand-crafted felted wool coin purses from Rising Tide are an arty bargain ($15.95) at Profile, a gift shop affiliated with the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts. The store also carries bigger luxe clutches priced just over our $25 limit.
At Portfolio, 128 N. Broad St.
15. Top-shelf scent. Sugar Lemon eau de parfum ($24.50) from the Fresh line of luxury body-care products just squeezes in under our price ceiling. Posh (free) gift wrap is icing on the cake.
At Bluemercury, 1707 Walnut St.
16. DIY gourmet gift pack. Chose any title from Williams-Sonoma's excellent Food Made Fast series of cookbooks ($17.95, with options that include vegetarian cooking, one-pot meals and many others). Then garnish with a color-coordinated pack of four beefy dishcloths ($8). The total comes to $25.95 - technically over budget but acceptable in the broader spirit of bagging a great deal because Williams-Sonoma serves free hot chocolate to shoppers during the holidays.
At Williams-Sonoma in the Bellevue, 200 S. Broad St.
17. The nephew problem, solved. It's 365 toys in one! It's a craft to keep rammy kids out of people's hair (except for a few stray airplanes) when the family gathers for the holidays! It's The 365 Tiny Paper Airplanes Page-A-Day Calendar ($12.99) from Workman Publishing.
At Barnes & Noble, 1805 Walnut St., among other bookstores and gift shops.
18. The niece problem, solved. Eco Nation do-it-yourself cardboard speakers ($16) are a planet-friendly craft project with iPod connectivity, hitting all the right notes as a gift for Millennial 'tweens and teenagers.
At Urban Outfitters, 1627 Walnut St.
19. Glam gloss, great cause. The Viva Glam compact from MAC Cosmetics ($22.50) includes two lipstick shades and one gloss in a glamorous mirrored case. It comes in "cool lip" and "warm lip" versions (based on skin tones, not contact temperature). Every cent of Viva Glam sales benefits people with AIDS, locally through MANNA.
At MAC Cosmetics, 1427 Walnut St.
20. Guy style. Either a Modern Culture long-sleeved T-shirt ($14.99) or a pair of Rocket Dog sneaks ($13.99) will earn you props from the young men on your gift list who like an urban contemporary look.
At Daffy's, 1700 Chestnut St., where the gracious and stylish Orlando Caquias, personal shopper to the masses, can steer you toward good choices in other fashion categories, too.
21. The pitter-patter of tiny carbon footprints. Organic bamboo onesies from the eco-friendly Small Plum line ($24.99) are hip and edgy but also soft and sweet. Other slogans include "Peas Out" and "Fat & Happy."
At Hello World, 257 S. 20th St.
22. Runners' high tech. An in-shoe pedometer in the Nike+iPod Sport Kit beams data about distance and pace to a runner's iPod, where it syncs with software to create interactive custom workouts. Athletes can even pre-program a "power song" to pump them up when the spirit grows weak.
At City Sports, 1608 Walnut St. The list price is $29, but the 20 percent coupons that the store circulates at local gyms bring the price down to $23.20. The clerks can tell you where to find one.
23. Darth Tater ($18). Mr. Potato Head embraces the dark side. Spud Trooper versions are also available.
At Urban Outfitters, 1627 Walnut St.
24. Give the gift of dinner. Is there a couple who wouldn't appreciate a $50 gift certificate to one of the city's hot restaurants? Especially now? At $25 a head, the gift of a night outside the kitchen is a cheap way to cross two people off your list in one stroke of the maître d's pen.
25. Can't lose booze. Melissa Monosoff is sommelier for the Pennsylvania Liquor Control Board and for the Main Line restaurant Savona. She says any of these selections will impress even the snootiest wine or spirits snob. Look for them at Premium Collection state stores.
Baileyana Firepeak Cuvee, ($18.99), a California Chardonnay from Sonoma County.
Castle Rock 2007 Pinot Noir ($11.99), from the Napa Valley.
Mastrobernardino's Fiano d' Avellino ($14.99), a yummy Italian white that's selling at big discount this month.
Kaiken 2006 "Ultra" Malbec ($14.99), a big juicy red from Argentina.
Bluecoat gin ($23.99), distilled in Philly and revered by reviewers far and wide.
Bulleit bourbon ($21.99), a top-shelf, small-batch bourbon on sale in state stores this month.
42 Below vodka ($21.99), a find from New Zealand. (Named for the island country's latitude line Down Under.) *