Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center. All photography: Gigi de Jong
Gift giving is a universal human practice that has been around for centuries. It is a way to show our loved ones that we care about them and appreciate their presence in our lives. Gift shopping, on the other hand, can be a daunting task. We often feel pressured to find the perfect gift, to spend the right amount of money, and to give something that the recipient will love and appreciate.
One of the best ways to find unique and thoughtful gifts while traveling is to visit museum gift shops. Museums are a great place to learn about the history and culture of a region, and the gift shops in the Museums of the Eastern Sierra carry a wide selection of items that are representative of our local area.
Many of our museum gift shops sell high-quality items that are made by local artisans. This means you can be sure that your gift will be one-of-a-kind, and you can feel pride in helping these local artisans and the local economy. When shopping at a museum gift shop, it’s important to take the time to browse and look for items that are unique and special.
If you’re not sure what to get, don’t be afraid to ask the staff for help. They can help you find items that are appropriate for your budget and the interests of the person you’re shopping for.
Here are a few tips for successful gift shopping at our local area museum gift shops:
- Consider the interests of the person you’re shopping for. What are they passionate about? What hobbies do they have? Once you know their interests, you can start to narrow down your choices.
- Look for items that are representative of our area and the specific history of the museum you’re visiting. This could include anything from locally made food, art and jewelry, locally authored books, and souvenirs with regional symbols or artwork.
- Don’t be afraid to ask for help. The staff at our museum gift shops are knowledgeable about the items they sell and can help you find the perfect gift.
The Eastern Sierra region is unique in its cultural and natural history and each local area museum presents a deeper look into specific aspects of the region. From film making to fishing, First Nations to mining magnates, and railroads to aqueducts, it is steeped in history and significance to the greater history of California.
No matter where you are in the Eastern Sierra, you’re sure to find unique and thoughtful gifts at our museum gift shops. Take the time to browse and ask for help.
Here are a few more tips for showing thoughtfulness in your gift giving:
- Consider the person’s lifestyle. If they’re always on the go, a gift that’s portable and easy to use is a good choice. If they’re homebodies, a gift that they can enjoy at home, such as a book or a piece of art, is a good option.
- Personalize the gift, if possible. This could be something as simple as adding a handwritten note, or having the gift engraved or embroidered with the person’s name.
- Wrap the gift nicely. A well-wrapped gift shows that you put extra care and effort into it.
- Present the gift in a meaningful way. If you’re giving the gift in person, take the time to tell the person why you chose it for them.
Gift giving and gift shopping can be a fun and rewarding experience. By following these tips, you can give gifts that are both thoughtful and appreciated and find gifts that your loved ones will truly appreciate.
Ultimately, successful gift shopping while traveling and visiting our Eastern Sierra museums should be about creating a lasting connection between the recipient and the culture and history of the places you’ve explored in our local area, adding depth and meaning to your thoughtful gesture.
Here’s a closer look at what you can find in the museums and visitor centers in and near Bishop, Independence, and Lone Pine.
690 N. Main St., Bishop
Every visit to Bishop should start or end with a stop at our Information Center. Look for the cute A-frame building in the Bishop City Park and pop in to chat with our helpful, knowledgeable staff and peruse the wonderful selection of maps, books, memorabilia, souvenirs, and gifts we have in stock. Most of these items are designed or made right here in Bishop by local artists, authors, and suppliers.
Find great gifts for family and friends or give yourself a gift that will be a lasting memory of your trip to the Eastern Sierra. Every day can be like Christmas or your favorite gift giving holiday.
Silver Canyon Rd., Bishop
The Laws Railroad Museum and Historical Site is a step back in time to when the railroad station was the heart of a bustling western town. Close to 50 authentic structures on eleven acres are filled with artifacts and original objects that depict the lifestyles of the railway workers, homemakers, artisans, and townspeople of the period.
The museum gift store is filled with railway themed items, period style objects, locally crafted art pieces, and branded kitchen and bath products. From cute and cuddly things for kids to delicious treats for everyone to enjoy, and vogue and vintage home-goods to books, prints, posters, and toys there are quality items that will surely make you think of someone in your life who will love it.
There’s an interesting story and fun challenge about the Inyo County Bank vault that is now part of the museum’s collection and housed in this beautiful, historic building that is today the museum gift store.
This true story started when the Inyo County Bank, also called the Watterson Brothers Bank, was built in Bishop in 1886, founded in 1906, incorporated in 1911, closed in 1927, liquidated in 1934, and the building dismantled in 1939. During its short and eventful history the Watterson Brothers, who owned the bank, held much of the wealth in the Owens Valley and were known to be lenient toward debtors. Lore has it that they were called the “financial kings of the Eastern Sierra.” It all ended, though, when they were tried, convicted, and sentenced to 10-years at San Quentin for embezzlement.
The story about the vault, that contains two combination locking safes, continues. The upper safe in the vault was opened at some time during the bankruptcy proceedings, but the lower safe has never been opened. Neither brother would supply the combination code for the lower safe. One brother died in prison, the other died a few years after his release, and the Waltz Safe & Lock Co. of San Francisco that supplied the safe and likely held the code in trust, burned in the great fire of San Francisco. The combination code has been lost forever.
The folks at Laws have issued a challenge to anyone who can crack the combination. If someone can open the safe—without cutting it, blowing it up, or in any other way damaging the safe and vault—they will split the value of whatever it holds! Who knows? It might be cash, jewels, bonds, land deeds, or perhaps nothing of real value. Are you up to the challenge?
2300 W. Line St., Bishop
The Owens Valley Paiute Shoshone Cultural Center is both a museum and cultural center that serves the community and safeguards the history of the Indigenous Peoples of Payahuunadü, the land of flowing water. It is a place to preserve and tell the story of the old ways and a place for the community to come together to learn, teach, and continue the traditional ways.
The museum gift shop has a wonderful selection of unique and hand-crafted art, jewelry, and products made by local Paiute and Shoshone tribal artisans. The intricate and beautiful beadwork and silverwork is especially lovely, and each piece is a reflection of the rich culture and heritage of these tribes.
Paiute and Shoshone beadwork is known for its intricate designs and vibrant colors, using a variety of materials, including glass beads, bone beads, and seeds, to create geometric patterns, floral motifs, and animal figures. Beadwork is often used to decorate clothing, moccasins, and other personal items.
Silversmiths create a variety of jewelry and other items, such as belt buckles, hair ornaments, and small vessels. Silversmiths often use traditional designs and symbols in their work, such as feathers and geometric shapes.
In addition to arts and crafts, the gift shop sells publications that pertain to Paiute and Shoshone culture and history. These publications can provide visitors with a deeper understanding of the lives and traditions of these tribes.
Purchasing items from the museum gift shop is a great way to support local tribal artisans and to learn more about Paiute and Shoshone culture.
1 Golden Trout Circle, Independence
The Mt Whitney Fish Hatchery was once the largest and best equipped hatchery in California. In 2007 a large wildfire burned upstream of the hatchery and a year later a heavy thunderstorm resulted in a massive mudslide that swept down the scarred, barren Oak Creek wash damaging ponds, water supplies, and employee homes. The main building escaped the muddy flood, and the facility is now an educational facility that serves to preserve the historical significance of the hatchery and promote awareness and understanding of our natural resources.
No fishing trip is complete without a few souvenirs to remember your adventure. Our gift shop has everything you need, from t-shirts and hats to keychains and decals, all featuring unique trout fishing designs. A favorite is our rainbow trout plush toy to bring a kid joy. We also work with local artisans to offer handcrafted specialty gifts, such as greeting cards and quilts featuring Eastern Sierra trout and fishing scenes.
What better way to show off and share your love of trout fishing. Stop by our gift shop after your next fishing trip to find the perfect souvenirs to remember and share your adventure.
155 N. Grant St., Independence
The Eastern California Museum was founded in 1928 and has been operated by the County of Inyo since 1968. Its mission is to collect, preserve, and interpret objects and information related to the cultural and natural history of Inyo County and the Eastern Sierra, from Death Valley to Mono Lake.
The museum bookstore and gift shop offer a wide selection of books for all ages and interests. History buffs can find unique perspectives on local events, from Death Valley mining camps to Owens Valley pioneer towns to the Water Wars and the Los Angeles Aqueduct. An entire section is devoted to Native American topics, such as basketry, history, and ancient rock art. Geology and mining are also popular subjects, with impressive photo books and informative volumes about the mining era.
The Sierra has long attracted outdoor enthusiasts, and the bookstore has a wide selection of books to help visitors explore this sprawling, unspoiled landscape. These books include photo books and guidebooks that showcase the region’s natural beauty, as well as field guides that help visitors identify the Eastern Sierra’s flora and fauna. The bookstore also has a fun and engaging children’s section.
Rocks, gems, and minerals, for which this region is known, can be purchased and will surely fascinate and delight any rockhound. Branded merchandise and locally made products such as bags, t-shirts, caps, and huggable plush critters are also available for purchase.
The Eastern California Museum houses a vast and diverse collection of Owens Valley Paiute and Panamint Shoshone basketry, one of the largest in the state. The nearly 400 baskets on display, some of which date back almost 100-years, showcase the remarkable artistry and craftsmanship of the region’s Indigenous Paiute-Shoshone people.
Manzanar Reward Rd., between Independence and Lone Pine
(760) 878-2194 x3310
The Manzanar National Historic Site is a memorial to, and powerful reminder of, one of the saddest and most disturbing periods in our history. More than 10,000 Japanese American citizens and resident Japanese aliens, including men, women, and children, were detained at this facility for all or part of World War II. It was called the Manzanar War Relocation Center, and was one of ten such camps in the US where nearly 120,000 people were interned during the war.
The Manzanar Bookstore at the visitor center is run by the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA). It sells a wide range of items pertaining to story of Manzanar and the local region:
- Books, DVDs, and art prints,
- Japanese inspired and created apparel, jewelry, accessories, and ceramics, and
- Other gift items, such as branded t-shirts, mugs, and baseballs.
Your purchases from the Manzanar Bookstore directly support educational and interpretive programs at this site.
ESIA is a non-profit organization that works to educate and inspire people about the Eastern Sierra public lands through interpretive products, exhibits, and programs. ESIA is proud to partner with Manzanar National Historic Site to preserve Manzanar’s history, share its stories, and provide opportunities for learning.
701 S. Main St., Lone Pine
The Lone Pine Museum of Western Film History showcases the pride of Hollywood’s western filmmaking. Fondly called Hollywood’s largest back lot, the Alabama Hills have provided some of the greatest scenic settings in film and television for over 100 years. Explore the museum’s extensive collection of real movie costumes, movie cars, carriages, original cameras, props, posters, and loads of other fascinating movie memorabilia.
The museum’s gift store sells a wide variety of Western-themed products and western film history collectibles.
- Books: Find books about the history of Western films, such as The Western: An Illustrated History by Richard Aquila or The Six-Gun Mystique by William W. Savage Jr.
- DVDs: Choose from DVDs about Western film history, as well as movies that were filmed in the Alabama Hills, such as Gunga Din, How the West Was Won, and Gladiator.
- Clothing and accessories: Shop for Western-style hats, shirts, belts, and jewelry. You can also find souvenirs like Alabama Hills patches and Lone Pine postcards.
- Jewelry: Get Alabama Hills-themed jewelry, such as a necklace or bracelet with a pendant in the shape of the famous Mobius Arch.
- Home décor: Bring the spirit of the West into your home with Western-themed artwork, blankets, and other decorative items.
- Toys and games: Kids will love Western-themed toys and games, such as cowboy hats and holsters, and sheriff badges.
No matter what your budget is, you’re sure to find the perfect gift for the Western film fan in your life at the Museum of Western Film History gift store. Your purchases from the gift store help to support the museum’s operations, which means, you’re not just getting a unique and thoughtful present for your loved one, you’re also helping to preserve and promote the history of Western film.
US-395 & CA-136, Lone Pine
Situated just south of Lone Pine at the junction of US Highway 395 and CA State Route 136, the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center is a beautiful facility operated by federal, state, and local governmental agencies. The visitor center offers stunning views of Mount Whitney, the highest summit in the contiguous United States, and is a great place to learn about the natural and cultural resources of the Eastern Sierra region.
The Discovery Bookstore at the visitor center is operated by the Eastern Sierra Interpretive Association (ESIA) and offers a wide selection of literature and information about Mount Whitney, Badwater Basin, and other popular attractions in the area. The bookstore is also a great place to purchase gifts for friends and family back home.
Items for sale include: local art and photography prints; handmade jewelry and pottery; Native American crafts; natural history specimens; outdoor gear and apparel; and snacks and drinks.
These are some specific gift ideas from the Eastern Sierra Interagency Visitor Center gift shop:
- For the outdoor enthusiast: a hiking map of Mount Whitney, a pair of binoculars for birdwatching, or a new backpack for exploring the Eastern Sierra’s many trails.
- For the history buff: a book about the region’s Native American heritage or the California Gold Rush, or a map of the Death Valley National Park.
- For the nature lover: a field guide to the Eastern Sierra’s plants and animals, a rock or mineral specimen, or a photograph of the region’s stunning scenery.
- For the souvenir seeker: a t-shirt with a funny Eastern Sierra saying, a mug with a map of the region, or a piece of jewelry made with native materials.
Many of the items in the gift shop are made by local artisans and businesses. When you purchase a gift from the Discovery Bookstore you are helping to promote the Eastern Sierra region. ESIA is a non-profit organization that works to educate and inspire people about the Eastern Sierra. The organization supports a variety of programs, including the visitor center, interpretive trails, and educational events.
Galleries & Specialty Stores
In addition to the museum stores described above, the Bishop Chamber of Commerce has created this handy guide to more great places to go gift shopping. It includes local art galleries, specialty stores, and other retail gift shops.
Download and print this guide to take along with you as you explore Bishop. Or pop into the information center, at 690 N. Main St., Bishop, and chat with our knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly staff. They can supply maps, offer suggestions, and give you special tips for making your trip the best it can be.