By Chris Lane
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Holiday shopping doesn’t have to be a mall-only affair. Indeed, Houston offers a profusion of options for those times when you feel like strolling from store to store outdoors. And with our mild winters, sometimes outdoor shopping is the only way to go.
Uptown Park provides plenty for holiday shoppers to look forward to. With its fountains, flowers and walkways, this neo-European-style plaza merges modern convenience with classical styling. Located a stone’s throw from the Galleria, it’s part of the city’s hub for shopping and commerce. Still, Uptown Park has a relaxed ambiance that invites you to stay. And the ample parking is a welcome feature.
Retailers run the gamut from fashion (Lucho, Bill Walker Clothier, Walzel Jewelers and the Veneto Collection) to athletic (Run Wild Sports and the Angler’s Edge). You can get beautified at Bella Rinova Salon and Day Spa or at the Uptown Day Spa. Find beautiful gifts for the home at The Furniture Idea, the Longoria Collection, Danielle and Gittings Portraiture. Other great stops for presents are Pure Bliss and Façade, both of which carry a variety of luxury beauty and bath products.
And don’t forget the Cigar Vault and La Galerie. Or Cowboys and Angels and On the Park for the children on your shopping list. Jamba Juice smoothie has plenty of refreshment for the weary as well. And if you’re in the mood for more substantial fare, visit Cafe Express, McCormick and Schmick’s Seafood or Champps Americana.
Getting there: Uptown Park is located on the West Loop 610 southbound, between the Memorial and Post Oak exits.
Marq*E offers so much in the way of entertainment that it might be easy to get sidetracked from your shopping mission. This sprawling 375,000-square-foot entertainment complex and outdoor mall is located at the corner of 1-10 and Silber and includes such retailers as Dapy, Cuban Cigar Factory, Just Sports, Sun-glass World and Y’alls Texas Store. On the entertainment side, there’s Jillian’s, Vans Skatepark, Spellbinder’s comedy club and a 22-theater Edwards Cinema with IMAX. As for eateries, Marq*E serves up plenty, including Cafe Adobe, Red Robin and Maggie Moo’s. It’s a place where you and your family can make a day of dining, shopping and playing.
Getting there: From downtown, take 1-10 west and exit Silber.
A merging of funky shops and slick retailers, Rice Village makes for an intriguing stroll and a productive shopping day. There are certain streets you could easily spend half a day on, namely Rice, Times and Amherst. Anchor stores include Eddie Bauer, The Gap, Express and Victoria’s Secret. After hitting the big stores, head to some of the more unique shops, such as the new Z Bead, specializing in beaded jewelry and ethnic items such as masks and bags. Also worth a peek is Ten Thou-sand Villages, featuring artisan crafts from around the world. More unique gifts can be found at The Blue Hand and The Chartreuse Cat. For the bookish person on your list, stop by Half Price Books and the Out of Print Book Store. The Village also has a healthy spin. Worth checking out are the Back Be Nimble and Ayurvedic Concepts stores. Gifts and furnishings for the home can be found at a number of stops, including Pier One Imports and Safari Imports. When your feet are tired and your tummy’s rumbling, the Village has plenty of eateries, including the best cluster of Thai restaurants in the city.
Getting there: The Village shopping district is bordered by Kirby Drive, Univer-sity Boulevard, Greenbriar and the South-west Freeway. From downtown, exit Kirby and turn left.
West 19th Street in the Heights is a favorite for antiquing and thrifting, but many don’t realize how many cool and quirky cutting-edge gift ideas can be foundhere. Start your trek at Octo-ber, renowned for its gift ideas. Owner Scott Law says some of his customers do their gift shopping exclusively at October, refusing to tell their friends and family their source for unique, whimsical treasures. Edin has plenty of trendy apparel and ac-cessories, including of-the-moment items like pleather pants and antique-style jewelry. La Maison carries housewares with a funky spin, such as groovy dressing tables and room divi-ders; also on tap at La Maison are home accessories, club wear and quirky gift items. Jubilee has an assortment of clothes, art, accessories and knickknacks that would be welcome under any Christmas tree; the store’s second floor features outdoor accessories that would brighten any garden. Casa Ramirez features folk art and items from Latino cultures, including prayer candles and Virgin Mary figurines. When you’re tired, put your feet up at Kaldi Café and relax with one of their refreshing coffees, teas, muffins or meals. Even though Kaldi is undergoing a renovation, it continues to ooze at-mosphere and friendly charm. One West 19th Street caveat: Many of the stores are closed on Mondays, so call ahead before heading that way.
Getting there: From downtown, take Allen Parkway to Waugh, and turn right. Waugh becomes Heights Boulevard. Con-tinue down Heights until you get to West 19th Street, then turn left.