We may live in the age of armchair shopping, but there really is no substitute for in-store retail therapy. And that feeling is magnified when pacing the malls of the USA.
The whole act is a grandeur experience in itself, from trying on clothes to stopping for a bite to eat, to refuelling and toasting your shopping spree with a cocktail.
Here at Luxurious Magazine we believe every day should be a shopping day, and with an offer to visit three Simon Shopping Destination malls and a healthy dose of art thrown in, Sabi Phagura couldn’t get on the plane quick enough, and for once, with an empty suitcase.
With a collection of over 100 shopping properties in the United States, Simon Shopping Destinations offers three fashionable ways to shop; malls, premium outlets and the mills. They are located in major cities including New York, Orlando and Las Vegas. My first of three shopping adventures was scheduled for Fort Lauderdale, Florida, with my base being the newly opened beach-front hotel, Conrad Fort Lauderdale Beach. The five-star abode is fit for any hardcore shopper with good hearty meals served at the hotel’s restaurant Terra Mare throughout the day. But those wanting to dash off can grab a bite to eat from the in-house gourmet market, Cornucopia.
Replenished and eager to hit the shops, our first stop was Town Center in Boca Raton (just outside Fort Lauderdale). One of South Florida’s top luxury shopping destinations, the centre features a mix of upscale and elite specialty shops and also has an impressive line-up of six department stores (including Saks, Fifth Avenue and Macy’s). A whole day is not enough to scout out the 220 plus stores, so it’s hard to imagine what the experience would be like when the multi-million dollar renovation is completed at the end of the year.
Sawgrass Mills in contrast – which is in Fort Lauderdale – is a bargain hunter’s haven. It’s the largest outlet in the US and features more than 350 offerings.
Navigating your way around stores such as Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren spread out both inside and out, takes patience. But the rewards are well worth it when you land a bargain. I couldn’t wait to brag to the rest of the group about my $20 Guess handbag find which had been cut down from $100 as well as the Polo T-shirt which was a steal at just $7!
Aside from shopping, Fort Lauderdale is well known for its art scene – in particular murals. A trip to The Downtown Hollywood Mural Project is well worth a visit and attracts hundreds of people daily who come from far and wide to admire a collection of curated outdoor murals by both local, national and internationally-recognised artists. The Mural Project’s goal is to curate contemporary outdoor murals at key locations to enhance and enrich the fabric of the community. And they really are something. A stroll here had us jaw-dropping at every corner with murals painted on walls and buildings as big as advertisement boards. It was quite heart-breaking to learn that the lifespan of these is a mere five to six years due to the sun fading. But our tour guide Jill reminded us that there were lots of eager talented artists waiting to have their work showcased and thus the faded painted allowed more artwork to be admired.
There are many ways to explore Fort Lauderdale (we cycled, walked and drove around), but the water taxi is a great way to travel the ‘Venice of America’ especially between Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. Some of the houses lined here are simply stunning. Each one is different from the other yet elegant in their own right. We couldn’t stop looking at them, even after we anchored to have dinner at Shooters Waterfront. But once our delicious food arrived, all attention diverted to our plates. Waiters rushed around delivering mounds of fresh seafood and handcrafted cocktails against the backdrop of clinking glassware and cutlery like a well-orchestrated symphony.
The latest mode of transport to join the ranks is the newly opened Brightline. Setting the benchmark for train travel, it’s the only privately owned, operated and maintained passenger rail system in the United States. With another shopping mall to discover, the express service connected us to Miami from Fort Lauderdale in a record time of just 30 minutes. And there was lugging around heavy baggage. As first-class passengers, our luggage was taken care of as we arrived at the station and delivered to us upon arriving at our destination stop.
Loews Miami Beach Hotel is like a mini resort. The lobby area resembles a busy street with families coming and going, but once inside the rooms, you are transported into a calmer world.
You can do as little or as much as you like within the hotel compounds or simply take a stroll along the beach directly from the gates of the south beach located hotel. With another shopping trip looming in the morning, we took it easy by sipping cocktails at Bar Collins followed by a delicious supper at Lure Fishbar. When you can see the sea, you just have to order seafood.
Dadeland Mall is one of the oldest and most iconic shopping centers. It is anchored by five department stores and is home to Florida’s Macy’s. It spans more than 1.4 million square feet and features more than 185 retail stores and restaurants. You can clock up steps seeking out dresses originally costing $200 on sale for as low as $20. No wonder 18 million people frequent this store annually.
Shopping is an appetite-inducing exercise and there is no shortage of good food places to eat in Miami. Dinner at Chotto Matte was a feast for the eyes as well as the belly with its offering of Japanese Peruvian cuisine, while the Cibo Wine Bar, the biggest Italian restaurant in all of South Beach, turned out to be a delightful theatrical experience. Here you can witness a harnessed ‘wine angel’ elegantly scale up a wall of wine to retrieve one of the 3,500 bottles. It’s rather mesmerising – almost as much as the Wynwood Arts District in Miami. It’s truly a mecca for street art.
Fort Lauderdale – Where and How?
Flights to Fort Lauderdale with BA start from £275 return. For more information on the shopping destinations, visit Simon Shopping Destinations http://uk.simon.travel. Information for Greater Fort Lauderdale can be found via www.sunny.org, while the Greater Miami Convention & Visitors Bureau can be visited by clicking through to www.miamiandbeaches.com.