First Friday

Bounty Hunter: The (Shopping) Holy Grail at First Friday

If you're looking for something different (read: not mass merchandised, made-in-China crap) for your sweetie, or Aunt Ida, or your boss, this is the last First Friday before Christmas, Hanukkah or Kwanzaa. Yes, the last one. Since First Friday can be a zoo, especially before major holidays, we've culled the offerings down to 5 hotspots you'll definitely want to visit in your quest to find the  Holy Grail of holiday shopping: The elusive "perfect" gift. [Insert angelic choir of "ahh's" here.]

toys.jpg1. The indie Crafeteria
The adorable Frances Vintage boutique at 10 W. Camelback Rd. in Phoenix will host 30 independent artists offering everything from knit scarves to calendars from 6-10 p.m. this Friday. That's in addition to the shop's hip gift choices, like vintage-y looking belt buckles, handmade plush toys and embroidered wallets. Local folk singer Courtney Marie Andrews provides the tunes...

2. The Roosevelt Row outdoor marketplace

Having lived in the Pacific Northwest last year, I got spoiled by the funky merchants of the Portland Saturday Market. Seriously, where in Phoenix can you get a handmade duct tape wallet printed with ninjas and bacon??? Roosevelt Row's eclectic First Friday tents are starting to have that same indie vibe. A few treasures I found last month: bottle cap jewelry, Edward Gorey magnets and Poppa Maize's addictive peppermint, nut and cranberry-laced holiday popcorn, which tastes like "Christmas in a bag." Hungry yet?

4. Alwun House craft fair

The gallery's annual Gift and Collectible Sale opens Friday night from 6-10 p.m. Sip some free tea or hot cider and peruse locally made arts & crafts with prices starting at $5. Sweet (on both counts)!

5.  Festival of the Arts

You caught me. This one's actually in Tempe, in and around downtown Mill Avenue. If none of the First Friday goodies ring your holiday bell, or you're stuck on the east side without transpo, this is the place to go. With 3 gajillion merchant booths (a scientifically semi-accurate estimate based on previous visits) offering treats from pickles to pottery to printed tees, you're bound to find something picky Aunt Ida won't want to return.