From elegant malls to main street shops, the South is a shopper’s paradise with an array of diverse possibilities.
By Rebecca McCormick

Shopping in the South is nearly as diverse as the food. Whether you prefer the home-style flavor of a casual stroll down Main Street or the elegant ambiance of a pampered appointment at a boutique, you’ll find a flavor for every taste in our tempting menu of the South’s top 10 shopping destinations.

The Mall at Millenia in Orlando, Fla., has 150 shops under vaulted end-to-end skylights. The Mall at Millenia photo
Bargains in Birmingham

Hardly anything competes with the smell of fresh markdowns at the mall. The Summit, located off Interstate 459 at U.S. Highway 280 delivers with more than 100 stores, several new to Alabama, including Williams Sonoma, Eddie Bauer and Restoration Hardware.

At the nearby Riverchase Galleria, I-459 at U.S. Highway 31, you’ll drool over 200 specialty shops like Godiva Chocolatier, Banana Republic, European cosmetic giant Sephora and Aerie that offers American Eagle lingerie and loungewear.

Experience authentic downtown shopping along First Avenue North. Sink your teeth into amazing discounts at BB’s China & Glassware at 2427 First Ave. Ask about their assortment of dishes and glassware bearing the logos of once-famous hotels and dining rooms.

The Birmingham suburb of Mountain Brook beckons visitors to Smith’s Variety Store at 2715 Culver, an old-fashioned five-and-dime where shoppers feel young again perusing a splendid selection of children’s toys. In nearby Homewood, explore a newly renovated Main Street-style downtown, where shoppers flock to Pink Tulip at 2848 18th St. for women’s clothing or Homewood Toy and Hobby at 2830 18th St. for traditional children’s playthings. Before leaving, spice up your trip at Pepper Place, located at Second Avenue and 29th Street, an old Dr. Pepper syrup plant that houses an eclectic mix of shops including folk art galleries, antiques, handmade jewelry, oriental rugs and linens, plus a theater and a café.

Divine Dallas

You’ll feel like a celebrity at Highland Park Village, where the tenant list reads like a social register: Cole Haan, Chanel, Harry Winston, Frédéric Fekkai, Carolina Herrera, Ralph Lauren and more. Located north of downtown, Highland Park Village opened in 1931 and was designated as a National Historic Landmark in 2000.

“The Village is unique in that we have combined exclusive luxury retail, the hottest new boutiques, a movie theater and fabulous services–such as our new Frédéric Fekkai salon–with the best restaurants in Dallas,” says Jackie Miller Stewart, president of Henry S. Miller Interests, Inc., owners of the property since 1976.

Like a classic china pattern, Highland Park’s beauty is its design. Timeless Spanish Mediterranean architecture featuring a central fountain surrounded by 10 acres of lush landscaping lures visitors along brick paths and walkways. Be cautious of road construction around the area.

Over the top in Orlando

Slip into your diva shoes and let the valet open the car door for a grand entrance to The Mall at Millenia, 4200 Conroy Road. Inside, guests absorb the energy from 60-foot vaulted end-to-end skylights plus an abundance of glass and water features that interpret an architectural theme based on the universe, earth, sea and time. In the Center’s eight-story Grand Court, cutting-edge fashion footage from runways around the world is broadcast on a dozen television screens mounted on 35-foot masts.

If 150 shops, services and eateries in 1.2 million square feet seem daunting, don’t worry. There is a full-service, multi-lingual concierge staff available to provide store information, foreign currency exchange, shopping bags, strollers and wheelchairs. Macy’s, along with central Florida’s only Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, are anchor stores here.

Those are the big three, but the following cities round out our top selections of shopping meccas.

Atlanta, Ga.

Follow the scent of luxury six miles north of downtown Atlanta to Buckhead, an eclectic neighborhood that is home to more than 1,400 retail stores. At the heart of the district, a $1.2 billion project–The Streets of Buckhead–is revitalizing the area as Atlanta’s new home for sophisticated shopping and elegant dining. After a day at Lenox Square mall or Phipps Plaza, you can revive creative juices at more than 90 galleries, or dine at any of hundreds of specialty restaurants.

Covington, La.

Just 45 minutes from downtown New Orleans on Louisiana’s north shore, pick up vintage or artisan jewelry, sweet little shoes, natural fiber clothes, English china and a whole lot more in historic downtown Covington, where several streets of shops, boutiques, galleries and restaurants offer a day of quality browsing.

Eureka Springs, Ark.

Specialty boutiques and art galleries line the streets of Eureka Springs. Arkansas Department of Parks and Tourism photo
There will be plenty of “Eureka!” moments in this Victorian-style town that boasts no malls and no chain stores–just specialty boutiques and art galleries. Whet your appetite at the Art Colony, a six-building complex of studio and gallery spaces located at 185 N. Main St. Visitors can watch emerging artists at work.

Foley, Ala.

The beach is always fun, but bargains from the beach help to bring your vacation home. Tanger Outlet Center on state Highway 59 is dressed for summer entertaining, thanks to a $25-million expansion and remodel project that serves up a pastel palette of coastal décor, a new food court area and expanded parking. Shop in more than 120 stores.

Fredericksburg, Texas

In the heart of Texas hill country, German traditions and front-porch hospitality weave a welcome mat for tourists who return year after year to enjoy 150 shops, galleries, boutiques and emporiums concentrated on or near Main Street.

Seven miles east of Fredericksburg at Wildseed Farms off U.S. Highway 290, you can spend the day at one of the largest working wildflower farms in the country, where fields of flowers bloom through October. Explore walking trails, pick flowers to create a bouquet or visit the live butterfly exhibit. Inside, browse a variety of gift shops and lighten your load at the Brewbonnet Biergarten.

Jackson, Miss.

For boutiques and antiques, head to Highland Village on the city’s north side where elegant shops and several of Jackson’s finest restaurants are found in the same block. Check out the one-of-a-kind jewelry designs made from semi-precious stones at Turkoyz.

Closer to downtown, wander through the Historic Fondren District. Throughout this colorful, revitalized village, you’ll find trendy dress shops, antiques, art galleries, quaint cafés and unusual stores like the Fondren Beverage Emporium at 3030 N. State St., which features collectible soft drinks, candies and novelties.

West Monroe and Monroe, La.

Along the banks of the Ouachita River in the historic Cottonport district, West Monroe’s Antique Alley stretches down the south end of Trenton Street. To find the best values for which the area is known, you’ll want to invest enough time to browse more than 40 outlets, including seven antique malls and 15 individual antique stores, plus 20 specialty shops for home décor, jewelry, clothing, collectibles, art and more.

For exceptional savings on high-end decorative accessories, furniture, and rugs, head across the river to Paul Michael Company, 2348 Sterlington Road in Monroe.

And while you’re there, drive through Monroe’s Historic Garden district to inhale the delicate fragrance of blooming magnolia trees. That’s a free bonus no shopper should resist.

Rebecca McCormick is a new contributor from Hot Springs, Ark.
May/June 2008 Issue

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