This holiday season, you can keep visitors amused at local museums and attractions while you also get in some last-second shopping. The Denver Art Museum is doing blockbuster business not only selling tickets to the Claude Monet: Truth in Nature exhibit; the show's special shop is also replete with Monet-themed umbrellas, puzzles, posters, keychains and more that are proving a surprising boom for the DAM. In fact, retail is a big part of what keeps cultural institutions alive...and it can also prove a real boon for gift-giving. Here are some of our favorite shops at Denver's cultural institutions:
The Butterfly Pavilion
6252 West 104th Avenue, Westminster
The Butterfly Pavilion, which boasts being “the first stand-alone, Association of Zoos and Aquariums-accredited non-profit invertebrate zoo in the world,” has a gift shop that’s a flytrap for people of all ages. You don't need to pay admission to enter the store, where kids can find branded sippy cups and T-shirts, along with a host of educational materials and toys. Adults will discover framed insects, including terror-inducing scorpions and magnificent, rare butterflies; if bugs aren’t their thing, there are clothing and jewelry collections to browse through. Gardeners should definitely explore the shop’s wealth of information about beneficial insects; depending on the time of year, they can also order pollinator plants.
Children’s Museum Denver Marsico Campus
2121 Children's Museum Drive
A trip to the Children’s Museum of Denver Marsico Campus is always entertaining for kids, but it can be economically draining for their parents if they spend too long in the gift shop. The store carries an array of educational — and just plain fun — toys from companies including TY, FatBrain, Green Toys, Manhattan Toy Co., Young Scientists Club and more, along with snacks and museum-branded wearables.
Denver Art Museum
100 West 14th Avenue Parkway
In addition to the temporary Monet shop, the DAM has a regular merchandise marketplace — the Shop at the Denver Art Museum — that offers a variety of art-inspired products including jewelry, hip housewares, books, activity kits for kids and other creative gifts. Many of the items in the DAM shop, which is free to enter without admission, are made by Colorado artisans, and items range in price from $1.50 for postcards to $2,000 for jewelry.
Denver Botanic Gardens
1007 York Street
The Shop at the Gardens, which is located in the Denver Botanic Gardens’ Bonfils-Stanton Visitor Center at 1007 York Street, is free to enter. Sure, you can buy tickets here (and you’ll want to, since you don’t want to miss Blossoms of Light this season), but the shop is definitely worth a stop, since it stocks more than 10,000 items chosen by the staff to reflect the Gardens’ core values of sustainability, transformation, diversity and relevance. The impressive inventory includes plants and gardening supplies, of course, but also books (including some written by staffers), herbs and vinegars produced by the Gardens Guild, and jewelry, hats, cards and soaps made by local artisans. If you can’t find something to covet here, you’re not trying.
Denver Museum of Nature & Science
2001 Colorado Boulevard
Looking for an enjoyable shopping experience for the entire family during which you might just learn something, too? The Best of Denver award-winning Denver Museum of Nature & Science gift shop has swag for geeks young and old, and you don't have to pay admission to visit it. But while you’re at the museum — which celebrates its 119th birthday this month — you'll definitely want to check out special exhibits devoted to Pixar and extreme sports, stand in awe of the dinosaurs and mummies, and catch a film at the IMAX theater. Then head to the shop, where you can accessorize with animal-, insect- and dinosaur-themed jewelry, grab some Colorado T-shirts and magnets, and buy your little one a polished stone, an astronaut’s helmet, or kits for growing crystals and building toy robots. If you need a nosh for the road, the store also has a small assortment of tasty chocolate bars. Just beware: If you’re not careful, you might spend more time in the gift shop than in the museum.
2300 Steele Street
The Denver Zoo has a gift shop whose contents are almost as popular as the animals themselves. A holiday-themed table offers seasonal items, including T-shirts, blankets, mugs and plush toys, that are only available this time of year. Every Friday, Saturday and Sunday during Zoo Lights, the Kibongi Market has a calligrapher on hand to customize wood and metal ornaments for just $5. Year-round, the zoo sells Ecokins Plush Animals, a menagerie from recycled plastic, as well as popular buffalo-plaid gear for the entire family. And you can always use the Customization Station to personalize presents ranging from drinkware to key chains and even ornaments with your own pictures and text. But if you want to get even more personal, don't stop with shopping in the physical store: On the Denver Zoo website, you can purchase Up-Close Animal Encounter, the ideal gift for an animal lover who wants to get behind the scenes with both animals and their keepers.
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Take a piece of history home with you! After you've pored over Beer Here: Brewing the New West, zoomed in on Zoom In: The Centennial State in 100 Objects and studied the other exhibits at the history museum, stop by the well-appointed store to the side of the big lobby. You'll find items that relate to the displays, as well as regional foods and crafts, books on Colorado and Western history, puzzles and games, and even some clothing, including the Women's Vote Centennial T-shirt. It's priced at $18.93, since Colorado voters banned gender discrimination in voting laws in 1893; proceeds from those sales support the Center for Colorado Women's History at Byers-Evans House Museum. The selection at this shop is so choice, in fact, that you might want to run in to grab a gift even if you don't have time for a real blast from the past.
Museum of Contemporary Art Denver
1485 Delgany Street
Periodic trips to the Museum of Contemporary Art are required for cultural connoisseurs, as the museum offers revolving exhibitions year-round, not to mention some mighty entertaining events. Whether you're there for the art or the activities, stop by the ever-shifting institution’s small but mighty gift shop. It has a well-curated collection of art theory and coffee-table books; Colorado artist-made wares, including handmade jewelry, pendants and DIY pins; and posters, zines, and even candles and other decorative objects.
Red Rocks Trading Post
17900 Trading Post Road, Morrison
When you visit Red Rocks Amphitheatre for a concert, your first stop to shop must be the merch booths: That's what keeps bands on the road. But if you’re visiting during the daytime, stop by the Trading Post, a historic building dating back to 1931, where you can pick up all manner of Red Rocks swag, from shirts and hats to postcards, trinkets and historical memorabilia. While you’re there, tour the Colorado Music Hall of Fame presented by Comfort Dental for a look at the state’s long and strong music history.