The first time I distinctly remember “go shopping” as a travel activity was on my family’s first trip to NYC when I was fifteen-years-old. The city just sparkled, and I couldn’t believe that you could just get whatever you wanted. You didn’t just have to pick up a kitschy t-shirt (though you could). When it came to New York souvenirs, the possibilities were endless.
Flash forward twenty years, and the internet has made shopping easier (and less thrilling). But the lure of shopping in NYC is still there. There’s not anything quite like it in the world. So if you’re looking to find the best NYC souvenirs for your trip, here are my favorite ideas, from authentic NYC gifts to take back home to fun or sophisticated souvenirs for yourself.
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The Best New York Souvenirs & Gifts
Here are my favorite NYC souvenirs in no particular order.
A Special Flea Market Find
In NYC, it’s not so much about what you want to buy as it is what you want to experience. And there’s nothing quite like haggling over some cool one-of-a-kind piece at a flea market. Some of my favorite earrings were bought at Brooklyn Flea over ten years ago, but I still think about what it was like to buy them whenever I see them.
There are tons of great flea markets in NYC, from large to pop-up sidewalk fleas. So you won’t ever be too far away from haggling over your next favorite treasure.
Navigate Your Way to an NYC Subway Souvenir
Every city that has public transit has maps to help people get around, but the New York City Metro is iconic. I brought home an NYC Subway map from my first trip to hang on my bedroom wall (next to my Titanic posters, of course).
But you don’t have to just get the basic map (though it does make a cool free New York souvenir). Rather, get something inspired by the subway system.
You can find all kinds of NYC Metro gifts and souvenirs around the city, but a great place for interesting finds is the gift shop at the MTA Transit Museum.
Peruse the City’s Great Used Books
There’s something romantic about shopping for used books in New York. You can imagine the past lives of the books, deciding if their owners were Brooklyn hipsters or Upper West Side widows or Columbia professors.
And while it’s easy to find most books on Amazon nowadays, there still are some books printed in the last few decades that never circulated much farther than Manhattan.
You can peruse famous used books stores like the Strand or simply stop at one of the
Bring Home a Few Classic I Heart NY Souvenirs
Yes, it’s a cliche. But it’s a cliche for a reason. Made famous by John Lennon (though I’m not sure he’d exactly appreciate just how famous), this design has become possibly the most famous souvenir from any city in the world.
You can get the classic t-shirt, or you get can the designed emblazoned on a tote bag, bumper sticker, or even a snowglobe.
Don’t Forget to Find Something for Man’s Best Friend
If you’re looking for a great NYC pet souvenir that you can take back for your furry friend, check out Wagwear’s ultra-chic line of dog carriers, coats, and vests.
If you noticed NYC’s pets have a certain street style all their own, it’s partially because they dress the part. And Wagwear has been dressing them for over twenty years.
You can shop at their flagship store in Greenwich Villiage or order online and have them waiting for your pup when you get home.
Find Something Unique at NYC’s Great Vintage, Antique, & Consignment Shops
Yes, there are great antique stores all over the world, but let me tell you why the ones in NYC are special.
Today you can get almost any item made anywhere shipped to your home (if you’re willing to pay for it). However, ten or twenty years ago this wasn’t the case. The best, most elegant, most interesting items were sold in New York, and they rarely made it too far out of the tri-state area.
So New Yorker’s homes are filled with quality, interesting pieces that have a little age on them. Yes, if something is made today they probably can’t get it any easier than you can. But if you want something vintage that’s extra exclusive or cool? Then you should look in New York.
There are stores all over the city. I find that the more neglected-looking the outside is, the more interesting the stuff inside is.
Pickup Some Broadway Souvenirs After the Show
You already paid all that money to see the show – do you really want pay more for a t-shirt commemorating the experience.
In my case, yes, because I adore my Hamilton t-shirt (though it hasn’t fit since I had the baby and I really need to work on that).
Snagging a piece of Broadway snag can help you celebrate the show long after its over.
If you want something less pricey to remind you of the show, make sure to take home the playbill. These are collector’s items in their own right.
Raise a Hand for a Few Statue of Liberty Souvenirs
After an “I Heart NY” shirt, a Statue of Liberty keychain might be the second most famous NYC souvenir. Or maybe it’s just a thing from Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, who can tell. But you bring back a Statue of Liberty gift for friends and family and they’ll know exactly where you were.
These are timeless since the UNESCO World Heritage Site isn’t going anywhere any time soon. Plus you can get almost any item from an actual tiny statue to a big foam crown.
Sport Some Local Athletic Apparel
If you’re looking for a great New York gift for him, think about bringing back some sports paraphernalia. The New York Yankees cap is a classic NYC gift that’s recognized around the world. However, if the person you’re looking to buy from is more of a Mets fan, you can go that way, too. There’s also the New York Jets, Giants, Knicks, Rangers, and Islanders, plus the Brooklyn Nets.
You could also go a bit wacky with Harlem Globetrotters gear, or throwback Brooklyn Dodgers souvenirs. Just get a read on the person you’re buying for before you decide what to buy.
If you’re looking for something for you that will be a souvenir from a game, you can buy them there or at stores around the city. However, if you want to buy the gear from a visiting team (like when I went to see my Kansas Jayhawks play at Madison Square Garden) you’ll need to buy it at the game since that gear probably won’t stick around.
Dazzle Children with Something from FAO Schwarz
My aunt brought back painting and drawing kits from FAO Schwarz for me and my sisters when I was five or six years old, and they held a magic power that regular boxes of Crayola crayons never could. They were fancy. They were special. They were from New York from a store made just for kids.
If you’re looking for a children’s gift from NYC, my inner five-year-old highly recommends something from FAO Schwarz!
Find Books about New York to Read on the Subway (or Line Your Bookshelves)
If you love collecting books on your travels, but you don’t want to find something used, I recommend picking up a local book about New York.
It’s a little-known secret that there are many local presses that print books for museum gift shops and other boutique book stores that sell books that don’t make it to Amazon. Usually, it’s because the print run is quite small. When they do get sold online, they usually go for much more than the jacket price.
If you’re in one of the city museums or bookstores and see a local section, take a look and don’t hesitate to take something home if it interests you!
Hail Yourself Some Taxi Souvenirs
Yes, yellow taxis exist all over the world. And yes, taxi medallions in NYC are a racket and UBER is taking a lot of their market share. Blah, blah, blah. Yellow Taxis in NYC are iconic, and you simply must take them at least once.
If you love taxi paraphernalia, pick up a taxi souvenir. Kids will like model car taxis, while adults can appreciate the artwork and let on-the-nose taxi souvenirs.
Snag Some Locally Made Jewelry
The key is to get jewelry that’s made in the city. Don’t buy something that you could literally get anywhere.
You can find great locally made jewelry in when shopping in Park Slope and Williamsburg. This makes a great souvenir for yourself, but it also is a great NYC gift for her (or him).
A Snapshot in Time with a New York Postcard
If you’re looking for an inexpensive or cheap NYC souvenir, pick up a postcard! I still have this one from my first trip. Since it was pre 9/11, you can see the Twin Towers in the NYC Skyline.
A postcard is a snapshot in time. It will be fun to look at yours in ten or twenty years and see how the city has and hasn’t changed.
Find the Perfect Piece in an Art Gallery
I love shopping at local art galleries when I travel. Some of my favorite souvenirs are pieces I picked up in Turkey, Denmark, and Mexico.
The trick in NYC is to avoid any fancy or expensive galleries (unless that’s your thing). You also need to avoid super commercial galleries that just have reproductions aimed at tourists.
Instead, look for moderately priced galleries that tout local working artists who really need your support. This way, you’ll get something one-of-a-kind and help out an artist who truly needs to commission.
This is also a great way to spend a rainy day in NYC since most galleries will be indoors and many are near each other!
Inspire with an American Girl Doll
I absolutely adored my American Girl Dolls growing up. I read every book cover to cover, and I even had one of Kirsten’s dresses.
Yes, for us women nostalgic for the way it used to be, the dolls aren’t the same thing exactly. But they still delight young girls and boys and teach history along the way.
You can visit the American Girl Doll store and even plan a special event if you’re traveling with a child who loves these dolls.
Bring Home an Eloise Souvenir For a Tiny Adventurer
I was more into American Girl dolls than Eloise, but the tales of this brave girl ruling over the Plaza Hotel in NYC. You pick up the books or other Eloise souvenirs to bring back as a gift for a special young person in your life.
Get a Sixpack from a Local Craft Beer for Takeaway
Provided you’ll be leaving New York on a bus, train, or even driving, you can bring back a six-pack of locally brewed craft beer. Look for beers that don’t get exported to other states often so it’s worth the trouble.
Indulge in a Few Authentic New York Bagels at Home
If you can manage to keep from eating them yourself, some authentic New York bagels make a great NYC gift for someone you’ll be seeing right away. Pick them up on your last day in town so they stay as fresh as possible. Of course, you can bring back a few for yourself as well.
Celebrate the City with an NYC Skyline Souvenir
Each city’s skyline is as unique as DNA, and the NYC skyline is perhaps the most famous in the world. A typical New York souvenir is to get something with the city’s skyline emblazoned on it. You can also find skyline photography and artwork.
Pick Out Something Special from Tiffanys
Yes, you can buy Tiffany’s online, but it’s one of the things that just feels more special when you buy it (or pick it out) in person. There’s nothing quite like a robbins-blue box full of something precious.
Find the Perfect NYC TV Show or NYC Movie Souvenir
If there’s a movie or tv show you love that’s set in New York, chances are there’s an object you associate with it that will make a great personal New York souvenir.
I’ve already mentioned how a Statue of Liberty Keychains remind me of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. I also loved the show Felicity and think of it whenever I see Dean & Deluca swag or go shopping on Bleeker street.
A great headband might remind you of Gossip Girl, while you might get a necklace with your name on it to show that you’re really a Carrie.
Think beyond just movie and tv merchandise and think of some object that really reminds you of your favorite NYC movies and shows.
Get a Bit of New York Kitsch
If there’s an item you like to collect that I’ve missed, don’t worry! Whether it’s thimbles or T-shirts or bells or spoons or refrigerator magnets or shot glasses, whatever traditional kitschy souvenir you collect will be easy to find in New York. There literally is not a typical souvenir that I haven’t seen for sale somewhere in the city.
5 Things to Pack for Your Trip to New York
The Lonely Planet New York guidebook. It can be kind of a pain to find the major guidebooks once you land, or you’ll find them overpriced. I always like to pick mine up ahead of time.
An Unlocked Cell Phone so that you can use a local sim card while here to help navigate public transportation and when you’re on the road. (For people without American cell phone plans).
Backup Charging Bank for your cell phone since you’ll be using it as a camera, GPS system, and general travel genie.
A Great Day Bag so you can carry what you need with you (like your camera, snacks, water, sunscreen, cash, etc). My current favorite is the Pacsafe Citysafe, which is especially great for New York because it has many anti-theft features designed to deter pickpockets. It also transitions to a night bag more easily and won’t embarrass you if you go to dinner directly after sightseeing all day.
More New York Travel Resources
Headed to New York? Check out my guides to renting a car in NYC, my Hamilton-inspired list of things to do in New York, and how to visit the Statue of Liberty. And of course, if you want New York Instagram captions, check out my massive list of New York quotes and fun New York Puns.
Don’t Forget About Travel Insurance!
Before you leave for New York make sure you have a valid Travel Insurance Policy because accidents happen on the road. I pay for World Nomads, and I happily recommend them. It’s especially important to get travel insurance if you’ll be hanging out in large cities where pickpockets can pray on tourists.
I have been a paying customer of World Nomads for travel insurance for three years, and I happily recommend them. If you get sick, injured, or have your stuff stolen, you’ll be happy to have the ability to pay for your medical bills or replace what’s stolen or broken.
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