This is not only the most wonderful time of the year, it's the most Buffalo time of the year.
Let's celebrate that in our holiday shopping. Museums, galleries, even hospitals have decked their gift shops for your shopping pleasure. Treat yourself to a stop at one of them.
The reasons are many.
First, it's fun.
You might not have two hours to devote to perusing the Buffalo History Museum, but the gift shop gives you a sense of the place's dignity and grandeur.
Likewise, your hectic day might not allow time to relax in the Albright-Knox Art Gallery. A trip to the gallery's lovely gift shop, though, will give you that break in your day. You even get to walk down one of those pristine white corridors, past paintings and sculptures.
Gift shops don't charge admission, and the settings are often spectacular.
The Darwin Martin House's shop is located in the Martin family's carriage house worth seeing in its own right.
Want to check out the new Oishei Children's Hospital? The gift shop is your excuse.
There is also the lure of Buffalo-centric gifts to be had.
An umbrella from the Theodore Roosevelt Historic site, emblazoned with the trademark TR mustache and spectacles, would be great fun to give to an expat.
Or how about a framed portrait of Father Baker, from Our Lady of Victory Basilica's gift shop? You can't find that treasure easily in North Carolina.
Finally, a good gift shop inspires you to make your life, or someone else's life, a little more beautiful.
That perfect plant from the Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens might be just the springboard to turning a neglected sun room into a conservatory.
A set of drawing pencils from the Albright-Knox would make anyone want to seek his or her inner Rembrandt. We can dream, in gift shops.
Here are some to explore.
- In the Buffalo History Museum, the gift shop greets you when you walk in. But you get a real feel for the place -- its woodwork, high ceilings, ornate radiators, tall windows. You'll find a wide variety of Buffalo items including posters and postcards, as well as books about Buffalo, coloring books, adorable little Dover books for kids and adults -- even temporary tattoos, reportedly a hot seller. A perk of this gift shop: You can see, for free, a gem of the museum's collection -- a mind-boggling Apostles Clock as tall as you are, hand-made by a Buffalonian many years ago. 873-9644.
- The Buffalo and Erie County Botanical Gardens also situates its gift shop right near the lovely front entrance way. Calm and bright, it is like its own little world. Glass Christmas ornaments catch the light. Plants from the collection of the famous conservatory call out to you to take them home. Beautiful teas continue the botanical theme. A stop into this shop is like a mini vacation. 827-1584.
- The Albright-Knox Art Gallery's gift shop is a gallery in itself. Splashes of color are everywhere, from scarves, mittens, shawls and tote bags to distinctive stationery and coffee mugs. The distinctive jewelry is worth a stop in itself, as is the irresistible collection of children's books, coffee table books, and other art-related books. It's not all expensive, either: A pencil that changes color as you write may be yours for $1. 882-8700.
- The Burchfield Penney Art Center Museum Store also offers items with artistic flair. One of the shop's strong suits is artisan items. Among them are bowls and baskets crocheted by fiber artist Catherine Southwick. And the shop is particularly proud of its jewelry made by Billy Prendergast, a Buffalo State College grad. A metalsmith, Prendergast works in sterling silver. His work includes stunning necklaces, earrings and belt buckles. 878-3595.
- If you're lucky enough to be going to any of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra's holiday concerts, work in some shopping on the side. You'll find the BPO Gift Shop open year-round both on the main floor and the gallery level. Attractive brass figurines of musicians, about six inches tall, are an especially hot seller. There are also BPO CDs, and cute musical-themed items including ties, hats, even pajamas and bathrobes. 885-5000.
- The warm, inviting gift shop located in the carriage house of the Darwin Martin House teems with elegant gift items include miniature reproductions of the Martin House's famous windows, Wright photo frames and candle holders, Wright furniture and Wright books. You can also find table settings, flatware and other accouterments for your holiday table. 856-3858. (Note: If you are going to see the Christmas decorations at Graycliff, the Martin family's country estate in Derby, there's a gift shop there, too. 947-9217.)
- The gift shop of Our Lady of Victory Basilica is on the lower level of the Shrine next to the Father Baker Museum. This big, serene space is one-stop shopping for all your Nativity needs. Wonder as you wander among Nativity figures and figures of the Three Kings, statues of saints and angels, wooden Nativity sets made in Jerusalem, glass globes with Christmas trees that light up, and sparkly ornaments. They also have luxury items by Swarovski. 828-9444.
- The Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site gift shop is situated in the gracious mansion at 641 Delaware Ave. where Teddy Roosevelt took the oath of office. The cozy Victorian space, bigger than you think, is rich in eye-catching accessories, including jewelry for the ladies and bow ties for the men. Buffalove and In the Buff items make great gifts for out-of-towners. And you will exclaim "Bully!" when you see all the TR items, festooned with that humorous and recognizable logo, including coasters, dish towels, and even a line of glassware. 884-0095.
- The Oishei Children's Hospital Gift Shop offers calm, cheer, and a large collection of colorful stuffed animals, including Ty stuffed animals from the movie "The Secret Life of Pets." They also have elaborate Christmas ornaments, Buffalo-themed items, plush toys, and baby clothes. Soothing, collectible Willow Tree figurines have an angelic allure. 323-1530.
- The Buffalo Zoo gift shop, the Zootique, is the shop where you shop for the animal lover in your life. They have Buffalo-themed jewelry and handmade hats and gloves. Their hottest holiday sellers are hand-carved wooden Christmas tree ornaments. Cute and whimsical, they are shaped like eight different animals and read "Buffalo Zoo." 837-3900, Ext. 110.
Story topics: Albright-Knox Art Gallery/ Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra/ Buffalo Zoo/ Burchfield Penney Art Center/ Oishei Children's Hospital/ Our Lady of Victory Basilica/ Theodore Roosevelt Inaugural National Historic Site