When you're not at the beach or hanging out with Mickey, Florida is an excellent place to shop, with brand bargains to be found all over the place. Inspired by our very own mistress of the mall and retail queen, Karla Coffey, we're taking you on a shopping trip. We've rounded up some of the best malls in the Orlando, Miami and Gulf Coast areas for you, so leave some space in that suitcase…
Premium Outlets Orlando
Premium Outlets is America's largest outlet chain and has two huge malls in the Orlando area, both open until 11PM, Mon-Sat. Both locations have much the same list of retailers and there's barely a big name brand that isn't on there. Sporty brands are particularly well covered, so this is the place to head for big savings on trainers. Discounts of 20-65% are available every day.
The International Drive mall is south of the city, about 25 minutes' drive from Disney World or 20 from Downtown Orlando. Vineland Avenue is a bit further south and under 10 minutes from Sea World.
The Mall at Millenia
With 150+ stores and restaurants, The Mall At Millenia is a great all-rounder, with everything from high street to high-end chains. The eating options are great, making it the best place to visit if you need a bite with your retail therapy. Various sales, expo events, fashion showcases and kids' activities rotate throughout the year.
Southeast of the city, with the nearest attraction being Universal Orlando, about 10 minutes’ drive away. About 15 minutes from Sea World or Downtown Orlando and half an hour from Disney.
The Florida Mall
Central Florida's largest retail space, The Florida Mall is like a mini city with its 1.9 million square feet of shopping. A gigantic selection of fashions for everyone, especially women and children, plus about as many accessories, electronics and health & beauty products as you could fit in one place.
About 15 minutes' drive south of the city, around 30 minutes east from Walt Disney World and an easy 10 from Sea World.
Dolphin Mall is the largest in the Miami area with 240 shops. Though not an outlet mall as such, some of the biggest names – Nike, Gap, Sony, Bloomingdales – do have factory or cut-price stores. There's no shortage of restaurant choice either and you can combine dinner and a movie in one place at Cinebistro. Arcade games and bowling are among the other after-shopping options.
Just off the Dolphin Expressway, about 15 minutes west of central Miami.
If you've only got time for one mall, go supersize at Sawgrass Mills, the state's biggest retail and entertainment centre. In among the many, many shops are more than a few designer name factory/outlets. If you haven't dropped after you've shopped, make an evening of it at the IMAX and/or indulge in some outdoor dining.
40 minutes' drive north of Miami and 25 minutes from Fort Lauderdale.
If the metropolis-like mall experience isn't your thing, have a seaside saunter at Bayside Marketplace. An airy retail and entertainment precinct that wraps itself around the Biscayne Bay. Great for accessories, gifts and eateries, this is the one for shopping light and grabbing a bite.
Located downtown, about 15 minutes' drive from either central Miami or Miami Beach.
Gulf Coast Area
The biggest factory outlet location in South West Florida, Miromar Outlets in Estero has 140-odd brand name stores. Cookware and kids are well catered for here, but clothing is the main draw, with extra large Nike, Ralph Lauren and Saks Off 5thfactory shops among the retail attractions.
About 30 minutes' drive north of Naples along the Tamiami Trail, or 25 minutes south from Fort Myers.
Part of the Forbes Company, Waterside Shops at Pelican Bay is like a scaled-down version of Orlando's Mall at Millenia for the West Coast. A cool and spacious shopping experience at the slightly upscale end of the market.
Around 10 minutes' drive north on the Tamiami Trail from central Naples.
Ellenton Premium Outlets
Another branch of the Premium Outlets portfolio, Ellenton has 130 big brand outlet shops. Located in the Tampa Bay area, this is perfect for a bit of bargain hunting after the hitting the beach.
About 50 minutes drive from Tampa, and around half an hour from either St Petersburg or Sarasota.
For some expert advice on getting the most from Orlando retailing, see our chat with crew member Karla. Virgin Atlantic operate daily flights to Orlando from London Gatwick airport and Manchester and daily flights to Miami from London Heathrow. For a tailor-made trip to Florida, visit Virgin Holidays.
Got any tips to add? Where in Florida have you found your best buys?
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About the author: andrewAndrew Bowman
Andrew is an occasional contributor to the Virgin Atlantic blog. He lived in the Japanese countryside for two years until he could no longer resist the pull of London's galleries, pubs and clubs. He likes to pretend he can speak Japanese and also sometimes writes about music.