For most families, holidays to Florida are all about visiting Mickey Mouse at Disney World, taking on the rollercoasters at Busch Gardens and getting wet at one of Orlando’s enormous theme parks.
However, there’s a lot more to the Sunshine State than amusement parks for those who aren’t interested in cartoon characters or doing loop-the-loops, from the white-sand beaches of the Gulf Coast to the wildlife haven that is the Everglades.
And for those who like to indulge in a bit of retail therapy, plenty of incredible shopping malls, where you can spend a few hours while Florida is enjoying one of its regular tropical downpours.
The USA is famous for its enormous shopping malls, packed to the rafters with hundreds of shopping options, so it’s really a shame to visit the country without stopping by at one.
At the famous Daytona Beach just north of the theme parks of Orlando you’ll find the Ocean Walk Shoppes. In a fabulous waterfront location, this is more of an all-day destination than a shopping centre, which not only features plenty of opportunities to splash the cash but also has a host of restaurants and entertainment venues, including a cinema.
On the opposite side of Florida, in the far north-west is the Pier Park Mall in Panama City. With no fewer than 124 stores, including Target, Forever 21, Dillards, JC Penney’s and Marshalls, as well as an IMAX theatre, live music venues and restaurants, this is another shopping destination that can entertain you from morning until late.
If you’re in search of a bargain, why not head to one of the Sunshine State’s numerous outlet malls?
Down in Fort Lauderdale on the edge of the Everglades is Sawgrass Mills, the largest outlet and value retail shopping centre in the whole of the USA, with more than 350 stores. These include Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, Ralph Lauren and Gap, as well as a Burberry Factory Outlet, Prada and the Salvatore Ferragamo Company Store, which can’t be found anywhere else in south Florida.
If giant malls full of mega brands aren’t your thing, Florida also has plenty of specialist stand alone shops that are well worth a visit.
One of the most famous is Ron Jon’s flagship Surf Shop at Cocoa Beach to the east of Orlando, which is the world’s largest surf shop, with 52,000 square feet of retail space. It’s also probably one of the few surf shops you’ll come across that is open 24 hours a day – perfect if you’re enjoying a spot of midnight surfing and realise you need some more wax for your board.
If you prefer a classier shopping experience, Florida has some lovely avenues where you can browse in high-end stores for the latest designer gear from Europe.
At Palm Beach on the east coast is Worth Avenue, described as Florida’s Rodeo Drive – a reference to the famous Beverly Hills location. This upscale street is home to 250 top brands including Armani, Tiffany and Gucci, so you’ll need to clear some space on your credit card before going on a shopping spree here. If your hire car’s a Ferrari, you’ll fit right in.