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Holiday shopping doesnt 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.
Visit our Holiday Guide for more holiday ideas.
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 stones throw from the Galleria, its part of the citys 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 Anglers 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 Faade, both of which carry a variety of luxury beauty and bath products.
And dont 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 youre in the mood for more substantial fare, visit Cafe Express, McCormick and Schmicks 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 Yalls Texas Store. On the entertainment side, theres Jillians, Vans Skatepark, Spellbinders 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 Moos. Its 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 Victorias 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 tummys 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 dont 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 stores 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 youre tired, put your feet up at Kaldi Caf 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.
Its no exaggeration to say that one could spend a week driving or walking up and down Harwin and still not be able to visit every shop. Harwin is a mecca forfashion divas who must have that Fendi bag but would otherwise max out their credit cards, and for shoppers looking for everything from furniture to perfume. Cash is king, and bargaining is a way of life for the shoppers who flock here insearch of serious deals and the shop owners who dole out the discounts. The deeply discounted finds here range from big-ticket items like leather couches to such gift trinkets as mini-purses and antique jewelry sets.
Getting there: From downtown, take 59 southbound and exit Hillcroft. Turn right on Hillcroft and left on Harwin.
Just beyond River Oaks, but before the Galleria, Highland Village has seized an excellent shopping niche. Its ideal for those River Oakies and Upper Kirby types who arent in the Galleria mood, and for people passing through in search of good shopping. Anchor stores include Tootsies, Harold Powell, Norton Ditto and Vic-torias Secret. Friends of foodies can find excellent gift ideas at Williams-Sonoma, not to mention samples of holiday breads, if youre lucky. Highland Village is home to such restaurants as Anthonys, P.F. Changs. Classic toys reign at the Toy Maker, and numerous other stores, in-cluding Fitigues and Tossini, guarantee a remarkably up-scale yet down-to-earth shopping experience.
Getting there: From downtown, take 59 southbound. Exit Weslayan and turn right, then turn left on Westheimer.
Beyond its tattoo parlors, bars, restaurants and hemp shops, Montrose has plentyto offer in the way of gifts, particularly for those on your list with that quirky alterna-attitude. Lower West-heimer (The Curve) is renowned for its antique and secondhand stores, such as Wear It Again Sam and Cottage thrift shops. If its new clothes youre looking for, definitely stop by the InStyle De-signer Outlet, which carries the latest in mens and womens fashions at astonishingly low prices. Find goodies for those with a daring side at Liquid, Erotic Cabaret, Cindies and Condoms Galore. Specialty stores like Silverlust, Houston Futon and Leather Forever will round out a shopping adventure in Houstons hip-pest enclave. Food and beverage options abound, including Diedrichs, Empire Cafe, Brasil, Cafe Montrose, Katzs Deli, Charlies, Felix and Baba Yega.
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Getting there: From downtown, take Allen Parkway. Exit Studemont/Studewood and turn left. Studemont becomes Mon-trose Boulevard, which intersects West-heimer, Richmond and West Alabama. Most of the shops are in and around the Westheimer and Montrose intersection.
Meyerland Plaza holds the middle ground between shopping mall and sidewalk shopping. Its enormous parking lot begs for shoppers to drive, but its just as easy to walk some stretches of the center in search of perfect gifts. For the interior-decorating junkie on your list, Bed, Bath and Beyond carries a bevy of options. You can pick up decorations, housewares and much more at the Meyerland Kmart. Other anchor stores include JCPenney, Marshalls, Borders Books and Music Caf and Service Merchandise. Smaller shops like Hallmark, Beauty First, Wolf Camera, Meyerland Jewelers, CD Ware-house and the Box Store provide options for everyone on your list. If you tire of shopping, take in a movie at the Cinemark theater or grab a bite at Cafe Express, Antones, Wraps, Escalantes, James Coney Island or one of the many other nearby eateries.
Getting there: Meyerland Plaza is located at Loop 610 and Beechnut.