On vacation, picking out a surprise for loved ones back home is usually a simple question: shotglass or t-shirt? But when visiting a city as trendsetting and culturally significant as New York, there are enough creative and unexpected gift options that you never have to settle for tacky take-homes. From unique borough-themed housewares and perfect-for-the-office mementos to tasty treats made by hand in NYC, there’s something original for everyone on your list—if you know where to look. At these quirky shops, must-see museum stores and design-forward boutiques, you’re guaranteed to find New York-themed keepsakes that your friends and family will actually want.
An eclectic home goods store isn’t typically where you’d pick up some of the city’s greatest souvenirs, but this small shop off Union Square has skyline-emblazoned dinner sets, doodled dish towels and other impossibly cute gifts representing each borough. If you really want to bring home something one-of-a-kind, pick up their “Brooklynese” series, where with every sprinkling of sawlt or dash of shuguh your friends will be reminded of how to talk like they’re from The 718. fishseddy.com
254 Bleecker Street
If you know anyone back home who might be following your trip vicariously through your mealtime social-media updates, Murray’s is a must-stop for perfect edible souvenirs that will fit in your carry-on. Their array of meats and cheeses are tempting—and worth picking up for a nibble later in the day—but when it comes to gifting, their packaged products are ideal. With an assortment of New York-made treats like Early Bird granola, Mast Brothers Chocolate and our favorite, Liddabit Sweets, a small-batch Brooklyn confectioner, you can share a little bit of your New York culinary experience with anyone who didn’t make the trip. Trust us, if they’re expecting a t-shirt from Times Square, a box of artisan caramels or homemade New York chocolate will be a welcome surprise. murrayscheese.com
Tenement Museum Gift Shop
103 Orchard St.
Most museum shops are dime-a-dozen affairs where you can pick up a decent, generic present on the go. But the Tenement Museum’s glass-paneled store on the Lower East Side offers a treasure trove of special souvenirs that any history buff or frequent traveler will love. From home decor and paper goods to the widest collection of New York-centric books around, the shop serves as a hub for some of the quirkiest, coolest and best New York-themed gifts. shop.tenement.org
Bond No. 9
897 Madison Ave.; 399 Bleecker St.; 9 Bond St.; 863 Washington St.
Worried about what to get your favorite fashionista back home? Try some only-in-New-York luxury. A fragrant homage to the city’s nooks and crannies, Bond No. 9 creates perfumes that represent each unique neighborhood in New York. And if you have difficulty choosing a favorite hood-inspired aroma, the brand just released their all-encompassing Manhattan fragrance, which sums up the city as a whole. With top notes of coriander, nutmeg and the faint scents of plum and honey, it’s a much better way of saying “someone who loves me went to New York” than wearing it on a hat. bondno9.com
The MoMA Design Store
11 W. 53rd St.; 44 W. 53rd St.; 81 Spring St.
A roundup of great New York souvenir shops wouldn’t be complete without the undisputed king of them all, the Museum of Modern Art Design Store. With three locations—two adjacent to the Midtown museum and one in SoHo—there are enough interesting, innovative and selectively-curated products for sale here to help you find a gift for everyone you care about—or know. Between retro New York magnets, prints of Robert Indiana’s LOVE statue (which is just around the corner from the museum) and the effortlessly cool New York In A Box from Muji, a cloth bag containing five wood-block versions of famous NYC landmarks (pictured above), MoMA is worth the trip, even if you don’t have time for the art. momastore.org
39 Christopher Street
This mom-and-pop jewel is indicative of what makes the West Village so special, but unlike the high-end designer boutiques nearby, Greenwich Letterpress is full of affordable wonders. The quaint, close-quartered stationery shop is brimming with cheeky gifts—and they sell wrapping paper printed with old NYC Subway maps and a stack of fantastic New York-themed stationary to go with them. Foodies will love their in-house brand of note cards emblazoned with some of the neighborhoods’ quintessential dishes, and the shop’s deep selection of funny, themed greeting cards put those Statue of Liberty postcards to shame. greenwichletterpress.com