Tis the season for Giving. Here are some favourite local Alberni Valley experiences for amazing gifts, sharing meaningful time with family and friends, and building community!
START WITH SPIRIT
Visit the Christmas wonderland at Naesgaard’s Farm & Market in Port Alberni. This holiday tradition created by Helgie Naesgaard and his wife, Mary Ann over the past decade, is an elaborate display decorated trees with twinkling lights and ribbons.
The husband-and-wife team spend months through the summer and fall preparing each year. The Naesgaard’s, holiday display includes aisles of trees adorned with a creative variety of decorations to surprise and delight – from more traditional ornaments, such as nutcrackers, candy canes and snow globes, to naked Santas and snowmen carrying surfboards.
“People come here to get into the Christmas spirit,” said Mary Ann. “A lot of grandparents bring their grandkids here to pick out an ornament every year. For some families, it’s a tradition.”
We found the perfect gift to add holiday cheer to indoor or outdoor spaces at Leave Her Wild Container Design, located just off of Highway 4 on the outskirts of Port Alberni. The shop offers one-of-a-kind planters, baskets and botanical art for sale. Owner Shayla Lucier creates customized planters of woven textures of green that stand in perfect harmony in her greenhouse. There is also a wide range of individual plants for sale so customers can assemble a planter of their own, making for a unique activity that families can do together.
Local Indigenous Art in Port Alberni
The Ahtsik Native Art Gallery, is located just off of Highway 4 in the Alberni Valley. Featuring works by owner and by Nuu-chah-nulth master carver Gordon Dick, as well as other artists, Kelly Robinson, Dylan Thomas and Erich Glendale.
“So many talented artists reside in the valley,” said Dick. “I’ve been wanting to inform myself, but also inform family, friends and visitors from afar about how rich and diverse our cultures are.”
Dick describes the art works for sale as “heirloom pieces.” “My intention is that someone will be appreciating them long after I’m gone,” he said.
Shop Local, Support Alberni Valley Artisans
If you are looking for a one stop gift shop, you will be pleased to discover the Blue Fish Gallery. The gallery doubles as a gift shop that sells a variety of goods and art made by hand with an emphasis on showcasing artists from the Alberni Valley. With a great variety ranging from pottery and paintings, to roasted coffee beans and bath products, the Blue Fish Gallery is a great place to find unique gifts. Located in a blue character home on 2nd avenue. Its original owner, Cheryl Iwanowsky, was a beloved community member and potter who opened the space in 2013 to showcase unusual works of art and handicrafts.
When it’s time to recharge, stop by the Riverbend Café & General Store for a quiet coffee and freshly baked treats from Port Alberni’s Wildflower Bakeshop.
The café opened in December 2021 after owners, Wish Puusepp and Chris Pouget, purchased and renovated the original Riverbend Store. For the last 30 years, Pouget said the Riverbend Store was known to mushroom pickers as a buying station. To pay homage to that legacy, mushroom themed puzzles, paintings, stickers and dish towels are on display for sale throughout the café.
“Ninety-eight per cent of what’s in here is made on Vancouver Island,” said Pouget.
With items for sale ranging from whimsical birdhouses and retro candy, make it fun shopping for gifts for all ages.
Give the Gift of Experience
Spending time together, discovering traditions new and old, can create memorable and fun family holiday experiences. Slow down and make time to do more together in the planning of the season: picking out decorations, selecting gifts, being together. A trip to Port Alberni has much to offer for all ages. And for the for that hockey fan in your life, you may wrap up your day watching the Alberni Valley Bulldogs Hockey, who play all winter long.
The display at Naesgaard’s Farm & Market, requires months of planning and preparation, which Mary Anne says is always worth it. It is like walking through a Christmas wonderland. “When it’s all done and I can hear the laughing and giggles from children, it makes me feel like I’ll probably do this forever,” she said.
This content is adapted from original article at Zen Seekers: EXPLORE PORT ALBERNI FOR HOLIDAY GIFT GIVING IDEAS