In the market for the right gift for that special someone? These are to best malls to seek out. From super-sized to high-end, they have something for everyone on your shopping list — plus an opportunity for you to get a dose of holiday cheer.
Mall of America (Bloomington, MN)
The largest shopping mall in the nation, Mall of America has all of your favorite stores and then some. Fun fact: It would take 95 hours to spend just 10 minutes in each of its 520-plus stores. And that number, by the way, includes the 50 retailers that joined the roster following the mall’s $325 million expansion, completed this fall. Not sure where to start? Check out the visitors’ guide, download the mall app, or stop by the mall’s new tourist welcome center when you arrive.
Between gift purchases at stores like American Girl, Barnes and Noble, and Chapel Hats, celebrate the season by taking your photograph next to one of two 44-foot tall trees in the Rotunda or one of seven 11-foot nutcrackers. Also on display are 3,500 poinsettias, nearly 400 decorated trees, and enormous toy installations throughout the mall. Don’t miss the holiday light show at Nickelodeon Universe, a display of lights, music, and more, through January 3.
King of Prussia Mall (Prussia, PA)
Not too far behind the Mall of America in sheer size, the King of Prussia Mall near Philadelphia is the largest mall on the East Coast and second in the nation — with more than 400 retailers and eight major department stores, including Lord & Taylor, Macy’s, and Neiman Marcus. But wait, it’s only getting bigger: An expansion scheduled to be completed in August 2016 will add another 50 new stores and restaurants.
This year, in addition to holiday decorations and two locations for photo opps with Santa, the mall is hosting a Nintendo Holiday Experience where shoppers can try the new Nintendo 3DS XL system and games, through December 20.
South Coast Plaza (Costa Mesa, CA)
This Southern California mall boasts the highest concentration of high-end fashion retail in the country. In fact, some designers choose to open their first or flagship store here instead of on Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills. Look for offerings from Jimmy Choo, Barbara Bui, Versace, and Louis Vuitton alongside more affordable outposts like Ann Taylor, H&M, and Uniqlo.
Shopping at South Coast Plaza has other perks, too. In addition to valet parking, the mall has a hospitality suite where VIP guests can sip champagne and enjoy other goodies while lounging on plush sofas. And it’s not that difficult to get in — many of the local hotels provide access cards to guests that ask at the front desk.
Throughout the holiday season, carolers and musicians can be found throughout the mall. The carousel horses even get in on the fun as they transform into Santa’s reindeers. On weekends starting December 5 and the week before Christmas until December 27, be sure to grab a cup of complimentary hot chocolate or cider.
The Galleria (Houston, TX)
Another mega mall, The Galleria is one of Houston’s most visited tourist attractions with more than 35 million annual visitors. Inside, you’ll find more than 400 stores, including Kate Spade New York, The Limited, Topshop, and Zara. By 2017, the mall will add 35 more stores, open a new state-of-the-art Saks Fifth Avenue, and add new lighting, seating, tiling, and more.
What really makes this a great place for holiday shopping is the 80-foot ice skating rink — the first ever built inside a mall. Rent skates for $15 (includes admission) and glide around the towering Christmas tree in the middle of the rink, or watch the skaters below from the second and third levels.
The Shops at Columbus Circle (New York, NY)
The Shops at Columbus Circle isn’t as big as the other places listed here, and its status as a proper mall is arguable, but it does have popular high-end retailers like Coach, Michael Kors, Stuart Weitzman, and BOSS. In addition to its 50-plus shops, you’ll also find here a 60,000-square-foot Whole Foods Market and several Michelin-star restaurants.
At Christmastime, the “Holiday Under the Stars” light show is great fun, featuring a dozen 14-foot LED stars flashing more than 16.7 million color combinations to classic yuletide tunes. The show runs daily from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Through this December 8 on the second floor mezzanine, you can also see the Astolat Dollhouse Castle, filled with 10,000 miniatures in 29 rooms. And don’t forget the holiday market across the street for additional shopping and snacks.