When you want to combine your entertainment with your holiday shopping, head to the annual Space Coast Lightfest. Prepare to be wowed by more than 2.7 million lights glowing holiday cheer throughout Melbourne's Wickham Park, and then head straight to the vendors and craft booths. In between shopping, grab a bite to eat, ride horses, go on a hayride, drink hot chocolate, visit with Santa and let your kids go wild on the bouncy houses. The light fest, organized by the Boy Scouts of America, is one of the Space Coast's biggest holiday extravaganzas and was named one of the Top 20 Events of Southeast United States by the Southeast Tourism Society. Drive or walk through (we recommend the latter). The light fest is an exciting, family-friendly way to knock out some holiday shopping and get psyched for Christmas, too.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: This mega lights display was named one of the top events in the Southeast, and it features craft booths and vendors for your holiday shopping.
Aimee's expert tip: Don't miss the hayrides on Thursday and Friday.
Hammock Landing in West Melbourne is the Space Coast's newest mall and the home to plenty of popular retailers. Located at the intersection of Interstate 95 and Palm Bay Road, this open-air shopping complex can connect you with new clothes, makeup, home decor and an assortment of restaurants. This shopping district has more than 28 stores spread out over more than 100 acres. Browse the windows alongside the Florida sunshine, and pop inside to cool off. Hammock Landing has everything you need to find an inexpensive, trendy outfit; grab a delicious dinner; cool off with a frozen yogurt dessert; and top off the evening with a movie in Brevard County's newest IMAX theater.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: You can find a gift for everyone on your list at the Space Coast's newest shopping mall.
Aimee's expert tip: After a busy day of shopping, treat yourself to a movie in the IMAX theater.
One of the Space Coast's newer shopping destinations, The Avenue Viera is an enormous open air center that has a pedestrian-friendly look and layout – one that entices shoppers to linger in the attractive commons and take their time as they meander into and out of shops. Because it boasts a variety of stores in one location (including Kohl's, Belk, Old Navy, Kirklands, Bed Bath & Beyond), it's a holiday shopping paradise. Santa Claus regularly visits the Viera, and in the past, the mall also offers free horse-drawn carriage rides in the park, departing from in front of the movie theater. For the first time this year, the mall will be doing a Christmas tree lighting celebration. Also don't miss the holiday-themed symphony concerts.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: A variety of store, Santa Claus and horse-drawn carriage rides – does Christmas shopping get any better than this?
Aimee's expert tip: Get your photo taken with Santa and if you're lucky, take a free horse-drawn carriage ride, too.
Make Titusville a part of you holiday shopping attack plan – especially the annual Fox Lake Christmas Festival of Crafts, typically held mid-November. This event features handmade and homemade crafts that you can buy, in between munching on food from vendors. The event is sponsored by the Brevard County Parks and Recreation Department. Also in downtown Titusville, you can find a spread of arts and crafts shops, gift shops, pawn stores and consignment stores. Though Titusville has strong ties to the space industry, its downtown proudly retains a sense of old-fashioned sensibility. Visitors will no doubt be charmed by its quaint boutiques and eateries.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Titusville is home to a reputable, annual craft festival, as well as a variety of quaint boutiques and often quieter shops.
Aimee's expert tip: Make a point to visit Titusville's annual Fox Lake Christmas Festival of Crafts, where you can enjoy food vendors and shop homemade crafts.
This comic shop first opened as a tiny 400-square-foot shop in Texas in 2004, and quickly began growing. In 2013, SuperVillian Comics opened doors in Cocoa Beach, Fla., conveniently across the street from the Ron Jon Surf Shop. But that location was always intended to be temporary, says owner Chris McIntosh. The shop relocated to Cape Canaveral this summer, after a short closure for the move (and so owners could make the summer comic convention circuit, which they share with their fans on their Facebook page). The new location is between two of the Cape's popular restaurants, Papa Vito's and Cazoni's. Scour the new shop for movies, comics, various collectibles, statues, graphic novels, quirky gifts and sci-fi and fantasy merchandise, although comic books are the biggest seller.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Find unique and quirky holiday gifts in this fun Cape Canaveral shop. Can you say stocking stuffers?
Aimee's expert tip: Look for new comic book titles every Wednesday.
Located right on the Banana River, this island mall is a fun, comfortable place to spend your time – and money. More than 80 brand name specialty shops have outposts here, from Sephora to Champs and Aeropostale, you're sure to find all the items on your list. Anchor stores include Dillards, Macy's, JCPenney and Sears, and Merritt Square also features a 16-screen cinema. For the holidays, you can find special events and deals here, such as holiday art shows, fundraisers, raffles and, of course, Santa Claus makes his annual visit to the courtyard. This mall is not entirely different than a standard, chain mall in another city, but it's a solid shopping bet, if you need reliability, a staple, some new clothes or just a relaxing afternoon in the indoors.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: This indoor shopping mall offers your chain store staples, with special holiday activities around Christmastime.
Aimee's expert tip: Like any good mall around the holidays, look for spirited decorations, holiday hours and special holiday sales and events at Merritt Square.
Actually part of Melbourne (the two cities merged in the 1960s), the area known as Eau Gallie retains a personality – an identity – that's all its own. Located right on the Indian River, Eau Gallie boasts a pleasant, slow-paced attitude that makes it a great place to spend a leisurely afternoon hunting for holiday gifts, such as antiques and artwork. You can regularly enjoy social gatherings in Eau Gallie, too, such as ArtWorks events and Christmas tree lighting in the winter, during a First Friday this year. You'll find plenty of local shops here with funky, quirky, locally made goodies that you will be eager to pack into your suitcase and put under the tree, especially in the Eau Gallie Arts District.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Eau Gallie has plenty of shops, but with a slower pace that is refreshing this time of year.
Aimee's expert tip: Stroll through the laid-back downtown shops, before catching the annual Christmas tree lighting – the perfect way to kick off the season with community spirit.
Cottage Rose in Indialantic is where you can find the most unique and unusual items on your loved ones' Christmas lists. You won't find these kinds of gifts in big-box shops at the mall. Here, you will delight in the old and the new: vintage clothes, designer duds, jewelry (even vintage accessories), shoes, handbags, home decor, and more. Hint: If you're shopping for Mom, she wants you to go here. You never know what you will find, yet you will always find something. You can also stock up on Christmas decorations and ornaments here. This is not the kind of store you can hop in and hop out of in a few minutes. Come, browse, dig and enjoy your afternoon. It's like a treasure hunt, where you've already found the pot of gold and you're now sifting through the prize. Best of all: The prices here are reasonable.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Find holiday decorations and ornaments, as well as unique gifts for Mom, at Cottage Rose.
Aimee's expert tip: Come here with an open mind – not a shopping list – and let the browsing take you on a shopping adventure.
Downtown Melbourne is is great destination for handmade gifts, such as soaps and lotions. It's also your best bet if the Christmas wish-list you're filling includes antique, vintage, repurposed, quirky or unusual tastes. Check out the annual Melbourne Fall Art Festival early November to get an early start on your holiday shopping. Here, you can find free concerts and many crafty vendors. You can also look for the Holiday Nights & Candlelight Shopping event, where stores stay open late, complete with candles, treats and carolers. This runs every Saturday between Thanksgiving and Christmas. In Melbourne, you'll find small town hospitality, tree-lined streets (palms, of course) and quaint sitting areas. Don't miss East New Haven Avenue, the main commercial drag, which features everything from antique shops to ladies boutiques. Don't miss Downtown Divas, the metro-inspired Swanky Sole for hot shoes and accessories and Re-Creations Consignment for gently used designer clothes.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Downtown Melbourne is where to shop for the crafty, the quirky, the antique and the repurposed.
Aimee's expert tip: Get a head start on your holiday shopping in November, at the annual Melbourne Fall Art Festival.
On the Indian River, this quaint, historic, little town is rich with old-fashioned charm. Cocoa Village is easily the best place to shop on the Space Coast, and one of the region's most popular destinations for visitors, too. Stroll down beautifully landscaped streets and experience the history of the village or listen to the live music pouring out of the local gazebo regularly. Holiday time is magical here. The annual holiday bazaar in early December is like visiting Santa's workshop – on the beach. Head there to fill your stockings with locally made, unique finds and crafty goods at speciality stores. The shops here are charming and personal, not big-box chains. It's the perfect place for thoughtful, hand-crafted holiday gifts with heart.
Recommended for Christmas Shopping because: Cocoa Village organizes a special Art & Craft & Holiday Bazaar early December. This year, it's Dec. 5-6.
Aimee's expert tip: For a unique, locally made souvenir or gift, shop Cocoa Village's regular arts and crafts fairs. The annual holiday bazaar in December is like visiting Santa's workshop – on the beach.