Holiday shopping is as good a reason as any to take a day trip. Here are a few of my favorite places for unique gifts.
The U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing in Fort Worth prints money but also has a museum on the history of currency. Once you've taken the free tour, exit through the gift shop. Many of the items in the store can be purchased online, but it's neat to see the sheets of uncut bills, jars of shredded cash, and folders of lucky money before you plunk down your moola. The visitor center is closed Saturday through Monday.
If you're looking for a gift that shouts "Old Mexico" but don't want to hassle with crossing the border, then head to San Antonio. Historic Market Square (aka El Mercado, 514 W. Commerce) has the atmosphere of a south-of-the-border market, and the stalls are overflowing with hecho-en-México goods.
In El Paso, the El Paso Saddleblanket Company (6935 Commerce Ave.) mimics a market in Juárez. Whether you're buying by the peck, gross, or single item, the prices are reasonable without the import fees of crossing the international bridge.
Houston is one of the most diverse cities in the U.S., and the Asian community there is one of its treasures. Viet Hoa International Foods (8300 W. Sam Houston Pkwy. S. #100) stocks a United Nations of foods and household items.
For a deal on Texas-made Igloo coolers, check out the Igloo Factory Outlet (777 Igloo Rd.), right off the interstate highway in Katy. Open Mon.-Fri., 8am-5pm, and Sat., 10am-2pm. The inventory changes pretty often, but you can get some great deals.
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