A holiday gift guide for all 50 states
Whether you're preparing to host friends and family from other parts of the country, or you'll be traveling yourself this holiday season, shopping for people who live outside of your home state can be ridiculously hard. Do Midwesterners really need another coat? Should you get your southern relatives a gumbo bowl — or will they already have one?
Never fear; here is what out-of-towners from every state actually want for the holidays.
Named one of the best books of the year by The Washington Post and the Amazon.com editors, Furious Hours picks up where Alabama's most famous author left off. "Debut author Casey Cep sets off to investigate Lee's life after [To Kill a Mockingbird] in her vivid book Furious Hours, which travels the highways and byways of rural Alabama to tell the story of the Rev. Willie Maxwell, progressive lawyer Tom Radney, and the book that Lee tried — and failed — to write about them," explains Time. True crime is always great, but all the more interesting when it's about your own backyard. $16.
There are a lot of things that will make you say, "only in Alaska." One is Port Chilkoot Distillery's Green Siren Absinthe, which is, alas, only available to buy in-state. While that's terrible news for all of us down here in the Lower 48, you can impress your Alaskan friends by fronting them for this Haines-made, wormwood-and-anise-laced, pale-green absinthe — the first of its kind to be made in the last frontier. Prices vary.
— Previously: A 2019 gift guide for every kind of fanatic
You know what they say: Give a man a prickly pear margarita, and he can drink for a day. Get him cactus-proof gloves so he can harvest the fruit for himself, and he can drink for life. Described by one satisfied customer as "perfect for doing battle with Arizona spiky things," these gloves don't have to just be for routine garden work. Pair with a prickly pear cookbook like this one, and your recipient will be well on their way to turning pointy nuisances into tasty treats in no time. $26, assorted colors.
Arkansans don't mess around when it comes to their downtime: Whether they're watching the Razorbacks, grilling up the perfect barbeque, or spending their whole summer in the river, this is not a state that only relaxes halfway. Save your friends and family the stress of worrying about waterproof iPhone cases while tubing next summer by wrapping up this "water and sport"-safe disposable camera and letting the good times roll. $18.
Whether you're shopping for an Angeleno or a NorCal native, the Southern California Annual Forest Adventure Pass will encourage your friends and relatives to explore new corners of their state. Granting year-long access to the Angeles, Cleveland, Los Padres, and San Bernardino National Forests, the Adventure Pass is a gateway to some 2,000 miles of trails, 300 miles of streams, 200 miles of scenic highways, and 11,000-foot peaks, The Center for Biological Diversity reports. Rock-climbers, mountain bikers, hikers, and casual day-trippers all welcome. $30.
It's time for an ugly base layer intervention. Long underwear doesn't have to be boring; take this awesome sweat-wicking, breathable, thermal ski set from Sweaty Betty. Whether you're shopping for someone who plans on hitting the slopes, or just wants a warm, aprés ski-chic look for out on the town, this set comes in four different adventurous patterns. (Shopping for a man? Check out Airblaster Ninja Suits to spice up their closet). Top and bottom $105 each; save $40 when bundled.
This is one of those hyper-specific gifts you can't give just anyone; after all, what is someone in Iowa going to do with oyster forks? Nutmeggers, on the other hand, can use these pointy, miniature forks to both eat, and threaten your hand away from, their precious oysters. With more than 70,000 shellfish farms off the Connecticut coast, mollusks really ought to be the state food, if there was such a thing. Set of four, matching or mixed, $54.
I applaud Delaware for being a state that knows how to properly eat French fries: doused in vinegar. While this expensive oil and vinegar set from DAN is maybe a bit, uh, classier than the more traditional plastic squeeze bottle you'll see on the boardwalk, whoever said you can't eat your fries with sophistication? Lest you mix up the liquids (the horror!), the triangle bottle represents a "V" for vinegar, while the square suggests oil's "O." $157.
I see you Googling "Florida Man sweatshirt" and I'm going to need you to stop right there. As Dave Barry once wrote, "Florida has become The Joke State, the state everybody makes fun of. If states were characters on Seinfeld, Florida would be Kramer: Every time it appears, the audience automatically laughs, knowing it's going to do some idiot thing." But Florida is also ground zero for some of the best writing in America right now; take Sarah Gerard's Sunshine State, a book of essays from 2017. Sure, maybe it's a little on-the-nose, but as the South Florida Sun-Sentinel points out, "The Florida in [Sunshine State] is not a hashtag." Your present shouldn't be, either. $9.
There are few online stores I find more irresistible than Bitter Southerner's General Store, so it's hardly fair that they've now added a Christmas sweatshirt to the mix. "Charles Brown of Texas City, Texas, wrote it in 1961, and Otis Redding of Macon, Georgia, made it a holiday classic in 1969," the Bitter Southerner writes of "Merry Christmas, Baby." "And if you wear this sweatshirt, you'll be singing all through the season." This is a great present for an R&B fan from any state, but especially one who is more than happy to dominate the dinner conversation with talk of Georgia's contributions to the South's rich musical history. $48.
Hawaiians are among the Americans with the most state pride — I mean, no wonder, they live in freakin' Hawaii. Help them represent the Aloha State by gifting a set of these wine glasses, each carefully etched with the islands of the archipelago. Not only will it be the perfect vessel for serving Hula O Maui's sparkling pineapple wine to their friends, it's a great way to drop a hint about, ahem, that extra guest room of theirs. $18 each.
While more people are moving to Idaho than almost anywhere else in the country, the state is still very remote. And you know what that means: no light pollution! In addition to the Central Idaho Dark Sky Reserve, a 1,400-square-mile "off-the-grid" starlight preserve (one of only 11 such communities in the world), the state also has incredible observatory facilities like the one at Bruneau Dunes State Park. Surprise your Idaho friends and relatives by paying for the premium SkyView app. If you'd rather give a gift you can physically wrap, try 100 Things to See in the Night Sky. SkyView app, $1.99.
Downstaters and Chicagoans alike can enjoy this pennant, which celebrates the Midwest and can be hung on an apartment wall, off a Lake Michigan boat, or in a farm house kitchen. Shopping for a Cubs fan? Swap for this one instead. $25.
Bottle cap beer maps are available for every state (and several countries), but they'd make a particularly inspired gift for a Hoosier. Last year, some 32 new breweries opened in the state, Indiana Public Media reports, while Indiana On Tap had eyes on 22 pending openings as of Jan. 2019. Round out this present with a gift membership to the Indiana On Tap Tasting Society: "For only $59.95/year, members will receive over $1,400 toward craft beer, merchandise, food, services and events all over our great state." Starts at $33.
You might not realize it if you're not from there, but this is the worst time of year to try to watch TV in Iowa. Help your friends and relatives escape the 2020 political ads on their TVs without actually escaping entertainment entirely by signing them up for a new streaming service. Disney+ is obviously the choice du jour, but Mubi ($10.99 per month) and the Criterion Channel ($10.99 per month) are great choices, too. Subscription cards available, $69.99 per year.
Lots of local pride stickers can be cringe-y or targeted more toward tourists than natives, but not these ones designed by Wichita-based Gardner Design. Whether representing Wichita specifically, Kansas more generally, or the heartland as a whole, a set of carefully-selected stickers could be a perfect stocking stuffer. Desperate for some pointers to get started? The Kansas Trail Guide blog reports that the Tornado Warning, Joyland, Unibuff, Sunflower, No Coast, Ad Astra Per Aspera, and Keeper of the Plains stickers are the bestsellers. $3 each.
Sure, there's more to Kentucky than just horses, but there is more to this mug than just the face of a horse, too. In addition to hopefully winning a chuckle or two when it's unwrapped, this "stud" mug is a great way to rib your least-humble cousin. Complete the gift by throwing in a bag of Copper Horse coffee or Tea Horse masala chai. $13.
Louisianans love their booze; we're talking about a state where there are literally drive-up daiquiri stands. Help keep your friends and relatives' keep their drinking classy (or at least classier) with a bar cart or alcohol cabinet, like this stylish piece, which is also available in beige. For a more affordable option, this $54 bar cart might do the trick. $285.
Maine is one of the wildest states in the Lower 48; don't let a bear, moose, or even a beaver trapeze through a yard anymore without getting caught on camera. This device takes pictures when it senses movement, and even works at night. Admittedly, giving this to someone as a present is all but granting full permission to be sent every blurry photo of a squirrel they capture for the first six months, but when they finally get that bull moose on camera, it'll all be worth it. $70.
I'm more than a bit obsessed with this John Waters night light, which would be a great touch in any Maryland home. The director of Pink Flamingos, Hairspray, and Multiple Maniacs, Waters is among Maryland's most important natives (yes, right up there with Edgar Allan Poe and Harriet Tubman) and a source of pride for many in the state. Let's face it, the person you're shopping for probably already owns the Polyester blu-ray; get them this instead. $28.
After Alaska and Washington, no state has more bird species than Massachusetts. In 2014, some 501 different kinds of birds were accepted on the state's checklist, according to the Brookline Bird Club. With more and more people getting into birding ("bird-watching is the new must-have string to the millennial's bow," wrote The Telegraph in 2017; earlier this year, The New York Times published its own trend piece), give the Bay Stater in your life a leg up with a pair of good binoculars. Audubon recommends these as the best low-price option. $43.
MSIA's Michigan-specific ski area passes are sold out for the season, but that doesn't mean all hope is lost. The Indy Ski Pass will get holders out on Michigan slopes like Big Powderhorn Mountain, Caberfae Peaks, Cannonsburg, Pine Mountain, Schuss Mountain, and Swiss Valley, as well as many other hills around the country. Road trip? $219 before Jan. 1.
Help your Minnesotan pals bundle up this winter with this knit yarn hat from Askov Finlayson, a hip Minneapolis-based outfitter that knows how to construct clothes that will withstand the far north's hostile climate. If you want to upgrade the gift, the brand's "climate positive" parkas are "rated comfortable to -20 below" and will run you $495. Still, with that amazing "one winter guarantee," you've got to be a little bit intrigued. Hat, $36.
I'm not saying you will guilt your friends and relatives into making you a Mississippi mud pie in exchange for receiving this dish for Christmas, but I'm not saying you won't either. Widely considered to be the best pie dish your money can buy — Emile Henry is made in France and, bless, it's both microwave and dishwasher save — this is the sort of thing anyone would be proud to have in their kitchen or on display. As a cheaper alternative, this $14 "Baked With Love" dish would be great, too. $40.
Missouri has the longest bike path in the country, the 240-mile Katy Trail. Winding along the Missouri River, the path is accessible from Clinton, Boonville, Jefferson City, and Washington (and sits an easy 20-mile hop from St. Louis). For the reluctant biker who has their heart set on finishing the dang thing one day, check out the offerings of the New York-based cyclist outfitter Ostroy, including this jersey that flirts with the idea of flaking out. But we all know no one's really backing out, don't we? $120.
Did you know that the coldest temperature ever recorded in the contiguous United States was in Montana? Seventy degrees below zero! And if you've ever seen one of those videos of people demonstrating the Mpemba effect — throwing boiling water into super-cold air and watching it change instantly into snow — then you know that tea in Montana doesn't stand a chance. This nifty "heated" mug self-warms so the beverage never gets cold, and can be controlled with your smartphone; while the battery life is only 1.5 hours, the coaster doubles as a charger. $100, in black or white.
Nebraskans spend a lot of time on the open road. Give a gift that will make next year a little bit more comfortable with this travel pillow, which is even Wirecutter-approved: "It's a bit larger than your typical travel pillow when packed down (about the size of a tissue box)," write the experts, "but saving space is less of a priority when you're driving instead of flying." Multiple colors and designs are available, but yes, it does come in red. $20.
It's not been a good decade for regional news or print, but Sunset, a western lifestyle magazine, is still going strong. Originally founded to help draw people from back east out to the frontier, the magazine now is something of an authority on the 13 states of the American west, including Nevada, which sits smack dab in the middle of its coverage map. One year for $18, or $5 for a year with auto renew.
You can't live in a state like New Hampshire and loathe the outdoors. It's a safe bet that the person you're shopping for would be thrilled to receive this fun three-person tent from North Face, which comes in an eye-catching bird-and-pine-branch pattern. While serious outdoorspeople likely already have gear they trust and love, this is more recreational and stylish — say, for a lazy summer weekend getaway to Umbagog Lake or Acadia National Park in adjacent Maine. For a less expensive gift that offers the same promise of adventure, the bird-and-pine pattern is also available as a weekender duffel. $250.
New Jersey might be known for its gardens, but you don't have to be shopping for someone with a yard for them to appreciate this watering can, which doubles as a piece of art. Described by The Strategist as a "status symbol," the rosy copper Haws can is even favored by Martha Stewart. "I suspect she was drawn to the Haws for the same reasons I was — a distinct heritage, a price tag that's high but not prohibitive, and an immediately recognizable shape to those in the know," writes Strategist. Whether you're shopping for someone with a complex garden, or someone just struggling to keep their pathos plant alive, this is an eye-catching piece that is also functional (less expensive options are also available). $130.
If you have the means to give the ultimate present this holiday season, consider going all out by treating someone you love very, very much to a stay at Ted Turner's Vermejo Reserve. Set on a 560,000-acre ranch in northern New Mexico, the park offers one-of-a-kind experiences including a bison-viewing safari (an entire herd lives on the property!). For a more affordable alternative, the Wildlife West Nature Park in Albuquerque offers adult tickets for just $9, with the money going toward a great cause. Starts at $1,200 per night.
Speaking as a New Yorker, I can vouch for the Henry & David fruit-of-the-month gift subscription being one of the greatest presents my partner and I have ever received. Truly fresh produce can be difficult to find in the city — did you know the average grocery store apple is nine to 12 months old? — but perfectly ripe is what Harry & David is all about. My favorites in this subscription are the pears in January, the honey mangoes in June, and the dark sweet plums in September. From $99 to $349.
The quarterly magazine Oxford American is one of my favorites, particularly for their annual music issue. Last year, the magazine celebrated the musical history of North Carolina; as such, their North Carolina music bundle is now on sale. At a discount, this bundle includes "Oxford American's 20th annual Southern Music Issue and CD, featuring more than 25 stories exploring the history and legacy of North Carolina music, along with a 3-pack of limited-edition guitar picks, a poster of the issue's cover and your choice of a t-shirt or sweatshirt. Starts at $45.
One in three North Dakotans has Norwegian heritage, or is a so-called "Norwegian Dakotan." Maybe you're shopping for someone who wants to get in deeper touch with their roots, or maybe they just want to know what "uff da" really means. This voice translator works for 55 different languages, including, yes, "norsk." (You can also always go the old school, and cheaper, route with an English to Norwegian dictionary). $300.
Tiny homes might be all the rage, but actually living in one for an extended period of time could be ... trying. Instead, for the Ohioan who needs a getaway, consider renting one of these magical cabins in Lisbon, Ohio — just an hour and a half drive from Cleveland. Pre-stocked with staples like salt, pepper, olive oil, creamer, and sugar, as well as ample kitchen supplies, basically the only thing you'll be leaving in your recipient's hands is throwing some clothes in a bag. The best part? You can contribute a gift of any amount. Varies; $200 covers a full weekend away.
"Want weird weather?" Reuters once wrote. "Come to Oklahoma!" Famous for enduring a particularly wild climate, Okies pride themselves on being able to predict everything from clear skies to tornados. You can make their life a little easier and more fun, though, with a genuine storm glass, a device that has long been used by explorers and sailors to help predict the weather. $18 and up.
The weather outside might be frightful, but it won't be forever. As soon as that first warm day of Pacific northwest spring hits, just about everyone in Oregon is itching to get outdoors. They'll want to take this cooler pack from Coleman along; pop in up to 28 (!) cans of beer, or a picnic, and you're in business for the day. $19.
You know that New Year's resolution about getting outside more? Purple Lizard Maps, "an independent cartographic design firm" with an expertise in Pennsylvania, makes getting on the trails way more appealing. In addition to being waterproof, the maps point out hiking trails, biking trails, back roads, gates, campsites, historic sites, parking lots, picnic areas, scenic sites, climbing areas, observation towers, covered bridges, waterfalls — well, just about everything someone would need to know to get started on an adventure. Seven Pennsylvania State Forest maps bundled for $89; starts at $15 each.
Nothing would look better on a Rhode Island front porch than a rug made right up the road. Colonial Mills has been selling its signature braided textiles for almost half a century, and while the company now distributes everywhere, the business is still based right in Pawtucket. That means all their products retain a classic New England look, and would nicely pull together anything from a Newport stone-ender to a new build in Providence. $35 and up.
Named one of the best cookbooks of the year by The New Yorker, South: Essential Recipes and New Explorations is by Sean Baker, who was raised in the southern Appalachian Mountains of Virginia but went to culinary school in Charleston, South Carolina. It was in the Palmetto State that he later took an executive chef position at McCrady's and "started to define my relationship with Lowcountry cuisine and, more broadly, Southern cuisine," he writes in the intro. Both novice and master chefs in your family will find this a delight; "Brock is prone to diving deep into culinary rabbit holes," notes The New York Times, "and thank God." $27.
"This book is written out of the simple, fierce conviction that our cultures are not dead and our civilizations have not been destroyed. It is written with the understanding that our present tense is evolving as rapidly and creatively as everyone else's." So writes Ojibwe author David Treuer in the introduction to his modern history of American Indians, Heartbeat of Wounded Knee, named one of the best books of the year by The New York Times, The Washington Post, and NPR. Taking the U.S. army's massacre of at least 150 Lakota men, women and children in 1890 as its starting point, The Heartbeat of Wounded Knee is not limited only to South Dakota but also offers a broad reexamination of modern Native America. $18.
No really, an earthquake preparedness kit is a great present to get someone living in Tennessee! While many people don't know it (including local residents!), Memphis and Nashville both sit near enough to the New Madrid fault line to be at risk of a "catastrophic" earthquake in the near future. While Amazon sells bundles of up to five of these two-person, three-day emergency packs, you can also DIY and customize one yourself, or splurge on this $500 "luxury" preparedness kit from Pottery Barn. $38.
For 2020, the co-founder of Austin's Odd Duck restaurant, Bryce Gilmore, is publishing what Texas Monthly describes as "a cross between a yearbook, a cookbook, and a magazine." The Odd Duck Almanac will subsequently come out once a year — it's inspired, naturally, by old-fashion farmer's almanacs — with the debut issue on the theme of "Mother." Divided into seasons and containing everything from recipes to profiles of farmers, you can expect the first issue to tackle "hot sauce, mayo, cheese sauce, salsas & relishes, and whiskey" writes Paula Forbes in her newsletter, Stained Pages — in other words, all of a Texan's favorite things. $24.95.
If you've skied, well, almost anywhere in the world, you're probably familiar with the work of James Niehues, whose hand-painted maps have defined the aesthetic of the slopes for more than a quarter century. While not all 200 of the maps in this wonderful collection of his work are in Utah, of course, Niehues told Ski Utah that his Snowbird map remains among his favorite of his career ("Alta," one of his first maps ever, "is right in there too"). If the book is a little steep for your budget, the individual prints — like this one of Park City — can be purchased on Niehues' website for $40 and up. $102.
If I learned one thing during the four years I lived in Vermont, it's that socks — that dreaded present of childhood — are actually the best gift to receive. Make the Vermonter in your life thrilled with a fancy pair, like these from Sweden's warmth experts, Woolpower. Ultra-thick and made from merino wool (the two best words in the world!), they might seem like a splurge, but come the nor'easters of January, they are worth every penny. $52.
Virginians are lucky enough to live within striking distance of Shenandoah, one of the most underrated national parks in the country. Just 75 miles from Washington, D.C., Shenandoah spans one of the most scenic stretches of the Blue Mountains and offers some 500 miles of hiking. In addition to showing off Virginia pride more creatively than with an umpteenth "Virginia is for lovers" shirt, the Parks Project's Shenandoah tee is also a reminder that Shenandoah is one of the best places to see a bear on the whole East Coast. $36.
Experiential gifts are all the rage this season, and luckily for Washingtonians, the state has lots of great day-long getaways within reach. Sponsor such an escape by giving the gift of a trip on the Clipper, whether that means whale watching off of San Juan Island or the three-hour tour up to Victoria, B.C. Prices vary by trip and season.
West Virginia is one of the most stunning states in the country, from Blackwater Falls to Dolly Sods to Seneca Rocks and New River Gorge. In fact, there is so much to look at that it's hard to fit in one shot. This lens works with iPhones, Pixels, Galaxys, and OnePlus phones (note that you must also buy a "Moment Photo Case OR Battery Photo Case" to mount it) and helps expand what you capture in a smartphone shot. Whether that means getting a picture of the whole family gathered together for an Appalachian Christmas, or next summer's vacation to Cranberry Glades, your loved one won't miss a thing. $120.
"Is skydiving as a gift a good or terrible idea?" Wisconsin Skydiving Center's answer to that question is obvious: "If the motivation is to give something that's memorable and meaningful," they write, "then the gift of skydiving is all of that in spades — starting with the reaction." While covering the full cost of a tandem skydive might be too much for your budget, you can put as little as $25 toward this skydiving service. $25-$370.
While the photos in West: The American Cowboy were shot as far afield as Texas and Kansas, Anouk Krantz's newest collection of photography will stir the heart of any Wyomingite. Capturing the tough landscape of the American frontier, Krantz also manages to convey the human — and animal — spirit of the West through her black-and-white images. This book is more than something to be left untouched on a coffee table; it's a gorgeous tribute to the sort of men and women that loan their name to the Cowboy State. $50.