10Best New Orleans malls for brand name retail therapy

Photo courtesy of The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk
By Beth D'Addono, New Orleans Local Expert

When it comes to shopping, New Orleans is most known for its specialty boutiques, galleries and artisan nooks. That doesn't mean the city doesn't have a respectable collection of shopping malls and store conglomerates.

Most malls could be anywhere, lacking a sense of place or connection to community.  In New Orleans,  besides being home to A-list retailers, our collections of shops deliver riverfront views, local art and cultural relevance. 

Heading just a few miles outside the city, you can find traditional malls; the kinds with anchor department stores, food courts and movie theaters. Each has their own perks, which you can read about below. 

Shopping is an important part of any New Orleans trip. Going store to store, block to block is one way to do it. Other times, you want to be completely immersed inside a store that is filled with other stores, something most of us call a mall. 

For international visitors, shopping in New Orleans is a real deal, not only delivering a wide array of treasures at a favorable exchange rate, but tax free shopping at well known retail stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and H&M and hundreds of smaller specialty stores.  Just show your passport  or current ID, and collect your refund at the airport before you fly home.  

10. French Market

The French Market is six-block-long bustling, open air shopping center that can hold as many as 220 vendors on a busy day. You can shop for local art, t-shirts and hats and all things Mardi Gras while enjoying New Orleans street music and the aroma of fresh gumbo and jambalaya from the food stalls. The market has a ton of history, having existed on the same piece of land for more than 200 years. Some of the best items to find here are the drooping ladies hats to help keep the sun out, graphic print coasters and great shawls/sarongs. While there is certainly plenty of kitsch on hand - genuine gator head anybody? - the market does have authentic goods and decent prices. There are free walking tours on weekdays, special events ongoing, and a farmers' market Wednesdays and Saturdays.

9. Oakwood Center
Photo courtesy of Oakwood Center

The Oakwood Shopping Center is in Gretna, a quick drive over the Crescent City Connection, the bridge that takes you to the West Bank of the Mississippi. It's not as big as some of the other malls on this list, but that can be a blessing in disguise. The Oakwood Mall has plenty of parking and less crowds, making the shopping experience breezier. The big department stores here are Dillard's, Sears and jcpenny. Oakwood caters to footwear lovers, and they don't disappoint, with shoe stores like ALDO, Finish Line, Footlocker, Journeys and Footaction. For the ladies, stores like Forever 21 and New York & Company are popular. The food court has some desirable options to keep your hunger at bay, such as Chic-Fil-A and Cafe Du Monde.

8. North Shore Square Mall
Photo courtesy of North Shore Square Mall

New Orleans isn't littered with malls directly in the city center. To get to the North Shore Square Mall, you have to take a drive over beautiful Lake Pontchartrain into nearby Slidell. This mall has more than 600,000 sq. ft. of retail space, featuring department stores Dillards, jcpenny and Burlington Coat Factory. For the women, Victoria's Secret, Lane Bryant, Forever 21 and The Limited are in house. For men, check out Express or Aeropostale. The kids will have a great time in the photo booths, playing mini-golf, or hopping on one of the numerous "kiddie rides" sprinkled throughout the mall. At Home, a popular big box home store, is opening soon.

7. Clearview Mall
Photo courtesy of Clearview Mall

Clearview Mall is in Metairie, a 20-minute drive from the French Quarter depending on traffic. A traditional mall that has undergone some major renovations, Clearview boasts an extra large Target (with cart escalator), Sears and Bed Bath & Beyond. The interior is always bustling, but the walkways are spacious enough to fit your entourage and bags of purchased goods. The movie theater is a big draw here, with tons of screens showing the hottest new releases. Kids will love the trampoline with bungee cord hook-up; a welcome distraction for a weary tag-a-long shopper. Coffee from New Orleans' local fave PJ's Coffee makes a fragrant gift.

6. Lakeside Shopping Center

Visitors seeking the best malls in Greater New Orleans must only venture slightly north of the city to find Lakeside Shopping Center. This expansive retail hub is one of the area's most popular malls with more than 120 well-known stores including M.A.C., Dillard's, Lane Bryant, Gap, Old Navy and Eddie Bauer, as well as boutiques such as Ann Taylor Loft and Talbot's. Lakeside Shopping Center offers seemingly endless shopping opportunities for men and women (and enough distractions for kids). When the credit card needs a rest, Lakeside shoppers spill out onto Veterans Boulevard, where just about every restaurant imaginable awaits.

5. Elmwood Center
Photo courtesy of daysofthundr46

Elmwood isn't an enclosed mall, but a sprawling outdoor collection of department stores, boutiques, big box retailers and more. Some of the big names holding court are Best Buy, Big Lots, World Market, Old Navy, Ulta and Marshall's. As you walk and drive from place to place, there are tons of national and regionally based food places for you to grab a quick bite. Check out Theo's Pizza for delicious pies and friendly service. If you're with the kids, you can promise them that after shopping is over, you will take them to see a movie, with theaters within this shopping district's radius. Elmwood Center isn't too far from the hustle and bustle of downtown New Orleans.

4. The Esplanade Mall

An easy drive from downtown New Orleans, this shopping mall in Kenner is not far from the airport. Esplanade offers a mix of popular anchor and specialty stores that makes for a great day of shopping. The mall offers two stories of shops, department stores and fast food, including national brands like Dillard's, Express, Target and Macy's as well as smaller stores like Lady Footlocker, Bayou Riders and the famed stop for coffee and beignets, Cafe Du Monde. With more than 80 shops and eateries, the Esplanade delivers plenty of bang for your shopping buck. More good news: there is always plenty of free parking.

3. Shops at Jax Brewery

The Shops at Jax Brewery are located in an architecturally striking 19th century former beer brewing facility - opened in 1891, the Brewery was the largest independent brewery in the south. The property has four floors of shops, cafes and boutiques, with the top floor offering some pretty spectacular views of the city. A few of the shops offer child and adult themed screen print items of local witticisms and attractions that are sure to be a hit. Home Team Sportswear is a great place to pick up New Orleans Saints memorabilia and there are a handful of fun jewelry shops, some made by local artisans. Chico's is one of the popular big name stores. Lazy River Southern Fare & Spirits is a newish family friendly dining option with local specialties like po-boys and gumbo.

2. The Shops at Canal Place
Photo courtesy of The Shops at Canal Place

A premier destination in New Orleans, this upscale shopping mall's wide spectrum of boutiques, specialty shops and high-end brand chains offers something for everyone. Browse top shelf retailers like Saks 5th Ave, Brooks Brothers, Tiffany and Ann Taylor. There are more than 30 retailers spread over three floors, national biggies along with local jewelry artist Mignon Faget and RHINO - Right Here in New Orleans Contemporary Crafts Company. Canal Place also entertains with a upmarket movie theater, complete with reserved seating, in-theater dining and super comfy recliner seats. The Shops are located near the Mississippi River end of Canal Street, close to the Aquarium and Harrah's.

1. The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk
Photo courtesy of The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk

A year under wraps, the $70 million redo of the circa 1984 Riverwalk Mall opened in the spring of 2014, the first Outlet Collection in any downtown in America. The Outlet Collection at Riverwalk is gorgeous, airy, filled with natural light and river views, something the cavelike original center sorely lacked. Situated in the heart of downtown, the new Riverwalk is next door to the Convention Center and close to the Cruise Terminal and the French Quarter. For city dwelling New Orleanians, the siren call of discount parking and mouthwatering brands like Neiman Marcus Last Call (the first in the state), Kenneth Cole, Coach, Nordstrom Rack and Forever 21 is irresistible.