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Dec 042014
 December 4, 2014  Posted by  Features, Holiday, Hot Deals, Shopping
gift shop

The holiday shopping season is well upon us but if visiting a mall at this time of the year gives you heart palpitations, not to worry.

No matter where you live, there are bound to be some cultural institutions with great gift shops. There, you’re likely to find one-of-a-kind items you won’t find at the local department store that make for welcome gifts. Plus, depending on who owns and operates the shop — the not-for-profit or a concessionaire — our purchase could be tax-free.

Here’s a sampling of five venues where you’ll find unique gifts for even the hardest person to shop for on your list — and chances are the items can’t be found in a department store:

  1. Zoo gift shops. With all the choices here, it’s probably possible to wind up all you holiday shopping chores. At the Saint Louis Zoo’s Zootique, for example, you’ll find animal-related clothing, ornaments, plush animals, toys, books, home décor and many items available only there. Most Zootique items are perfect for the animal lover — and who doesn’t love animals?
  2. Science Center gift shops. When my kids were younger, the St. Louis Science Center was my go-to place for holiday gifts as well as birthday gifts. The kids’ items the Science Center carries are educational, unique and, most of all, really cool. A bonus: As a member, I received a 10% discount on my purchases. As a long-term bonus: Two of my children ended up becoming scientists. A favorite gift still being used by the teen recipient: an Escher poster. And the range of gifts — including books games, apparel, build-it kits, rocks and more — covers everyone from baby to teen to adult to grandma.
  3. Art museum gift shops. Not only is this the stop for the art-lover on your list, it’s often a place to pick up great unusual gifts for kids and adults alike. Jewelry, glassware, masks, prints and posters are just some of the items you’ll find in art museum gift shops.
  4. History museum gift shops. From books to antique toys, history museum gift shops also offer a unique array of gifts including T-shirts, prints, tote bags, mugs and other items. Usually, museum gifts shops will also feature items related to their current exhibits.
  5. Botanical garden gift shops. If you have a gardener on your list –or even if you don’t, a botanical garden gift shop is a great place to shop. Here you’ll find items such as books, gardening tools, calendars, rain sticks and, of course, plants.

In addition to being able to check off some of the people on your list with great gift choices when you shop at these types of stores, you’ll have the satisfaction of knowing you’re helping a nonprofit organization.

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Kathie Sutin

Kathie Sutin has covered everything from construction to transportation. Features, however, are her specialty especially those about travel, food, health, parenting and people. Her work has appeared in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Midwest Traveler, Southern Traveler, St. Louis Parent, Hooked on the Outdoors, Missouri Life, St. Louis Magazine, Air Tran’s flight magazine and Sauce Magazine and websites including and At her last fulltime gig, public relations writer for the St. Louis Convention and Visitors Commission, she developed a vast knowledge of all things St. Louis as she spread the gospel about free and things to do in the Gateway City. That came in handy when she launched St. Louis On The Cheap as did her lifelong strategy of paying less whenever she can.

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