||Whatever your penchant for shopping may be, look at holiday getaways as opportunities to bring home some great regional gifts for family, friends or yourself.
These three Southern holiday destinationsLittle Rock, Ark., New Orleans, La., and San Antonio, Texasshould provide ample opportunities to shop. Remember to tote along an empty suitcase to fill with imaginative gifts.
Presidential Little Rock
With the formal dedication of the country’s 12th presidential library scheduled for Nov. 18, all eyes will be on the capital of Arkansas this season as it unveils the William J. Clinton Presidential Center. The center's main buildingdesigned by Polshek Partnership Architectsemulates a glass bridge, symbolic of the “Building a Bridge to the 21st Century” slogan Clinton used during his first presidential campaign.
The center is situated on the banks of the Arkansas River and is set to house the largest archival collection in American presidential history. In addition to a 20,000-square-foot museum, theater, educational and research facilities, there will be a gift shop that will stock plenty of copies of Clinton’s epic memoir, “My Life.”
Next, head over to Little Rock’s adjacent River Market District, a thriving neighborhood enclave of restaurants, boutiques and nightlife. At its heart is Ottenheimer Market Hall, where gourmet food and specialty vendors tempt shoppers. From Nov. 1618, the Presidential Pavilion at the River Market will entertain visitors with an upscale fall market featuring a variety of food, as well as crafts by Arkansas artisans.
In historic MacArthur Park, the Arkansas Arts Center has plenty of opportunities to woo artistic shoppers. On Nov. 7, for example, the center’s annual Artament Bash kicks off the holiday shopping season with selections from artists, along with distinctive holiday decorations, for sale.
Another opportunity to purchase art comes on Dec. 3 when the museum presents the 2004 Collectors Show and Sale. The event runs through Feb. 6, 2005.
Park Plaza Shopping Center on University is busy with shoppers. The city’s historic Quapaw Quarter has shops and boutiques to explore, plus sites such as the Governor’s Mansion. On the northwest side of town is The Heights neighborhood, an upscale, trendy area with quaint shops, boutiques and restaurants.
Gift shops at Little Rock museumsthe Old State House, Historic Arkansas Museum or Museum of Discoveryalso hold holiday treasure.
New Orleans magic
New Orleans at any time of year is magic, but at holiday time, this city on the Mississippi River outdoes itself.
Start the shopping extravaganza in the French Quarter to bring home a little of the city’s bon temps (good times). Try tucking away a pound or two of Café Du Monde’s famous blend of chicory and coffee, a tantalizing brew sipped year-round in the eponymous 24-hour café that’s been the lifeblood of the bohemian set for generations. Pair the coffee with a box or two of the café’s famous beignet mix.
For more than 200 years, the French Market off St. Peter Street has been the place to find what you need. It’s a good bet you’ll find a gift for a favorite foodie here. Pick up to-die-for pralines and hand-dipped chocolates at Evans Creole Candy Factory. At the flea market, artists sell handmade clothing and jewelry.
Visitors to the Quarter’s famous Preservation Hall can re-create their own version of the jazz hall dynamic with recordings sold before or after one of the tiny venue’s famous live shows. Who can resist a collection of quart-sized hurricane glasses from Pat O’Brien’s Bar.
Trawl the Quarter’s Royal and Chartres streets to unearth antiques and museum-quality jewelry and art. Then, hop the trolley to the Garden District where distinctive mansions take center stage, along with a 39-block section of eclectic stores on Magazine Street.
Get a portrait of your family drawn by an artist in Jackson Square, a perfect memento of your holiday getaway to New Orleans.
For loftier art, the New Orleans Conservation Guild’s Bywater Art Market will be at Markey Park on Nov. 20 and Dec. 18. It offers local color in the form of painting, pottery, photography, jewelry, furniture and sculpture.
San Antonio fiesta
In San Antonio, Christmastime is as close to a South of the Border experience as you’ll find in this country. Residents ring in the holidays with fervorwith everything from Mariachi Masses to riverside luminaries marking the approach of the season.
A good place to start shopping for gifts is at El Mercado at Market Square. Pick up one or two colorful candy-filled piñatas to take home along with jars of spicy salsa.
Market Square also is the hub of many celebrations, including Feria de Santa Cecilia, Nov. 2628, that features Mariachi music and the lighting of Market Square on Nov. 27.
River Walk is a popular gathering place on Nov. 26 for the annual Holiday River Parade and Lighting Ceremony. More than 120,000 twinkling lights dazzle the eyes while illuminated barges filled with local celebrities and politicos float past onlookers.
On Dec. 10, the River Walk is also the site of a Holiday Art and Craft Fair where regional artists offer plenty of holiday gift items for sale. The following day, head to Bazar Sábado at the San Antonio Museum of Art to choose a gift from some of the best assortments of Mexican folk art.
San Antonio also is well known for its historic missions, the most famous being the Alamo. A meaningful souvenir from one of these missions is a milagro (or miracle)a charm used in Latin America to help the faithful petition saints for help.
One of these destinations will make an unforgettable holiday getaway. Wrap one up for yourself this season.
Margaret Dornaus is a contributor from Ozark, Ark.
Above: While in New Orleans finding holiday gifts for friends and family, make time to enjoy some of the city’s traditional Christmas activities, including candlelight caroling at Jackson Square.
Louisiana Office of Tourism photo
Below: San Antonio’s famous Alamo sparkles during the holidays. Shop for gifts with a Latin American flair at places such as El Mercado. Then stroll the beautiful River Walk area that twinkles with thousands of lights.
San Antonio CVB photo
|Before You Go
• Little Rock Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-844-4781 or www.littlerock.com;
• New Orleans Metropolitan Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-672-6124 or www.neworleanscvb.com;
• San Antonio Convention and Visitors Bureau, 1-800-ALAMO-07 (800-252-6607) or www.sanantoniovisit.com.
Stop by your nearest AAA service office for maps, reservations, TripTiks and TourBook guides. View a list of offices.
Order free information through the Reader Service Card online. Click on Reader Resources.