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Do you love hitting the shops whenever you travel? If so, you're far from alone. American travelers often rank shopping right up there with sightseeing and dining as their favorite activities. And America is definitely open for business — from sea to shining sea! Here are some of the country's top shopping destinations.
1. Las Vegas, Nevada
You win some, you lose some, then you win some more — and those greenbacks are burning your hot little hand! It was genius to plant shopping arcades and flashy malls inside and near casinos, where money is at its most liquid. And Vegas has it all: luxury boutiques, mid-range stores, outlet malls and, of course, lots of souvenir shops — all designed to lure pockets stuffed with mad money. In the Luxor resort and casino, for example, you can pick up pyramid-themed mementos. In Treasure Island, it's pirate-themed booty. Serious shoppers head to the Fashion Show Mall to hit the retail trifecta of Saks, Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus in addition to some 200 shops. Bargain hunters drive 30 minutes out of town to the Fashion Outlets Las Vegas, where the 100 designer brands include Bally, DKNY, Hollister and Williams-Sonoma.
2. New York, New York
It might not be bargain city, but for shop-till-you-drop thrills, the Big Apple is hard to beat. Here, the legendary stores include the glittering flagships of Saks, Macy's and Bloomingdale's. The Fifth Avenue Tiffany's is so famous, it starred in a Hollywood movie (Breakfast at Tiffany's), as did the oversize piano keyboard at FAO Schwarz (Big). Shopping played a bigger role than sex in Sex and the City: For SATC-style designs, pop into the eponymous store of the show's stylist, Patricia Field, at 302 Bowery. The city's giddy, high-wire consumerism can be overwhelming, so it's smart to have a game plan. Spend a day combing the luxury boutiques along pricey Madison Avenue — from Midtown to the Upper East Side — for example, or hunting for designer-bag knockoffs on Canal Street in Chinatown. Scour Sixth Avenue around Macy's for wholesale beads and rhinestones, or leisurely noodle around cozy boutiques in Nolita (north of Little Italy).
3. Houston, Texas
Big oil spells big bucks, and Houston's luxury mega-malls truly ring out with the sound of ka-ching! The big daddy of Houston malls is uptown's Galleria, with 320 shops and four impressive anchor stores: Saks, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom. Cranky about paying full price? At Houston Premium Outlets in the Cypress neighborhood, Burberry, Brooks Brothers, Michael Kors and other luxury-brand goods are discounted. You can also head to the little community of Katy, at the city's western edge, and hunt for bargains at the 200-store Katy Mills, with a Saks Fifth Avenue Off Fifth; Last Call by Neiman Marcus; and outlets for Coach, Tommy Bahama, Juicy Couture, Banana Republic and others.
4. Minneapolis-St. Paul, Minnesota
The Mall of America takes destination shopping to a whole other level. Welcoming a whopping 40 million to 50 million visitors a year, it stretches over 96 acres and has 520 stores and 50 restaurants. Four of 10 visitors are tourists, many of whom fly in to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and hit the ground shopping: Complimentary shuttles deliver you from the airport to the mall in minutes. And many Twin Cities hotels offer free shuttle service as well. Need further incentive to shop? You'll pay no sales tax on clothing and shoes. The Mall of America also has attractions for non-shoppers, including the world's largest collections of jellyfish at the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium and Nick characters at the Nickelodeon Universe theme park. For even more shopping, check out the charming boutiques along Grand Avenue in St. Paul.
5. New Orleans, Louisiana
It may lack the wall-to-wall malls of other top shopping cities, but New Orleans offers colorful, quirky shops selling treasures you won't find anywhere else. Searching for the perfect voodoo gris-gris bag to bring you good luck? Stop in at Voodoo Authentica on Dumaine Street — and maybe get a little spiritual counseling on the side. Craving Creole pralines? Head to Leah's Candy Kitchen on St. Louis Street for some pecan brittle. Having a Blanche Dubois moment? Hove Parfumeur, the city's oldest perfumery, transports you back to the days of silk handkerchiefs and lacy fans with its handcrafted scents and lotions. And it's easy to get your fill of Big Easy foodstuffs and music at the riverfront French Market and the Louisiana Music Factory at 210 Decatur St. In the luxury Canal Place mall near the river on Canal Street, visit the boutique of the city's iconic jewelry designer, Mignon Faget. This living-history city also offers atmospheric antiques shops along Royal Street in the French Quarter and on Magazine Street in the Garden District.