If you want to be the most popular person in the room during your family’s holiday gift exchange, here’s a secret: Shop at Atlanta’s many museum gift shops packed with merchandise you won’t find elsewhere.
On sale at the High Museum of Art gift shop are two solid brass ornaments made exclusively for works showcased in the exhibit, “Habsburg Splendor: Masterpieces from Vienna’s Imperial Collection,” on exhibit through Jan. 17, 2016. One depicts the prince’s dress carriage; the other the campaign uniform of Emperor Franz Joseph. In conjunction with the exhibit, “Seriously Silly! The Art & Whimsy of Mo Willems,” running through Jan. 10, 2016, the High gift shop carries several of Willems’ beloved books including, of course, “Don’t Let the Pigeon Drive the Bus!” Someone on your gift list might like to warm their toes with socks inspired by one of these famous paintings: “Mona Lisa,” “Starry Night” or “The Scream.” And for that person who loves everything about the High, consider a box of High Museum of Art Architecture note cards.
Stop in the gift shop at Fernbank Museum of Natural History to find a pair of (real) oak leaf earrings that have been dipped in iridescent copper. Got a weather bug in your family? He or she might love a Galileo thermometer. Invented by Galileo Galilei four centuries ago, these thermometers are cylinders filled with colorful spheres that float. They measure the correct temperature based on a scientific principal: the lowest floating sphere in the upper part of the cylinder tells the temperature. A useful set of elemental blocks present the entire periodic table of elements on 20 hand-crafted wood cubes. The Mineral Discovery Kit helps kids learn how to identify minerals and start their own collection. The Mommy & Baby T-Rex Push Toy actually is two toys in one. Baby T-rex is nested into his mommy like a puzzle. Take them apart and you have two push toys.
In the gift shop at the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library and Museum you can purchase dessert plates that depict flowers of the first ladies, a Barbara Bush pearl necklace (affordable), an Edith Wilson fan pin (fan as in a device for cooling off not screaming people in the bleachers) and Mary Dodd Lincoln earrings. For the future president on your list, consider the Air Force One play set. To please your favorite political junkie, pick up a pin from the Carter-Mondale campaign.
Politics not your thing? Could it be that Coca-Cola memorabilia makes you want to teach the world -- or your family -- to sing holiday songs in perfect harmony? The gift shop at the World of Coca-Cola practically fizzes with shelf upon shelf and rack upon rack of Coca-Cola themed tchotchkies. There are die-cast cars, retro tins, key chains, magnets, pet accessories, clocks, thermometers, hats. Everywhere you turn, there is yet another “must-have” item.
You have every right to feel righteous while shopping in the gift shop at the Georgia Aquarium because a portion of the proceeds goes toward research, education programs and conservation efforts. Choose a plush penguin or whale shark as reminders of some of the best-loved swimmers in the aquarium. Select an articulated seahorse ornament or a women’s “I’m Crabby” tank top. For the sea creature-loving child on your list, consider a big glow octopus t-shirt.
The Garden Gift Shop at Atlanta Botanical Garden features plenty of botanical-themed merchandise. Find jewelry from artists from all over the United States including a necklace made from blown glass beads created by Melissa Schmidt as well as functional bird houses made by an Atlanta design team.
Really great news is that you may visit all of these gift shops in Atlanta without having to buy admission to the museums. Even better, at the Atlanta Botanical Garden, there is no charge for the first half-hour of parking. At Georgia Aquarium, ask for assistance from security to visit the gift shop. To shop at the World of Coca-Cola store, enter through the doors in Pemberton Place located to left of the main entrance.
And remember, there are still other Atlanta museums, also with gift shops, sprinkled throughout the city.
Carol Carter writes and edits for Atlanta Convention & Visitors Bureau.