Buying gifts when you’re on your holiday can always seem a little bit tedious, but what if you can make it fun, explore new places and find something unique that they will love and actually thank you for. You may not find a fridge magnet or bumper sticker on this list, but we hope that you do find something special!
1. Saltwater taffy from the boardwalk in Santa Cruz
Somewhat a confusing souvenir, but one that I purchased the other day, is saltwater taffy. Why is it confusing? Well it’s not made from saltwater and I had to google what the word ‘taffy’ meant before I purchased it. So, let me be your google: saltwater taffy is made from sugar, cornstarch, corn syrup, glycerine, water, butter, salt, natural and/or artificial flavor, and food color. A 'taffy’ is basically just a chewy sweet. Ok, so now we know what it is they might not seem so important, but not only are they delicious, they are also a 'must buy’ souvenir from the boardwalk in Santa Cruz.
Production of saltwater taffy began on the boardwalk in 1915 and although the scenery may have changed the taffy has not. What I particularly love is that they are still wrapped by a Model K Kiss wrapping machine that was purchased in the 1920s. Historic and tasty; the perfect souvenir.
Saltwater taffy from Santa Cruz
Address: 400 Beach St, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Website: Saltwater taffy from Santa Cruz
2. Unique Golden State coffee
There are so many unique coffee roasters up and down California but for me one of the nicest has to be Verve in Santa Cruz. They have such an array of flavors that they always get my mouth watering and my coffee-loving friends are always after a packet. They’re so popular that they even have a certified Instagram account! With 16 different flavors to choose from you might be a bit stuck so they have solved this issue for you and introduced the ‘adventurer pack’ which includes a sampling of 6 different varieties. A perfect keepsake.
Address: 1540 Pacific Ave, Santa Cruz, CA 95060
Website: Verve Coffee
Ok, so telling you what bottle to buy as a souvenir would be difficult but you can read my previous blog called ‘Top Twelve Wineries in St Helena’ which might help you decide which Napa Valley winery to support. Other than that the only real other way to know that you’re getting a great wine souvenir is to go to Napa Valley and taste them all yourself… gosh it’s such a hard life sometimes isn’t it?!
Wine From Napa Valley
Website: Napa Valley
Napa & Sonoma Valley Wine Tour from San Francisco
Duration: 8 hour
4. See’s chocolate candy gift set from Los Angeles
Photo is only for illustrative purposes
Another traditional candy for the list, this time it’s chocolate, and it can be none other than See’s Chocolates from Los Angeles. Made since 1921 these chocolates still follow the traditional making methods that Mary See began with, and the taste is outstanding, why change something when it is already perfect? There are now 200 shops across America so be sure to pick up some chocolate to take home as a souvenir for your loved ones, if you can stop yourself from eating them that is.
Address: 189 The Grove Drive, The Grove, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Website: See’s Chocolate
5. Garlic, garlic, garlic and oh maybe more garlic
Wait a minute, you may be thinking that I’ve lost the plot, well maybe I have because I really, really like garlic. Luckily for me there is a place in California called Gilroy that is obsessed with garlic, they even have a garlic festival in the summer. My favorite thing to have is the garlic ice cream but that might be difficult to purchase as a souvenir, so instead of garlic ice cream why not pick up a garlic cookbook, garlic oil or even a garlic-scented candle all from Gilroy City Mercantile.
Gilroy City Mercantile
Address: 7550 Monterey Rd, Gilroy, CA 95020
Facebook page: Gilroy City Mercantile
Muir Woods is located in California’s Golden Gate National Recreation Area, just north of San Francisco. This magnificent Redwood forest is extremely popular due to its excellent trails, views and unique history. People from all over the world come to explore Muir Wood and its Redwood Trees. Along the West Coast of the USA there are a number of Redwood pockets, with some of the largest trees in the world. So, what would make a better souvenir than a Redwood Seed Germination Kit direct from Muir Woods Trading Co. Now everyone can play their part to help restore the original ancient coast redwood forest of which approximately 95% has been logged. Remember though, a tree is for life, not just for Christmas.
Muir Wood Trading Company
Address: 1 Muir Woods Rd, Mill Valley, CA 94941
Website: Muir Wood Trading Company
Muir Woods National Monument Tour with Entrance Fee Included
Duration: 3.5 hour
7. Buy a souvenir and help the bee crisis
We love the folks behind Backyard Bees who offer a much happier alternative to exterminating unwanted bees on your property. They simply remove the bees without the use of any harmful chemicals and move them to an environment where they, and you will be much happier. Not only will you get to take home as a souvenir some of the best honey in the Orange County area but you also get to do your little bit to counteract the global bee crisis, looks like a win / win to us! You can grab a copy of the their honey at Whole Food Market in Brea, and whilst you’re there, read our ‘Come Rain or Shine: Top Ten All Weather Activities in Brea, CA’ blog. Might aswell make a day-trip out of it!
Address: Whole Foods Market, 3301 E Imperial Highway, Brea, CA, 92823
Website: Backyard Bees
We’ve had a bottle of wine already on this list so it would be rude to not include a delicious traditional IPA as a souvenir option. Our favorite choice has to be Anchor Steam for two reasons, firstly it takes delicious and secondly it is one of America’s oldest breweries having launched in San Francisco in 1896. Did you know that it is so famous that Anchor Steam has had its own dedicated week since 2015, the third week of August is ‘Drink Steam Week’ as proclaimed by the San Francisco Mayor. Who are we to say no to that? Grab your beers, your souvenirs and enjoy!
Address: 1705 Mariposa Street, San Francisco, CA 94107
Website: Anchor Steam
San Francisco North Beach Small-Group Pub Crawl
Duration: 2 hours 30 minutes
Years ago the Haight Ashbury area was the epicenter of the hippy culture, with the likes of the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin calling it home. For many it still is, with its unique shops, cool record stores, interesting street characters, art with purpose and free events. The colors and sounds of the 60s still ooze from the sidewalk, but with a new twist as you walk by the tie-dye mixed with Burning Man-style attire. Pay homage to the era and area with a tie dye souvenir from any of the shops along the street.
Address: Haight St, San Francisco, CA
Website: Haight Street
Mission and Haight-Ashbury Street Art Walk and Thrift Store Shopping with Local
Duration: 3 to 6 hours
10. Reject beans
Finally a silly one to end our list; the reject beans. You can grab a bag of reject jellybeans straight from the Factory in Fairfield, after completing the free tour, of course. We love that these are available and it also means less food waste from the factory. A great souvenir for children.
Address: 1 Jelly Belly Lane, Fairfield, CA
Website: Jellybean Factory
That wraps it up
From North to South from Redwood Tree growing kits to reject jelly beans, we’ve covered a list of ten souvenirs that we think are unique. We hope that we have helped inspire you to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones! Have you found something that you think should be on our list? Remember to comment below with your thoughts!
Get Trip101 in your inbox
You can buy and claim online, even after you've left home. Travel insurance from WorldNomads.com is available to people from 140 countries. It’s designed for adventurous travellers with cover for overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities.
*5% off when you book with our promo code: TRIP101
*For our Canadian and US travellers, unfortunately due to financial services laws, we cannot provide a discount. This promotional code cannot be used with any other discount offer, including World Nomads Members’ discount for travel insurance policy holders.