Convenience, accessibility and selection; this is what you will find in in malls and shopping centers in the Fort Myers area. With plenty of parking at all of these spots, you can get in and out quickly and see a ton of things. Local shopping options include both high-brow and kitsch, along with a variety of food offerings should you need a drink or a bite to fuel your efforts.
For great discounts at brand name and designer stores, you can’t beat the outdoor shopping at Miromar Outlets. Easy to spot, just off of Interstate 75, you will find everything from Coach and Nike, to Chico’s and Bose, as well as lots of local restaurants and bars.
Full price and a little more upscale is shopping at Coconut Point Mall. Shoppers here enjoy more than 140 specialty stores like Apple, Teavana, MAC and West Elm, as well as so-called "box stores" like Best Buy, Ulta and Target. Take a break and catch a flick at the cinema here, or enjoy dining at popular chains as well as local joints.
Sanibel Island and the beaches have lots of places to shop for silly souvenirs as well as high-end art and clothing. No matter what kind of shopping you're looking for, the Fort Myers area has you and your wallet covered.
Ortiz Avenue Flea Market
Ortiz Avenue's nearly 600 indoor and outdoor vendors sell everything from beach towels and clothing to luggage and musical instruments; new and old. However, the market's most cherished offerings are its superb, amazingly priced fresh local produce. You'll find tables full of tomatoes, avocados, strawberries, peppers and melons, as well as fresh-off-the-boat seafood. You'll also find prepared food if you'd rather not wait to get home and cook. The market is the oldest and most distinctive one in Southwest Florida, family owned since 1967. You'll find a heavy Hispanic influence here. While most of the vendor booths are covered, not all of the spaces are. (239-694-5019)
A whopping 400,000 square feet of bargain bliss await visitors at this enormous Fort Myers flea market. With over 900 vendors, Fleamasters is the largest market in Southwest Florida and offers an astounding variety of merchandise, including, but definitely not limited to, fresh fruits and veggies, paintings, clothing, electric bikes, Florida souvenirs, antiques, outdoor equipment, rare perfumes, cutlery and local wines. The market is covered with lots of ceiling fans and some stores are air-conditioned. The food options range from burgers and BBQ to tasty Latin cuisine. There is even a music hall and a stage for entertainment when you need a break; the people watching is top-notch. You could truly spend all day here and not get bored. (239-334-7001)
One of Southwest Florida's largest indoor shopping centers, the Edison Mall offers patrons more than 160 clothing, specialty and gift stores. The enclosed, climate-controlled setting makes it ideal for a rainy day shopping extravaganza. Anchor stores include JC Penney's, Sears, Dillard's and Macy's. In fact Macy's has two locations; one contains only women's items such as clothing, shoes and make-up. The other includes everything else! In addition to the great shopping, Edison also features over a dozen restaurants that specialize in everything from Japanese to Cajun cooking in the food court, to sit down table service at Italian favorite Buca di Beppo or Zen Garden. (239-939-5464)
The Shell Factory & Nature Park
The Shell Factory is more than a shopping destination, it's a family entertainment destination as well. Located in North Fort Myers, this fun shopping center features well over 65,000 feet of retail space full of merchandise ranging from Christmas decorations, to jewelry and clothing, to shells, shells and more shells. The main showroom boasts a selection of more than five million shells collected from beaches worldwide. When your kids get squirmy send them to the Fun Park for bumper boats and a zip line across the lake, or to the Nature Park where they can see alligators and other animals. Grab some food at Captain Fishbones then shop some more. (239-995-2141, 800-282-5805)
Gather your friends, family, favorite shopaholic and your wallet, then head to this national outlet mall's Fort Myers location; lined with soaring palms and over 60 brand-name outlets. If you are vacationing on Sanibel or Captiva Islands, this will be your last bargain shopping stop before heading over the causeway. Whether you're on the hunt for heavenly bubble bath from Bath & Body Works or a sassy sundress from Gap, you'll snatch up the perfect find at a satisfying 25% to 65% discount price. Other must-stop shops include Polo Ralph Lauren, Nike, Tommy Hilfiger, GUESS, Fossil and Coach. There is also a playground to entertain the youngest shoppers in your party. (239-454-1974)
Gulf Coast Town Center
One of the most all-encompassing shopping center in Fort Myers, this outdoor village-like mall is home to an astounding array of more than 70 stores. Adults, teens and even tiny tot tourists can find something here, whether it be fishing supplies from the 123,000-square-foot Bass Pro Shop; stylish onesies from Babies "R" Us; luxurious Bath & Body Works lotions or a darling dress from Charlotte Russe. Be sure to scope out locally owned shops like V Boutique and Forema for affordable but classy fashions. Gulf Coast Town Center also boasts a Regal Cinemas with IMAX. Enjoy the mouthwatering myriad of restaurants and bars to rest your feet and refuel, the list is long and impressive. (239-267-0783, 239-267-5107)
Bell Tower Shops
The Bell Tower Shops is an outdoor shopping complex that is home to numerous upscale national shops like Brodeur Carvell and WIlliams-Sonoma, along with unique local boutiques and galleries. The center's open-air design is sprinkled with palm trees, water fountains and is reminiscent of a Mediterranean plaza. The center court has comfy seating and is a perfect spot to host concerts, fashion shows and other events. Anchor stores include Bed Bath & Beyond and Saks Fifth Avenue. Bell Tower also boasts several award winning, locally owned restaurants, chains like Grimaldi's Pizza and World of Beer, a movie theater and a Fresh Market. The center is known to host numerous food, wine and fashion events that are always entertaining. (239-489-1221)
Boasting more than 35 retail shops, Periwinkle Place looks as much like a well-manicured public space as it does a shopping center. Situated along and named after Sanibel's main road, it's the largest shopping plaza on the island. This is the place to go if you are looking for upscale men's and women's fashions, as its covered boardwalks lead past boutique after boutique, many of them locally-owned. The very first Chico's clothing store is located here. Pick up some bling at Congress Jewelers, or unique art at Island Style. After shopping, treat yourself to a meal at the Blue Giraffe or enjoy some professional pampering at the Sanibel Day Spa.
Just off of Interstate 75, only 18 miles from the city of Fort Myers, this award winning, open-air Mediterranean-style outlet mall's bright covered sidewalks are lined with over 160 designer and brand-name stores. Amidst picturesque fountains, koi ponds and vibrant murals, shoppers discover spectacular sales at such beloved outlets as Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Neiman Marcus, Coach, Michael Kors, White House/Black Market and Le Creuset. There is an expansive lakefront dining piazza and additional restaurants and bars on the east entrance. A children's area will help distract your little ones and so will the special events that mall managers plan every week. (239-948-3766)
This open-air, Main Street-style mall just south of Fort Myers in Estero, is the center of a 500-acre master-planned community, giving it a unique and relaxed atmosphere. Surrounded by glistening lakes and fountains, shoppers stroll the lovely boardwalk, collecting goodies from 113 stores along the way. One side is lined with so-called box stores such as Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, World Market and Ulta. The other side features higher end boutiques such as Chanel, Pandora, Lucky Brand and Apple. After browsing your favorites, taste wine at the Grape Base or unwind with a movie and dinner at one of two dozen unique restaurants. (239-992-9966)
About Gina Birch
Gina carries the rare title of "Native Floridian". Living in Southwest Florida for 22 years, she is a well known, award winning radio and TV personality.
Besides brandishing a microphone, Gina is good with a camera and computer, publishing a restaurant guide for Lee County called FLAVOR.
Gina is a self-proclaimed Oenophile, traveling to wine regions all over the world to sip what she calls "the nectar of the Gods." When not in the vineyards she loves to explore beautiful beaches and new restaurants.
You can find more of her musings in her blog "The Birch Beat" (www.thebirchbeat.blogspot.com)
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