The Art of Holiday Shopping

Delight even the most hard-to-please relative or friend with a gift from one of Texas' many museum stores.
Jennifer L. Mckenzie

With December rapidly approaching, incomplete shopping can cause a harried holiday panic. Well, don't fret. We've got a solution. No need to brave the jam-packed malls to find something interesting and artful. For your entire Christmas gift-giving needs, visit one of Texas' many museum stores for unique finds that are sure to please even the quirkiest people you know.

Don't Pick the Bluebonnets
When you want to give something reminiscent of Texas but boots and a 10-gallon hat won't cut it, plant yourself at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center in Austin. It exists to educate people about the environmental necessity, economic value, and natural beauty of native plants. Wild Ideas, the charming gift boutique here, markets items that further this goal.

Packets of wildflower seeds, especially bluebonnets, sell better than anything else in-house and are an ideal gift for those green thumbs on your list. The many books, from biographies on Lady Bird Johnson to manuals on edible flowers, also interest visitors.

Houston's offerings from Mother Nature can be found at the two shops in the Houston Museum of Natural Science. The Collectors Shop is located next to the Cockrell Butterfly Center, while The Discovery Shop sits across from the box office. Both sell books, handcrafted items, and gorgeous stone jewelry. Pick out a bracelet, earrings, or necklace in smoky quartz or amethyst. The fascinating butterfly display cases--actual winged insects in acrylic boxes--start at $25.

Give Something Stylish
A fashionista lurks in every family--the one who knows all the styles before they come out, who's a tad cooler than the rest of the gang. Well, get ready to impress the New York catwalk pants right off her. Anyone who appreciates chic style and contemporary art will delight in a funky gift from the Dallas Museum of Art Museum Store.

Art books fill the shelves, as well as reads on jewelry, architecture, and history. This is no library though. The Dallas Museum of Art store also sells jewelry and watches, bold-colored vases, and fashion-forward accessories for the home.

Sharing Imported Treasures
For the exotic collector or extensive traveler on your list, shop at the Asian Cultures Museum and Educational Center in Corpus Christi. You can buy something from a faraway land without traveling at all. You'll find vases, jade jewelry, and statues. The paper parasols are a nice addition to a home--both for decor and practicality.

A Holiday Mission
Find totally out-of-this-universe educational presents at Space Trader, the shop in NASA's Johnson Space Center in Houston. Suit up in a "Failure Is Not An Option" T-shirt ($14.99). For the seriously spacey, pick up a model shuttle (starting at $95). Any kid will flip over freeze-dried astronaut ice cream or French fries ($2.95) or toys from the LEGO Life on Mars collection ($9.99 to $64.99). For stocking stuffers, pluck some small trinkets, such as pens and pins, from the many bins full of palm-size goodies. Official mission patches ($4.99 each) also stuff stockings very well. Your favorite astronaut wanna-be will blast over the moon for anything you buy here.

Don't feel guilty if you don't have time to visit the exhibits at all of these museums. Just tell the docents that you want to shop, and hold your head up high. You can now call yourself a savvy shopper.

For More Information
Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center: 4801 La Crosse Avenue, Austin, TX 78739; (512) 292-4200 or www.wildflower.org. Store hours: 9 a.m.-5:30 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday, 1-4 p.m. Sunday.
Houston Museum of Natural Science: 1 Hermann Circle Drive, Museum District, Houston, TX 77030; (713) 639-4600 or www.hmns.org. Store hours: vary for each store.
Dallas Museum of Art: 1717 North Harwood, Dallas, TX 75201; (214) 922-1200 or www.dm-art.org. Store hours: 11 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Sunday (open till 9 p.m. Thursday).
Asian Cultures Museum and Educational Center: 1809 North Chaparral Street, Corpus Christi, TX 78401; (361) 882-2641 or www.geocities.com/asiancm. Store hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Tuesday-Saturday.
NASA's Johnson Space Center: 1601 NASA Road #1, Houston, TX 77058; call 1-800-746-7724 for a catalog, or visit www.spacetrader.com. Store hours: 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday.

"The Art of Holiday Shopping" is from the November 2003 issue of Southern Living. Because prices, dates, and other specifics are subject to change, please check all information to make sure it's still current before making your travel plans.