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South Florida Is a Shoppers’ Magnet. We Guide You

Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon

Oct 17, 2018

Read time
8 min read

Sponsored by Hilton Hotels

To sun, sea and sand, let’s add a fourth “s” to the list of reasons to visit South Florida: shopping! Miami and Fort Lauderdale are both major shopping cities, with indoor malls, outdoor shopping centers and retail districts within easy reach of its north-south arteries, I-95 and Florida’s Turnpike. From sprawling Sawgrass Mills mall (which attracts almost as many people as Orlando’s Walt Disney World) to the petite-and-pricy Design District, South Florida has “shopportunities” to suit every taste and budget. Here’s your guide.

On This Page

  • Aventura Mall
  • Miami's Design District
  • Ft. Lauderdale's Las Olas
  • Sawgrass Mills: A Destination Shopping Experience

Aventura Mall

With more than 300 stores spread over 2 million square feet, this Miami-Dade County retail playground is the largest non-outlet mall in Florida, and is convenient to both Ft. Lauderdale and Miami. Anchors, including Nordstrom, Macy’s and Bloomingdale’s, seduce spenders equally well as high-end merchants such as Chanel, Cartier and Louis Vuitton, and Aventura boasts the highest sales-per-square-foot of any mall in the country. So, hold on to your credit cards!

Must-Shop Stores

What can’t you find at Aventura? Macy’s, Nordstrom, J.C. Penney and Bloomingdale’s have everything you’d expect, and several specialty stores carry everything an aficionado could desire. There’s Italian linen specialist 120% Lino, Swedish-designed minimalist clothing at COS and dreamy lingerie and sleepwear from Miami-based Eberjey. The new wing (which opened last November) features Zara, French cosmetic company Clarins’ only non-outlet Florida store and men’s shirt retailer UNTUCKit.

**Where to Eat **

Options in Treats food hall and throughout the mall reflect Miami’s diverse culture. Sample Mexican specialties at El Pastor Taco House, exotic fruit-flavored Puerto Rican-style frozen treats at Gourmet Paletas and Peruvian fare at CVI.CHE 105. Dine in-store in the Nordstrom Cafe Bistro, or indulge at Caviar & More, where fine caviar and foie gras top the menu.

Surprising Feature

The mall’s art collection includes a dozen site-specific installations. Don’t miss Belgian artist Carsten Höller’s 92-foot-high stainless steel Aventura Slide Tower, open for sliding (wheeeee!) every afternoon.

**Bring It Back **

Bought too much for your bags? There’s a UPS store less than a mile north on Biscayne Boulevard/U.S. 1 so you can safely ship it all home.

In the Vicinity

Just off the I-95 Ives Dairy Road exit, the mall is only a 30-minute drive from Port Everglades and PortMiami. It’s surrounded by several outdoor shopping centers and West Country Club Drive, a popular 3-mile running path, is right behind the mall.

**Where to Stay **

The Diplomat Beach Resort in nearby Hollywood.

Miami's Design District

What was once a blighted neighborhood of industrial warehouses has, since the early 2000s, been re-born as a high-end retail, cultural and dining destination. Its 18 square blocks are occupied by more than 100 boutiques, restaurants and art galleries. If money is no object, a visit to this tony quarter is a no-brainer!

Must-Shop Stores

Hermes’ three-story flagship (one of only three in the U.S.) carries all of the French brand’s collections, such as crystal, cashmere suits, silk scarves and leather saddles. Perhaps you’ll finally score that Birkin bag and sweep down the store’s stunning central staircase with it on your arm. If not, there are plenty of other luxury brands to tempt: Van Cleef & Arpels, Saint Laurent, Versace and Dolce & Gabbana among them. Fendi’s fluorescent orange façade makes it hard to miss -- and the merchandise makes it equally hard to leave.

**Where to Eat **

For a quick bite, head to St. Roch Market and find everything from sushi and Vietnamese cuisine to vegan cupcakes and oysters. The Design District’s more than 20 restaurants include two from James Beard award-winning chef Michael Schwartz (Michael’s Genuine Food & Drink and Harry’s Pizzeria), as well as Gloria and Emilio Estefan’s Cuban eatery, Estefan Kitchen. And what makes a more fitting finale to your visit than Mad Lab Creamery’s soft serve ice cream topped with edible glitter?

Surprising Feature

An art critic guides twice-monthly complimentary tours of the area’s public art, including the 24-foot-tall Fly’s Eye Dome by Buckminster Fuller.

**Bring It Back **

Too much stuff to schlep? The United States Post Office is conveniently located on 39th Street.

In the Vicinity

At the intersection of Midtown, Buena Vista, Edgewater and Wynwood, the Design District is just off the North Miami Avenue exit of 1-95, a 20-minute drive from Miami International Airport. In the heart of the neighborhood, the Institute of Contemporary Art, Miami, on 41st Street is free to visit year-round. And just south, Perez Art Museum Miami, The Phillip and Patricia Frost Museum of Science, and waterfront Museum Park offer contemporary art, a planetarium, aquarium and outdoor sculpture installations between them.

**Where to Stay **

Book a room at the Hilton Miami Downtown and you’ll be just a 10-minute ride away on the complimentary City of Miami trolley, which stops near the hotel.

Ft. Lauderdale's Las Olas

Stretching 3 miles from the Atlantic waves (las olas) that border A1A east to Andrews Avenue, Fort Lauderdale’s marquee street offers 17 tree-lined blocks punctuated with more than 60 boutiques, restaurants and art galleries.

**Must-Shop Stores **

The Boulevard has an eclectic mix of shops, most of them independently owned. At Unique Treasures, snag anything from a $20 glass figurine to a 3-foot-high, $15,000 bronze bulldog. (Yes, they’ll ship!) Stop into Andre Dupree consignment store for gently used designer handbags at a fraction of the original price. And, complete your Florida wardrobe at Lilly Pulitzer and Tommy Bahama boutiques, where bright colors and bold patterns are the specialty.

**Where to Eat **

Hungry? Check out newcomer The Balcony, which attracts crowds with New Orleans-inspired cuisine, live music and a rooftop bar with boulevard views. Nearby, The Floridian diner has been serving up the good stuff 24 hours a day, 365 days a year since 1937. Try their barbecue, served with soft and sweet Bimini bread, and don’t leave without a slice of Key lime pie. And, if your sweet tooth still craves satisfaction, stop in at Kilwins, where they hand out free samples of homemade ice cream and fudge.

Surprising Feature

If you’ve shopped ‘til you dropped, take a load off -- and see another side of the city -- on a relaxing gondola tour of the Intracoastal Waterway, which winds its way through Fort Lauderdale. Riverfront Gondola Tours’ 90-minute cruises depart daily from 1200 East Las Olas Boulevard.

**Bring It Back **

All of Las Olas’ art galleries offer insured shipping services. For smaller items, there’s a United States Post Office at 15th Street. The Mailbag, two doors down, offers FedEx and USPS shipping and ships luggage, too.

In the Vicinity

Just a 10-minute drive from Fort Lauderdale–Hollywood International Airport, Las Olas is an easy shot from the north or south via I-95 to the Broward Boulevard exit. At the western end of Las Olas, you’ll find two of the area’s most popular attractions: NSU Art Museum, where the permanent collection includes more than 6,000 pieces dating from the early 19th century, and the Historic Stranahan House Museum, which was built in 1901 and is now the oldest structure in Broward County.

**Where To Stay **

Stay at the Hampton Inn Ft. Lauderdale/Downtown Las Olas. It's a half-mile away and offers a free shuttle to the Boulevard.

Sawgrass Mills: A Destination Shopping Experience

Fasten your Fitbit because you’ll be racking up the steps (as well as the bargains) at America’s largest outlet mall. With more than 350 stores in three sections (the mall itself plus outdoor promenades The Oasis and The Colonnade Outlets), the 2-mile-long Sawgrass Mills offers a day’s worth of deals, whether you’re searching for a new swimsuit, a bargain-priced slow-cooker or designer jewelry.

**Must-Shop Stores **

The deepest discounts are found at The Colonnade Outlets, a collection of 70 designer stores, many not found anywhere else in South Florida. You’ll be in handbag heaven at Coach, Tory Burch and Salvatore Ferragamo, and find plenty of formal-night finery at Prada, Gucci, Versace and Jimmy Choo. Neiman Marcus Last Call Clearance Center and Off Saks Fifth Avenue offer serious savings on soup-to-nuts merchandise.

**Where to Eat **

No doubt you’ll need to refuel between retail sessions. Sawgrass has 43 restaurants and fast-food outlets where you can do just that. Grand Lux Café (The Colonnade Outlets) and The Cheesecake Factory (The Oasis) are perfect for groups because their extensive menus offer something for every taste. Sushigami’s Japanese fare (served on a conveyor belt) is a hit with kids, as is Rainforest Café, where you dine in a faux forest, complete with wildlife noises, spontaneous rainstorms and animatronic animals.

**Surprising Feature **

The mall was originally designed in the shape of an alligator (expansions have blurred the distinctive design). Need a ride? Hop the Sawgrass Express shuttle bus, which runs three times a day to the mall from South Beach, Downtown Miami, Sunny Isles and Aventura for $25 round trip.

**Bring It Back **

If you’ve over-shopped (is there really such a thing?!) you have three choices: Head to Discount Luggage Outlet or Samsonite for new bags; ask the store to ship your packages (most merchants will ship); or hit up the UPS store a half-mile away on Sunrise Boulevard.

**In the Vicinity **

The mall is a 30-minute drive north of Miami, 15 minutes west of downtown Fort Lauderdale and easily reached via I-95 or Florida’s Turnpike. Just a five-minute drive away, the BB&T Center is home of the Florida Panthers ice hockey team. And airboat rides through the Everglades are an hour away at Billie Swamp Safari.

**Where to Stay **

The Bahia Mar Fort Lauderdale Beach, a DoubleTree by Hilton. It offers the best of both worlds -- and is just a short drive to Sawgrass Mills.

Sarah Greaves-Gabbadon is an award-winning Miami-based travel writer, video host and black-belt shopper. As jetsetter-in-chief at JetSetSarah, she ventures to the beach and beyond to share the culture, lifestyle and people of the Caribbean with the world. At home in South Florida, she enjoys exploring all the exciting shopportunities the region has to offer.

Updated October 17, 2018
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