Archive - October, 2011

Fashion Square Mall: A Great Basic Shopping Center in Orlando

Orlando is full of big, splashy malls with beautiful displays, decadent eateries and luxurious merchandise. Unfortunately, most of these malls are also FULL of tourists, especially on the weekends. As an Orlando local, sometimes I just need to go shopping for things like school clothes, makeup or a pair of sneakers, and it’s not worth the effort to go to one of the ‘fancy’ malls.  That’s when I take my family and head out to Fashion Square Mall, located just east of downtown Orlando.

Fashion Square is an older mall, but has been recently renovated so it’s actually quite bright and fresh-looking inside. It has a good selection of anchor stores including Dillard’s and Macy’s, both of which have good selections of all of the major brands.

My favorite thing about this mall is the movie theater. It’s a Premiere Cinema, and it was built just a couple of years ago, with big comfortable chairs and high-quality digital projectors and sound systems. I take my kids to this theater very often, because the first showing of each movie is just $4.50, half-off the regular ticket price.

There are plenty of good options for food at this mall, including a popular Panera Bread located inside. The food court is pretty small, but covers all the basics like Sbarro and Auntie Anne’s Pretzels. There’s even a brand-new Green Day Cafe which offers healthy organic fare. The mall has started holding special events to bring in more customers on the weekends. The strategy seems to be working, especially when they host the ever-popular Food Truck Bazaars!

Fashion Square Mall covers all the basics, with very good outposts of Express, The Limited, Victoria’s Secret, Bath and Body Works, and Hot Topic.

With easy parking including a covered parking garage, plenty of good stores and food, and a clean, pleasant environment, this mall is just the ticket if you’re looking for a good no-frills shopping experience in Orlando.  Add in a trip to the movies, and you’ve got the perfect way to escape the heat on a hot summer day!

Orlando Outlet Shopping: How to Save BIG At Premium Outlets International Drive

People come to Orlando from all over the world, looking to save big at our amazing outlet malls. Don’t get distracted by the many fake outlets scattered around the tourist areas, for the real deals you need to head to one of the Premium Outlet Malls. We have two of them, one on the North end and one on the South end of International Drive.

My favorite of all the Orlando outlet centers is Premium Outlets International Drive, just a stone’s throw from Universal Studios. This center is a treasure trove of real factory outlets with amazing deals.  I shop at this outlet mall at least once a week, and I can give you the advice you need to find what you’re looking for at the best price possible.

START YOUR TRIP RIGHT:  GET A COUPON BOOK!

Before you begin your shopping adventure, stop by the Customer Service, which is located on the side of the Neiman Marcus store (conveniently, right next to the restrooms!) Here you can get a center map, and request a coupon booklet.  It is free if you have a AAA card, or with a voucher you can download from the Premium Outlets website before you go. The discounts in these coupon books are substantial, with big $$ off and percentages off at most of the outlet stores.

Orlando Premium Outlets Victoria's SecretThese coupons can usually be combined with other outlet discounts, which can help you score a really big deal.  If you’re looking for a specific item, shop around before you buy to make sure you get a real bargain. My outlet shopping rule is to not pay any more than 25% of the original retail price for anything.

BEST OUTLET OF THE BUNCH: VICTORIA’S SECRET

 

The absolutely best store at this outlet center is the Victoria’s Secret Outlet. It’s the only one in Florida, and the best thing about it is the flat pricing structure.  They carry clothing, lingerie, bath and body, and other overstocks from the Victoria’s Secret catalogs, and from their retail stores. I wrote a full article just about this store, so check it out if you want to learn more!

MY FAVORITE STORES FOR AMAZING DESIGNER DISCOUNTS

Another great store at this center is the Off Fifth Saks Fifth Avenue outlet. The best deals are in the clearance sections, which are frequently marked an extra 50% off the lowest price. It can take a lot of digging, but it’s worth looking at everything they have in your size, since there are some real treasures here. They have a great selection of designer denim, and some spectacular shoes from luxury brands like Jimmy Choo, Tory Burch, and Manolo Blahnik. The fine jewelry cases offer a tempting selection from brands like Damiani, David Yurman, and Gucci.

Express Orlando OutletLooking for designer watches? Your best bet is Watch Station, which carries Michele, Marc Jacobs, Michael Kors, Emporio Armani, DKNY, Burberry and other designer brands. They have a selection of Emporio Armani and Diesel jewelry as well, and they’re usually marked down at least 75% off.

Express is a mall staple that is a great source for business and going-out attire. They are known for their expert tailoring and high-quality fabrics. They’ve recently opened an outlet in this mall, located right next to Victoria’s Secret, which offers big markdowns and a huge selection, much bigger than any regular Express store.

Chico’s is another popular brand, known for creative prints and unique jewelry and belts. It’s a great source for gifts and comfortable clothes for travel. Their Soma line of lingerie is exquisitely crafted, with many pieces made of pure silk, and all of the Soma merchandise is usually an extra 70% off at this outlet.  Don’t forget to use your $20 off coupon in the brochure!

White House Black Market carries only clothes in shades of black and white, and they create some great prints every season. It’s a perfect source for finding workwear basics, and they have a great selection of fun, pretty dresses as well. They often offer flat-price sales where all pants and tops are $29 and all dresses are $39, which works out to a huge discount, so it’s definitely worth checking out.

Banana Republic outlet offers huge markdowns on a broad assortment of classic sportswear. They often mark down the entire store by an extra 40%, and that offer can be combined with markdowns AND the 10% off coupon in the brochure. Stacking all of these discounts on top of each other can help you revamp your entire wardrobe for under $100. The clothes here are made just for the outlets, but they are still very high quality, especially the jeans, suits, shoes, and dresses.

Handbag shoppers will be in seventh heaven at Premium Outlets International Drive. Michael Kors, Brahmin, Dooney & Bourke, and Kate Spade all offer big markdowns at their stores, and there’s a big Coach outlet store that’s always full of eager customers. For all of these brands, the best deals are in the clearance sections, especially when they’re offering an additional percentage off.

DON’T FORGET THE FOOD COURT!

Pinkberry at Premium Outlets OrlandoThis is one of the few malls I’ve found that actually has food that’s worth the trip all by itself!  The Red Brick Pizza is delicious, quick, and inexpensive, and the Pinkberry frozen yogurt is just perfect for an afternoon pick-me-up. Even the food court is better than most, it has the world’s best chicken fingers at Chicken Now, and the best hamburgers EVER at Five Guys.

 

A FEW MORE TIPS…

It can be really hard to find a parking space at this mall, but there’s usually a spot around the back near the Off Fifth Saks Fifth Avenue.  If you want to avoid circling the parking lot for hours, it’s best to arrive at 10am when the mall opens.  Most of the upscale shops are on this side of the mall, but if you’re looking for trendier clothing for a teen, the north end of the mall is your best bet. Plan your trip wisely so you can come home with brag-worthy shopping scores at Orlando’s best outlet mall!

Waterside Shops in Naples, Florida: Florida’s Prettiest Outdoor Mall

One of my favorite places to shop is the Waterside Shops in Naples, Florida. The ultimate in aspirational shopping, this center is beautifully designed with a bubbling stream that flows throughout, adding a peaceful and elegant ambiance. There are mosaic accents and stunningly crafted colorful light fixtures that are especially pretty at night. With abundant dining options, and often featuring live music performances, this is a lovely place to spend an evening anytime you visit Southwest Florida.

Naples is a haven for wealthy retired Northerners and snowbirds, and this center caters to them with lots of fancy events like car shows, museum exhibits, and charity fundraisers.   The Waterside Shops’ target clientele must not like to stay out too late, because all of the shops at this center close at 7 pm every night, even on weekends, and at 6pm on Sundays! My kids and I always find this shocking when we visit- as soon as we’ve finished dinner and are ready to shop, everything closes! So if you want to shop this center, be sure to arrive early.

Waterside Shops features major luxury brands like Louis Vuitton, Cartier, Gucci, Tiffany & Co. and Hermes, so if you’re looking to spoil someone, you’ve come to the right place. The window displays alone are worth the trip, they are very inventive and fun to look at. But this center also has something for everyone: there’s a Williams Sonoma, Pottery Barn, Chico’s, and a beautiful Anthropologie location, plus lots of other upscale mall staples.

Paradoxically, I’ve found some of the best bargains of my shopping career at this very high-end center. I think it’s because Naples is one of those Florida cities that has a ‘season’, most of the visitors come in the winter, and the summer traffic is much lighter. So a lot of the summer merchandise doesn’t sell and ends up on the clearance racks, getting marked down further and further until some lucky person snaps it up! I’ve found $9 dresses at Ann Taylor, $5 jeans at Gap, and incredible jewelry markdowns at the very big, very nice Banana Republic.

The dining options at Waterside Shops are not as exorbitantly priced as one might think, and when we visit we always enjoy eating at Brio Tuscan Grille and Silver Spoon Cafe. Both of these restaurants offer outdoor dining on their relaxing patios, one of the best places in Florida for people watching! Next time you’re vacationing in Naples, be sure to plan an afternoon at Waterside Shops, you’ll definitely be inspired and you might just find the deal of a lifetime!

How To Shop Orlando: Guide To Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue

Orlando is a famous shopping destination throughout the world, and for good reason, we have some amazing malls and two of the best outlet centers anywhere.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland AvenueThe most visible Orlando outlet center is at the south end of International Drive- Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue, right next door to Disney World. This center is a treasure trove of real factory outlets with amazing deals.  But you’ll also find some fake outlets with either cheaply made knock-off merchandise or pricey items that are only slightly discounted. Never fear, you don’t have to shop alone!  I’ve shopped this outlet mall literally HUNDREDS of times, and I will give you my insider tips on the very best stores to find big bargains on designer merchandise.

FIRST THINGS FIRST:  GET A COUPON BOOK!

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland AvenueBefore you begin your shopping adventure, stop by the Customer Service office in the middle of the food court. Here you can get a center map, and request a coupon booklet.It is free if you have a AAA card, or with a voucher you can download from the Premium Outlets website before you go. The discounts in these coupon books are substantial, with big $$ off and percentages off at most of the outlet stores.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue Tory BurchThese coupons can usually be combined with other outlet discounts, which can help you score a really big deal.  If you’re looking for a specific item, like a pair of leather dress shoes for example, check out a few stores before you buy.  Don’t settle for mini-markdowns; if you shop the clearance racks and use your coupons, you can expect to save 75% to 90% off of retail on your purchases.

BEST OUTLET OF THE BUNCH: COACH

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue Coach Outlet

The absolutely best store at this outlet center is Coach Factory Store. This is one of the biggest Coach outlets anywhere, which means they have a much better selection. Be sure to check out the jewelry case, which usually features current Coach Store accessories at really great prices. Sometimes the jewelry is an extra 50% off, which makes for some super deals.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue Coach OutletI usually go directly to the Clearance section, which is located at the back left corner of the store, and is usually all marked an extra 50% off. This store does offer a mix of Factory exclusive merchandise, which is lower quality, and high-quality overstocks from Coach stores. To find out which you’re looking at, just check the style number at the upper left corner of the tag. If it starts with an F, it’s a Factory item, if not, it’s a regular Coach piece.  If you’re lucky, you may come on a day when they are passing out additional 30% off coupons at the door. These are combinable with other discounts, so your dream handbag may be well within reach!

MORE DEEP DESIGNER DISCOUNTS

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue Polo Ralph LaurenAnother great store at this center is the Polo Ralph Lauren outlet. They get new merchandise in every day, and carry all of the Ralph Lauren lines, including the pricey Purple Label Runway line. Check out the clearance racks, often they are an extra 50% off the lowest marked price. Flat-price racks are a great deal, sometimes there are $19.99 racks with items that retail MUCH higher, so you’ll score a huge discount. And just present your coupon book to take an extra $25 off every $250 you spend.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue Watch StationLove designer watches? Be sure to stop by Watch Station, which carries Michael Kors, Marc Jacobs, Emporio Armani, DKNY, Fossil, Burberry and other designer brands at deep discounts. For even bigger discounts, be sure to ask to see the refurbished watches, they are often just as nice, but much less expensive.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue Diesel OutletFor hip Italian style and sexy denim, Diesel is your best bet. This mall has two Diesel stores, one with shoes and accessories and the other with men’s and women’s clothing. They have some great markdowns, and occasionally run huge sales where racks of clothing are priced at only $9.99 per item. Plus, the coupon book gets you 15% off if you spend over $250.

Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue Giorgio Armani

A FEW MORE TIPS…

There are lots of high-end designer stores at Orlando Premium Outlets Vineland Avenue, which offer pretty significant discounts off of retail, but their prices are still out of reach for most shoppers. Some of the best deals can be found at Tory Burch, Giorgio Armani, Dooney & Bourke, and Tod’s.  If you want first dibs at the new arrivals (and at a decent parking spot!) it’s best to arrive at 10am when the mall opens.  This is a really pretty outlet mall, and is a great way to spend a day scoring big bargains to make your Orlando trip one to remember!