'Tis the season for shopping. And who says you have stick to your home turf as you pick out the perfect present for everyone on your list? This year, consider slipping away to world-class fashion capitals to peruse high-end department stores, trendy boutiques and bustling markets. From tried-and-true locales (think: New York City, Paris and Los Angeles) to legendary holiday markets across the pond, there are plenty of places to unleash your inner fashionista and enjoy diverse shopping scenes and cultures.
With the Mall of America, Minnesota certainly gives shoppers plenty of options. And while there are 520 retail outlets to pick from, you don't have to sweat the details when it comes to accommodations. Radisson Blu Mall of America is conveniently connected to the mall via a short walkway. Plus, the hotel is offering a "Shop in Your Slippers" package through Dec. 30, which includes two pairs of Radisson Blu slippers, two cocktails at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar and free parking, among other perks. And as an added bonus, Bloomington is about 10 miles from Minneapolis, affording you the chance to enjoy shopping, dining and entertainment galore in the city's buzzing metropolis.
When you think of Nashville, country music likely comes to mind. But Nashville is also community of creatives, composed of cutting-edge fashion designers, artisans and tastemakers. In fact, the city has the largest concentration of independent fashion designers per capita outside of New York City and Los Angeles, including Atelier Savas and Elizabeth Suzann. Plus, the city's neighborhoods are chock-full of unique boutiques and shops, including Emerson Grace, Judith Bright, Savant Vintage and Hey Rooster General Store, along with music shops such as the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum gift shop and Grimey's New & Preloved Music.
The Crescent City may be renowned for jazz, creole and Cajun cooking, but it's also a top shopping mecca. The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk offers 25 to 65 percent off prices daily at some 75 stores, including Nordstrom Rack, Neiman Marcus, Coach and Kenneth Cole. And then there are the shops at Canal Place, where you'll find names like Saks Fifth Avenue, Tiffany & Co. and Lululemon Athletica. Magazine Street is also a shopper's paradise, with six miles of specialty boutiques, galleries and restaurants. It runs through some of the city's most treasured neighborhoods, from uptown (near Audubon Park), through the Garden District. Plus, the Hilton New Orleans Riverside provides guests VIP access to shops such as Neiman Marcus Last Call and Coach.
Want to explore a fascinating country, pick up great gifts and do good for the community? In Guatemala, you can pick from a diverse selection of handicrafts (think: blankets, clothing, belts), with locations like Antigua, a World Heritage site. Plus, prices are reasonable for beautiful weavings, embroidery and beaded items, and visitors can help empower local women in the community by purchasing handicrafts since tourist dollars go directly back into the local economy.
Less than 30 miles away from Atlanta is Alpharetta, which is home to more than 250 stores and five separate shopping districts. There's North Point Mall, which offers more than 100 major retailers, including the only American Girl Boutique, the Lego Store and more. Meanwhile, Historic Downtown Alpharetta boasts specialty boutiques. Plus, Alpharetta's 86-acre Avalon has been a pioneer in combining resort-level hospitality and signature shopping. An upscale retail center, Avalon offers retailers such as Tommy Bahama and Anthropologie. And then there's Windward Parkway, where spas and international cuisine line the street alongside boutique stores. Even better, some hotels have shopping packages, with perks for gift-givers like $25 gift cards and coupon books.
Mickey and Minnie aren't the only thing Orlando has to offer. The Mall at Millenia has more than 150 stores, including high-end retailers such as Saint Laurent Paris, Prada and Cartier. Meanwhile, the Florida Mall near Orlando International Airport offers more than 250 retail, dining and entertainment options. Plus, there are unique shopping hot spots like the Artegon Marketplace Orlando, which features more than 165 artisans. And don't miss Ivanhoe Village, located on Orlando's Lake Ivanhoe, where you'll find antique stores, vintage clothing shops, novelties like vinyl records for as little as $1 and furnishings from India, Thailand and Indonesia.
San Juan, Puerto Rico
The Mall of San Juan, the first mall in Puerto Rico, features big brand-name stores such as Nordstrom, Saks Fifth Avenue, Versace, Jimmy Choo and Kate Spade New York. And steps away from the mall and Old San Juan's artisan boutiques, you'll find the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino, which boasts a "Retail Therapist" who provides local shopping insights, such as customizable itineraries, shopping maps and curated lists of artisanal markets and insider shopping tips.
Washington, District of Columbia
You'll find an abundance of fashionable boutiques and venerable department stores in and around the nation's capital. If you're searching for upscale brand-name shops, head to Tysons Corner Galleria, where you'll find a wealth of high-end shops. The mall is so big that it's spread across two separate malls. And in the heart of Washington, there's CityCenterDC, where shops such as Gucci and Hermes take up several city blocks. Meanwhile, Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets in Leesburg, Virginia, has more than 110 designer and name-brand outlet stores, such as Barneys New York Warehouse, Michael Kors and Burberry.
Cherry Creek North and Cherry Creek Shopping Center are top style meccas. The 16-block outdoor retail destination near downtown Denver is home to nearly 270 retailers and showcases a mix of independent and international shops selling unique jewelry and home furnishings, along with a host of spas, salons, art galleries and restaurants. Plus, 70 percent of Cherry Creek North's retailers are locally owned.
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