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Destination? Shopping!

A Typical Outdoor Shopping Center On Pearl Street In Boulder Colorado, Shopping Malls

IAN DAGNALL/ALAMY

The Pearl Street Mall in downtown Boulder, Colo., hosts numerous events showcasing author readings, artisans and microbrews.

Sure, a mall's a great place to bust out the wallet, and shopping is a favorite activity for many tourists. But today's savvy travelers may include a memorable shopping experience, something more than what they might find at home, when planning their trips to new cities. And that's the key to the places featured here: They are true destinations, with attractions such as music and comedy performances, art exhibits or theme parks. These malls — some indoor, some outdoor, some a little of both — make for a entertaining trip, even if you don't buy a thing.

NorthPark Center, Dallas, Texas

Dallas is known as a cultural center in the Southwest, and NorthPark reflects the values of the art-loving community there. It's like an art museum: It regularly displays art by top 20th-century artists (think Andy Warhol and Frank Stella, to start), and hosts part of the Dallas International Film Festival every spring.

Pearl Street Mall, Boulder, Colorado

This mountain town's pedestrian mall hosts event after event, including a three-day autumn festival that showcases local food and microbrews and more than 30 artisan booths — all timed for Boulder's next-to-perfect fall weather. One of the nation's best independent bookstores, Boulder Book Store, hosts readings by local and nationally acclaimed authors. On fall Friday nights, join in the Pearl Street Stampedes, giant rallies featuring the Golden Buffalo Marching Band and cheering on the University of Colorado football team.

Palisades Center, West Nyack, New York

Sure, this mall's one of the nation's biggest, ranking in the top 10 for annual visitors. But it's not just the shopping that draws tourists here: You could spend a whole day bowling, ice skating, seeing movies — and never set foot in a retail establishment. There's also Levity Live, the mall's comedy club and dinner theater, and Palisades Climb Adventure, the largest indoor ropes course in the world. 

Faneuil Hall, Boston

One of the oldest indoor/outdoor malls in America, the iconic Faneuil Hall hosts concerts, street theater and exercise classes. You’ll see everyone from stunt comedians to a cappella groups entertaining passersby. A center market is crammed with food stalls to satisfy every appetite. After a snack, you can head down the Freedom Trail (the famous path through downtown Boston, including 16 significant Revolutionary War-era sites).

Third Street Promenade, Santa Monica, Calif.

An outdoor pedestrian mall, the beachy Promenade hosts outdoor movies, street performers and a twice-weekly farmers market, where most of the produce is local and organic. Take a short walk down to the Santa Monica pier for a sunset ride on the Ferris wheel. 

Pier Park, Panama City Beach, Fla.

This beachfront, island-inspired open-air mall is perfect for a multigenerational expedition. Not only does it boast dozens of great shops, but it’s also home to the Miracle Strip, a theme park full of vintage rides and twinkly evening lights. At the mall’s Butterfly Pavilion, visitors can interact with more than 700 butterflies at all stages of the life cycle. The Annual Beach Ball Drop of some 10,000 inflatables draws thousands of celebrants on New Year’s Eve.

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