I could wax lyrical about shopping in America and bore you to death with descriptions of malls that I have visited over 30 years but I hear you and won’t go down that path.
Shopping in America is an experience and I love it…there I said it.
These tips are all personal from visiting these cities and their fantastic malls.
Most malls open at 10.00 and close at 21.00 Monday through to Saturday and on Sunday from 12.00 to 18.00 (check for local times)
If you want a weekend shopping trip there are some obvious places that will satisfy all your retail therapy desires. I would always look to go Thursday and fly back Monday (arriving Tuesday). Search for hotels that offer shuttle service to the mall or offer a local shuttle service within 2 miles of the hotel, this way there is no expense for a rental car.
This list isn’t exhaustive it is the most famous of them that I have personally visited. There are many more out there. Some of the most attractive malls are on the east side of the states which makes them more accessible for a weekend visit.
Minneapolis/St Paul – The Mall of America
Situated within easy reach of Minneapolis/St Paul airport in Bloomington, Minnesota and is the largest mall in America. Clothes shopping is tax free in Minnesota so the price you see is the price you pay which makes a refreshing change. Quite simply this mall is gigantic and here are some astonishing facts about it: There are around 520 stores and 50 restaurants over 4 levels, a walk around one of four levels of stores is a mile and half, there is car parking for over 12,750 cars, over 40 million visitors annually that is more than the population of Minneapolis, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa and Canada.
There are almost 7 acres of skylights in the roof to allow 70% of natural light into the complex, tourists make up 40% of the visitors to Mall of America, apparently 43 Boeing 747’s can fit inside the Mall of America or 7 Yankee stadiums can fit inside the Mall and there are 27 rides in the theme park that occupies the middle of the mall.
Recently a Sea-life attraction has been opened so whether you are shopping or looking for entertainment it is all here. If you stay in the twin cities of Minneapolis/St Paul there is a light rail system that links the metropolis to Bloomington and the Mall of America.
The likelihood is that if you visit here you can easily spend all weekend indoors there is so much to do. There are plenty of hotels that provide a shuttle service to the Mall of America. In the spring and summer months they will drop of outside and in the colder months the drop of is underground in the dry and warmth.
Philadelphia – King of Prussia Mall
The second largest mall in America and serves the Philadelphia and Delaware Valley areas of the Eastern USA. If you don’t have a rental car it is reachable by train and bus or a cab can be around £90. It offers over 400 stores and it’s anchor stores are Lord & Taylor, Nordstrom, Macy’s, Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdales. There are three food courts as well as full service restaurants. There are many branded hotels at King of Prussia.
Washington D.C – Tysons Corner
An upscale mall serving the North Virginia and DC areas. There are over 300 stores, eateries, cinema complex and an elevated outdoor plaza. There is an ice rink on the plaza in the winter. Tysons is easily reached by transport links from the airport at Dulles by the Washington Flyer coach (cost $5 per person) that drops you at the new Silver Line station Wiehle-Reston East Metrorail Station. There are plenty of hotel choices in the area.
The obvious choice for a quick visit would be New York City and there are many offers for a three or four night stay in the city that can be found on the web. Shopping in New York is different because there isn’t a natural shopping area, it is spread out over many avenues and streets. Everything you want is there though you just have to find it. This involves a lot of walking or constant jumping in and out cabs. New York has a vibe all of it’s own and the noise and bustle is unique to the city.
If you visit New York and want the outlet mall at Woodbury Common there are plenty of transport options to get out to it without having to hire a car. There is also Jersey Mills that offers transportation from Newark airport.
Boston is another option and is the shortest flight from the UK. It is a very sophisticated city and there are plenty of upscale shops around Copley Plaza and Charles Street.
If you are willing to do the 10 hour flight into Orlando there are many shopping opportunities. The Florida Mall is the largest in the state but you will need your own transport to navigate yourself around. Florida Mall is in between the city of Orlando and the Buena Vista (Disney & Universal) area. There are three outlet malls in the Disney area but my favourite is the little known Lake Buena Vista Outlets on the bottom of Vineland Drive. It is much quieter and the usual range of branded outlets are there. For upscale shopping there is the more recent Mall of Millenia near the northern end of International Drive. Personally I prefer driving out for approximately an hour to a town called Lakeland and using the mall there. It is far quieter and not nearly so touristy as the Florida Mall is.
Weekend visits to Las Vegas are popular and there are Premium outlets and two malls to entertain the non casino fan for hours.
A personal favourite is if you are either in DC or Baltimore is the White Marsh Shopping area in Maryland. Alongside the mall is an area called the avenue which is like a high street but there is a cinema complex as well a good range of eateries. There are only about 150 stores but I like the relaxed atmosphere and local vibe of the whole area.
If the dollar is at a great rate then visiting the USA is a shoppers paradise. What we pay in pounds you pay in dollars seems to be the general rule. So if your Levi jeans in the UK cost £55 they should be around $55 but I have never seen Levi jeans for that price not ever!
A really good suggestion for you is that almost all stores have a discount rail and this is always at the back of the store. It really is worth the rummage through the items. The best deal I ever got was a pair of ‘Dockers’ Bermuda shorts that were marked up at $44 for…..drum roll please!! 44c.
It seems that most cities have more than one mall to choose from but often there is a mall that is struggling and although the anchor stores (major department stores usually located in each corner) are there the rows of stores in between them are closed and empty. The granite and marble duel level mall seems to be on the way out and being replaced by super modern vibrant retail meccas.
One of the most expensive malls I have visited was South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa California. All marble floors and bright and airy with no expense spared in enticing you in. It is the largest mall on the west coast and the fourth largest mall by retail space in the states.
Over the recent years it appears that a majority of regional malls and outlet malls are run by the Simon Group. You see there name in many places the synergy between their properties is apparent. They have also taken over the brand of malls called Mills and the premium outlet brand. The Mills brand of mall is often built on one level in an oval shape with a central food court with the ever present carousel. There will be large scale indoor entertainment and themed restaurants to entice you stay as long as possible. I have visited a few of these over the years and they are all laid out in the same way. The ones I have been to are: Arundel Mills (Baltimore), Potomac Mills (Virginia), Arizona Mills (Phoenix), Orpy Mills (Nashville), Grapevine Mills (Dallas) and Pittsburgh Mills.
Here is a link to all their properties across the states Simon Malls, Mills & Outlets
Tanger Outlets is another branded selection of malls. There are fewer of them across America but they offer the same selection of branded stores Tanger Outlets