No trip to the nation's capital is complete without stops in the city's many museum shops. Whether you're looking for a special gift or a memento of your Washington, D.C. visit, the following museum stores are a cut above the rest, offering a wide array of merchandise.
Most museum stores are open from 9:30am or 10am to 5pm or 6pm, but it's best to call ahead or check at the information desk.
National Building Museum(401 F St. NW; tel. 202/272-7706; www.nbm.org) Metro: Judiciary Square
A few steps from the NBM's magnificent Great Hall, this spacious and appealing shop has won well-deserved national awards for the breadth, quality, and quantity of its wares. Come here for design- and building-related art, books, and kits; stylish accessories for home and office; toys and puzzles; posters and stationery; clothing and jewelry; toys and stocking stuffers.
National Gallery of Art (Constitution Ave between 4th and 6th St NW; tel. 202/737-4215; www.nga.gov) Metro: Judiciary Square or Archives
Stop by the National Gallery of Art's gift shop for exhibition catalogues, collection guides, decorative arts, posters, books, note cards, journals, DVDs, art-inspired clothing, jewelry, and home accessories. A smaller Concourse Bookstore and Children's Shop are on the Concourse between the West and East buildings.
National Museum of Natural History (10th St. & Constitution Ave. NW; tel. 202/633-2060; www.mnh.si.edu) Metro: Smithsonian or Federal Triangles
The Gallery Store on the main floor of the National Museum of Natural History stocks treasures from around the world -- clothing and gift items, media and graphics, crafts, and souvenirs for under $5. Step into the Gem and Mineral Store on the second floor for gemstones, minerals, and fossils. Take the kiddies to the Family Store on the second floor for miniature animals, dinosaur kits, and souvenirs. The first-floor Mammal Store stocks a large selection of plush (stuffed being politically incorrect) animals.
Newseum (555 Pennsylvania Ave. NW; tel. 202/292-6100; www.newseum.org) Metro: Archives/Navy Memorial-Penn Quarter or Judiciary Square
I'm hard-pressed to leave the Newseum without making a purchase in either the Level 1 or Level 2 stores (sometimes both). Among the media- and journalism-inspired books, multimedia and gift items -- inspired by those who write the news and those who make it -- are iconic news photographs, replicas of historic documents, writing instruments, journalism-inspired souvenirs, stationery; T-shirts, caps, and mugs ("Not tonight, dear ... I'm at deadline"). Dozens of Elvis-related items are keyed to the exhibition honoring the King, which runs through Feb. 14, 2011.
The George Washington University Museum and the Textile Museum (701 21st Street, NW; tel. 202/994-5200; https://museum.gwu.edu) Metro: Foggy Bottom GWU
At the Textile Museum, you can shop for tapestries, quilts, pillow covers, placemats, jackets, jewelry, scarves, hand-painted silk ties, knitted hats created by local and internationally-known fiber artists and craftsmen as well as stylish stationery and postcards. While you can pick up inexpensive cards and such, don't come here for plastic souvenirs. This is high-end, museum-quality merchandise. I'd kill for one of Donna Radner's extraordinary contemporary quilts ($1,000-$3,000) -- reason enough to add this museum store to your itinerary.
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