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The program has led to some permanent stores, such as Crafty Wonderland, Boys Fort and Bridge and Burn

COURTESY: PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE - The Chic Coop is part of PDX Pop-Up Shops, which are open until Christmas Eve at Pioneer Place and elsewhere.There's no doubt about it — the holidays bring a certain shine and flair to downtown Portland that's just irresistible, making the search for parking and extra few minutes in traffic entirely worth it.

After all, the 750 trees in the 63-block area of the retail core will be lit up with twinkly lights, including a special snowflake installation, courtesy of Downtown Clean & Safe.

This year, with more restaurants and shops filling vacant spaces, Pioneer Courthouse Square and surrounding blocks are once again the center of many of the city's time-honored traditions.

From local gift-shopping at PDX Pop-Up Shops to ooh-ing and aah-ing at the Christmas tree lighting or menorah lighting; marveling at the tubas and carolers; sipping on some heady winter ales; or taking that precious shot of your tots (or pets) with Santa, these are the stuff memories are made of.

A unique shopping attraction is the PDX Pop-Up Shops, at Pioneer Place and elsewhere, open through Dec. 24.

Of course, Portland would have its own mobile accessories boutique designed to look like a chicken coop. The Chic Coop, as it's called, is one of four small retail ventures that will be housed in the brick-and-mortar space formerly occupied by Travel Portland, at the bottom of the steps at Pioneer Courthouse Square.

COURTESY: PORTLAND BUSINESS ALLIANCE - The shop dfrntpigeon is popular at PDX Pop-Up Shops.The Coop will showcase local jewelry, handbags and more, while a Portland Saturday Market space (open seven days a week) will offer handmade arts and crafts. Another shop, called dfrntpigeon, is an urban lifestyle brand run by the nonprofit New Avenues for Youth, which will showcase its collection of T-shirt designs, artist prints and certified fair-trade goods.

Finally, a shop called Animal. Plant. Mineral. is a curated showcase of raw goods that have been ethically sourced and minimally processed, including materials such as cashmere, brass, wood, clay, leather and living plants.

The pop-up shop program has been a launch pad for permanent shops such as Crafty Wonderland, Boys Fort and Bridge and Burn.

Project partners include the Portland Business Alliance, Clean & Safe District, Prosper Portland, Standard Insurance and Pioneer Place.

Meanwhile, Santa Claus no longer stops at Macy's for the holidays — there isn't a Macy's downtown — but the big guy will greet young and old fans alike at Pioneer Place from noon-8 p.m. Mondays through Saturdays and noon-6 p.m. Sundays; and at Nordstrom on Nov. 25-26, Dec. 1-3, Dec. 8-10 and Dec. 15- 24. Bring pets for photos with St. Nick on Monday evenings through Dec. 18. For details: www.pioneerplace.com.

The Benson Hotel, 309 S.W. Broadway Ave., transforms its grand lobby each year into a winter wonderland, with more than 300 poinsettias, a 20-foot Christmas tree and the piece de resistance, a massive gingerbread landscape that is a historical replica of downtown Portland. The hotel's chef has created the displays for the past 25 years; this year's used 150 pounds of gingerbread and 20 pounds each of white chocolate and marzipan. The giant gingerbread display will be showing through Dec. 27. Bring unwrapped toys to donate to Make-a-Wish Oregon; for more, visit www.bensonhotel.com.

And remember when venturing downtown, when you can't take mass transit, plan to go shopping on a Sunday. Every Sunday in December, SmartPark garages are free between noon and 5 p.m. — just show your parking ticket at the PDX Pop-Up Shops in Pioneer Place or Boys Fort, 902 S.W. Morrison St., to receive a $5 parking voucher.

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