Go for convenience, accessibility, and selection. Those are the perks of Kansas City's best malls and shopping centers. You can get in and out quickly and see a ton of things. Loads of local shopping options include high-brow and low-brow stores, along with food offerings should you need a drink or a bite along the way. Check out the wide variety at places like Country Club Plaza or Downtown. Indoors or outdoors, there's a bounty to be had.
Country Club Plaza
Country Club Plaza is the heart and soul of Kansas City. Boasting Victoria's Secret, Barnes & Noble, Pottery Barn, and lots of designer shops, the pedestrian-friendly area along the banks of Brush Creek is a true shopper's haven. At night, after boutiques close, the plaza hums with new energy as scores of locals and tourists head over, looking to take advantage of the many dining and nightlife options. Each year during the Yuletide season, thousands flock to the plaza for the simultaneous lighting of the 14-block area. (816-753-0100, 816-561-3456)
Town Center Plaza
One of the area's more attractive shopping destinations, Town Center offers a European-style setting, complete with red brick facades and open-air walkways. Several popular retailers operate stores here, making the place extremely popular with 20-something shoppers. Representative venues include Barnes & Noble, Banana Republic, Gap, Williams-Sonoma, and Coldwater Creek. Dining options include Panera Bread, Coyote Grill, Dean & Deluca and Bristol Seafood Grill. (913-498-1111)
Great Mall of the Great Plains
This grand shopping center is popular throughout the Midwest for its wide range of retail offerings. The mall houses familiar chains and specialty stores, including Aeropostale, Nautica and Payless ShoeSource. There's also a good assortment of clearance stores, including Petite Sophisticate Outlet, Bath & Body Works Outlet, The Children's Place Outlet and Lane Bryant Outlet. Anchored by Burlington Coat Factory ; a food court and 16-screen movie theatre are also available. (913-829-6277)
Designed to evoke the look and feel of a community-within-a-community, Zona Rosa mixes retail shops, restaurants, offices, and even residential space. Carefully avoiding a cookie-cutter layout, the center features architecturally unique storefronts and plenty of green space. Shoppers can expect to find New York & Company, Ann Taylor LOFT, Hollister Co., Bath & Body Works, Express, and more. Plentiful dining options include Bravo! Cucina Italiana, Hereford House, and Mimi's Café. (816-587-8180)
This three-story shopping mall serves Independence admirably, thanks to 130-plus retail shops, a food court, and a children's play area featuring a double-decker carousel. Shops like Abercrombie & Fitch, Chico's, Sears, Macy's, American Eagle Outfitters, Bath & Body Works, Dillard's and Coldwater Creek appeal to the entire family. If you work up an appetite, stop at Applebee's or the food court for a quick bite. Since undergoing a major renovation, the mall is a superb shopping destination. (816-795-8600)
Charming and eclectic, this neighborhood began to come into its own as a specialty shopping district as early as the 1920s. These days, independently-owned retail shops and restaurants pepper the area, some retaining their original storefronts. For a pleasant afternoon, stroll the streets and pop in to stores like Cosento's Market (gourmet groceries and wines) and Fiddly Fig Gifts & Flowers. Belle Napoli (an Italian market) and Pickerman's Soup and Sandwiches are great choices for a relaxed lunch. (816-523-5553)
Crossroads Arts District
A textbook example of successful urban revitalization, Crossroads is celebrated for its winning blend of galleries, shops, cafes, and restaurants, all tucked comfortably into one-time industrial spaces and warehouses. Art lovers and those looking for a unique gift will marvel at the 60+ studios and galleries. Take a break with a cup of coffee and a game of Ms. Pac-Man at The Coffee Girls cafe, or opt for more upscale eats at New American gem, 1924 Main Bistro.
Crown Center wears many hats, functioning as exclusive shopping center, residential community, concert and festival venue, lodging, and office complex. Home to the Hallmark greeting card company, Crown Center houses more than 50 specialty shops and a handful of restaurants and leisure facilities. Dining options include fine restaurants like the American Restaurant, Benton's Steakhouse, and the Brasserie, as well as more casual, family-friendly places like Crayola Cafe, d'Bronx, and Fritz's Railroad. During the winter months, Crown Center offers an indoor ice-skating rink, and the Kaleidoscope play area is a terrific place to challenge kids' creativity. The Hyatt Regency and the Westin provide some 1400 hotel rooms for visitors to the area. (816-274-8444, 816-274-7251)
One of Kansas City's oldest institutions, City Market dates from the late 1850s, when farmers from all around would gather to sell produce and livestock, pick up supplies for the trip west, or just socialize. Today, the market is one of downtown's hotspots, and vendors still sell everything from fresh gooseberries, nectarines, and cantaloupes to Southwestern pottery, flowers, and clothing. In addition, the market boasts a variety of dining options — Winslow's BBQ, Succotash Bistro & Café, and Habashi House, to name but a few. (816-842-1271)
Oak Park Mall
Located southwest of Kansas City, this shopping center has been around for more than a quarter of a decade and continually reinvents itself to meet modern needs. The mall's most recent incarnation unites aesthetics and utility, featuring ample lighting, cozy common areas, and scattered greenery. Anchor stores include Macy's, Dillard's, JCPenney, and Nordstrom. In addition, Oak Park offers more than 185 specialty shops, a food court, and a variety of family-friendly events throughout the year. (913-888-4400)