If you are a “shopaholic” the five cities profiled here the best places to satisfy your addiction in the U.S. Even if you are just a casual shopper, these five cities offer the widest variety, and in some cases, the most unique shopping experience in the U.S.
You will find internationally known brands, iconic department stores as well as unusual shops that offer merchandise not sold elsewhere. That includes chic European fashions to wacky “Americana”.
New York, New York
New York City is the top shopping destination in America. No other city comes close. If it’s for sale, New York City has it. Founded in the 1600’s as a Dutch trading post, New York continues its heritage as the epicenter of commerce and retailing.
The “Big Apple” is famous, the world over, for its fashionable retail stores that line Fifth Avenue and Madison Avenue, both in the heart of Manhattan. Brands like Hermes, Gucci and Goyard – where a simple pocketbook can cost as much as an automobile – are everywhere. The Bergdorf Goodman department store, a New York original, features designer clothes and very expensive merchandise, much of it one of a kind.
And its not just expensive merchandise that can be found in New York. The Strand Bookstore, which has 2.5 million books, is perhaps the largest bookstore in the world. It is designated as a historical landmark. If its been published, the Strand probably has it.
This is just one of the dozens specialty shops found throughout the city. If you need Victorian era prints, 17th century religious manuscripts, or Broadway costumes, New York has them.
Los Angeles, California
It’s not just the famous Rodeo Drive, with its ultra-expensive shops, that puts L.A. on the shopping map. It’s the fact that the metropolitan area has the most shopping venues in the entire country. L.A. is a vast, sprawling metropolis. Dozens of towns run together for miles and miles, most with their own shopping centers or strip malls. What also makes L.A. a top shopping destination is the diversity of its small cities, each reflecting their own special ethnic composition or lifestyle, with merchandise to match.
Virtually every Latin American country has, within L.A.’s borders, a community comprised of, for example, Salvadorians, Mexicans, Argentines, Hondurans, Bolivians, to name just a few. Each offers unique merchandise from their respective countries.
Want California surfer stuff? Go to Santa Monica or Venice Beach.
Not surprising, you can find Hollywood memorabilia in L.A. that just isn’t available anywhere elsewhere. Shops such as Hollywood Book & Poster and the Prop Store. Larry Edmunds Bookshop which, established in 1938, features 20,000 motion picture books, 6,000 original movie posters and 500,000 movie photographs.
In L.A. the sun always shines, and the shopping never ends.
Las Vegas, Nevada
This city is America’s adult’s playground offering pretty much anything a person would want, be it material or experiential. With its gambling casinos, Broadway shows, comedy venues,
up-scale stores and entertainment galore, a person could be busy playing or shopping here 24/7.
Many of Vegas’ shops can be found on the “Vegas Strip” or among countless malls and outlet stores that are sprinkled throughout this dessert city.
Las Vegas was once a small cowboy town, a way station for travelers heading overland to California. That heritage remains. If you want to buy stuff from the “Wild West” this is the place to do it. There are many Western Wear shops that sell authentic cowboy boots, chaps and Indian arts and crafts. Stores like Pinto Ranch, Cowtown Boots and the Boot Barn – which features over 8,000 styles of boots, jeans, shirts, hats, jewelry and more – are the places to shop if you’re looking for authentic cowpoke garb.
There is a popular American saying about Las Vegas and it is; “What goes on in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. However, given the millions of dollars a year spent in Las Vegas retail stores, not everything stays in Vegas – a lot leaves the city in shopping bags.
San Francisco, California
San Francisco is a shoppers delight not just because it has pretty much every international shopping venue in the world, but also because its premiere shopping district is so distinctly “San Franciscan”.
The Union Square area of San Francisco is where most of the city’s high-end stores can be found. It is smack-dap in the center of the tourist and hotel district making it easy for out of town shoppers to find.
Moreover, Union Square has San Francisco’s famous cable cars running through it. The shopping area also abuts one of the city’s famously steep hills. A number of large department store surround Union Square, a block long park with cafes and restaurants.
Gump’s is a uniquely San Francisco luxury shopping icon. It was established in 1861 at the height of the California Gold Rush and has recently reopened. It is just a block from Union Square and shouldn’t be missed.
If you’re looking for something a little different, San Francisco’s famed Chinatown – the largest in America – is just blocks away from Union Square. Here one steps into a frenzied Chinese marketplace with small shops that sells unique wares from across China.
A short hop into the city’s residential neighborhood will take you to a totally different type of shopping area. The Haight Ashbury district features 1960’s head shops, colorful tie-dyed T-shirt stores and an assortment of hipster shops that reflect the neighborhoods unconventional “hippie” and “psychedelic” past. So, if you want a flashback to the past, or see herds of modern day “hipsters” jump in an Uber and head straight for Haight Street.
Bloomington, Minnesota usually isn’t mentioned in the same breath as New York, San Francisco or L.A. Unless you are talking about shopping. It is the home of the one of the largest shopping malls in North America – The Mall of America. This behemoth has 2,000,000 square feet of retail space and has over 42 million visitors a year. During its peak season, the Mall of America employs 13,000 people.
It also has the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, Sea Life Aquarium, 20 fast food establishments, pee-wee golf and most of America’s iconic brands and stores.
For a uniquely American shopping experience in America’s heartland, the Mall of America is the place to go.
But before you hop on a plane, make sure you have your visa ducks in a row.
Tourist Visas and Waivers for Those from Abroad
B-2 tourism visa
If you are coming to the U.S. from abroad, you may need to apply for a B-2 tourist visa. Getting a B-2 tourist visa can a bit of a hassle and depends a lot on what country you are from. Citizens from some countries have a very difficult, if not impossible, chance of getting one.
Most people wanting to enter the U.S. must first apply online through the Online Visa Application (DS-160) to set up an interview at an American consulate or embassy. You can go to the U.S. government website to see what documents are required and what the wait time is to get your tourist visa. Wait times vary from country to country. Go to the Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) to determine your ESTA application status.
The Lucky One’s: Visa Waiver Program (VWP)
There are about 40 countries that don’t have to apply in-person for this visa. Most of these countries are in Europe but also includes South Korea, Australia, Singapore, New Zealand and others. However, people from these countries can travel under the Visa Waiver Program (VWP) but they must apply online through the ESTA USA prior to boarding a flight to America.
Once you have sorted out your tourism visa, buy a ticket, pack up and bring along some extra bags to carry home all the loot you’ll buy in the U.S. After all, America invented modern consumerism and shopping. These five cites will help you “shop until you drop” when you visit the U.S.