Sometimes, in order to find just the right "what" you've got to find the right "where."
Some of the most overlooked "best places for gift shopping" in the Capital Region aren't in the malls -- they're in the museums. Best part -- you're supporting the museum while you shop.
Here are some local museums with lovely gift shops and a few of the gifts you can find there.
Located upstairs, the shop at AIHA might be one of my favorite shopping places in general, let alone as a museum shop (no, you don't have to pay admission to shop).
They've got scarves, jewelry, lamps, pottery, pretty knick-knacks, books featuring local art (some signed copies as well), and just about everything else at just about every price range.
I'm particularly fond of the woodland animal finger puppets(above) and the art cube made of smaller cubes so you can click it around to complete the art puzzle-style (it's pretty, and it's a nice little thing to keep your hands busy when you're on the phone). The boot-scraper shaped like a daschund is also a favorite thing--for the dog-lover or anyone who loves weird sartorial accouterments.
Who are they for?
I wouldn't be surprised if I found something for everyone on my list here. In addition to having lots of great items for kids--books, pens shaped like animals, the aforementioned finger puppets (maybe not just a kid's toy--they're so cute!)--the museum shop boasts some really nice pieces that would be great for that one person who has everything and needs nothing, whether you want to get them something silly and interesting, or something more ornamental. Fans of the museum itself won't be disappointed with the products on current exhibits (I like the Egyptian stuff myself). It's a good place to stop by, browse the museum, and grab some last-minute stocking-stuffers.
For the most part there is something for every price range here. Postcards, starting at less that $1, would make nice gift-cards. The art-blocks are $9.95, jewelry will run you anywhere from $11.95 and up, and the finger puppets are just around a few bucks ($4-5 or so).
Wednesday - Saturday: 10:00 am - 5:00 pm
Sunday: Noon - 5:00 pm
The gift shop at the NYS museum is right at the entrance (not the one that will toss you into the room with the taxidermied woodland creatures -- the other one).
Pick up some weird squishy frogs for $2.99 (not real) for more stocking stuffers, or some framed butterfly specimens (I've had my eye on these for ages) from New York State. For kids there are more toy replicas of various animals in the museum (both plastic and some fabric birds that tweet when you pick them up), but you'll also find Bernice Abbot prints and photography books. And, of course, who doesn't want an I <3 NY shirt?
Who are they for?
Though the selection at the shop here is pretty varied, it's a particularly good gift destination for an aspiring (or already grown-up) scientist. It's a fun shop for anyone, but with fistfuls of shiny rocks to purchase and geological maps of NYS (seriously--how neat would this be matted as a gift?), makes this a perfect destination for someone looking for a neat scientific-y gift.
I think the pressed butterflies are fantastic though, for their library-museum feel, great for anyone who likes an antiquarian sense of decorating. And the 'I love' shirt is great as an irony gift, or for someone who is a first-time state visitor (or, if you're feeling really hilarious, grab the I <3 NY pj pants!).
Once again, prices vary greatly. Most of the items in the toy bin run about $2.99-$9.99, and the butterflies vary according to the size of the collection (one of the largest hits $29.99, but you can also purchase individual ones in small square frames).
Geological maps are $15.99. T-shirts vary pretty greatly, starting around $9.99 again and going up from there--but at the moment there's a sale section out front with some of the iconic t-shirts and mastodon-looking toys.
These are only a couple of the local museum gift shops. The Schenectady Museum and Planetarium has a gift shop, as do most of the local children's museums. You might also try the Museums of Dance and Racing and the Automobile Museum in Saratoga.
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