Why yes, it IS that time of year again
November 24, 2012 7:45 AM   Subscribe

In need of gift ideas for my newly-Canadian parents!

My parents moved from Atlanta, GA, USA to Vancouver, BC, Canada this summer. This will be our first Christmas apart in many, many years and I'm super sad about it. Usually I'd buy my mom something from Bath and Body Works (she's a candle-holic) and some kind of kitchen gadget or cool ingredient for my dad, but I don't have anything particular in mind this year, and I don't know how big of an ass-pain shipping to Canada is because I haven't done it yet.

I'd love any ideas for great presents for my parents' first Canadian winter, which is also their first Christmas sans kids (my sister is in the Peace Corps in Cameroon). I would like to avoid spending too much money (under $200 total including shipping), but any gift category is fine. My parents are in their early 50s, they both work, my mom is in school (majoring in Women's Studies), and they are intellectual hippies, for lack of a better term. They love food, art, movies, music. They already have an iPad and laptops. They have a small dog and they live on the 31st floor of a high-rise building.

I am open to gift cards instead of physical gifts, or even something cooler like "We made reservations for you at ____ and your meal is already paid for." In college my dad did that for one of my birthdays and it was awesome. Also for my most recent birthday, my mom emailed me to say I should go to the Wal Mart and there'd be a present for me at Customer Service (it was a Wii!). Basically they are super thoughtful, amazing, people and I want to make their holiday as nice as possible.

Thank you for your help!
posted by masquesoporfavor to Shopping (20 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
If your parents are into food, what about a gift certificate for Vij's? It's an amazing Indian place in Vancouver and I feel certain they would enjoy it. Wouldn't involve shipping either.
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:50 AM on November 24, 2012 [3 favorites]

If you're shipping anything to Canada, pleasedon't use UPS, as they will ding your parents with insane brokerage charges. Otherwise, most Canadian online places will take orders from the US for delivery to Canada.
posted by scruss at 8:20 AM on November 24, 2012 [7 favorites]

Thanks for the heads-up scruss!! It occurs to me now I could order them a canvas print of a photo of my boyfriend and me--they were begging us for ages for a proper photo but it always seemed silly when they were close. Any Canadian online stores that do that?! (I guess Google is my friend but I figured while we were here...)
posted by masquesoporfavor at 8:25 AM on November 24, 2012

Seconding scruss. I remember my shock when I had something sent UPS and the deliveryman waited there for the "fee." (FYI, should this happen to anyone else, if you raise holy hell when you call them, they will refund those "fees.")

Well, I was going to suggest a gift card to Canadian Tire but seeing as they live in a high-rise, they might not need anything the Tire sells for winter preparation.

Go with a restaurant gift card. That sounds awesome.
posted by Kitteh at 8:26 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you buy the gifts on Amazon.ca, they'll ship orders over $25 to your parents for free. There are probably other Canadian-based sites that will do so well as well.
posted by orange swan at 8:38 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

Chapters.ca also has a good selection of gifts as well as books. Since they are new Canadians a Canadiana themed gift would be fun; instead of something easily accessible in shops on the West Coast maybe something from another region of Canada.
posted by saucysault at 8:59 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Don't ship across the border if you can avoid it. Shipped a package to Ontario thee weeks ago still hasn't arrived (USPS). I've known packages held ransom for VAT or other import duty. Much easier to use the net and have it shipped from within Canada. The only real bummer is there is usually no gift wrapping. UPS charges a brokers fee faster delivery but it will cost you big $. Good Luck!
posted by pdxpogo at 9:05 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

(UPS Ground shipping is the one with the scam -- FedEx's "cheapest" involves the same con -- but the pricier shipping options do not involve the "brokerage fee." I am in rural Ontario and get parcels from the US all the time, no hassle, think light and small when choosing gifts and USPS will be cheap and reliable...)

On-line shopping here is very limited and nothing like it is in the States, but there are a few sites that might be good to have a gift card to. I find well.ca very convenient.
posted by kmennie at 9:16 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Make sure you write "gift" (and describe contents) and keep price under $60 and use USPS (not UPS). Then they won't have to pay duty or brokerage fees.

But, honestly, it sounds like your parents would love Vij's or any of the other local-food-focused restaurants. Or you could send them next door to Vij's Rangoli, which is more casual dining (and certainly not the same - just a different option). Since this would free up some money, you could send them to the Arts Club Theatre's Stanley Stage (the only on Granville STREET, not Granville Island), which is just a couple of blocks away.

Or maybe your parents would like a Vancouver Art Gallery membership. They have the Emily Carr collection, which might be interesting to someone in Women's Studies. Plus they have FUSE weekends (free for members), where they bring in dance and music performers and have other activities in the gallery. They also bring in exhibits year round. And the VAG's onsite cafe is seriously one of the best lunchdeals in the city. If they go when the weather is good, they can dine outside in the middle of downtown Vancouver. Or you could give them some money to enjoy one of the food trucks (figure out $30 for 2) outside the gallery (maybe in the spring, not the rain). (If your parents are seniors, a Gallery membership is $65 for 2. You might also find out what "out of town household" means or look to see if Groupon offers the membership deal this December.)
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 9:25 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

masquesoporfavor writes "It occurs to me now I could order them a canvas print of a photo of my boyfriend and me--they were begging us for ages for a proper photo but it always seemed silly when they were close. Any Canadian online stores that do that?! "

Black's offer this service.
posted by Mitheral at 9:42 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay so I'm terrible at geography and they are actually in New Westminster. The art gallery sounds amazing but I wonder if it's too far? I think they live near a Skytrain if that means anything!
posted by masquesoporfavor at 9:45 AM on November 24, 2012


I've used these guys twice for gifts and the pictures looked great. They have really reasonable shipping too.

New West isn't too far to make a trip to the VAG now and then. It's about 25 minutes by SkyTrain.
posted by Pomo at 9:48 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Tickets to the Vancouver foodie tours or Granville Island tours would be fun. Gift certificates to rent bikes in Stanley Park. A certificate for dinner and a trip up Grouse Mtn.
posted by jennstra at 9:48 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

If they live near the Skytrain in New Westminster the Vancouver Art Gallery is really easy for them to get to. (Vij's, less so, it's on the other side of the bridge but still not too hard. It is a really great restaurant.)

Also, they don't have pricing information, you'd have to call, but the Pacific Cinematheque does apparently do an annual pass? They have great programming if they like film.
posted by SoftRain at 9:51 AM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

If you're going to ship things to them, I'd suggest buying online from a Canadian site, rather than shipping across the border. We don't have quite the selection that the US does, but most things can be ordered from somewhere in-country, and it'll be a lot nicer if they're not dealing with customs charges or taxes owing when their package comes to them.
posted by jacquilynne at 10:13 AM on November 24, 2012

I hope it's ok for me to mention this self-link but I've put together a list of shops that ship to Canada, including what carrier they use and whether duty is charged at checkout, for precisely this kind of situation. It's in my profile "about" section. (It's not ad-driven or revenue-generating.)
posted by (alice) at 10:30 AM on November 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

LL Bean ships fast and free to Canada and they have some awesome warm weather goodies. Maybe get them each a pair of their famous slippers?
posted by yawper at 2:02 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

The art gallery is a 25-minute Skytrain ride and 1-block walk, if they live near the Skytrain in New West. Getting to Vij's is probably a 10-minute bus ride from there. And the art gallery is near all the main shops downtown, while Vij's is in South Granville, which also have lots of shops and some nice restaurants. It's a great destination. Maybe they'd like to go to the art gallery on a FUSE afternoon, take a cab or transit to Granville Island, and cap the night off with dinner at Vij's or even something more low key on Granville Island.

You could also look into tickets for the Massey Theatre in New West.
posted by Chaussette and the Pussy Cats at 4:16 PM on November 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

A Hudson's Bay point blanket would be a nice and very Canadian gift. If you bought it from ebay Canada you wouldn't have to worry about cross-border shipping, or you could buy an older one from this guy who ships from B.C.
posted by Killick at 7:22 AM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

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