Jetsetter Guides

Top Spots Where Shopping Is a Vacation

You drove around for an hour to find a parking spot and battled the teeming hordes only to find everything sold out. Not even a Cinnabon can sweeten this holiday shopping trip. There has to be another way. And we’ve found it: Turn your shopping into a vacation. Julie Earle-Levine picks out the most festive ways to check off your shopping list, from Miami to Sydney and beyond

See recent posts by Chelsea Stuart | Photo by Ira Lippke

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Dallas

Nearly a quarter of the retail space in the country is located in Texas with Dallas leading the pack. Shopping here is a sport, led by the flagship location of legendary luxury purveyor Neiman Marcus. In addition to personal shoppers that keep detailed records of client tastes, the 1907 store mounts one of the country’s most impressive lighting displays. For more offbeat buys, head to Grange Hall, a cabinet of wonders selling everything from taxidermied peacocks to Balinese jewelry. Take a break over champagne and inventive seasonal fare at the shop’s newly opened café and then bed down at the Hotel Zaza with its globetrotting glam décor, serene spa and buzzy Dragonfly restaurant.

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London

Cobblestone lanes, roaring fires in cozy pubs, covered lanes strung in holly. There’s an undeniable charm to London during the holidays. Your home? The Langham London. Smack in the middle of the city, you can shop the boutiques and designer purveyors of Regent Street, and arrange for the hotel will pick up and deliver your parcels to your room. The tradition of afternoon tea started at the hotel’s Palm Court more than 140 years ago, and it’s particularly festive during the holidays when a pianist plays carols and glittering trees flank the tables. Head back out to shop to purchase high-end teas and artisanal food gifts at Fortnum and Mason, the same store that supplies the royal family. Afterwards you can practice your figure 8s in a rink set in the store’s neoclassical courtyard or snack on Welsh rarebit and mulled cider at the stores new Fortnum’s Lodge.

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Sydney

Why battle the sleet and freezing rain, when you can shop in summer down under. Head to Sydney to work on your tan while you shop one of the southern hemisphere’s buzziest design cities. Fashion stylist Caitlin Stewart offers personal shopping excursions, introducing you to young Australian fashion designers Scanlan Theodore, Camilla and Marc and Willow. Snap up garb you can’t get back home and then head to the Bondi markets for handmade jewelry and homewares from up and coming Aussie designers. While you’re here you might as well snag a slice of sand for a few hours or head to The Museum Of Contemporary Art (MCA) for the incredible Chuck Close exhibit. The museum is a design partner with your home for the week, The QT Hotel, whose indulgent spa and buzzy restaurant sits at the center of the city’s top designer boutiques.

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Tel Aviv

Christmas started in Israel, but shopping here is a thoroughly modern experience, especially in Tel Aviv. Expect great values at the city’s design stores and charming markets. Stay at the just opened Norman Hotel, housed in two 1920s buildings on King Albert Square. The friendly concierges can map out a shopping gameplan through Neve Tzedek, the oldest area in the city, whose narrow lanes are lined in art galleries, cafés, vintage shops and boutiques selling one-of-a-kind jewelry and cool local designers, such as Agas and Tamar. When you’ve ticked off your gift list, head back to the hotel pool, or stroll ten minutes to a warm, white sand beach for a swim.

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New York

The Mandarin Oriental next to Central Park will keep you far above the madding holiday crowds of the Big Apple. And you could very well relax there and let the hotel’s personal shoppers do all the hard work for you. Since you find yourself with lots of time on your hands, head to the Aire Ancient Baths in Tribeca, for their just launched yoga at the swirling warm water pools, then perhaps a massage and a soak? By the time you head back to the hotel’s 35th floor Lobby Lounge for the Nutcracker Tea (champagne and petit fours anyone?), your shopping list will be complete. Then you can head downstairs to Jazz at Lincoln Center’s annual Big Band Christmas shows or walk up the street to New York City Ballet’s Nutcracker.

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Philadelphia

Philadelphia’s largest Christmas tree lights up Rittenhouse Square right across from the Hotel Palomar. It’s the perfect perch for a weekend of shopping—Anthropologie, Barneys Co-Op and local boutiques Sophy Curson and Duke & Winston are all within walking distance. Plus the hotel serves free wine every night to take the edge off the holiday season. It’s hard to shop on an empty stomach, so we love checking off our list at Reading Terminal Market, where you can nosh on fresh-baked pretzels and donuts while shopping for cookbooks, linens and spices. If you’re feeling energetic, check out the newly Winterfest on the waterfront, where you can take a spin round the rink, see a light show and sip spiked cocoa by a fireplace at the ski chalet-style Lodge.

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Tokyo

Half the hassle of holiday shopping is wrapping the gifts. But in aesthetically oriented Tokyo, everything from your morning pastry to your designer handbag comes thoughtfully wrapped in impeccable packaging. So kill two birds with one stone by shopping and getting your wrapping done for you. Stay at Shangri-La’s Horizon Club, and you get a complimentary two-hour personalized shopping service at Takashimaya, the Barney’s of Tokyo. The Takashimaya Tokyo flagship has goods you won’t see anywhere else and is just a five minute walk from the hotel. Your shopping assistant/personal interpreter can handle a gift list while you get to relax at the store’s tea salon as a VIP. Purchases get delivered directly to your room.

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Mexico City

Tap into Mexico City’s design scene with a stay at Las Alcobas, a thirty room hotel with textiles and artwork by contemporary Mexican artists and spa treatments inspired by indigenous traditions. Then find presents to duplicate that style at the Museo de Arte Popular’s store and at Tane, which has been producing handmade leathergoods since the 1940s. For amazing values, you’ll want to head to the sprawling markets. At Sonora, you’ll find Technicolor candles, rustic pottery, embroidered tunics and more.

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Miami

What if you could knock out your entire shopping list in the hotel lobby? We’ve got a Christmas miracle for you in the form of the Mondrian hotel. Their futuristic vending machine shills goodies like $5 Kiki de Montparnasse mints, original pieces by the hotel’s designer Marcel Wanders ($145 vase) and pricier items like 24k gold handcuffs. The items are curated by nearby concept store BASE. Hard work complete, you’ve got a date with caipirinhas and a teepee by the pool at the hotel’s Sunset Lounge.

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