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Museums are marvelous. Parks are perfect. Aquariums are A-OK. But, really, can you deny that you heart races just that much more over the thought of the post-attraction gift shop visit? Whether you’re after salt shakers that pay homage to Old Faithful or a birdhouse reminder of the See Rock City barn-side ad campaign, it’s off to the gift shop with you. Joy awaits. Here, some of the most memorable shops from around the 50…Sophia: I’ve been to Smokey Bear Historical Park in Capitan, New Mexico, I’ve done paid my respects at Smokey Bear’s grave, and I got the T-shirt at the chock-full-of-goodness gift shop. I love Smokey’s retro look–I hope they never update him—and considered surprisingly-well designed pins, patches, and hats before settling on a gray ringer T with nothing but Smokey’s instantly identifiable mug on it. I particularly like the fact that it doesn’t advertise anything but fire safety (and who can argue with that?), and I’d rather wear Smokey than Mickey any day. Matt: Considering my love for marine mammals, most of my favorite gift shops focus on whales and dolphins. My favorite is at the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. I was a volunteer in the facility’s marine mammal department when they upgraded the gift shop in 1996, and remember capitalizing on my 25 percent discount like a house-flipper in the current real estate market. Whale puzzles, mobiles, posters–I bought ’em all. I gave the trinkets as gifts. I hoarded them. And I used the heck out of them. All that remains is one little mug. I’m drinking coffee from it right now. Jenna: Of all the museum gift shops I’ve ever visited, none has ever felt as much an extension of the physical space and mission of its museum mama as the one at The Institute of Contemporary Art/Boston. It’s all light, glass, and excellent things to look at–and, of course, buy. I want want want that folding bicycle! I swear: I could decorate an entire apartment with the goodies in there. Oh for the bucks to do it.
Have a favorite gift shop–or gift shop-related memory–from your U.S. travels?