The greater Orlando, Florida, area received 68 million visitors in 2016, their wallets brimming with fun money. After dropping bills in the theme parks, the next favorite location for out-of-towners to splurge is in the local shopping areas. Local Orlando experts recommend these retail hot spots.
The Florida Mall
Shoppers craving a retail wonderland will love The Florida Mall, only a 15-minute drive from the Orlando International Airport. With 250 stores and entertainment choices, from big anchor stores like Macy's and Dillard's to high-end shops such as Coach and Armani Exchange, The Florida Mall draws more than 20 million visitors a year.
The Florida Mall also has shopping diversions for the young at heart. For sugarholics, M&M's World Orlando's self-described "retail-entertainment experience" has a Color Mood analyzer to determine your candy-coated color. Just as colorful but less edible is Crayola Experience, which has live entertainment and interactive activities. "That's a little bit of fun because kids don't love shopping all the time," says Sandra Ferrarese, chief concierge at the Four Seasons Resort Orlando at Walt Disney World Resort.
For an eclectic shopping environment with a round of drinks, visit historic Ivanhoe Village north of downtown Orlando. Phillip Haddock II, lead concierge and ambassador of the Grand Bohemian Hotel Orlando, Autograph Collection, suggests stopping by the "little antique shops where you can have a glass of wine or four-course meal," such as The Imperial at Washburn Imports.
Once known as Antique Row, the art deco area has expanded and modernized, but there are still plenty of antiquing options. Try 1618 Something Different to decorate your domicile like the set from the 1970s film "A Clockwork Orange." Or pick up vintage vinyl at Rock & Roll Heaven. For a little more pop, visit Boom-Art by Rogers Studio, where the paintings and decor push the color envelope.
The Mall at Millenia
The Mall at Millenia might be irksome to spelling bee competitors (where is that second N?), but luxury shopping aficionados adore it. Brand-name stores such as Gucci, Chanel and Prada are de rigueur among the 150 shops and restaurants. And its central location between downtown Orlando and Universal Orlando Resort makes it very convenient.
Even if you aren't a fashionista, The Mall at Millenia has aesthetic appeal. "It's a beautiful structure that is worth a walk around even if you don't want to shell out lots of money," says Richard Tribou, travel editor for the Orlando Sentinel. Magnificent glass ceilings, lovely fountains and splendid artwork complement the stunning architecture.
Orlando International Premium Outlets and Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets
Orlando's outlet twins, the Orlando International Premium Outlets and the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets are the darlings of discount shoppers. Strategically located within 10 minutes of Universal Orlando Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, respectively, these retail meccas offer hundreds of name-brand shops, such as Adidas and Calvin Klein, with discounts of 25 to 65 percent.
"A lot of the international travelers are looking for those outlets, and both premium outlet malls are massive in size," says Jeff Silsbee, director of guest services at the Waldorf Astoria Orlando. For deal hunters, the premium outlets are the way to go.
Disney Springs is a retail fairyland. Packed with specialty boutiques and high-end fashion, the 110 stores make for a full day of window-shopping and credit card swiping. The open-market atmosphere attracts visitors of all interests. Lourdes Gee, concierge at the Villas of Grand Cypress, Orlando, says when she refers people to Disney Springs, "they come back and thank me because it is an experience that's completely different."
Kids will flip for the fun shops. Bibbidi Bobbidi Boutique – Disney Springs offers "magical makeovers for young princesses and knights," the Lego Store sports giant Lego sculptures and a Lego construction area, and the Star Wars Galactic Outpost is a fan's shopping dream.
But be ready for crowds. "It's a great place for people-watching," Tribou says. "I mean droves and droves of people because it can get crowded." If you don't like rubbing elbows with millions of other visitors, consider visiting early in the day and opt out during the holiday season.
Park Avenue in Winter Park
For an authentic local shopping experience, Winter Park's Park Avenue is reminiscent of a European boulevard, mixing history, art and specialty stores under an oak canopy. You may even have an occasional star sighting, such as local homeowners Sir Paul McCartney or Carrot Top.
"There are so many different areas of Winter Park that come together into one beautiful example of retail therapy at its finest," says Patricia Clifton, chief concierge at The Alfond Inn. The area provides unparalleled options for women's and men's apparel, including tailored finery from John Craig, colorful shifts from Lilly Pulitzer and urban chic at Forema Boutique.
Art collectors rejoice. Besides the many nearby museums, Grace Gallery Fine Art has a splendid collection by top international artists, and Scott Laurent Collection has an array of contemporary art and home decor. And if you time your visit right, hundreds of artists exhibit and sell their art at the Winter Park Sidewalk Art Festival in mid-March and the Autumn Art Festival in mid-October.
To experience more of what Orlando has to offer, check out the U.S. News Travel guide.
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