Your Cheat Sheet for Scoring Last-Minute Birthday Gifts

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Oh. That birthday party is… today? In um, an…hour? We’ve all been forced to buy a present on the fly, and finding something that doesn’t scream, “I stopped at Fred Meyers on the way here” is no, ahem, piece of cake. Here, an insider’s guide to where the most time-pressed parent can find a perfect gift.

“I need a book!”

Green Bean Books

1600 Northeast Alberta Street


Of course, we heart Powell’s. But when you don’t feel like maneuvering through a “city of books,” this cozy independent seller – which stocks only kids’ books — is the way to go.

Our pick for younger kids: Melanie Watts’ hilarious Scaredy Squirrel Has a Birthday Party.

For the older set: It’s tough to go wrong with Wildwood, an irresistible adventure by Colin Meloy, set in a darker, (more) magical version of Portland.

Friends Library Store

801 Southwest 10th Street


“Friends of Multnomah County Library,” the volunteer group that supports Portland’s awesome library system, runs a cute little shop in the lobby of the Central Library downtown. (Bonus: your purchase will help fund things like author visits and children’s programs.)

Our pick for younger kids: A canvas tote bag featuring Mo Willems’ beloved book characters, Elephant and Piggie.

For the older set: An eclectic assortment of sticker books, including those featuring the art of Edward Gorey and designs of Frank Lloyd Wright.

“I need a great toy!”

Child’s Play Toys

2305 Northwest Kearney Street


You’ll find any toy at this beloved Stumptown toy store, and even that may be an understatement. Aside from well-loved products like Lego, Playmobil, Haba, and Melissa and Doug, Child’s Play stocks items you’ve never heard of. Like…

Our pick for younger kids: Bubber, the freaky yet delightful gluten-free alternative to Play-Doh.

For the older set: You can’t go wrong with Klutz books, which instruct kids on everything from safety pin bracelets to battery science.

OMSI Science Store

1945 Southeast Water Avenue


No admission required to shop at the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s fab gift shop (and all proceeds still go into funding new exhibits and educational programs.)

For younger kids: Look for “Block Buddies,” a game where kiddos use different shaped wooden blocks to replicate one of 76 designs. (Or just play with the blocks.)

For the older set: We’re partial to “Fun Straws,” a kit of connectors and straws which allows kids to build (and drink through) a crazy contraption.

“I need something really unique!”


7907 Southeast 13th Avenue and 1639 Northeast Alberta Street


PDX has no shortage of art supply stores, but Collage kind of feels like stepping into the relaxed studio of a talented artist friend.

For younger kids: Try a sketchpad, alongside a hand picked assortment of kid-friendly finger paints, crayons, or markers.

For the older set: Stoke a kiddo’s imagination by filling a craft box with an assortment of Collage’s treasures, including animals, military men and garden gnomes the size of a fingernail; charms; letter tiles; polished rocks; and teeny-tiny glass bottles with decanters.

PSU Farmer’s Market

Southwest Park Avenue and Southwest Montgomery Street


“Birthday gift” isn’t the first thing that comes to mind with the phrase “farmer’s market” but thanks to the number of vendors here, you’ll have no shortage of inventive options. (Just remember they’re only open on Saturdays through Dec. 15.)

For younger kids: Ask one of the incredibly talented balloon artists to twist up an intricate animal or impressive crown.

For the older set: Put together a bouquet of handcrafted chocolate lollipops or local honey sticks, or surprise the birthday kiddo (and his or her parents) with a nifty carnivorous plant.

“I am really, really running late. And I don’t even have wrapping paper!”

Two words: gift card. Our faves:

Hollywood Bowl

4030 Northeast Halsey Street


At this family-friendly bowling arcade, just $8.50 scores a shoe rental, two games of bowling, and five bucks to spend in the arcade.

Salt and Straw

838 Northwest 23rd Street and 2035 Northeast Alberta Street


Gift certificates to what is arguably Portland’s best ice cream shop start at a cool ten bucks. More than enough to score the birthday boy or girl several scoops of locally batched caramel apple or cinnamon snickerdoodle ice cream.

Did we miss your favorite spot to score amazing gifts? Let us know in the comments section!

— Stephanie Booth

Photos courtesy of Barth PhotographyMr Mossjesse.millan and  foilman!