Looking for last minute gifts in Exeter, New Hampshire? This quaint town—which is also home to the prestigious Philips Exeter Academy—is only about a half hour’s drive from the popular shopping hotspot of Kittery, Maine.
But the bucolic charm of Exeter’s boutique-lined downtown offers plenty of options for festive retail therapy. We’ve chosen six cool, creative and classy stores to help you find not only a quick gift, but a thoughtful one, too. There’s a little something for everyone on this list!
LunaChics is the kind of posh boutique you’d hope to find on Exeter’s charming Water Street. The boutique boasts an assortment of “on-trend” women’s clothing and jewelry, from rows upon rows of crisp blue jeans to silver jewelry and fashionable face masks. Open seven days a week, this chill, welcoming store promises an enjoyable, friendly shopping experience. Per the LunaChics website: “We love helping women find the perfect outfit… Everyone who comes in is part of our community, and we treat everyone like part of the family!”
131 Water Street
Whirlygigs Toy Shop
Maybe it’s consumerist thinking to associate toys with the holidays, but there’s something to be said for unwrapping a shiny new toy as a kid on Christmas morning. Whirlygigs Toy Shop likely has something to help activate that festive awe. It was voted the best local toy store in a New Hampshire Magazine reader’s poll not once, twice, or even thrice, but five times (most recently in 2018). You can expect to find classics like Lego and Playmobil to more artisanal toymakers like Alex and Bontempi, with a slew of other brands in between. Once you’ve found the perfect gift, Whirlygigs offers complimentary wrapping service to help keep it secret until Xmas morning.
107 Water Street
Travel & Nature
Many New Englanders, especially those in the chilly climes of the region’s northernmost states, relish their time outdoors, whether it’s winter or summer. For the camper, hiker or just plain outdoorsy person in your life, you might consider stopping by Travel & Nature for a holiday treat. This locally-owned, cozy shop features most everything an intrepid explorer will need for venturing into the wilderness, such as hiking backpacks, warm socks and hats, and camping equipment like sleeping bags and water bottles. Or, for the armchair traveler, you might want to peruse this store’s sizable selection of field guides, travel books and maps.
45 Water Street
Water Street Bookstore
Many people enjoy getting gifted a good book during the holiday season. If you’ve got a bookworm in mind, you can likely find them the perfect mystery, tearjerker, page-turner or hearty historical tome at Water Street Bookstore. A place of “indie books for indie minds,” in the store’s own words, you’ll find a prodigious variety of books here, as well as typical bookstore staples like journals and jigsaw puzzles. If you’ve got a particular title in mind and don’t need to browse, you can even place an order via phone or online for curbside pickup. Don’t know what book your beloved bookworm wants? Water Street Bookstore offers gift cards for the undecided.
125 Water Street
Krypton Comics and Pop Culture
Meanwhile, for admirers of four-color fiction, Krypton Comics in downtown Exeter is an excellent option. The store’s space is clean and neat but is packed with plenty of opportunities for crate digging and the surprises therein, whether you like vinyl records or comic books. Also in abundance are popular toys and collectible figures like Funko Pops, as well as packs of Pokemon cards—an evergreen stocking stuffer. As for comic books, expect issues both old and new, all of them freshly bagged and boarded for your collection.
177 Water Street
Churchill’s Garden Center
Most of Exeter’s primo holiday shopping can be found on the inviting Water Street, but if you’re in the mood for more adventure, you can head to Churchill’s Garden Center, located a short drive away on Hampton Road. Here you’ll find a variety of gifts—from new plant friends to garden decorations—that can bring some much needed greenness to the chilly winter months. You can expect to find annuals, perennials, houseplants, pottery and other gardening goods here, so you won’t have much trouble finding something for the green thumb in your life.
12 Hampton Road
By Alexander Castro