Portland – Shopping

As a Canadian travelling into the US, one of the things that figures big on the itinerary is shopping.  Even with the exchange as bad as it is now (CAD$1.00 = ~US$0.80), we are still enticed by the great deals and discounts, as well as the larger selection.

I guess this is the consumerist part of me that I can’t really get rid of because it’s hard to pass up a good deal.  It’s turned out to be such a deal in the States that I leave a lot of my clothing shopping for the US outlets now.  Sad, but true.  My only problem, though, is trying to find the right sizes.  All the size S clothing is still too large for me at times, or too long.  XS would be nice, but hard to find, especially in Oregon it seems.

In Downtown Portland, there really wasn’t much shopping to speak of.  There was the Pioneer Place shopping center.  It has some high end stores like Louis Vuitton and Juicy Couture.  That definitely did not qualify as affordable for our budgets.  There were some more run of the mill stores in the basement floor along with the food court.  There was nothing spectacularly different than a typical Canadian shopping mall.  Shopping malls are pretty much the same the world over.

There is also Lloyd Center on the other side of the Williamette River in the Rose Quarter.  It was a free ride on the MAX to the Lloyd Center stop.  The mall was okay.  It housed a Macy’s, which didn’t hold any interest for me.  There were a whole string of your regular stores, as with all malls.  There was also a Made in Oregon store on the top floor, where I got a mug commemorating Oregon’s 150th Birthday.  (So is British Columbia or Oregon older?  B.C. just celebrated 150 years too.)

I was hoping for a Robson or Granville type shopping street, but there were no main streets with an easily walkable shopping strip in the area around my hotel.  Three blocks in any direction around Pioneer Courthouse Square did not produce any fruitful finds.  Just the odd store, like an Abercrombie & Fitch, here and there, but no whole string of stores to go through.  One of my friends who has relatives in Portland had actually recommended Hawthorne Street to me.  She said it was similar to Commercial Drive in Vancouver.  That would have been an interesting walk, but it wasn’t in our plans to explore the east side of Portland this time around.

Outlets are a big magnet for us, so we drove roughly 30 minutes south on I-5 to the Woodburn Company Stores.  It claims to be the West’s largest outlet mall.  If the line ups along the onramp and the shoulder of the highway are any indication, then it really is the largest.  There is only one highway exit available to access Woodburn Company Stores, so traffic was herendous on that Saturday.  Parking was okay.  The lot was huge.  Obviously, there’s no transit access to this place, but I guess that’s what makes it so cheap to run an outlet mall.  It has to be in the middle of nowhere to get the prices they have.  There may be a shuttle to and from the outlet, but I wasn’t aware of any.  The shopping was okay. I actually prefer the Seattle Premium Outlets in terms of finding things I want, but the stuff is almost the same.  They have a North Face outlet at Woodburn, which is different.  However, I didn’t really find anything I wanted at a reasonable price.  Some outlet store prices just aren’t that cheap. 

Leaving Woodburn Company Stores meant more traffic.  At about 5pm, there was a line up from the highway onramp all the way into the parking lot.  A serious design issue if you ask me.  I would imagine the municipality had gotten the required parking, but didn’t look carefully at the effect on local traffic.  I would hate to be a local just driving by and getting caught in all that traffic.

So shopping was fine in the Portland area.  Not earth-shattering by any means.  It helps that Oregon has no states sales tax.  However, as my friend across the Columbia River in Vancouver, WA pointed out.  The prices aren’t all that different between Washington and Oregon.  He didn’t feel it was worth travelling across the Columbia just to save the tax.  But I must admit that psychologically, it’s nice not seeing tax on your bill.

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