Best Museum Gift Shops In Washington, DC

Model Pompeii in NGA Gift Shop | ©Mr.TinDC/Flickr
Model Pompeii in NGA Gift Shop | ©Mr.TinDC/Flickr
Being the museum capital of the nation, Washington, DC offers endlessly cool accompanying gift shops. The merchandise tends to be expensive, but the unique and enticing pieces support museums that don’t charge admittance. Purchases help keep these world renown institutions free, and you receive an individual, quality souvenir that is available nowhere else. Here, we round up the capital city’s best.

National Gallery Of Art

The colossal West Gift Shop consumes approximately half of the museum’s basement level. Purchase knick-knacks modeled after famous artworks in the museum, earrings sculpted after Monet’s Water Lilies, painting supplies, artsy clothing and installation guides. A wide range of posters, books and home accessories inspired by the collections are also available. There’s also a more upscale East Gift Shop, which sells reproduced prints and textiles.

National Gallery of Art, 6th & Constitution Ave NW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 842 6002


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Hirshorn Museum

Hirshhorn | © anokarina / Flickr
This avant-garde modern art museum’s gift shop appropriately echoes its eclectic installations. The gift shop is part of an exhibit, featuring blocked words that wrap from wall to floor, creating strings of different messages. It is modest in size, but contains fascinating art books and trinkets. The merchandise reflects a penchant for the abstract expressionists, with much of the retail material modeled after Jackson Pollock and Mark Rothko.
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National Air & Space Museum

The Air & Space gift shop staple is the home of the infamous Einstein bobble heads. Around twenty or so sit in the window, heads bobbling up and down at all times, courtesy of the laws of physics – a tribute to the man who discovered E=MC2. The store also offers plenty of aviation-themed wonders, from a rocket alarm clock to telescopes to children’s astronaut suits.

National Air And Space Museum, 600 Independence Ave SW, Washington, DC, USA, +1 202 633 4510

National Building Museum

The National Building Museum consistently receives national awards, and is ranked as the country’s best gift shop. The museum emphasizes the built environment, and how it’s often overlooked by humans; its gift shop further accentuates this point by retailing building kits, blue prints, and innovatively designed trinkets. It’s not what they sell, as much as how it invites you to think about the construction of each item available.

Renwick Gallery

Museum, Shop
The Renwick Gallery is dedicated to contemporary craft and is a National Historic Landmark | The Renwick Gallery is dedicated to contemporary craft and is a National Historic Landmark
The exquisite crafts at the Renwick are a dream, especially at Christmas time. Steel bent into spiraling birds’ nests and copper bird houses line the shelves for that ultimate holiday ambiance. The shop features mostly handmade creations from local and national artists, and there’s also a variety of ceramics, textiles, and intricate jewelry.
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National Museum Of American History

The American History Museum’s gift shops are less tacky than one would expect, instead offering quality items and nothing short of Rosie the Riveter feminist memorabilia. The merchandise references historical events and the cultural and scientific progress over centuries, instead of gaudy American flag objects. The museum houses three different gift stores; one focuses solely on pop culture and offers retail like nostalgic toys, Elvis memorabilia, and replicas of Dorothy’s slippers (the museum collection includes the original pair.)

Dorothy's ACTUAL Ruby slippers. *faints*

A photo posted by Adam Sutherland (@crapadventurer) on

By Kate McMahon