Illinois Humanities 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

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By Illinois Humanities

Read Time 9 minutes
December 7, 2023

Infuse some Illinois Humanities joy into your gifting this year! Whether you're shopping for friends, family, or yourself, our staff has curated a list of unique gifts from around the state that are sure to delight this holiday season.

Raise your glass (or mug)!

Illinois Sparkling Co. 

Recommended by: Rebecca Amato, Director of Teaching and Learning

Over Thanksgiving Weekend, I had the pleasure of going out to dinner at Chicago favorite, Daisies, with my best friend who was visiting from out of town. 

To start off our meal, we each had a glass of sparkling rosé made right here in Illinois – Utica, Illinois, to be exact! 

It was such a delight to show off our state to an out-of-towner, particularly one who has a pretty sophisticated wine palate (ooh la la!). The rosé was light, not-too-sweet, and, as our server described it, “zippy.” 

Highly recommended! Purchase the Brut Ombré Rosé and other sparkling wines at Illinois Sparkling Co.

Perfecting the bubble RA

Black Rabbit Coffee Roasters

Recommended by: Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director

Black Rabbit Coffee Roasters in Hillsboro, Illinois is my current go-to for the “coffee you deserve at the price we all want.”  

I love their labels, which provide an extra boost of fun if you opt for their coffee subscription service.

Black rabbit coffee

The Chicago Blend

Recommended by: Tia Williams, Digital Communications and Database Manager

Designed by our friends at Span Studio for Metropolis Coffee Company under the direction of Nick Adam, this beautiful bag features Chicago-style designs and contains Metropolis’s unique, tasty coffee blend. 

It won the 2023 STA 100 award for print packaging and, best of all, 50% of the proceeds support the Design Museum of Chicago

Buy a bag today! 

The Chicago Blend Metropolis scaled

Sweet midwestern treats

The Great American Popcorn Co.

Recommended by: Karen Loda, Development Manager

While there are many fun things to do in the charming and historic town of Galena, Illinois (goat yoga included), the treat I still think about is popcorn from the Great American Popcorn Co. 

Their long list of flavors include: Kentucky Salted Bourbon, Cherry Cheesecake, Zesty Ranch, and my personal favorite, Stuffed Potato. My mom even described the cheddar and caramel Galena Mix as “better than Garrett’s.” 

The Great American Popcorn Co. makes it easy to gift to family and friends as they ship nationwide. Make sure to treat yourself to a bundle of popcorn too! 

Great American Popcorn Co

Bakeries across Illinois

Recommended by: Fairouz AbuGhazaleh, Director of Statewide Programs

One of the perks of traveling around the state regularly is discovering local gems in different towns. One of my favorite types are bakeries. Here are some bakeries that I have tried and loved:

Ardor bakery

Something to read

500 Hidden Secrets of Chicago by Lauren Viera

Recommended by: Alyssa Bierce, Senior Manager of Marketing and Communications

This new book by a friend of Illinois Humanities, Lauren Viera, invites readers to get to know their city anew, with insights into historical places and hidden gems arranged into 100 lists of five “secrets.” 

It’s a part of a global series of city guides for travelers and hometown explorers alike. 

Get your copy today from CityLit or Pilsen Community Books.

500 hidden secrets of chicago viera cropped

Invitation to Tea: A Tea Project Archive & Recipe Book by Aaron Huges & Amber Ginsburg

Recommended by: Jane Beachy, Artistic Director

Tea is something that we all share.—Mohamedou Ould Slahi

Invitation to Tea is the holiday present for any of your dear ones that love tea, ceramics, stories, and/or politics. 

This book, written by Envisioning Justice RE:ACTION commissioned artists Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg, compiles 48 tea recipes and traditions, one for each of the countries that have had citizens extralegally held at the US military prison in Gantánamo. 

Aaron Hughes and Amber Ginsburg have been making one tea recipe each week together – a great way to stay connected and in conversation over the course of the year! 

Order your copy at Bridge Books, and you’ll also support an independent publisher.

Invitation to tea

For the art lover

Current Location Press Prints, Greeting Cards, and Stickers

Recommended by: Joanne Hsu, Grants Programs Manager

Celebrate the natural beauty of Illinois state parks through sustainably made artwork using traditional methods of letterpress printing’s movable type. 

Current Letter Press owner and printer Raychel Steinbach is based in Chicago but was influenced by a stint in Bangkok. 

This beautiful print of Starved Rock features sandstone bluffs overlooking a river carved out by glaciers and water over millennia. 

Starved Rock II, a fine art letterpress print, was inspired by Lover’s Leap at Starved Rock State Park in LaSalle County, Illinois.

More prints, greeting cards, and stickers of Illinois state parks and other geographical landmarks are available online.

Starved rock print

Photography by Bruce Morton

Recommended by: Matt Meacham, Program Manager, Statewide Engagement

Check out the powerful photography of Bruce Morton whose work appears in Illinois Humanities’ “People, Places, and Power: Fulton County Edition”, including his Forgottonia book trilogy. 

Prints and books are available for purchase on his website

“People, Places, and Power: Fulton County Edition” is part of our The Country and The City program series.

Forgottonia Photograph cc Bruce Morton

276 Art Exchange in Equality

Recommended by: Jenn Yoo, Senior Manager of Program Evaluation and Impact

If you’re looking for a gift crafted by local artisans, visit 276 Art Exchange in Equality, IL. 

The shop displays and sells works of art, hand-made crafts, local literature, and other items unique to Southern Illinois. 

They also provide classes and workshops hosted by artists. 

276 art exchange FB original

Stocking stuffers

Raygun: The Best Store in the Universe

Recommended by: Gabrielle Lyon, Executive Director

I’m loving the Midwest-in-general and Illinois-in-specific boosterism of all things from Raygun: The Best Store in the Universe these days. 

Union-printed with a deeply local “ope!” sensibility, Raygun has just the right amount of humor (albeit sometimes dark humor), to bring a smile to your face or the face of the person you’ve gotten a gift for. 

Special shout out to their Moline, Quad City, Rock Island, Naperville and Chicago goodies! 

Raygun Scaled

Log Cabin Playsets

Recommended by: Joanne Hsu, Grants Programs Manager

Looking for something for the little builder in your life? Consider a classic log cabin playset based on the longtime architectural style. 

Oswald’s Pharmacy, a sixth-generation, family-owned small business in Naperville has collaborated with Roy Toy to create these playsets. 

Browse other Illinois-themed gifts at Oswald’s while you’re at it!

Log cabin and IL mug

Alpha Candles

Recommended by: Jenn Yoo, Senior Manager of Program Evaluation and Impact

To celebrate the Museum on Main Street exhibit Spark! Places of Innovation in Hillsboro, a local candle shop, Alpha Candles, created the special edition Spark! candle

Although the limited-edition candles are sold out, they’re still making wonderful candles inspired by seasonal scents.

Alpha Candles Berry Pine Scent

Seguin Gardens & Gifts

Recommended by: Maddie Cruz, Administrative Coordinator

Seguin Gardens & Gifts in Cicero has all your gift needs this holiday season. 

You can find houseplants, planters, gift sets, fudge, candles and more! 

All proceeds go to UCP Seguin of Greater Chicago and its programs to support and provide jobs for adults with developmental disabilities. 

I recommend stopping by during one of their late-night shopping events for the magical ambiance, giveaways, and to say hi to Jasper, the greenhouse’s Goffin Cockatoo. 

Wreath festiv

Experience Illinois!

Illinois River Road from Enjoy Illinois

Illinois' Great River Road

From Ohio River Scenic Byway Illinois site

Ohio River Scenic Byway (Southern Illinois)

Need to plan a trip for the adventurer in your life? Explore Illinois history, culture, and scenic views on these tours and trails throughout Illinois compiled by Matt Meacham, Program Manager, Statewide Engagement. 

  • Head to Granite City for a Lincoln Place Heritage Association’s self-guided historic walking tour
  • Plan your itinerary (in-person or virtually) and discover the vast flood plains of the East St. Louis region, known as “the American Bottom.” The American Bottom Project, invites you to explore this diverse and historic area with their working archive, itineraries, sites, and maps. 
  • Take in the breathtaking natural beauty along the Illinois River RoadPlenty of parks, nature preserves, and wildlife areas to explore along this scenic byway, plus historical sites, shopping, and dining. 
  • Plan an adventure on the Ohio River Scenic Byway and see the “very best of Southern Illinois.” The byway has it all – history, outdoor activities, gorgeous rural landscapes, antiquing, and more! 
  • Explore the history of native cultures, French colonial roots, Revolutionary War era settlement, early Illinois statehood, westward expansion, European immigration, and agricultural significance along the Kaskaskia-Cahokia Trail

Navy Pier Winter Wonderfest 2023

Recommended by: Zerline Thompson, Programs and Grants Coordinator

Navy Pier Winter Wonderfest in Chicago, Illinois is a delightful winter event that offers fun and excitement for all ages. "I always enjoy the Christmas trees and the activities that they have for the kids as well as the food."

Visitors can enjoy a variety of activities, from thrilling rides and games to festive holiday performances. The Winter Wonderfest features an array of amusement park-style rides like bumper cars, giant slides, and a Ferris wheel offering breathtaking views of the city skyline. 

Visitors can also partake in ice skating on the outdoor rink or take a stroll through the dazzling light displays that adorn the pier. Additionally, there are interactive games where participants can test their skills and win prizes while creating lasting memories with friends and family. 

Still looking for the perfect present? How about a gift that is one-size-fits-all-humanists?

Consider making a tax-deductible donation to Illinois Humanities this holiday season to support our free statewide programs, and we’ll give you a printable gift card to share!