A wonderful place for gift shopping for adults and kids is the museum stores adjacent to most major museums in New England. At these artful places, you can hone down the theme of your gift-giving to the topics that your friends love most. For example: find lighthouse models and sea charts at Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, Maine; Victorian memorabilia at Pickwick’s Mercantile in Portsmouth, NH; art books and supplies at the Rhode Island School of Design Store in Providence, RI. See the list below or find a museum that’s new to you in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
RISD store in Providence, RI
The Rhode Island School of Design (known familiarly as RISD, pronounced RIZ-dee) is one of the leading design colleges in the United States. Adding to the allure is the fact that the campus is located on and near North Main Street, in the very cool and architecturally beautiful East Side of Providence. A trip to this fun and human-scale downtown is always a good time. If you are make art or have friends who do, the RISD Store is the place to find art supplies and booksThere is also clothing for adults and kids, RISD apparel, gift items and accessories. Map.
Pickwick’s Mercantile at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH
This Victorian / Edwardian-styled shop is designed to appeal to your sense of childhoods, whimsy, and magic. It is located near the Strawbery Banke Museum, which is a full neighborhood of houses and common areas that represent the last four centuries of life on the New England seacoast. Visitors describe Pickwick’s Mercantile as unique, cute, magical and charming. Shop clerks are dressed in Edwardian period costume, and they sport period names, like Bailiwick, Valentine, Thistle, Knewton. Stock includes leather goods, skin care products, perfumes, toys, jewelry, pop-up greeting cards, imported candy, beautiful stationary. Visit during the town’s annual Vintage Christmas in Portsmouth. Map.
Worcester Museum of Art in Worcester, Massachusetts
You know the Worcester Art Museum for its magnificent Romanesque interior courtyard. It also displays renowned works of European and American art, Japanese prints, arms and armor. Featured exhibits look at books as art in Persia and India and stained glass by Tiffany. The gift shop has lovely items reflecting many of these exhibits as note cards, prints, scarves and ties, umbrellas, tree ornaments, glassware, pottery, and art inspired jewelry and watches. The children’s gifts include baby toys, books, art-making kits, and games. [Image: Louis C. Tiffany, Resurrection (detail), 1899, stained glass. Courtesy of Worcester Art Museum.]
Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, Massachusetts
The vast Peabody Essex Museum in downtown Salem has many permanent and changing exhibits, with a special emphasis on maritime trade between the New England colonies and the Far East. On display now is Empresses of China’s Forbidden City, with 200 spectacular objects from the Palace Museum in Beijing, China. The museum shop has many gifts inspired by this and other featured exhibits, along with jewelry, scarves, notecards, and children’s games and toys. Map.
Maine Lighthouse Museum in Rockland, Maine
Oh, you lighthouse fans: we know your type. You go nuts for anything that conjures up the image or (haunting) sound of these stoic, old-time guardians overlooking the rocky shores. The Maine Lighthouse Museum is located on the waterfront in Rockland, overlooking the beautiful Rockland Breakwater and Penobscot Bay and near other cool places like Farnsworth Art Museum and Owls Head Transportation Museum. The museum’s gift shop is ready for you, with lighthouse sculptures, posters, prints, pillows; seafaring books and charts; fun stuff for kids. Dive in; the shop clerks are just as enthusiastic as you are. Map
Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center in Mystic, Connecticut
Denison Pequotsepos Nature Center on the site of the old Denison Homestead is a smallish but mighty institution in the woods outside of Mystic, CT. It is a combination wildlife sanctuary, natural history museum, and environmental educational place. Hikes in the woods happen year-round and special events are abundant. The Nature Center Store features gifts and books for outdoor enthusiasts of all ages. Map.