From taking photos with Santa Claus to humming along with the holiday tunes playing over the sound system, there’s no simpler place to get your holiday shopping done than at local malls and outlets.
While online shopping has become a huge trend, there’s something to be said about sharing the holiday spirit with fellow customers while handpicking gifts for friends and family.
“Online retailers can’t replicate coming out, being with people who are in a good mood experiencing Santa and hearing holiday music,” says Andrew Dunn, director of marketing and business development for the Chicago Premium Outlets. “More importantly, it’s in experiencing the actual retailer with a touch-look-feel experience.”
Local malls and retailers have been prepping for the holidays for more than half the year, and you don’t want to miss out on what they have in store this holiday season.
1650 Premium Outlet Blvd., Aurora
From Nike to Ann Taylor, the Premium Outlets in Aurora offer 170 retailers in a new modernized space that doubled in size (more than 687,000 square feet) just a mere two years ago.
In addition to offering a slew of stores with deals that are 45-65 percent off daily, there will be additional sales and special deals during the holiday season.
“The holidays are super important and we’ll be mixing all of the traditional elements people expect along with some unique programming,” Dunn says. “The holiday season is our Super Bowl. It’s what we do.”
Santa Claus will be making several visits, but due to it being an outdoor mall, every appearance is weather depending. Beyond the décor, Santa and holiday music playing throughout the season, there will be strolling carolers during the weekends. Information for each event will be available on the website and updated as information becomes available.
“You really feel like you’re immersed in the holiday experience,” Dunn says. “I’m confident we do that on a consistent basis better than anyone else. People who come out and experience what we have to offer don’t walk away disappointed.”
6170 W. Grand Ave., Gurnee
Gurnee Mills is truly a shopper’s paradise – with more than two million square feet and 200 different retailers, two food courts, an escape room, arcade and ice rink, it’s definitely a destination spot for shoppers this holiday.
“It’s like a one-stop shop for all different budgets,” says Elizabeth Striegel, director of marketing and business development at Gurnee Mills. “You name it, we’ve got it.”
Not only are there plenty of shops to choose from, but it’s also a holiday haven for those interested in getting into the spirit.
Santa will be available to take photos daily, with a special sensory-friendly Caring Santa photo set from 9 a.m. to 10:30 a.m. on Sunday, Dec. 3, and a pet-friendly Santa photo set from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Sunday, Dec. 10. With every purchase of a photo with Santa, kids can sign up to get a free phone call from Santa in addition to being able to drop a letter in the mail.
“I do think it is a magical experience during the holidays,” Striegel says. “A lot of families come and make a day of it.”
Other special events include a holiday art display through the month of December, carolers and other group performances around the mall, a holiday gift-wrap station, an all-day holiday celebration with 102.3 XLC from 5 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Friday, Dec. 8 and Menorah lighting on Thursday, Dec. 14.
Special holiday hours will be available, and updated ones along with a full schedule of events can be found by visiting the website.
“Even though I work here I shop here, too,” Striegel says. “You can find just about anything for everyone on your list…naughty or nice.”
FASHION OUTLETS OF CHICAGO
122 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont
Located just minutes from O’Hare airport and a mere 15 miles from downtown Chicago, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago are home to more than 130 outlets offering deals up to 75 percent off.
Santa HQ will be back for the holidays with adventures for the whole family. Kids can enjoy a classic picture with Santa, but also engage in Elfie selfies, star in their own holiday video, explore Santa’s Observatory using Elf-Ray Vision, and test out the Naughty or Nice O’Meter. Pets can also partake in the fun and get their photo taken with Santa every Monday from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Santa HQ will be open daily through Sunday, Dec. 24 from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays and 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Sundays.
OUTLETS AT TUSCOLA
D400 Tuscola Blvd., Tuscola
Located just south of Champaign and just east of Decatur, the Outlets at Tuscola offer more than 35 brand-name shops to the Central Illinois community. Stores include the Nike Factory Store, Gap, Old Navy, Polo Ralph Lauren and J. Crew.
Keep an eye on the website for special deals and coupons – they’re updated weekly and they usually feature deals you can’t find elsewhere.
PLEASANT PRAIRIE PREMIUM OUTLETS
11211 120th Ave., Pleasant Prairie, WI
With more than 90 stores that offer discounts ranging from 25-65 percent off daily, Pleasant Prairie Premium Outlets is a great place to find gifts for picky loved ones at a reasonable price. Located just off I-94 near Kenosha, Pleasant Prairie serves both the Milwaukee and Chicago communities. Stores range from Coach and Michael Kors to Nike, Old Navy, Kate Spade New York and UGG.