Western New York Family Magazine
Mall Madness Road Trip
While we have several perfectly fine malls in and around the metro Buffalo area, sometimes it’s fun to take a trip and discover new malls and other shopping venues; many of them with slightly different stores or retail chains that we don’t have in Buffalo. Within a three hour or so drive from here, there are a dozen or more different malls waiting to be discovered. With the holidays just around the corner, why not plan a short road trip to get some of your shopping done. I’ll also point out some local attractions located near each shopping venue, just in case you need to justify your trip to others in your family or if you want to turn the trip into an overnight getaway. Keep in mind that there are more malls and shopping venues in the region than the ones described in this article; I picked ones I’ve been to and/or are familiar with, as I couldn’t possibly include all of them.
Syracuse and vicinity
Destiny USA (formerly the Carousel Center), 9090 Destiny Drive (just off I-81), Syracuse, 315-466-6000, www.destinyusa.com
If you can only pick one mall to go to from those described in this article, pick this one, as it is definitely worth the almost three hour drive from Buffalo. It is the largest mall in New York State and the 6th largest mall in the country! This summer my daughter, Jennifer, and I decided to take a one-day road trip here while my husband and youngest son were at Scout camp. We actually had my husband’s blessing to shop, since my daughter, who had previously worn a uniform for high school, was going to need some new clothes for college.
This four-level retail paradise is much more than your typical shopping mall. We were amazed how big it is; 2 million square feet and over 300 shops and restaurants! The first hour or so after we arrived, we literally just wandered around looking to see what was there. Finally Jennifer asked, “Are we going to actually go in any stores and shop?”
There are a variety of stores she loves to shop at, including a huge Forever 21 and Charlotte Russe, as well as Macy’s and Bon Ton. In addition to all the stores, the mall has a number of attractions and amusements, including an indoor pole position raceway, a rope climbing activity, and an attraction called Wonderworks, which has over 100 hands-on activities. The mall was formerly called the Carousel Center because of the 1909 Philadelphia Toboggan Company antique carousel with 42 hand-carved horses, which is located in the food court.
On this trip we only spent the day here, arriving just before lunch and leaving the mall at around 6:30pm, as I didn’t want to drive home on unfamiliar roads when it was getting dark out. Next time we go, perhaps we will stay overnight, which would allow us more time to shop and perhaps check out some of the attractions in Syracuse, including the Erie Canal Museum, The Rosamond Gifford Zoo, and the Museum of Science & Technology.
Fingerlakes Mall, 1579 Clark Street, Auburn, 315-255-1188, www.fingerlakesmall.com
This mall, which according to its website has about 70 stores, is a typical shopping center with the usual chain stores. It’s located about a half-hour south west of Syracuse. However, the main reason why you go to this mall is that it has the only Bass Pro Shop in New York State. My husband and I stopped here a few years ago and I have to admit that I found the Bass Pro Shop pretty interesting, despite the fact that I don’t hunt, fish, or camp. The city of Auburn actually has a couple of historic attractions of note, including the Harriet Tubman Home and the National Historic Landmark William Seward Home; Tubman helped many slaves escape to freedom and Seward was Secretary of State under President Abraham Lincoln.
Waterloo Premium Outlets, 655 NY Route 318 (exit 42 off NYS Thruway, about mid-way between Rochester and Syracuse) Waterloo, 315-539-1100.
This outlet mall, which has about 100 shops, is a typical run of the mill outlet mall, but I thought I’d give it a mention as it would be a good place to stop either before or after shopping at Destiny USA, since you pass right by it on your way to Syracuse. I did notice on their website that certain stores offer a 10% discount on Tuesdays to shoppers over age 50.
Rochester and vicinity
There are three major shopping areas in Rochester that I have personally visited on several occasions. It takes a little over an hour to reach most of these malls from Buffalo.
Eastview Mall, 7979 Pittsford-Victor Road (Route 96, just north of the Victor exit off the NYS Thruway) Victor, 585-223-4420, www.eastviewmall.com.
Okay, this mall is technically in Victor, which is southeast of Rochester, but still considered to be in the Rochester area. It is one of my favorite malls to visit, as it’s not too far away and it has a number of stores we don’t have in the Buffalo area, like L.L. Bean, Rochester-based Viking International Furniture, and the newly-opened Von Maur, an upscale specialty department store that has locations mainly in the Midwest; this branch is the only one located in the Northeast.
It’s quite a large mall, with about 180 stores located within 1.3 million square feet of retail space. Most of it is one level, although some of the larger department stores are two-level.
If you are looking for more of a boutique shopping experience, you can head to Pittsford, just a few miles away from the mall and enjoy shopping in small shops in the Northfield Commons and Schoen Place, located along the Erie Canal.
Marketplace Mall, 1 Miracle Mile Drive, Rochester, 585-475-0757, www.themarketplacemall.com
Marketplace Mall, which has about 100 stores and restaurants, is another one of our favorites. It is located about 3 miles south of downtown Rochester in the suburb of Henrietta, which has numerous other retail shops and plazas concentrated in this area. Two words can describe why my daughter Jennifer loves this mall: Charming Charlie, an accessory store chain that we don’t have in the Buffalo area. Items are very affordable and the unique thing about this store is that everything is arranged according to color. Be prepared to spend a lot of time in this store if you have a teenage girl shopping with you!
In the food court, be sure to sample some root beer at Tom Wahls, a regional chain that is noted for its hamburgers and root beer that is handcrafted onsite. If you want something a bit more adventurous to eat, check out our favorite Thai restaurant, The King & I Cuisine of Thailand (www.thekingandithaicuisine.com), which is just a short distance from the mall. Sesame chicken is our favorite dish there.
Mall at Greece Ridge, 271 Greece Ridge Center Drive, Greece, 585-225-0430, www.themallatgreeceridge.com
This 1.6 million square foot mall, which has about 140 stores, is located north of the city of Rochester on Route 104. It has a nice selection of shops for the whole family. The mall is currently in the middle of a 27,000 square foot redevelopment, which includes adding 4 full service restaurants and two stores.
If you bring the kids along, they can enjoy a new 1,392 square foot play area, which has a theme based on the town of Greece history. The mall also has Glowgolf, a glow in the dark mini-golf course.
Just down the street, another place to check out is the Shops on West Ridge (3200 West Ridge Road, 585-368-0670, www.theshopsonwestridge.com). This unique collection of 200 small shops, formerly called the Craft & Antique Co-op, features gift items, antiques, home décor, furniture, and more. Their annual Dicken’s Christmas Festival kicks off on Saturday November 5th. The staff dresses in turn of the century costume and the shops are decorated with a Dicken’s Christmas Carol theme. Tiny Tim, Scrooge, and the other characters from the book are there to greet shoppers.
Erie and vicinity
Shopping in nearby Pennsylvania makes sense, as clothing and shoes are tax exempt, so it’s worth your while to check out these Pennsylvania malls.
Millcreek Mall, 654 Millcreek Mall (near Peach Street exit off I-90), Erie, PA 814-868-9000, www.millcreekmall.net
This mall, which opened in 1975, is the 9th largest mall in the United States, with 241 stores and restaurants all on one level. Jennifer and I were in Erie at the end of May for an event at the waterfront convention center, and after checking out things along the waterfront, we headed to Millcreek Mall to see what it had to offer. She was thrilled to see that the mall had a Charming Charlie, as well as a Charlotte Russe and a Christmas Tree Shop. Other attractions in Erie include Splash Lagoon, an 8,000 square foot indoor waterpark, that’s especially fun for families now that the weather has turned colder.
Grove City Premium Outlets, 1911 Leesburg-Grove City Road, Grove City, PA, 724-748-3875, www.premiumoutlets.com/outlets/outlet.asp?id=85
I was only at this mall briefly last spring, when we stopped here for lunch at the food court while I was on a bus trip with my daughter’s school. I wish they would have allotted us some time to shop, because it looks like a really nice outlet mall. There are about 140 shops and restaurants in this open-air mall, including an Eddie Bauer Outlet, Levi’s Outlet Store, Ann Taylor Factory Store, an Old Navy Outlet, and many more popular stores. It is almost a 4 hour drive from Buffalo, so if we go there again I would probably plan on staying overnight; there are several hotels adjacent to the mall.
Ok, these malls are somewhat smaller than some of the other malls described in this article, but they are worth a mention when talking about area malls.
Oakdale Mall, 601-605 Harry L. Drive, Johnson City (Binghamton area) 607-798-9388, www.oakdalemall.com
Jennifer and I stopped at this mall last summer in conjunction with a spa getaway we went on (See article on Mother Daughter Getaways in the May 2013 issue). It has several large department stores like Bon Ton, JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears, and Burlington Coat Factory, as well as popular shops like Charlotte Russe and American Eagle Outfitters. It’s actually a pretty nice mall. What I found do be really interesting and neat is that when you look out of the store doors, you see “mountains,” as the Binghamton area is quite hilly.
Attractions in the area include the Binghamton Zoo at Ross Park and during the summer months, the six carousels located throughout the area that you can ride for free. (Watch for my article on area carousels in the May 2014 issue)
Arnot Mall, 3300 Chambers Road, Horseheads (Elmira area), 607-739-8702, www.arnotmall.com
If you happen to be visiting the Corning/Elmira area, you may want to stop by this mal. It has 5 major anchor stores; JCPenney, Bon Ton, Burlington Coat Factory, Macy’s, and Sears, along with many other popular shops. There are also a couple of regional specialty shops, like The Christmas House at the Arnot Mall and the Chemung County Sports Hall of Fame.
Chautauqua Mall, 318 E. Fairmount Avenue, Lakewood, 716-763-1823
This mall, the only one in Chautauqua County, has your typical mall stores like Bath & Body Works, JCPenney, Sears, and the Bon Ton. Even though there are only about 50 stores, it is the largest mall between the Buffalo area and Erie.
Across the Border
Grab your passport or enhanced license and head across the border to Canada to shop. While sometimes prices can be a bit higher in Canada, you will find some different stores than you do in the States, and even find some bargains. Just remember that you do have to declare items at the border, and you will have to pay duty if you spend over $200 if you are there less than 48 hours.
Pen Centre, 212 Glendale Avenue, St. Catharines, Ontario, 905-687-6622, www.thepencentre.com
At 1 million square feet, this 180-store mall in the largest in the Niagara region of Canada. They recently spent $13 million in upgrades. They have Canadian favorites like The Bay and Zehrs, as well as more familiar stores like Old Navy, H & M, and Sears.
Canada One Outlets, 7500 Lundy’s Lane, Niagara Falls, Ontario, 905-356-8989, www.canadaoneoutlets.com
Located in the middle of the Niagara Falls tourist area, this outlet mall is smaller than some of the other outlet malls in the region, but bargains can still be found. Some of the stores include Guess, Levi’s Outlet, Michael Kors, Samsonite, and Tommy Hilfiger,
Seaway Mall, 800 Niagara Street, Welland, Ontario, 905-735-0694, www.seawaymall.com
This mall has about 120 store and restaurants, including Sears, Target, Winners, Shoppers Drug Mart and several smaller Canadian-based chain stores. One of the unique aspects of this mall is the two giant murals which are painted on the outside walls, one depicting the history of the Welland Canal, the other the history of the Niagara Peninsula. There are actually over 2 dozen huge murals located in and around downtown Welland that depict the history of the area (see www.visiting-niagara-falls.com/wellandmurals.html.) You may also want to check out the ship traffic on the Welland Canal, the season runs April-December. The best place to view the ships is at the Welland Canals Centre, located along the canal north of the mall in nearby St. Catharines.
Outlet Collection Shopping Center, Glendale Avenue (across from the White Oaks Resort), Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ontario.
You are going to have to wait until next spring to check out this mall, as it is still being built. This outlet mall will have stores like Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, Forever 21, and even a Bass Pro.