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Curbed gift guide: 21 perfect presents for New York City fanatics

Something for every New York lover on your list

The holiday season is upon us, and with that comes the pressure to find the perfect present for everyone on your list. If that list includes New York City lovers, then let Curbed be your guide: We’ve chosen some of the best New York City-themed presents around, whether you want something quirky for a design-obsessed pal, a book for that person who thinks they know everything about the city, or an unforgettable, Instagram-worthy experience.

Stuff to wear

Pintrill Empire State pin ($15): Pintrill has an entire collection of New York City-themed enamel pins, including a subway token and an off-duty cab sign; but the most Curbed-y of the bunch is, of course, the Empire State Building, with its clean Art Deco lines. (Though this Angry New Yorker one is pretty good, too.)

Brooklyn Bodega Cats enamel pin ($10): Illustrator Sunny Eckerle is the brains behind Brooklyn Bodega Cats, a celebration of the many beloved shop cats who call Kings County home. This collaboration with Valley Cruise Press features a very sleepy cat named Julie, who lived in a Carroll Gardens bodega.

Via J. Crew

New York Destination Art tee ($39.95): J. Crew’s in-house designers created this spiffy crewneck T-shirt emblazoned with some of the most recognizable symbols of the five boroughs: the Brooklyn Bridge, a pigeon, One World Trade Center, a hot dog, and more.

Strand tote bag ($18.95): If wearing your love for New York on your sleeve isn’t your thing, carry it around instead: this cute Strand tote bag is also covered in NYC icons (taxi, Chrysler Building, and the like), and works perfectly as a carry-all.

Uniqlo SPRZ NY T-shirts (prices vary): Uniqlo can always be counted on for quirky, colorful graphic tees, and its SPRZ NY line is especially good for city fanatics. This year’s line features designs from downtown legends Andy Warhol, Keith Haring, and Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Stuff for the home


Periodic Table of NYC Trash poster ($40): These are just 119 of the items often found in New York City’s piles of refuse—everything from the quotidian and benign (discarded cigarette butts, scratched-off lottery tickets) to the bizarre and gross (“discarded poison,” old toilets, dead rats). Perfect for the person who moved away from New York but laments missing how gritty it is.

Rose Main Reading Room Ceiling umbrella ($30): Carry the breathtaking, newly restored ceiling of the New York Public Library’s glorious reading room wherever you go—it’ll be a bright spot on those dreary, gray New York City days.

Zabar's & The Museum of the City of New York Gift Tote ($119): Two NYC institutions teamed up for this perfect gift for the homesick New Yorker, which comes with Zabar’s bagels, black-and-white cookies, Fox’s U-bet chocolate syrup and a bottle of seltzer (for those perfect egg creams), and a loaf of chocolate babka.

Turn to Me/I See Eternity print ($150): Street artists Steve Powers was the brains behind one of Brooklyn’s most Instagrammed murals, and even though the piece is now gone—soon to be replaced by a brand new Macy’s building—its slogan lives on in this print from the artist himself.

NYC Manhole cover floor mat ($29.99): Because why not?

Archi-Desk pencil holder ($19.86): If you love Soho’s iconic cast-iron architecture, this nifty little pencil holder is for you.

Stuff to read

Bowery Boys: Adventures in Old New York by Greg Young and Tom Meyers ($18): You’ll never look at seemingly plain New York City buildings the same way after reading the Bowery Boys’s thoroughly engrossing encyclopedia of the NYC of yore.

Never Built New York by Greg Goldin and Sam Lubell ($55): Rather than examining the built environment of New York as it is, the authors look at what could have been—pie in the sky ideas like Frank Lloyd Wright’s idea for Ellis Island as its own mini-city, or even Frank Gehry’s original design for the former Atlantic Yards megaproject.

Nonstop Metropolis by Rebecca Solnit ($30): We’ll let the author herself explain why this is necessary reading this year: “Even if we did a thousand maps, that’s still not an adequate description of New York. Even eight million maps is not. Every city is infinite, infinite piled upon infinite… But multiple maps can at least begin to indicate that richness.”

You Are Here NYC: Mapping the Soul of the City by Katharine Harmon ($25): Similar to Solnit’s book, this tome is all about maps of New York—but these are less about placemaking, and more about capturing a particular moment in time, the history of the city, or what the author called “personal geographies” of the five boroughs.

The Brooklyn Nobody Knows by William Helmreich ($25): Professor and historian William Helmreich follows up his successful tome The New York Nobody Knows—for which he canvassed every single NYC block, covering 6,000 miles—with a Brooklyn-specific edition, sharing stories of the unlikely characters and places he met along the way. (And yes, more books about the other four boroughs are coming, too.)

A subscription to a New York City-centric publication: Maybe it’s The New York Times; maybe The New Yorker is more your speed; or maybe it’s something more niche like WAX, which covers NYC’s surf culture. But now it’s always good to give your local publications a little support.

Stuff to do

Panorama of the City of New York Queens Museum

Adopt a building in The Panorama of the City of New York: This is an oldie but a goodie—the Queens Museum’s enormous scale model of the five boroughs has an adopt-a-building program, where for as little as $50, you can own a piece of the city. Kind of.

Tenement Museum tours (prices vary): This Lower East Side museum chronicles the important history of immigration in that neighborhood (where many flocked to in the late-19th and early-20th centuries), with several tours that look at the Irish, Italian, and Jewish experiences. The gift shop is first-rate, too.

Woolworth Building lobby tours: Soon, the only people who will be able to access Cass Gilbert’s iconic skyscraper will be the office drones who work there, and the millionaires who shelled out for one of the pricey condos at its pinnacle. But plebes can get a peek inside on one of these tours, which range from 30 to 90 minutes and—depending on which one you choose—go into the lobby’s vault and mezzanine.

OMY New York Coloring Postcards ($13): The same company that makes huge coloring maps of the five boroughs has rendered those quirky city scenes on a smaller scale (you can also buy them in pocket map form for $12). Color ‘em in and send to friends for a gift that keeps on giving.

Donate to a New York City-based nonprofit: Because you should think about giving to those in need, too—this handy list is a great starting point if you’re looking for NYC charities to throw some money at this year.