One of my favorite parts of a trip to any museum is exploring the gift shop. Usually stocked with unique goodies that highlight the niche of the museum, it’s kind of like the opposite of a gallery: you can actually touch and take home a piece of the exhibit. Another bonus of most museum gift shops? Free admission (unless you decide to buy something). The next time you need a gift, souvenir or piece of art you can take home, check out these museum gift shops (in no particular order).
The Museum of Russian Art
5500 Stevens Ave South
Minneapolis, MN 55419
The Ibza Hours, Info and Online Shop
The Museum of Russian Art is a hidden gem itself: a remodeled church perched on a busy intersection just off 35W, its simple but elegant interior showcases a breathtaking collection of Russian art from all eras. And just like the cherry on top of the cake (or the Russian tea cake, if you will) the Izba gift shop is tucked away in the upper corner of TMORA, charming you into taking home a piece of Russia from South Minneapolis. Find beautiful china tea sets with the Museum’s custom-blended tea (sometimes available for taste testing) and ornate Russian apparel for children. It’s also great to visit around Christmas when trees in the store are stocked full of unique, beautifully crafted ornaments.
Science Museum of Minnesota
120 Kellogg Boulevard West
St. Paul, MN 55102
Museum Shop Hours and Info
The Science Museum has been a long time favorite of kids and adults alike, drawing crowds with interactive exhibits and epic Omnitheater productions. Why not bring home the experience with a trip to their museum store? The extensive shop features take home experiments, books on science, Omnitheater films on DVD, as well as Science Museum apparel and decorative jewelry for those less science-inclined. With plenty of interactive goods, it’s as fun to browse as it is to buy. Plus, Science Museum members get 10% off.
Minnesota History Center
345 Kellogg Blvd. West
St. Paul, MN 55102
Museum Shop Hours, Info and Online Store
For a homegrown feel, try the museum store at the Minnesota Historical Society. In addition to themed gifts playing off the revolving and permanent exhibits on Minnesota history (such as Weather Permits and Grainland) the gift shop reflects Minnesota heritage with an array of locally crafted wares and Midwestern themed gifts. Be sure to check out various cedar home accessories as well as a collection of genealogy charts so you can map out your own family’s history.
200 Tower Avenue
St. Paul, MN 55111
Museum Shop Info, Hours and Online Store
Take a step back in time at the Fort Snelling State Park’s general store. Though the store is history-themed, don’t worry about wiping century-old dust off your souvenirs; it’s all made modern-day. Be sure to browse the assortment of history themed gifts, collectibles, posters, replicas and many more. And though you can get this goodie at several gift shops on this list, the Fort Snelling gift shop was the first place I ever got rock candy from and I will never forget the glee of finding out there was a candy that was literally crystallized sugar. Maybe it’s just the location, and knowing that a 10 year old girl may have enjoyed the same sweet treat on the same spot 100 years earlier, but I have never tasted a candy quite so delectable.
Mill City Museum
04 South 2nd St.
Minneapolis, MN 55401
Museum Store Info, Hours and Online Shop
Mill City has the homegrown feel of the Historical Society with an urban flair. Check out kitschy aprons, locally made t-shirts and quirky books, along with the usual museum store prints and posters. One of the themes of the shop is “retro-50′s” (fitting, as the iconic General Mills Flour sign blinks on the roof of the museum) so make sure to pick up a vintage cookbook or two. Even if they’re just used for decoration, Betty Crocker would be proud.
Como Zoo and Conservatory
1225 Estabrook Dr.
St. Paul, MN 55103
Garden Safari Gifts Hours and Location
For gifts on the wild side, explore the flora and fauna-inspired Garden Safari gift shop of the Como Zoo and Conservatory. Garden Safari acts as the gift shop for both the Zoo and Conservatory so you can expect to find an array of options. The shop features cuddly stuffed animals, live bonsai plants and jewelry, as well as apparel items, soaps and collectibles. Plus, you can shop knowing you’re supporting one of the Twin Cities’ most-loved attractions: the proceeds support programs and enhancements at the Como Zoo and Conservatory.
Walker Art Center
1750 Hennepin Avenue
Minneapolis, MN 55403
(612) 375- 7633
Walker Shop Hours, Info and Online Store
Though I can’t claim to understand every exhibit that I see at the Walker, there is no doubt that I can always find something quirky AND comprehendible at their gift shop. From quirky jewelry, statement apparel and innovative kitchenware to Walker publications, exhibition merchandise and office supplies, there is something for everyone in this creative store. It’s also a great place to take out-of-towners for a Twin Cities souvenir: there are plenty of posters, postcards and books portraying the iconic Spoonbridge and Cherry, as well as other Sculpture Garden landmarks.
Bonus (to save for later)
One of the gift shops I immediately thought of when I began brainstorming for this post was the American Swedish Institute. My family has made many visits the Swedish Institute, both to get in touch with our Scandinavian heritage and to stock up on Christmas decorations from the gift shop’s extensive yuletide collection. However, unfortunately due to a huge construction project, the physical store will not be re-opened until November 2011. But if you need a fix of Dala horses and Tomtars don’t fret! You can shop for Swedish goods at their online store (link above) until the gift shop opens up again.
Karis Hustad is an intern at WCCO.com and a journalism student at Loyola University Chicago. She gets her inspiration for “Best of” posts from 18 years living in and exploring the Twin Cities. Comment below to let her know what you think of her suggestions!