Want to get your pilot’s wings? No need for lessons. Just step inside the gift shop at the Palm Springs Air Museum (www.palmspringsairmuseum.org). Choose from hundreds of authentic-looking pilots’ wings pins ranging from commercial airlines to military.
Pins are just the beginning of the shopping excitement. Unique custom-made items – available only in this gift shop – along with often hard-to-find aviation-related and nostalgic wartime (from WWII through Vietnam) clothing, toys, art, posters and hip sunglasses and souvenir items -- make this a favorite go-to for visitors and locals alike.
Best of all – it’s like any boutique – just walk in, for free. You don’t need a ticket to the air museum.
"People come in just to buy our custom t-shirts,” says Gift Shop Manager/Buyer Dave Boughner, a former pilot with Continental Airlines. The custom tees feature original art designed by the gift shop’s resident artist Stan Stokes. The black styles with a B-17 “Flying Fortress” and nose art (the decals that decorated the nose of military planes) of Miss Angela, and a C-47 with Bugs Bunny “What’s Up Doc” are favorites.
Resident artist? The shop has a resident artist? Yes. And no surprise -- once you learn the Palm Springs Air
Museum is the best air museum in California, the fourth best in the U.S. and, according to CNN Travel, the 14th
best in the world.
Other popular fashion statement/keepsake wear include the Rosy the Riveter “We Can Do It!” tote bags. “They’re extremely good sellers right now,” says Boughner. Also custom-made dangly airplane earrings and original oil paintings of the museum’s aircraft and other planes painted by Stokes. Dye-cast pull-toy airplanes – kids (or adults) pull it and the plane goes up on its own -- are among the most popular toys.
New merchandise is coming in all the time. Handsome custom-designed beverage coasters, made of cork and featuring pictures of the actual planes displayed in the museum, and aviation instruments are expected soon. New zipper pulls, customized with the names and pictures of the museum’s planes and the museum logo, have just arrived.
Perusing the sizeable shop, there’s something for everyone from babies to great grandparents. Baby-sized bomber jackets, “grandma getters,” Boughner calls them. Little girls’ pink tees with a cute baby chicken and the words “chicks fly.” WWII aircraft puzzles. A “bucket of soldiers,” as Boughner calls the plastic tubs filled with 200 military characters a la GI Joe. Baseball caps for veterans and all the services. Remakes of the classic WWII “I Want You” and other posters with vintage nose art. Not to forget patches, magnets, greeting cards, mugs and more.
...If you’re still looking for pins. In addition to pilots wings, take your pick of more than 1,500 copies of all sorts of pins worn by members of the Marines, Navy, Army and Airforce.
The final bonus. All the gift shop proceeds go toward maintaining this amazing non-profit museum.