This holiday season, find inspiration (and unique treasures) at local Museum Stores! Not only do these shops offer creative gift ideas you can’t find at the standard mall or big-box store, but they also help support the cultural institutions (and people!) that make the San Diego community so special.
We have compiled this Holiday Gift Guide to help you find the perfect item for everyone on your list. Of course, these selections are just a small sampling of what San Diego Museum Stores offer, so we encourage you to visit your favorite museums (or browse their online stores) for more fun ideas.
With a diverse museum community of 45+ local cultural institutions, there is something for every age or passion (from art to history to nature) waiting to be discovered. These are fun and unique gifts you can feel great about giving. (And maybe you’ll find a little something special for yourself too.)
Tip: Not sure what to buy? Museum membership is the gift that keeps on giving all year long and it’s always a perfect fit. While you are at it, consider purchasing a membership for yourself and take advantage of member discounts available at many museum shops.
What’s In Store: Scroll down to browse our full Holiday Gift Guide. Here is a preview what you will find, categorized by interest/museum focus:
Nature & Wildlife Lovers
Kids & Families
Passion for Culture & Heritage
Lovers of Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Military & Maritime Enthusiasts
Music, Surfing & Science
Barona Cultural Center & Museum
Find one-of-a-kind baskets and pottery made by Kumeyaay people, and gifts for all ages inspired by the Native American culture and history of San Diego County. You will also find jewelry, ornaments, hand towels, books, plushies, mugs, pencils, soaps, cards and more.
Birch Aquarium at Scripps
In honor of the Aquarium’s recent announcement about a new Little Blue Penguins exhibit opening next summer, the gift shop has added a line of Little Blue Penguin merchandise including clothing, accessories and adorable penguin plush. The Aquarium has also launched an online shop that features a curated collection of ocean-themed apparel, accessories and toys as well as sustainable gifts.
California Surf Museum
Have a surfer or beach bum on your list? Don’t miss the California Surf Museum Store in Oceanside, where you can find a great selection of men’s and women’s apparel, accessories, books and souvenirs inspired by the surfing lifestyle. A few fun ideas include Jim Kempton’s book, First We Surf, Then We Eat: Recipes from a Lifetime of Surf Travel, and “Let’s Boogie,” “Lightly Salted” and “Happiness Comes in Waves” Museum-branded shirts.
Coronado Historical Association
The Museum Store offers a variety of gifts curated in Coronado, including books about Coronado and military history, artwork by local artists, hostess gifts, jewelry and more. You can also pick up Coronado-inspired Christmas ornaments designed by local artists, including the iconic Hotel Del and Coronado Ferry.
Fleet Science Center
The North Star Science Store, located inside the Fleet Science Center, is the perfect place to shop for educational gifts, do-it-yourself kits, toys, models, books and and other curious and hard-to-find items to awaken the astronomer, physicist or chemist within us all.
Gaslamp Museum at the Davis-Horton House
Check out this quaint shop, located inside the Gaslamp Quarter’s oldest house, for history-related souvenirs, artisan soaps, locally made jewelry and more. Dog-lovers will appreciate their collection of gifts commemorating “Bum,” San Diego’s Official Town Dog (that belonged to no one but was loved by everyone).
Japanese Friendship Garden
You can support local small businesses and find the perfect holiday gifts during the second Holiday Market at the Japanese Friendship Garden on Saturday, Nov. 20. Browse 15 merchant booths and grab delicious food from seven food vendors in the lower garden. Be sure to also check out the Garden’s gift shop as well, for a beautiful selection of items that reflect Japanese culture and this beautiful garden.
Lemon Grove Historical Society
The Lemon Grove Historical Society has some fun gift ideas, including The Parsonage Medallion, a Christmas Tree ornament that celebrates the first church in Lemon Grove that now serves as the Lemon Grove Parsonage Museum. You can also find cute vintage-inspired refrigerator magnets from the Lemon Grove Fruit Growers Association.
Living Coast Discovery Center
For the nature and wildlife lovers in your life, check out the Living Coast Discovery Center’s gift shop, where you will find all types of books, toys, jewelry, home décor items and more. For a unique experiential gift idea, you can purchase a purchase a Private Wildlife Tour, which includes a two-hour guided tour with an educator and an up-close animal encounter with a sea turtle, bird or reptile of their choice.
Maritime Museum of San Diego
For the sea lovers in your life, head to the Maritime Museum of San Diego gift shop. Or give the gift of adventure, with tickets to “Boarded: A New Pirate Adventure” featuring live performances aboard the San Salvador or a Californian Tall Ship Adventure Sail.
Marston House Museum & Gardens
The 1905 Hebbard & Gill Carriage House Museum shop at the Marston House Museum & Gardens carries a distinctive mix of gift items, specializing in historic architecture; local history; Arts & Crafts style art, pottery and tile; and a curated selection of plein air paintings by San Diego artists.
Mingei International Museum
Located on the free Commons level of the newly transformed Mingei International Museum, Shop Mingei features thoughtfully designed items from local and international artists and craftspeople. The Shop gets to the heart of the Museum’s mission, amplifying the work of hundreds of artists, designers and craftspeople by selling functionally beautiful items like handmade ceramics, clothing, jewelry and more.
Mission San Luis Rey
Find unique treasures from around the world, including hand-painted Mission Christmas ornaments, raffia elephants from Madagascar, nativity scenes from El Salvador, soapstone hearts from Kenya, handwoven baskets from the Southwest, and an oil drum nativity from Haiti.
Museum of Making Music
Choose from a variety of music-themed gifts that are sure to inspire and entertain, such as a Make Your Own Music Box Kit (which includes the mechanism to compose any song you wish) or a Synth Wave Kit to build your own electronic music. Or, for young music-lovers, find miniature ukulele, guitar or violin nanoblock sculptures for hours of construction fun and imaginative play.
Museum of Photographic Arts (MOPA)
Surprise the photographer or film lover in the family with a gift from the Museum of Photographic Arts. Geek out on a fun selection of apparel, including new MOPA shirts, and technique-based books.
The New Children’s Museum
The Museum Store offers a wide array of creative, educational and playful items, including plush toys, games, puzzles, art supplies and activities, books and music (in English and Spanish), apparel and more. You will also find items and bundles inspired by the Museum’s current and past installations, including Sketch Aquarium, Whammock, Tikitiko, Rain House, and others.
San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts
Inspire the music lovers on your list with the award-winning “Freedom Riders: The Civil Rights Musical” pre-Broadway soundtrack debuting November 19 on all streaming services and through BroadwayRecords.com. Then experience the music and more as the San Diego African American Museum of Fine Arts presents “Freedom Riders” opening Juneteenth 2022 at the East Village Quartyard.
San Diego Air & Space Museum
The Store at the San Diego Air & Space Museum for great gifts for the aviation enthusiasts in your life. They offer models, books, t-shirts, jackets, backpacks, posters, mugs, hats, and more. Shop their store in Balboa Park or check out their eBay for Charity or Etsy shops for unique surplus items that support the Museum’s mission.
San Diego Automotive Museum
Have a car or motorcycle aficionado on your list? Check out the newly redone gift shop at the San Diego Automotive Museum, where you’ll find their favorite vehicle-inspired apparel, books, toys, collectables and jewelry. The store will offer one-day special offers on select items on Sunday, Nov. 28.
San Diego Botanic Garden
Visit the San Diego Botanic Garden’s Gift Shop for the perfect gift for any plant lover. You will find works by local artists, garden supplies, hiking sticks, eco-friendly products, clothing and accessories. There is even a garden nursery where you can find unique plants propagated right from the Garden.
San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum
Give the gift of play this holiday season with San Diego Children’s Discovery Museum. The gift shop features a variety of thoughtful, educational and fun items, including children’s and parenting books, a Build Your Own Solar Light Kit or Electric Motor Catalyst Kit, Cubebots, wooden blocks and puzzles, crayon rocks and eco-friendly soaps, reusable utensils and bath teas.
The San Diego Museum of Art
Add Pop Art to their wardrobe with statement handbags by artist Kent Stetson (each piece is signed by the artist). Create your own museum exhibition experience with The Grand Museum of Art Game. Or for something unexpected, select the Salvador Dali custom tarot deck from 1984.
San Diego Natural History Museum (The Nat)
The San Diego Natural History Museum has launched a new collection exclusive to their online store. Bring home a piece of natural history, or give a gift, featuring iconic cacti art by renowned botanical artist A.R. Valentien.
San Diego Model Railroad Museum
The San Diego Model Railroad Museum is the must-visit for anyone with a train-lover (young or old!) in their life. The Store offers a wide range of toys and games, train sets and cars, books, videos and apparel. A few favorite gift ideas this year include a Stuffed Locomotive, Take-Along Railroad (the whole set is inside the case), Railroad Crossing Light Desk Lamp, “Created by Me” Train (painting/activity kit) and a cute Train Eraser Set.
Tijuana Estuary Visitor Center
The Tijuana Estuary Clapper Rail gift shop has a great selection of field guides for nature lovers and many fun and educational children’s books, games and toys. You can also find t-shirts with the park’s signature Ridgway’s Rail and San Diego Wildlife Refuge designs.
Timken Museum of Art
Choose from a curated selection of gift ideas, including art books, distinctive decorative objects, fashion accessories, jewelry, art-centric family games, and more. New additions to the Museum Store are artistic offerings inspired by the Timken’s Russian Icon collection. Handcrafted by skilled artisans using time-honored techniques, these objects celebrate Russian culture and the ornate Russian decorative arts styles. (On a separate holiday-related note, don’t miss the Museum’s Virtual “Jewels of the Season” Ornament-Making Workshops (Dec. 1 and Dec. 8).
USS Midway Museum
The Midway’s gift shop (The Jet Shop) is located on the hangar deck where sailors once repaired jet engines. Here, you will find gifts perfect for any military history buff or armed services family member, including Navy and USS Midway apparel, historic and children’s books, patriotic gear, toys and games, model ships and aircraft, Top Gun movie items, and more. The store is also now available online.
These original graphic prints are inspired by the four segments of Vanguard Culture’s film production of The History of Joy. Each limited-edition print is numbered and signed by the artist. Sales support Vanguard Culture’s mission to advance San Diego’s Creative Industry workforce.
Visions Art Museum
Visions Art Museum in Liberty Stations specializes in contemporary quilts and textile art. Their cozy gift shop offers a unique range of gift items that support local artists, including textile-based artwork, jewelry, , home décor, dolls, scarves, and accessories. Right now, you can find Maverick Mushrooms (see photo), featuring Shibori hand-dyed silk with stitching.