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Ooh … What’s in the Bag? Shopping Escapes to Exhilarate and Rejuvenate

There's a reason the term "retail therapy" exists: A little dose of shopping really can boost moods and soothe the soul. Whisked away from the bustle of outlets, megamalls, and superstores are luxury shops and funky boutiques with nearby amenities to enhance the experience. These unique shopping destinations have the cure for groups on the hunt for fabulous finds!

Toronto, Ontario

This well-loved Canadian metropolis is home to numerous shopping districts, from high-end to bohemian.

Bloor-Yorkville boasts all the top designer names, from Versace to Vuitton, Chanel to Christian Louboutin, Dior to Dolce & Gabbana, and many more. Shoppers could enjoy pampering at Spa by Valmont, Majesty's Pleasure or Old English Grooming Club. Upscale area dining includes Mediterranean cuisine at Constantine at The Anndore House, Japanese delights at Aburi Hana and Italian artisanal bites at Buca Osteria & Bar. A stop at the Royal Ontario Museum is a must!

On the other end of the spectrum are trendy Queen Street West and artsy West Queen West. The former is a shopping mecca characterized by historic buildings, diverse fashion, and renowned clubs and cafés, including the Drake Hotel. The latter takes cool creativity to the next level with antique shops, custom crafters, kitsch galore and art galleries aplenty.

Faneuil Hall Marketplace, Boston

One of downtown Boston's prized gems is Faneuil Hall, with its charming cobblestone walkways and 70-plus retailers—from local favorites to nationally known names. Shopping, entertainment, dining and history blend to create an exhilarating retreat from shopping norms.

In addition to names such as Coach, Uno de 50, and John Fluevog Shoes are several rarities and one-of-a-kinds loved by out-of-towners, such as Boston Pewter Co., Best of Boston, and I Love Boston Sports.

Street performers wow passersby while the Artillery Museum gives a peek into the past. Among special group perks welcome kits with a neighborhood guide and Faneuil Hall Pass featuring special merchant discounts and a purchasable Food Voucher Program that goes toward the 30-plus Colonnade vendors.

Fifth Avenue, New York City

The stuff of songs and the street where fashionistas flock, Fifth Avenue may be the most iconic shopping stretch in the world. Here, expensive, runway-worthy elegance meets mainstream essentials to satisfy any shopper taste and budget.

A sampling of the too many famous couturiers to name are Gucci, Valentino, Armani, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bergdorf Goodman and, of course, Saks Fifth Avenue. The renowned Tiffany & Co. and the six-story Nike NYC are also not to be missed. Dotted in between are accessible brands such as H&M, Banana Republic, and Aldo as well as spots to rest and recharge, with cafés and coffeeshops on every block.

For other ways to unwind, consider a session at Fifth Avenue Thai Spa, or art gazing at The Guggenheim or MoMA. Group tour operators are encouraged to visit as a resource for helpful tips and itinerary planning.

Memphis, Tennessee

Home of the Blues and Birthplace of Rock 'n Roll, Memphis might be a surprise in that it's also a shopper's sanctuary—with different neighborhoods sporting their signature scenes. Downtown/South Main offers eclectic stops like curiosity-stocked A. Schwab's and lifestyle shop Stock & Belle.

Broad Avenue Arts District, just outside of downtown, is brimming with off-beat arts-and-crafts items. For gifts and goods you won't find anywhere else, check out T Clifton Art gallery, and City & State gift and coffee shop, for starters. For a creative break, take an art class at Five in One Social Club.

And there's Midtown's Cooper-Young district—the next hip thing. Find vintage clothing at Flashback, new and used reading material at Burke's Book Store, tantalizing sweets at Phillip Ashley Chocolates, and much more. With one exception, the district's shops are all locally owned.

Fifth + Broadway, Nashville

Tennessee is quite the rising star, with another shopping destination having arrived in the fall of 2020. The long-awaited Fifth + Broadway offers fashion, food, and fun with its collection of shops, eateries, museums, and attractions.

Global, national, and local retail brands unite in this space, complemented by highlights such as the newly opened National Museum of African American Music and nearby County Music Hall of Fame. The Assembly Food Hall features an open eatery and a rooftop dining terrace—ideal for group accommodations—with views of popular landmarks.

Items tailored to groups include a Visitor's Pass with discounts and offers and a Meet and Greet opportunity, plus tours, dining cards, and itinerary planning.

More Hot Spots to Browse

On the six-block Magnificent Mile in Chicago, shoppers will find 460-plus retailers, from department stores to luxury labels, with three vertical shopping centers and more than 50 flagship stores. The area is within walking distance of many premier hotels and dining options abound as well. For other diversions, catch your reflection in Cloud Gate (aka The Bean) or take in the skyline from atop the 150-foot Centennial Wheel at Navy Pier.

Or head to the sunny West Coast and Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills, to soak up some Hollywood-esque glamour. Oozing with indulgence and primed for potential celebrity sightings, this quintessential shopping boulevard quenches appetites like few others can. Alexander McQueen, Balenciaga, Bulgari, Fendi, Harry Winston, Jimmy Choo, Rolex, Vera Wang ... Oh, yes! Whether merely window shopping or the real deal, groups will find oodles of retail inspiration.

Written by Allison Kay Bannister, Contributing Writer for Groups Today.

This article has been updated from its original version, which ran in the May/Jun 2020 issue of Groups Today.


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