That’s an audacious headline. There are hundreds of fabulous shops in the greater Birmingham area. We narrowed the field by limiting our selections to gift shops at area attractions, so here are six we love:
Leaf & Petal – Birmingham Botanical Gardens
A beautiful selection of potted plants and trees surrounds the entrance to this lovely shop, and, yes, they’re all for sale. We spotted customers buying pots of lush herbs, along with handsome evergreens for decorating now and enjoying long after the holidays. This is an unusually large shop to be connected to an attraction, and the inventory is delightful. For the Christmas season, Leaf & Petal has a wide selection of nativity scenes, from cloth figures designed for children to elegant china depictions of the manger scene.
The shop also carries colorful scarves, gloves and other high-end accessories. The jewelry selection ranges from fine to funky and is a world apart from department store pieces. Some of the most interesting items in the shop are small globes of the world that spin continuously, seemingly like magic. Wreaths made of cotton bolls give the shop a Southern flavor, as do a wealth of books about tending plants in our Southern environs.
The Museum Store – Birmingham Museum of Art
It is not uncommon to see people rush through an attraction just to get to the gift shop. That, however, is not the case at the Birmingham Museum of Art. Visitors spend hours admiring the extensive permanent collection. Then there’s the pleasure of lunching at Oscar’s, the museum restaurant. But eventually most people find their way into the museum gift shop.
The shop is carefully curated for high quality gifts from glass and pottery to books and jewelry. Items
in the shop come from local craftspeople and from crafters around the world. The aspiring cook in the family will love the handsomely glazed pottery cornbread maker or the hand-forged pizza cutter. The accessories collection is reasonably priced and naturally artistic. Locals are especially fond of the jewelry and scarves that are unlike anything else in town. All purchase proceeds benefit the Birmingham Museum of Art.
This place is filled with so much cool stuff that they just had to call it the Cool Stuff Store. Among the cool offerings are science-related toys such as the potato-powered clock, a better alternative to all things battery operated. Your hyperactive nephew will adore the gift of a volcanic eruption kit. His sister will love adorning her ceiling with glow-in-the-dark solar system stickers. And who can resist the plush dinosaurs?
You can’t find this cool stuff in local department stores. Besides, it’ll soon be Christmas holidays, and the young ‘uns can spend happy hours exploring the McWane Science Center exhibits. The newly remodeled store is in the museum lobby. While you’re there, pick up some astronaut ice cream. It may not taste like homemade, but it takes up a lot of room in a stocking.
For the uninitiated, Vulcan is Birmingham’s unofficial city symbol and the largest cast iron statue in the world. He watches over the city from high atop Red Mountain, and he has a brand spanking new gift shop appropriately named for a mythical god of fire and forge.
The statue of Vulcan lends itself to a wonderful
selection of gift items. Top sellers include glass
snow globes and delightful Vulcan bobble heads.
Also popular is a vintage looking pocket watch,
just perfect for stuffing in a stocking. A selection
of coffee mugs includes one on which Vulcan
magically appears when filled with a hot beverage.
Bottle openers and other useful items fill the store.
They even have glass necklaces bearing the image
of Vulcan and handcrafted by a talented local artist.
The Gift Shop – Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum
Barber Vintage Motorsports Museum has the world’s largest collection of vintage and contemporary motorcycles. It is near heaven for racing enthusiasts and gorgeous eye candy for all others. The gift shop here carries a wide selection of logo-branded clothing, along with t-shirts commemorating specific events such as the Barber Vintage Festival.
A logo ornament is among the selection of stocking stuffers that also includes golf balls and a gremlin bell keychain, believed to protect bikers. A 160-piece jigsaw puzzle of the five-story museum is great post-Christmas-dinner entertainment. And who can or should resist the Barber shot glass shooter?
The Birmingham Shop – Greater Birmingham Convention & Visitors Bureau
Because we believe in full disclosure, let it be noted that the CVB is not an attraction, but the shop there is chock-full of Birmingham merchandise.
Hot off the presses are high quality Birmingham notecards featuring city scenes by Birmingham photographers. The boxed set showcases music, attractions, dining, craft breweries and more, all taken in Birmingham.
T-shirts and caps with the Birmingham logo are just the ticket for family and friends with roots in the city. Shelves are also stocked for the season with Christmas ornaments of city landmarks such as Railroad Park, the Rotary Trail sign and Sloss Furnaces National Historic Landmark. Umbrellas and tote bags are useful gifts, and the shop also carries cookbooks by the city’s best-known chefs.