Stocking Stuffer 'Stravaganza

by Hilltromper staff

Dec. 3, 2013—A great museum store has cool stuff you won't find anywhere else—clever games, well-designed novelty items, unique crafts. The first Rubik's cube probably showed up in a museum store. So when the holidays loom and the stocking cries out to be stuffed, a museum store is a good place to go.

Luckily for us, Santa Cruz County basically has five of them in the form of the Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Stores. Even better, a sale this weekend gathers the best of all these shops into one location. The Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Holiday Sale happens Friday-Sunday, Dec. 6-8, 10am-4pm daily at the Visitor Center at Seacliff State Beach. All items will be 15% off (30% off for Friends members). And as usual, all proceeds will support local state parks.

We sat down with Park Stores Manager Annie MacHale to find out what made the list for this weekend's gift shopping bonanza. "As the buyer I'm a guesser," says MacHale. Here, in no particular order, are our favorites:

Discover Wilderness Survival Cards ($5.99) The next time you play cards on a backpacking trip, maybe it should be with this set. Each card lists fairly detailed survival tips on themes such as How to Fend Off A Black Bear (ace of diamonds) and How to Survive An Avalanche (queen of hearts). Kind of funny. Kind of not a bad idea, either.

Folkmanis Finger and Hand Puppets ($8.50 and $25.99) This San Francisco company makes adorable animal puppets. You'll find raccoons, squirrels, monarch butterflies, sea lions, octopi, leopard sharks, crabs, bats and more. MacHale says one of the best parts of her job is witnessing spontaneous puppet shows in the stores when the tykes find the toys. "There's always some kind of shark attack," she notes.

National Geographic Trails Illustrated Santa Cruz/Big Basin Parks and Preserves Map ($11.95) As the Van Halen song goes, "Everybody wants one. I want one, too. Everybody needs one. How 'bout you? Wow!" This gorgeous two-sided waterproof and rip-resistant map was just released in October, and it's quite the popular item at Park Stores, and in fact all local stores where they are carried. Get 'em, cause they're hot. (Read more about the new National Geographic Santa Cruz map.)

Jewelry The Parks Stores carry gorgeous jewelry handmade in the U.S. Some of it is made locally, like the sea glass jewelry of Luna Sea Designs, materials for which are gathered on local beaches.

Glow-in-the-dark Shark T-shirt ($13.99) It shows seven different kinds of sharks, but more importantly, it glows in the dark.

Michael Schwab Posters, Mugs, Hoodies, Magnets and Chocolates Yes, that was the "c" word you read. San Francisco-based Bridge Brands chocolates (milk, dark and darker) come in cute tins bearing the iconic art deco-inspired logos created by Michael Schwab just for Friends ($8.50). What you use the tins for later is none of our concern; we're not here to judge. We are also covetous of the coffee mugs, if anyone cares to know.

Quail Socks by Socksmith ($7.95) The local sockmaker has put warp and weft to work on some nifty sock designs, including otters, quail, dragonflies and jellyfish. Kneesocks are $10.

Flip Notes ($7.95) Bright anodized aluminum notepad holders are decorated with hummingbirds, wrens and butterflies in silhouette. The hard casing protects the notepad inside, so no more ripped-up notebooks stumbling out of the war zone inside your purse. Each one includes a little pen.

The Friends of Santa Cruz State Parks Holiday Sale is at the Seacliff State Beach Visitor Center, 201 State Park Dr, Aptos. Friday-Sunday, Dec. 6-8, 10am-4pm.


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