During the past three years the Getaway Guys have had an opportunity to visit a wide variety of museums (about 28 to date) while traveling the highways and byways of our getaway-Chicago territory. From railroad, automobile and airplane museums to art, history and science, we have covered a lot of ground and have found not only a plethora of information and artifacts related to the development and growth of the getaway turf, but some pretty darn good museum shops packed with unique items.

So the Guys decided upon a holiday-season shopping article devoted to cool stuff for giving and presents that help support institutions. Following individual proclivities, the Guys selected ten places  within a reasonable distance (addresses in Chicago unless otherwise given):

The Oriental Institute (1155 East 58th St.): An exquisite array of finely crafted jewelry from the Middle East and an intriguing selection of beautiful carpets from exotic places, all at affordable cost. This is a small museum shop, but packed with unusual items for any gift-giving
occasion. (Neil)

The Du Sable Museum of African-American History (740 East 56th Place): Books galore about the African-American experience and an interesting array of pertinent music selections. Handcrafted items from the African continent and many other related items as well. Another small museum shop (with an important topical message) and an affordable price range to boot. (Neil)

The National Museum of Mexican Art (1852 West 19th St.): Not without reason, the emphasis here is Mexico and its endlessly fascinating culture. Great silver jewelry crafted by some of Mexico’s best contemporary craftsmen and a wide selection of weaving, pottery, papier mache and tin work of intriguing design, all at modest expense. Neither small nor large, this exceptional collection of items for gift-giving is a must. (Neil)

The Frank Lloyd Wright Home and Studio (951 Chicago Ave., Oak Park): Small, but packed with books about Frank Lloyd Wright and other architects of the period. Also an excellent collection of material related to the Arts and Crafts Movement. Small and tidy, but in an historic setting, this gift-giving venue is moderate to ultra-moderate in price. (Neil)

The Racine Art Museum (441 Main St., Racine): A bit of a hike, but worth every ounce of effort. From metal work to ceramics and glass, a stunning collection of first-class crafts. Truly unique in the museum-shop milieu, this one-time bank building (robbed by Dillinger) turned museum is moderate to expensive in price. (Alan)

The Morton Arboretum (4110 Illinois Route 53, Lisle): Woodsy and leafy, but very cool. Great book selection dealing with trees and nature and an impressive array of interesting and well-crafted wood work and accoutrements related to the out-of-doors and personal adornment. (Alan)

The Museum of Contemporary Art (220 East Chicago Ave.): Distinctive household items and jewelry by contemporary designers, some of which is expensive. This shop stocks an excellent collection of books (coffee table, monographs, compendiums and histories) covering all facets of contemporary art. A small, but artful, children’s section sports unique toys, books and the like. (Alan)

Chicago Architectural Foundation (224 South Michigan Ave.): A great selection of books about architecture and Chicago architecture in particular. Also with an architectural twist, there is an assortment of stained glass, clocks and other items for the house. The CAF shop has a large, colorful children’s section featuring Legos, Lincoln Logs, games, puzzles and toys. Shoppers will also find architecturally inspired jewelry, holiday cards, calendars, etc., often humorous. Prices are moderate to expensive. (Alan)

The Spertus Museum (610 South Michigan Ave.): Great selection of Hanukkah gifts and unique toys, such as Doodle Dolls and Pastel Toys, the latter made by adults with special needs from the Israeli village of Kishorit. Spertus offers beautiful jewelry and household items, many designed by Israeli artists, and an unusual line of cosmetics from the Dead Sea area, Minus 417. Like the CAF shop, there are humorous items (distinctly Jewish, of course). Prices are moderate to expensive. (Alan)

Lincoln Park Zoo: The Wild Things shop has a wonderful collection of stuffed toys and puppets representing the entire (almost) animal kingdom. Lots of other nature-oriented items, such as books, clothing, games and puzzles for the whole family. For adults exclusively, this shop offers unusual jewelry and household items, including many handcrafted gifts from around the world that emphasize sustainability, the environment and fair trade. Economical  to moderate prices. (Alan)

Editor’s Note:  The authors maintain a free website, www.getaway-chicago.com, which offers recommended outings to nearby destinations that are often overlooked but of genuine interest and delight.