Legion of Honor, San Francisco (credit: Laurie Jo Miler Farr)
In San Francisco and in all cultural destinations, shopping in museum stores is educational, fun and full of intrigue, plus part of the proceeds go to support museums' collections and exhibitions. There are great gift items galore, some so tantalizing as to be taken home. What a wonderful way to dip one's toe into any museum collection without even paying museum admission when time is short.
100 34th Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94121
Downstairs, there are two shops on the terrace level at San Francisco's most beautiful museum. The second one focuses on items connected to the current special exhibition. In the main shop, shelves are lined with the extensive art book collection, including some fun books on San Francisco and some with an accent on Paris, too. Find lovely jewelry, accessories, decorative objects for dining and desk plus stationery for those who still write with a pen. The Made in California, children's gifts and sale sections are well worth a look, too.
50 Hagiwara Tea Garden Drive, Golden Gate Park
San Francisco, CA 94118
The large bi-level shop has an art-on-demand service whereby customers can create a custom-sized poster from the Fine Art Museums of San Francisco collection at the Legion of Honor and de Young. In addition, the usual suspects are here in abundance: mugs, T-shirts, totes, notecards, journals, books and games. Fun finds include a serving tray done as an artist's palette and coasters done as mini Turkish carpets. The umbrellas are excellent for brightening a damp day with Claude Monet's waterlilies and the like.
200 Larkin St.
San Francisco, CA 94102
A mix of ancient and antique replicas plus contemporary items are among the unique gifts in this small store found on the lobby level. Lovely semi-precious jewelry and one-of-a-kind treasures to please a collector are on display. Among the more unusual finds are calligraphy sets and tools, sets of colorful Moroccan tea glasses, the Tibetan Buddhist Mandala 1,000-piece puzzle and a Korean porcelain celadon tumbler. Children's language learning blocks come in Chinese, Japanese, Korean, Persian, Hindi and Arabic.
Pier 15, Green St. at The Embarcadero
San Francisco, CA 94111
The store at the Exploratorium is nearly as cool as the galleries, with a big emphasis on kids and education. Indulge a child's inner nerd with science kits on electricity, gravity, light waves and plants, just like we used to enjoy in the 20th century. Your own inner child will appreciate tinkering kits for copper circuitry, Rubik cubes, magnetic building blocks and doodle bugs made from recycled trash. Shop until 10:30 p.m. on a Thursday night.
Walt Disney Family Museum Store
104 Montgomery St.
San Francisco, CA 94129
If you love Walt, you'll love the shop at the Walt Disney Family Museum. From Aladdin to Zazu, you can fill the children's bookshelves, kit out a dorm room, re-stock a mug collection or decorate a proper library with framed art posters. Why not wake up to a vintage-looking Minnie Mouse clock instead of a smartphone alert? The Disney Classics Little Golden Books are as precious as they were in the '50s.
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