Healthy Holiday Gift Giving

By Mary Beth Roach

Ho – ho – Healthy Holidays! From soaps to food products, from massages to yoga, from outdoor adventures to sports gear — there’s no shortage of healthy gift-giving ideas at local shops this season.


Salt City Artisans and Syracuse Soapworks in Syracuse’s Hawley-Green neighborhood provide a large selection of soaps, lotions and hand and body butters. The products are made on site. According to shop owner Rick Reina, they consist mostly of olive oil and coconut oils, and contain no synthetic colors or fragrances.

The shop also carries two goat milk soaps. Gift certificates aren’t available online, but can be ordered via email.


The holidays can be a stressful time for many. But massages can offer the perfect post-holiday antidote. Many people will buy massage gift cards because they see it as a way to indulge their family member or friend, but wouldn’t do it for themselves, said Christopher Hess, president of Integrative Massage Associates in Camillus and Skaneateles.

Hess is also a massage therapist for the Syracuse University Athletic Department. While massages available at many area spas offer more of a relaxing experience, Hess’ facility focuses more on medical, orthopedic and sports massages, which are geared toward helping with pain management and sports recovery and preparation. He said he finds that some people get these types of massages for older parents who are recuperating from joint replacement surgeries.


For those creative shoppers, who enjoy putting gift baskets together, healthful food items can make thoughtful presents. What better way to spend a chilly Central New York evening than with some tea or coffee and organic or vegan chocolate! The Green Planet Grocery, in Fairmount, for example, has a wide variety of teas, coffees, chocolates and vegan and gluten-free goodies, along with soaps from local vendors. There is also a Green Planet Grocery in Oswego.


Another gift that can help relieve stress is yoga classes. Many studios in the area offer a variety of packages and classes. Yoga is for everyone, said Sandy Eby, owner of the Blossom Yoga and Wellness Center in downtown Oswego. She offers a five-card package, which people can use to try out different kinds of yoga to find which the one they prefer. Her classes run from gentle stretching to Bikram Yoga, where the room is heated to 90 or 105 degrees, resembling a sauna.


While books might not be the first thing to come to mind when thinking fitness gifts, there are a variety of diet, health and fitness titles, as well as hiking and cycling guides. The River’s End Bookstore in downtown Oswego, for example, not only has health and cookbook sections, but the field guide section features a variety of activities for the outdoor enthusiasts.


For those on your gift-giving list that are interested in fitness, cycling and running, there are plenty of options in the CNY area.

There are memberships available at area gyms — but some people may be looking at home gym equipment, like treadmills, rowing machines or stationary bikes. These can be big-ticket items. Andy Venditti, owner of Syracuse Fitness Store on Erie Boulevard East and in Utica, said that during the holidays, he’ll often have couples come in looking for that type of machine to gift each other. Syracuse Fitness also provides delivery and assembly, eliminating those dreaded instructions or contending with missing parts. The shop also offers a selection of such smaller items as workout benches, exercise balls, free weights, bands and kettlebells. And of course, there are gift cards available.

Venditti pointed out that his team will also work with a buyer. Instead of indicating a specific dollar amount on the card, they can name the piece of equipment they want to gift their loved one.

While Fleet Feet has stores throughout the country, its stores in Central New York have become go-to places for many avid runners in the area — whether it be for sneakers, clothing, accessories or training programs. Cold-weather gear; reflectivity items; and recovery equipment, such as rollers or massage guns, are popular items, according to Kat O’Brien, marketing manager for Fleet Feet. There are also training programs, and staff can help those who’d like to purchase one or a portion of these sessions. Gift cards, too, are always an option. However, the cards cannot be used on the training programs.

Bike accessories are popular holiday gifts, said Zak Field, manager of Syracuse Bicycle on Erie Boulevard East, and if the buyer knows the type of bike their cyclist has, staff can guide them toward the right kinds of gear. Field also suggested gift cards, which are available in any amount and don’t expire. These can also be used toward a maintenance package on the bike once the snow melts. Bike trainers, which turn the bikes into stationary bikes, allow cyclists to keep up with their cycling when they can’t be outside. Electric bikes are becoming more and more popular. As Field pointed out, it allows slower riders to join in group rides and therefore gets more people into the activity.


And speaking of those outdoor enthusiasts, there are a number of passes available for use in nearby county and state parks. The Empire Pass provides unlimited day-use vehicle entry year-round at most facilities that are operated by the state and the Department of Environmental Conservation. Gift cards are also available for those who enjoy golfing or camping.

Check out for the gift cards, the Empire Pass, and other special passes.

The Onondaga County Parks Department boasts facilities with a wide range of amenities, like the trails at the Beaver Lake Nature Center and Highland Forest; beaches; and boat launches. And with the 40-plus-acre Rosamond Gifford Zoo, one can really rack up step counts walking around while enjoying the exhibits. These adventures can have the added bonus of quality time with family and friends.

The websites to check out for memberships and/or passes:

• For Beaver Lake Nature Center:

• For Highland Forest:

• Season passes for Jamesville Beach and Oneida Shores Beach:

• Boat launch passes, valid at Onondaga Lake Park and Oneida Shores:

Have a happy and healthy holiday season.