In the creative City of Angels, unearthing unique items to own or to gift typically requires finding unique sources that are not your standard big-box stores or boutiques. Think the ultimate in culture for this special task by heading for your favorite museum. To be sure, any Angeleno on a quest to find something special to give or to keep will be rewarded by checking in at a well-curated gift shop attached to a well-curated venue. Following are five of the best museum-based stores in the Southland.
Natural History Museum
900 Exposition Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90007
What a great place to pick up some presents for your loved ones! The shop attached to this museum has just about everything from educational toys to fantastic books that make for perfect coffee table fodder. As the museum’s site puts it, “The goal of the Museum Store is to inform, educate and extend our visitors’ appreciation of their museum experience.” With that in mind, look out for goodies like giant dinosaur floor puzzles and letter openers with handles made of precious materials like malachite. That’s only the beginning of the findings in this shop that shows no boundaries for furthering the adventure you and your family will enjoy at this rarified institute. Visiting the boutique is a great way to end the day, offering children’s books including “Dr. Seuss On Beyond Bugs: All About Insects” and “Thomas the T. Rex.” The shop also boasts a unique jewelry collection that focuses on sustainable living and features necklaces, earrings and bamboo bracelets, toys, home décor and stationery. If you are interested in becoming a member of the museum, you may purchase your membership at the museum shop as well, or a gift for that someone who has everything else.
Los Angeles Museum of Art
5905 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
A tour at LACMA requires more than a day with all of the historical pieces on display, and the museum shop is no exception. Upon entering the store, you will automatically start racking up prints you want displayed in your home, coffee table books to give as gifts, exquisite limited edition prints and note cards for all of your correspondence. There are all kinds of practical souvenirs standing in for the exhibits being shown on the premises as well as art you can wear, like handkerchiefs featuring the work of famous creators, van Gogh and Kandinsky among them. The museum shop is also an keen spot for buying gifts for yourself or others, including a collection of LACMA Quattro Watercolor Pencils and boxed note cards featuring Jean-Marc Nattier’s Portrait of Madame de Maison Rouge. If you are a museum member, the gift shop offers a 10-percent discount on your purchases too.
Museum of Contemporary Art
250 South Grand Avenue
Los Angeles, CA, 90012
Known for modern American and European art exhibits dating back to 1940, MOCA offers a contemporary experience that is featured in the museum shop. Targeting all audiences and art genres, the shop boasts a variety of nostalgic and current mementos for you to take home. Arguably the most unusual (translate: impossible to find elsewhere) collection of museum-approved products can be found at the Museum of Contemporary Art’s brilliantly bestowed shop. Sure to please anyone on your list who is into modern things of all kinds or for you if you are of like mind, MOCA’s buyers are all about being brilliantly savvy when it comes to the wares sold in this downtown Nirvana. From street banners depicting your favorite exhibit to tote bags made of newsprint, books you’d be hard pressed to find at your local Barnes and Noble to kid-sized drum sets you put together with your tots, these are just a few of our favorite MOCA store offerings.
Craft & Folk Art Museum
5814 Wilshire Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90036
The CAFAM Shop, which is within the museum and online, stocks cultural items from local artists including rare pieces of jewelry, note cards, books, accessories, prints and home décor. The store also features locally made items that make for a perfect gift.
Audrey’s Museum Store at Skirball Cultural Center
2701 N. Sepulveda Blvd.
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Whether you are celebrating nuptials, a bar or bat mitzvah or looking for unique holiday gifts, Audrey’s Museum Store at Skirball Cultural Center boasts a wide variety of modern and classic Jewish art and gift items. The store offers books on Jewish traditions, music, art, jewelry, and wedding, bar and bat mitzvah accessories. In addition, stop by the Noah’s Ark Store for unique and fun children’s items including books, arts and crafts, toys and puzzles. The Noah’s Ark Store also has a selection of eco-friendly clothing for both children and adults.
The Getty Center
1200 Getty Drive
Los Angeles, CA 90049
Arty treats are to be expected from the gift shop of this particular museum and this outlet doesn’t disappoint. Functional pieces like colorful scarves based on the Van Gogh Irises can be purchased at The Getty Center, as can the Jackson Pollock tote, a great carry-all that is about as handy as it artistic. Jewelry available for a price includes a dual headed snake bracelet and a sterling silver Interstate 405 tie pin, the latter of which will remind you where you are when you visit this particular outpost since the busy LA freeway can be seen from atop the venerable Getty.
Related: Best Museum Tours in Los Angeles
Aquarium of the Pacific
100 Aquarium Way
Long Beach, CA 90802
Wandering this water-oriented outpost featuring all manner of sea life should include taking a look inside the on-site gift shop appropriately called Pacific Collections. While on the premises, drop by to check out inviting products, from earth-friendly finds like angelfish driftwood and clothing that advertises your visit to this acclaimed aquarium like a navy blue t-shirt stating its name. You won’t go home empty handed when you discover these goodies and so much more at this fishy Long Beach hot spot.
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Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky, contributes to publications such as Travel + Leisure, Vogue and Esquire. Her weekly sojourning column ran in 40 newspapers for 20 years. Jane is anything but an accidental tourist. Check out her articles on Examiner.com.
Jennifer Geisman is a freelance writer and faithful beauty junkie living in Los Angeles. Her work can be found at Examiner.com.