It is spring, and that means more than just azaleas blooming and temperatures rising. The next few months bring lots of reasons to gift shop – Easter, First Communion, Mother’s Day, graduations and those beautiful springtime brides. Luckily, you don’t have to drive all over town searching out something unique for all the people on your list; Magazine Street, with its miles of shops, is a one-stop destination. Because we’re all watching our wallets this year, Magazine Street merchants are carrying a selection of items at many price points.

And although it’s always better to give than to receive, you can pick up a little something for yourself or your home, too. If this isn’t the year to redecorate your house or replace your wardrobe, work wonders with a few new “pick-me-ups” like a striking lamp or a snazzy pair of shoes.
So enjoy the spring weather and take a stroll down Magazine Street, and be sure to check out the new stops along the block. Happy shopping!
At 11 years and going strong, Ah Ha has stood the test of time and become a stalwart on Magazine Street. If you’re looking for a little something for a quick, affordable gift, consider the shop’s stock of colorful scarves. Scarves are an easy way to give last year’s outfit a new look. You will also find big, colorful purses, an array of sandals and flats, and plenty of jeans – including crisp white jeans for summer.

Skirts are big for spring and summer, especially tunics, which can be worn as a dress or over leggings and jeans. Ah Ha also sells jewelry. (3129 Magazine St.; 269-2442)

Local babies deserve local baby books, and at Angelique Baby, NOLA Baby Books give proud moms and dads a place to record baby’s first Jazz Fest, streetcar ride, Mardi Gras, etc. The locally made, fabric-covered books are sure to become a family keepsake. Also popular are Alexa Pulitzer’s T-shirts and onesies with New Orleans designs on them.

Baby may be too small for real Mary Janes or sneakers, but Trumpette’s socks resemble the shoes; the socks also come decorated with crowns, dots and other designs and come in convenient six-packs. For the baby destined to be a little prince or princess – and what baby isn’t? – pick up a Luxe faux fur blanket or a silver tooth fairy box. The store also has lots of shower gifts for moms-to-be. (3719 Magazine St.; 301-2583)

If you are the one planning a wedding, rehearsal dinner, bridesmaids’ luncheon or other spring activity, the Audubon Clubhouse is one of the prettiest venues you could choose. The clubhouse can accommodate 60 people at tables indoors and 60 to 80 on the veranda, which overlooks the golf course and the park’s magnificent oak trees. The executive chef and his staff do marvelous catering, and the picturesque setting is perfect for keepsake photos.

You can also enjoy Audubon Clubhouse before or after your shopping on Magazine Street. The clubhouse is open to the public Tuesday through Saturday for breakfast and lunch, and Sundays for brunch. Small private parties can also be accommodated during the day. There’s plenty of free parking. (6500 Magazine St. on Golf Club Drive; 212-5282)

Need a great gift for someone moving in to a new home? One of the street’s newer residents is Axelle Fine Arts, which relocated to Magazine Street from Royal Street last October. The gallery carries mid- to late-career French painters as well as several American artists. Featured artist for March will be Hollis Dunlap of Connecticut, followed by Christopher Martin in April. Martin’s work is all abstract, a first for the gallery. In September, an event called Art Now 2009 will feature Louisiana artists.

In addition to the traditional first Saturday openings, Axelle is holding “Mid-Month Mixers” on the third Thursday of every month, beginning in March. These are great opportunities to have a drink and check out the art – each mixer will have a featured cocktail. (3926 Magazine St.; 899-2688)

At Bella Rouge, soy candles from Tucci and Seda France make a great hostess present; they smell incredibly good, burn well and they’re reasonably priced. New handbags are in for spring – they’re big, in popular hues like pewter, bronze and black, and some cost as little as $48. Look for a black-and-white zebra number with a red flap that looks just like a bag Jennifer Lopez carries, but at a price ordinary people can afford. Grads might like a beautiful cuff bracelet or a popular peace sign necklace. And lightweight scarves – only $18 – are just right for New Orleans summer weather.

Make sure to leave some time – the shop has added contemporary clothes to its inventory of shoes and accessories. (3640 Magazine St.; 899-1122)
Grads are sometimes astonished to find out how much it’s going to cost to update their college wardrobes for the world of work. If you’re gifting a graduate, you can help out.

Feet First has a top-notch selection of silk ties, which also make good gifts for Father’s Day or to spruce up an Easter suit. For women, consider an evening clutch or a pretty travel or toiletry bag. Jewelry is always appropriate and Feet First has a line of white, turquoise and coral enamel by R.J. Grazianno that would please any grad or bride.

And if you’re like me, you’ll want to pick up a little gift for yourself as well – why not? Look for Havaiana flip-flops or Sam Edelman gladiator sandals to show off that pedicure. (4119 Magazine St.; 899-6800)

Hazelnut is a treasure trove of beautiful objects and the shop’s newest treasure is a line of decoupage trays designed by owner Bryan Batt, each with a New Orleans theme. The trays, signed and dated by the artist, are based on antique New Orleans maps and other local scenes and make ideal wedding gifts.

The store’s art glass vases look spectacular filled with spring flowers and can also stand on their own. Exclusive to Hazelnut is Thad Cline’s jewelry line – all in gold with Swarovski crystals – sure to make any bride or graduate happy. Candles, guest towels, glass bowls – the hardest part is making up your mind what to give and what to keep. (5515 Magazine St.; 891-2424)

When you’re searching for a gift for someone discriminating, look to Interior Designs Inc. for the answer. Interior Designs is the exclusive carrier in the south for treasures by R&Y Augousti. This talented couple operates out of Paris and designs everything from treasure boxes to handbags to large pieces of furniture, using such rare materials as shageen (stingray skin), goatskin (parchment), palmwood, agate and mother-of-pearl. The shop has a wide variety from which to choose, but Augousti also does custom pieces. Skins are hot this year – python, cobra, etc. – both for furnishings and for fashion.

The store also has a selection of mohair throws, glass vases and unique trinkets – for New Orleans graduates who are leaving town, for example, how about a small cast oyster box that opens to reveal a pearl? (3814 Magazine St.; 895-5111)

Brides-to-be looking for an ideal bridesmaid’s gift should visit Lush Boutique, which sells Diana Warner initial necklaces in silver and gold. The store can special order any letter and also carries script necklaces.

For spring, Lush is featuring colorful dresses by Miss Me, BCBG Generation and other popular lines, and a wide range of handbags. The boutique also carries small decorative items ideal for that little gift you need at the last minute, such as soy candles by Ergo or bangle bracelets for just $12 – teens like to pile them on and at that price, you can give a bundle. (5926 Magazine St.; 302-1176)

Looking for a gift guaranteed to become an heirloom? New Orleans Fine Rugs is filled with imported, hand-knotted rugs from the Middle, Near and Far East, both new and antique, as well as some antique reproductions. They range in size from as small as 2-foot-by-3-foot to 12-foot-by-18-foot, and larger sizes can be custom ordered. These rugs give a room an immediate “lift” and look even more beautiful as they age.

Oriental rugs are cherished for their ability to complement so many decors that they move easily from home to home. They are easy to care for, and because they are so well made, they can stand up to family use. (6117 Magazine St.; 899-1595)

You already know Orient Expressed is the place to go for hand-smocked children’s clothing, ideal for Easter and other special events as well as casual wear. But the shop is a great place to go for wedding gifts, too. Consider the new line of glass bowls handmade in Turkey. Each bowl is different, making your gift unique, and they’re a reasonable $54 for a large bowl, $22 for the small. Colors include silver, gold and a variety of designs.

Candlesticks, vases, linens, monogrammed items – at Orient Expressed, looking for a gift is half the fun. (3905 Magazine St.; 899-3060)
It is a color-filled spring at Perlis, where summer clothes are bright and breezy. Yellow is especially popular and look for prints ranging from tropical to ditzy, as well as abstracts and ombres. Dresses are the go-to item, especially shifts, sheaths and maxi-dresses (toss a cardigan over these for evening).

Perlis also has lots of gift items, such as portable, reversible rainwear, slippers, beach tunics, cosmetic cases and candles. Of course, parents know Perlis always has perfect little boys’ clothes (they start at size 4) for Easter and other occasions; many a local boy has graduated from the children’s department to the men’s department at Perlis. (6070 Magazine St.; 895-8661)

Pet-lovers are always pleased to get presents for their cherished cats and dogs. Petcetera is the place to go for fleur-de-lis collars and bowls, or Saints, Hornets and LSU jerseys. And what pet wouldn’t love a “custom” birthday cake – they come in several flavors and can be personalized. The shop makes custom cookies, too.

Petcetera also does grooming, and a gift card will always be appreciated. Know someone who loves her bling? Get her pet a Swarovski crystal collar so Fifi or Fido will be stylish, too. Other great gifts include pet totes and fun chew toys. (3205 Magazine St.; 269-8711)

If you’re taking a key role in a spring wedding, such as mother of the bride or groom, Pied Nu has a nice line of Alberta Feretti cocktail dresses to check out. Accessorize your dress with a piece of platinum-and-diamond Cathy Waterman jewelry (you’ve seen stars wear her jewelry at the Oscars). Waterman’s jewelry is delicate but striking and it also makes a meaningful gift for a lucky bride, bridesmaid or graduate – not to mention Mother’s Day.

Pied Nu is filled with exciting wedding gifts, too, like Mud porcelain plates, bowls, cups and platters. The pieces are safe for oven and microwave. The store’s selection of hand-blown glassware is also great for gifting, and at a reasonable price. (5521 Magazine St.; 899-4118)

Few things are more fun than gifting a new baby with “a little happy.” You can give Pippen Lane’s Vulli toys without worrying about lead paint; these rubber chew toys are made in France and are perfectly safe. Especially popular with the younger set is a Vulli toy named Sophie Giraffe, but you’ll swoon over teethers in the shape of little gnomes.

Soft baby skin needs soft blankets, like the Luna Lullaby blanket, which comes in a three-pack. Its gauzy material is ideal for taking baby into air-conditioned restaurants. Any baby will be comfy in the soft cotton bedding by brands like Lulla Smith and Kristaben Home in luxe whites and creams. Pippen Lane also has First Communion dresses, flower girl shoes and other special-day outfits. (2929 Magazine St.;
269-0106)

Nothing changes the mood of a room like a fresh piece of art, and in the Magazine Arts District, Rohm Gallery features artwork from $400 to $14,000. This month you can see works by Mira Lehr of Miami Beach. April brings art by Katharina Chapuis of Boston. May is for Louisiana artists only, including N. Kenan, Annie Weinstein Richardson, Patricia Tait Jones, Edith Moseley and Jan Aronson.

And remember, original, one-of-a-kind artwork purchased in the Magazine Arts District is exempt from local and state sales tax, saving you 9 percent on every purchase. (3424 Magazine St.; 218-9918)

You can find gifts that will last a lifetime at Silk Road Collection. The shop specializes in authentic antique Asian furniture, ranging from 100 to 300 years old, and each piece is exquisitely made (you won’t find any particleboard or glue here). For a price similar to that of new furniture, you can buy an antique that can be passed down for generations. The shop’s owners go to China twice a year and hunt the markets to bring back containers of beautiful furniture; the detailing makes these pieces standouts.

Smaller decorative items also make terrific gifts – porcelain vases, antique wooden baskets and buckets, pillowcases, table runners and scarves. (3714 Magazine St.; 894-8540)

There is always something new on Magazine. Just opened this month is Shop, a contemporary clothing store located in the same spot that once held Beauty 101. Shop carries several cosmetic lines, such as NARS and Smashbox, but its primary thrust is stylish clothing for women of all ages, displayed in a showroom milieu.  The store prides itself on being the place to get the clothes you see in magazines and can’t find locally. If you’ve seen stars like Katie Holmes wearing MiH Jeans, for example, Shop has them, in sizes and styles to fit all shapes, along with Anna Sui and a lot of French, English and Dutch designers.

Jewelry lines include Kenneth J. Lane and a fun, cheeky line called Digby & Iona, brass and bronze jewelry in whimsical shapes and designs. (2728 Magazine St.; 895-2869)

Glasses have gone from a drab necessity to a chic accessory, and at Uptown Eyecare you can get frames to match all your moods. Check out the Bezel line, which comes in beautiful colors, and the stylish frames by such designers as Oliver Peoples and Kate Spade. Exclusive to Uptown Eyecare are the IC! Berlin and Lindberg lines, the latest in cutting-edge frames.

Big sunglasses are still popular, and navy is a fresh choice this spring. The store carries a wide range of price points and has an optometrist to perform eye exams. It also handles contact lenses. (4004 Magazine St.; 899-3937)

You will want something great to wear this spring, and at Weinstein’s you can find clothes you won’t see on every other guest. New to the store is Y’s by Yohji Yamamoto; the new line is Yohji’s more affordable clothes – a great price but still the “Yohji” look. Another new line is Pauw, out of Belgium, which features a lot of fresh, crisp cotton looks.

Of course, the store still carries Stella McCartney, Dries Van Noten and other top lines. Fun gifts include Rika’s peace sign items – leather bags, blouses, etc. – classy but hip. Or pick up a clutch or makeup bag by Bottega Veneta; they’re reasonably priced and so well made they last forever. (4011 Magazine St.; 895-6278) F