by Albert Rodriguez -
SGN A&E Writer
The best deals this holiday season - or any shopping season, for that matter - are across state lines. With no sales tax on goods or services, Oregon is the place to buy that ski jacket for your husband, books for the besties, video games for the nephews, and cashmere sweaters for yourself. Just three hours away by train or bus, and usually a little less than that by car (depending on I-5 traffic), you can zip down for the day and return that evening, or plan an overnight stay. For visitor information, including holiday events and parking-inclusive hotel packages, go to www.travelportland.com. Here are my recommendations for your shopping trip to the Rose City.
WHERE TO STAY
Formerly the Hotel Fifty, the newly named Hotel Rose (www.hotelroseportland.com) sits directly across from Tom McCall Waterfront Park, bordering the west side of the Willamette River. The four-story property has 140 rooms that come with modern amenities, including Keurig brewing systems and Tully's coffee, 42-inch flat-screen TVs, mini fridges, ergonomic desk chairs, bathtub/shower with rain-shower spouts and complimentary WiFi. Some rooms face the park and river while others are limited to views of a parking lot or street. Hotel Rose's on-site restaurant, H50 Bistro & Bar, serves breakfast, lunch, and dinner daily in a relaxed dining space with emphasis on simplicity. From hearty burgers to made-from-scratch soups to fresh fish, it's good food without the fancy fluff. Complimentary bike rentals can be arranged at the front desk. Overnight self-parking is $15, or $20 for valet service. Hotel Rose is within walking distance of Amtrak (Union Station) and Bolt Bus arrival points.
For waterfront accommodations, you'll be fully satisfied at the RiverPlace Hotel (www.riverplacehotel.com) that lies right on the Willamette. The newest Kimpton property in the Northwest, joining the LGBT-friendly brand in February 2012, all of its 84 guest rooms as well as the lobby and banquet facilities have undergone a slick renovation. The rooms are glamorously furnished with custom-made headboards and drapes, patterned carpets, bold and neutral color sofas, HDTV flat-screens, lavish lamps, personal coffeemakers with Starbucks coffee, and ETRO premiere bath products. Suites have built-in fireplaces, as well. Many rooms have unobstructed views of the river, especially the Corner Suites, and the main-floor restaurant Three Degrees has lots of windows to absorb the scenery. The Marine Ballroom and outdoor courtyard are picture-perfect for weddings and receptions. Parking is $31 per night. Those busing in or arriving by train can take the MAX light rail to Third and Morrison, and then walk the remaining five to seven minutes to the RiverPlace Hotel.
WHERE TO SHOP
Any shopping mission in Portland should conveniently start downtown, where Nordstrom, H&M, Columbia Sportswear, City Target, Sur La Table, Mario's, Nordstrom Rack, and Pioneer Place Mall are within a few blocks of each other. But definitely check out UnderU4Men's flagship store (800 S.W. Washington St.) for great stocking stuffers; Tender Loving Empire (412 S.W. 10th Ave.) for unique knickknacks; Magpie (520 S.W. 9th Ave.) for vintage clothing and accessories; Floating World Comics (400 N.W. Couch St.) for a vast selection of comic books; and Cacao (414 S.W. 13th Ave.) for fine, locally produced chocolates. New to Portland's downtown scene is Union Way (1022 W. Burnside St.), a shopping arcade with premier clothing boutiques and cool eateries, such as Danner, WILL Leather Goods, Spruce Apothecary, Little T American Baker, Boxer Ramen, and Self Edge, a terrific spot to buy quality denims that also offers in-store tailoring. Adjacent to downtown is the Pearl District, where you'll stumble across the enormous Powell's Books (1005 W. Burnside St.) for the avid readers on your list; Bonnet (1129 N.W. Flanders St.) for those who might prefer a made-by-hand hat; Alchemy (1022 N.W. Lovejoy St.) for loved ones who appreciate nice jewelry; REI (1405 N.W. Johnson St.) for the ski bunnies; and while you're at it, pick up a little something for yourself at Jack Spade (304 N.W. 11th Ave.).
In the Hawthorne neighborhood, you'll find smaller retail stores that cater to locals in search of good deals or good merchandise without a brand-name label. Black Star Bags (2033 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) sells custom-made bags in fashionable designs; Naked City Clothing (3730 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) has old school-style used threads; Excalibur Books & Comics (2444 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) is well-stocked with current and past comic-book collections; and Escential Lotions & Oils (3638 S.E. Hawthorne Blvd.) should have something to please the body/bath products lover.
For a bigger shopping adventure, hop on the MAX Green Line from downtown Portland to Clackamas Town Center (www.clackamastowncenter.com). Cost is $2.50 one-way, or $5 for an all-day pass. The newly renovated 1.2-million-square-foot mall features a multitude of chain stores, including Nordstrom, Abercrombie & Fitch, Macy's, Aeropostale, Sears, Disney Store, JC Penney, Barnes & Noble, Eddie Bauer, H&M, Sephora, and Vans, aside from restaurants, coffee shops, and a 20-screen cineplex. This is where to do your one-stop shopping without having to drive or park a car.
WHAT ELSE TO DO
The Rose City has been in the national spotlight for its starring role in Portlandia, an IFC (Independent Film Channel) series with Saturday Night Live alum Fred Armisen and Sleater-Kinney guitarist-turned-actress Carrie Brownstein. There isn't yet an official guided tour, like those devoted to Sex and the City or The Sopranos, but you can get maps of Portlandia's shooting locales at www.travelportland.com/article/portland-vs-portlandia.
Portland's coffee culture rivals Seattle's, and one chain worthy of a visit is Barista with three shops, including a downtown set-up (529 S.W. 3rd Ave.) and an always-busy cafe in the Pearl District (539 N.W. 13th Ave.). Skilled baristas, imported coffee from around the globe, and trendy spaces to work, read, or socialize is a winning combination for this local chain, which served the best cup of pour-over coffee I've had outside the Emerald City. Another shop to try is Case Study Coffee Roasters (802 S.W. 10th Ave.), across from the Multnomah County Central Library. Their drip coffee was really bitter, so if that's not to your taste ask for an Americano instead, but definitely stay and enjoy the polished, comfy interior while people-watching.
For a quiet night out, catch a flick at the Living Room Theaters (341 S.W. 10th Ave.). Showing mainly indie releases, foreign films, and documentaries, each of its six intimate screening rooms features recliner-style chairs (some recline, others don't) and moviegoers can order food or drinks from the attached restaurant and bar. At the box office, you're able to pick your seat from what's available and tickets are just $9 ($7 before 5 p.m.), considerably less than similar upscale theaters in the Seattle area. Watching a movie with a glass of wine in a cushy reclining chair is the perfect way to unwind after a full day of shopping.
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