When people visit a museum, its gift shop is usually the last thing they see. During the holidays, however, museum stores should be your first destination for gift ideas. These very special stores reflect the collections of their parent institutions, and they carry a wide range of items — regional publications, landmark photos, works by local artists, tasteful toys, and elegant accessories — that are sure to inspire, surprise, and delight everyone on your list. Here are some of our favorites.
Air Force Museum Store, National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
This spacious shop is located inside the world’s largest military aviation museum and accordingly contains a top-flight assortment of merchandise related to air and space. That includes a superb selection of military, history, and aviation books; leather A-2 pilot’s jackets and green nylon B-15 jackets; Air Force One backpacks and bookmarks; Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman music; kid-pleasing space ice cream; patriotic flag ornaments; and even camo Christmas stockings.
Columbus Museum of Art Museum Store
Located near the Ohio Statehouse, the recently expanded art museum also has a smart new store dedicated to “Creative Goods and Good Design.” Its global inventory includes Shinola watches; chic socks patterned after the museum’s colorful Schokko painting; and an inimitable umbrella displaying a detailed map of Columbus.
A Christmas Story House and Museum Gift Shop, Cleveland
Fans of A Christmas Story love touring the house where Ralphie lived and viewing props from the beloved 1983 movie. They also love the gift shop’s nostalgic memorabilia — pink bunny suits, Parker family figurines, and leg lamps just like the one in the house’s front window.
Decorative Arts Center of Ohio Museum Shop, Lancaster
Lancaster’s historic Square 13 is a veritable textbook of 1800s architecture, and the classic Greek Revival residence that houses the center is one of its treasures. The eclectic museum shop has locally made products ranging from designer Eric Burchwell’s original jewelry to teacher Jane Hill’s organic soaps.
Edison Birthplace Museum Gift Shop, Milan
Fittingly enough, the small shop at the home of the mighty inventor who created the lightbulb, phonograph, and movie camera sells ingenious items — think lightbulb-shaped ornaments and T-shirts brandishing clever quotes (“Genius is one percent inspiration and ninety-nine percent perspiration”) from Thomas Edison.
Ohio History Connection Store, Columbus
Because the Ohio History Connection is the state’s ultimate archive, its museum store likewise is a prime resource for anything and everything related to the Buckeye universe. From Adena Man pipe replicas to Charley Harper wildlife posters to cookbooks with Cincinnati chili recipes, it has something for every Ohioan.
Ohio Glass Museum Gift Shop, Lancaster
Focused on Fairfield County’s glass industry, the museum boasts an in-house studio, and its artisans provide the shop’s blown glass vases and bowls, flameworked bead jewelry, and gorgeous glass ornaments. Another option: Take a studio class to give ornaments or paperweights you’ve made yourself.
Pro Football Hall of Fame Museum Store, Canton
Since the Pro Football Hall of Fame salutes America’s gridiron greats, its store stocks clothing and collectibles for every NFL team and Hall of Famer. “Legends” shirts and replica team jerseys are popular, while autographed helmets and footballs score with the signatures of enshrined players.
Molly’s Shop and Café, Stan Hywet Hall and Gardens, Akron
The pleasures of Stan Hywet’s annual “Deck the Hall” event include warm gingerbread cookies made from Gertrude Seiberling’s recipe. Seiberling and her husband, Frank, who co-founded Goodyear Tire and Rubber, built the grand estate that now ranks among America’s finest house museums. Named for the draft horse that pulled yule logs into Stan Hywet’s Great Hall, Molly’s sells an array of affordable fashions and accessories, commemorative books, and holiday goodies that include festive ornaments and frozen gingerbread dough to bake in your own oven.
Zanesville Museum of Art Museum Store
The museum has outstanding American art pottery and Ohio galleries, and its shop features pretty and practical items from Ohio artists. Look for Maddy Fraioli’s exuberant, floral-patterned redware; Jessica Gray’s ceramic pieces; wool dryer balls by fiber artist Jane Evans; and dinosaur-shaped crayons hand made by the shop’s personnel.
WACO Air Museum Store, Troy
Located on an airstrip, the museum celebrates the famous civilian biplanes that were manufactured in Troy. Its store sells the most uplifting present you’ll ever find — gift certificates for $100-per-person rides in a shiny, open-cockpit WACO plane.