With snow on the ground and the holidays upon us, you may be starting to think about your shopping list for the season. While deals on gizmos and gadgets are tempting, many great gifts can be found right here, within our Region.

Shopping within our Region keeps money local and provides income for our neighbours, enabling local jobs! It’s typically better for the environment, you will get better customer service, and you may also get to connect with the people who you are supporting.

Keep reading to discover some of Activa’s favourite local treasures! If you’re one of those leave-it-till-the-day-before kind of people, we hope this will help kick-start your shopping and leave your holidays for relaxing.

1. Think Outside the Big Box Store

Sure, it’s easy to go to a big brand store (or online retailer) to get all of your shopping done at once, but can you truly find unique gifts? If you start shopping early, and focus on smaller, locally-owned shops, you’ll be able to enjoy the ‘hunt’ of finding the perfect gift, and feel good about supporting the local economy while you’re doing it!

Find special one-offs or handmade gifts that are picked specifically for the recipient – taking the time to find something that reflects their interests or an inside joke will show you care!

Our Top Picks:

  • Gifted –  An Uptown Waterloo gem for finding beautiful and practical gifts, many of which are made by local artisans! Tip: make sure you check out their supply of humorous cards and wrapping paper.
  • Holiday markets around town – There are so many local markets to visit to discover amazing goodies for everyone on your list! From the St. Jacobs Market to  Christmas Market at Kitchener Market or the Christkindl Market downtown, to the Christmas Bazaar in Waterloo, check out this link to find and support local makers!
  • Miss out on the Etsy Holiday Market show or still want to shop online? You can still support local makers by shopping on Etsy  – many of them are featured here.

2. Eat Local

Nothing says ‘Happy Holidays’ like sharing a meal and great conversation, so why not treat someone to a meal at one of the Region’s best restaurants? Kitchener-Waterloo is home to so many locally-owned foodie-friendly places, serving a variety of types of food. The options are endless!

Our Top Picks:

  • The Bauer Kitchen – One word: brunch.
  • Timeless Cafe & Bakery – Located in the original hen-house of a century old farm, their atmosphere and date night menu are sure to delight!
  • Jane Bond – Vegetarian and vegan-friendly, but it won’t disappoint the meat-eaters either! Tip: try the Eggplant Parmigiana.
  • The Watchtower – Great food meets nerdy pop-culture. Their specials menu changes weekly based on different themes, but their options are great.

3. A Night (or Day!) at the Theatre

You don’t need to drive to Toronto or the Shaw Festival in Niagara to enjoy some quality theatre! In addition to our two great local movie theatres, Apollo Cinema and the Princess Cinemas, the Region has live theatre shows for everyone.

Our Top Picks:

  • Drayton Entertainment – Drayton Entertainment’s theatres in Cambridge and St. Jacobs have a variety of shows throughout the year, including great shows for kids (like Beauty and the Beast)!
  • Centre in the Square – Located in downtown Kitchener, Centre in the Square hosts concerts, ballets, and tours like Dancing With the Stars and Peppa Pig!
  • The Stratford Festival – Not just for performances of Shakespeare anymore, Stratford also puts out plenty of other crowd-pleasers (like the upcoming Billy Elliot the Musical and The Neverending Story!)

4. Experience Everything

Many people say that experiences make the best gifts, and the Region has plenty of options for something a little different. From quiet to flashy, there are a ton of local attractions that you can spend time at, regardless of your group size!

Our Top Picks:

  • Adventure Rooms – The original escape room, here you’ll have 60 minutes to solve puzzles and find clues as a team to get out of a locked room!
  • Pin Up Arcade Bar – Fairly new to Waterloo, this is a great place to hang out, play some retro arcade games and pinball! For a low $5 cover, the games are unlimited (and enjoyable for those of all ages!)
  • Sanctuary Day Spa – Give someone the gift of relaxation (and quiet) with a day at the spa. This one has been pampering local residents for 17 years!
  • Kitchener Rangers Game – Enjoy a live hockey game and support your local team: it’s a win-win for the sports fans on your list!

5. Give Back

What about that dreaded person on everyone’s list? The one who has everything and never wants anything. How about taking the opportunity to give back to a local organization? Making a donation in their name, or volunteering together, can make a huge difference this holiday season.

Activa is proud to support a variety of charitable initiatives throughout the year. Here are a few deserving organizations that can use your support:

  • House of Friendship – House of Friendship offers help and hope to tens of thousands residents across Waterloo Region, through addiction treatment, food, housing and community centres. Whether you donate to their organization, or even help volunteer at their soup kitchen – you and your gift’s recipient will be able to make the holidays better for someone in need.
  • Family & Children’s Services of the Waterloo Region – Each year, FACS has a Holiday Support Program for families and individuals needing a little extra help for the holidays, but there are also many other programs to support throughout the year.
  • Habitat for Humanity – Volunteer on a build site with the recipient of your gift to help give back to your community, and ‘build’ memories that are sure to last a lifetime!

Still need some gift ideas? Here are a couple more:

Shopping local is good for our economy and for our community! Consider making local a focus in your shopping to make the most of this holiday season, and give your list the gift of local!