National Museum of the American Indian

Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

Jay Lloyd's Getaway: Museum holiday shopping

November 23, 2018 - 7:00 am

PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) — How long can you stare at that holiday gift list, thinking about pairing people and their unique interests with the perfect token? 

Many among us just give up and take the path of least resistance with a sweater or bauble. Or, you can match Uncle Joe's interest to a museum shop that specializes in his unique obsession and grab a weekend getaway along with a gift. 

What am I talking about? Here's what.

The Smithsonian
Washington, D.C.

A few days in Washington takes you to the mother-lode: a complex of buildings that stores our national treasures. 

The Smithsonian's unique shops hold keepsakes of our global heritage, ingenuity, inventiveness, exploration and discovery. It was here that I found a tape cartridge (remember them?) of American railroading music for a train-buff friend. 

If there's an air and space fan on your list, how about models of planes and rockets? A search for Kwanzaa gifts is satisfied at the African-American shop. It even boasts a rare Gullah Gourmet section. 

A New York City Smithsonian outpost traces American Indian life.

Admission to these national museums is free.

Tenement Museum
New York City

Whether your family migrated from Puerto Rico, fled from Europe and Ireland, or left Asia for new opportunities, life in the United States probably began in a tenement apartment. 

The Tenement Museum on New York's Lower East Side traces those first hopeful steps in America. For their descendents on your holiday list, the museum shop displays a comprehensive collection of books, which offer insights on topics like their often-frustrating search for work, coping with multiple languages and prejudice, and their contribution to the nation's culinary development.

Tenement Museum
Tenement Museum

National Museum of Mathematics
New York City

If there's a young Einstein in the family, set your course for a museum that makes math fun for kids and adults. 

Mazes and puzzles that can be created and solved by mathematics are only part of the exhibits at the National Museum of Mathematics, which require participation rather than viewing. 

The museum and shop in Manhattan's Flatiron District lets us score those rare gifts that bring the experience home. Who knew that we could become so absorbed as adults in something we feared as school kids?

National Museum of Mathematics
Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

Mystic Seaport Museum
Stonington, Connecticut

If there's a Connecticut getaway in your plans before the holidays and a seafaring kinsman on your list, make a stop at the Mystic Seaport Museum

The shop displays a smorgasbord of bookshelf- and mantel-worthy gifts, as well as practical ones, which follow the hazardous voyages of New England whalers, seagoing traders, and Revolutionary-era pirates, privateers and Continental Navy sailors. 

Scrimshaw replicas on a mantel are always greeted by guests with, "What's that?" 

Mystic Seaport Museum
Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

A historic Philadelphia trio 

A day-trip getaway to Philadelphia's Old City historic area yields a trio of museum gems and shops that reflect their focus. 

The National Constitution Center chronicles through sights and sounds the creation and application of the nation's most discussed document. It was here that I found a replacement for my loaned and lost copy of "Miracle at Philadelphia," the riveting story of the men and women who crafted the Constitution set in the surrounding neighborhood. 

A short walk brings you to the Museum of the American Revolution. If you have American history buffs on your list, the museum store displays gifts from decorative Revolutionary trivets to bookshelf tales of unsung people who played a role in American independence. 

Next, stroll down Chestnut Street to Penn's Landing and the Independence Seaport Museum. Explore Philadelphia's nautical history and its role as a ship-building powerhouse from pre-Revolution to modern times. The museum store ties it together for the hometown sailor on your list.

National Constitution Center
Jay Lloyd/KYW Newsradio

Virtually everything sold in museum shops can be bought from their websites, but it's certainly more fun to visit. 

Museum shops target specific interests. There's no need to navigate ties and baubles to find what you're looking for. The shopping is clearly focused. So, enjoy the getaway, the shops, and fulfillment of a quest for gifts that are unlikely to be returned or re-gifted.