With the holiday shopping season already in full-swing, people are cramming big box stores to get the best deals on their never-ending shopping list.

However, if you find yourself looking for out-of-the-box ideas, gallery and museum shops offer an option that will make your Christmas a little more creative.

"This is the allure of shopping in a gallery. You know you are getting something unique that was handcrafted and created with care and skill. You know you are supporting both the gallery and an artist," said Jillian Doherty, gallery manager for the Brookfield Craft Center.

"Generally in a gallery or independent shop the staff is very knowledgeable about what they are selling which isn't often the case in a big box store and definitely not the case online."

Gallery owners like Cabell Molina, of the LOVE ART Gallery and Studio in South Norwalk, see the holiday season as the perfect time to shop local, especially in an economy that is driven by corporate business.

"It's [all] about buying handmade items - especially locally made - to support these artisans, rather than buying from big box stores or large corporations," said Molina. "When you buy from huge chains most of the profits are going into the pockets of board members, and not to the artisans or designers."

"By shopping local, you are helping keep your downtown more interesting by shopping at those businesses you are helping keep them alive, therefore creating a more robust downtown," added Molina.

In a 2018 report from IBIS World, the museum and gallery industry is booming, pulling in over $18B in the past year, with an annual growth of 4.2 percent. People are going to museums and galleries, and spending their money, which has led the industry to an all time high.

Doherty understands however that online shopping is still lucrative, but small businesses are still the cornerstone for holiday shopping.

"I do think that the popularity of shopping locally has grown over the past few years, but the allure of online shopping has also grown," said Doherty. "People don't want to fight the crowds...they [want to] try before they buy, and they walk out of the store with something in their hands instead of waiting for the next shipment."

Click through the slideshow to see some of the best, local museum and gallery shops in southwestern Connecticut.