Style and Styling

5 Places to Find Unique Gifts

Think Outside the Big Box Store

Good day, dear reader!

It seems that the holiday sales are starting earlier and earlier every year. First we had Black Friday, then came the stores opening late on Thanksgiving day, and now I am seeing adverts for Black Friday prices starting today. I’m not even sure what they’ve tagged it… Pre-Thanksgiving-Get-Your-Holiday-Shopping-Pants-On-Now-Sale? Whatever!

Since the frenzy is as inevitable as death and taxes, what’s a shopper to do to avoid the hoopla and repetition of the big box stores? Well, my first suggestion is Shop Local! You will find treasure in your local (non-chain!) stores that you would never find in your big box. I like to do some of my shopping locally and keep my money where I live.

If you prefer to shop on-line, I suggest stepping away from the Big A, and trying some other resources for those more challenging giftees in your life. You know, the ones for whom toys and chocolates aren’t quite right… Or the ones that already have already bought themselves everything they want! For them, my choice is Shop Museum! If I can’t support my local stores and artisans, the least I can do is support the arts and sciences and not merely create a larger bonus for some corporate CEO.

Note: Every one of these also stocks stunning and unusual Christmas ornaments; if your tradition is to collect or gift I can highly recommend browsing and buying here!


One of the first places I like to look is the Smithsonian. Not only can you find gorgeous scarves, jewelry, and books, but you can also book trips, buy fine art prints, and posters. You can even find jewelry inspired by favorite style icons like Jackie Kennedy and Princess Grace. They also have a large selection of American Indian (their label) and Asian Art jewelry. Their streaming service, Smithsonian Earth, has stunning content not available on other platforms. If you have an animal lover, it’s an amazing, and reasonably priced gift!

Another place I can always find gifts to drool over is the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I could spend my whole gift budget here! When this catalog comes to our house, it ends up with lots sticky notes hanging out with hints for my hubby… Their book selection alone is to die for! Like the Smithsonian, they have stunning scarves and jewelry, but their Artistic Toys and More section is fabulous! It’s not just paint sets; there are building sets, musical toys, costumes, puzzles, but my favorite might be the Artist Action Figures. I might need Frida in my stocking! (Hint.)

City art museums each have their own flavor, and items you won’t find anywhere else. If your giftee is fond of a particular city, check out its art museum for local gifts. To illustrate, the Boston Museum of Art has a Winnie the Pooh exhibition running, and some lovely gift ideas for the Pooh lovers in your life. They have some beautiful Pooh prints from the original books that would be absolutely lovely in a nursery… A grouping of these would be fun in a playroom or library.

The Chicago Art Institute and the Chicago Field Museum are both on my list of gotta-show-my-family if we ever get to Chicago together. I have such amazing childhood memories of both museums. When I was in university, the King Tut exhibit toured the world and made a stop at the Chicago Art Institute. I remember going with a friend, and being absolutely gobsmacked at those beautiful and majestic ancient treasures. Flash forward more years than I’d like to admit, and our middle son caught the ancient Egypt bug… How I wish this book had been around then! He managed to mummify Barbertiti all on his own, but he’d have loved all the great (gross) facts and information contained within.

The Chicago Art Institute has a collection of Frank Lloyd Wright items for devoted FLW fans, and they can be a rabid bunch. Their FLW ornaments and textiles are special, and not found just anywhere! I’m at that point where I am trying to get rid of ornaments, but this one is very tempting… And the tree topper may be even moreso!


National Geographic

NatGeo might be my favorite place to shop for my husband. He has been a National Geographic subscriber since his early 20’s, and their store carries gifts for everyone from birth to the other end of the spectrum. They have everything from jewelry and clothing, to puzzles and games. Their range of travel gear always gets my attention, and their globes and maps inspire any traveler, from the expert to the armchair. I appreciate how the breadth cultures from which they choose their selection reflects their mission. This “man bag” may be one of the coolest I’ve seen…


Last, and certainly not least, a great way to support your arts and sciences is by gifting memberships to zoos, aquariums, and museums and parks. Our family has found these to be some of our most precious gifts. They create memories and have no small parts to clean up! Not only can you visit when you like, without needing to make an entire day of it, membership often confers other benefits including discounts and special members-only events. And many institutions have reciprocal arrangements with other zoos and museums elsewhere, so your local science museum membership may get you into other museums around the country, too!

How about you? Where do you like to shop for interesting and unique gifts? What is the best present you’ve ever received? Have you ever gotten a poxie prezzie? Please share any gifting wisdom you have in the comments below! I love to hear from you…

Stylishly yours,



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