Every year, the holiday season seems to come at us faster and furiouser! We start talking about it at Halloween, and by the time the celebrated time arrives we’re all in a stressed out frenzy. But not here in Birmingham. Here, things are different. We embrace the holidays with just that right mix of things to do that get you in the spirit, and places to shop for those perfect gifts. Let’s explore, shall we? For your convenience, we’ve divided up our holiday and shopping options into four different areas.

#1: Downtown Birmingham

Birmingham’s downtown, overlooked for so many years as a great place to shop, has seen a resurgence in recent years. First stop on your downtown extravaganza – the newly renovated Pizitz Building. Here, you’ll find all sorts of edibles in the Pizitz Food Hall – everything from Asian fusion to hamburgers. If you’re in the mood, check in with the bartender at The Louis (the bar at the center of the food hall named for the Pizitz family patriarch) and see if he or she can whip you up a little holiday … ahem… spirits.

While you’re there, drop into the Yellowhammer Shop and pick out some unique-to-Birmingham gifts, posters, tee shirts and the like, or the Warby Parker store where you can pick up some hip new eyeglass frames. You may also want to check out Busy Corner and put together an imported cheese basket to beat all imported cheese baskets.

Next stop on the downtown tour: What’s On 2nd. Now located on 1st Avenue North, What’s On 2nd offers the discerning antique, curio, and flea market shopper a truly remarkable shopping experience. With everything from old photographs, to curiosities, to old glassware and furniture, What’s On 2nd is one of those places where you can lose an hour without realizing it. This is where you go to find that gift that prompts, “Where on earth did you find this!!?” Failing that, walk on over to Jim Reed’s bookstore.

If you didn’t lose an hour at What’s on 2nd, you most definitely will at Reed’s. Wall-to-ceiling books, posters, signs, magazines, first editions, second editions – eclectica of all types. As author Allen Johnson, Jr., once said, “To call Reed Books an ‘old bookstore’ is a bit like saying the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel has a good paint job.”  From there, you’ll want to roam over to the Birmingham Shop to pick up some first rate Birmingham swag.

While you’re downtown, make sure to go over to Railroad Park, where holiday ice skating has become a popular winter pastime, and strap on your Hans Brinkers for a glide around the rink. If you’d prefer to do your gliding without blades, Railroad Park is also where, on December 8th, the Jingle Bell Run, which benefits The Arthritis Foundation, starts and finishes. Lastly, if you find yourself downtown later in the evening, you might want to take in a movie at the glorious Alabama Theatre, where the Holiday Film Series offers up holiday classics from It’s A Wonderful Life to A Christmas Story.

#2: Mountain Brook

Your first stop should be Mountain Brook Village, where you’ll find it easy to meander between small boutiques, jewelry, and home furnishing stores. There you’ll find food ranging from upscale to pizza, cigar stores, and places where you can stop in for a cocktail if the mood strikes. You’ll also want to check the Mountain Brook calendar for events such as their holiday parade and the village’s Holiday Open House. If you’re there in the evening, you may want to check out Zoolight Safari at the Birmingham Zoo, where more than a million lights twinkle, and amidst a nightly “snowfall,” visitors enjoy holiday music and rides on the Candy Cane Train.

#3: Homewood

From Mountain Brook, it’s a short drive over to Homewood, where a number of shops offer up unique shopping experiences. For example, you’ll want to visit Jake Reiss at The Alabama Booksmith, which was recently named one of the most unique bookstores in the country. Looking for a signed, first edition Pat Conroy? Jake’s your man. From there, you can swing over to Brookwood Village, where you’ll find some nice places to eat and a comfortable assortment of stores ranging from Z Gallerie to Earthbound Trading Company. Or, you can head over to Samford University and take in a performance of George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker. It’s worth noting that the Alabama Ballet is one of only eight companies in the world licensed by The Balanchine Trust to perform this holiday masterpiece.

#4: Highway 280

Hope you’re not tired because you’re really only getting started. You simply must check out The Summit. The first lifestyle shopping center of its type, The Summit features dozens of stores ranging from kitchen stores such as Williams Sonoma and Sur La Table, to clothing stores, to home furnishing stores such as West Elm and Pottery Barn. Run into Trader Joe’s for a bottle of Two Buck Chuck. Swing by Barnes and Noble for some reading material. And while you’re there you can eat at any number of restaurants or take in a movie. Bottom line, if you can’t find it at The Summit, it probably doesn’t exist. From there you can choose to jump over the hill into Cahaba Heights where you’ll find excellent restaurants such as Satterfields and Food Bar as well as small boutique shops such as Learning Express, The Lili Pad, and Manhattan South.

So, don’t let the season get you down. Embrace it. With all there is to do in Birmingham, there’s simply no time to be blue about it! Happy holidays!