By JULIE KAY
Whether you’re a high-end shopper who worships Prada, Dolce and Gabbana and Gucci or a bargain hunter looking to score a deal on electronics, clothing or other merchandise, there’s something for everyone at Sawgrass Mills.
But make sure you wear your sneakers when you visit the outlet mall in west Sunrise, so you can traverse the two-miles and 2.3 million square feet of power shopping comfortably.
The largest outlet mall in the nation and the sixth largest mall in the country, Sawgrass Mills has 350 stores – not to mention an entire section devoted to dining and entertainment with a 23-screen movie theater.
When it first opened in 1990, on the edge of The Everglades, no one could have foreseen the mall would become the second largest tourist destination in Florida, behind the land of the mouse in Orlando. Nor could anyone have imagined that massive tourist buses coming from Miami hotels would arrive several times a day, packed with tourists from Argentina, Brazil and Colombia.
These South American shoppers bring — and sometimes buy — suitcases just to fill up with merchandise to fly back to friends and family members. They do so for two reasons: they can find everything they want in one location, and for up to half what it would cost in their countries.
Since it opened, Sawgrass Mills has been expanded four times, with new sections like “The Oasis,” an outdoor “dining and fun” area featuring a Ron Jon Surf Shop and a Regal 23 Cinema and Imax; a 40,000-square-foot “Fashion Avenue,” and a “Colonnade Outlets at Sawgrass” section featuring upscale lifestyle merchandise offered up by stores like Salvatore Ferragamo, Burberry, David Yurman and Prada. This is the only Florida location for many of these stores.
There are also such “anchor stores” as a Super Target and a JCPenney Outlet for the more budget-minded. Other popular outlet stores include Tommy Hilfiger, Nike, Gap, Ralph Lauren and Bed Bath & Beyond. A diverse selection of kiosks hawking everything from hair extensions to miracle eyeglass cleaning solution to remote-controlled toy helicopters line the center of the mall.
Visiting Sawgrass Mills can be a day-long experience – or longer. At the end of a stressful day of power shopping, there are a variety of places to relax and enjoy a nice dinner, such as California Pizza Kitchen, PF Chang’s, Cheesecake Factory or Grand Lux Cafe. Children especially enjoy the Rainforest Café, where they are immersed in a rainforest experience, complete with animatronic animal robots as well as a talking tree, servers dressed as safari guides and a “rainstorm” featuring a real (sort of) shower and lightning every half hour. After eating, they can toss coins into a pond for good luck and have their picture taken next to a life-sized alligator figure.
Again, there are plenty of options for the budget-conscious at a massive food court where you may have to hunt for a table, especially around the holidays. After dinner, the kids can expend some energy at a rock climbing wall or taking a ride on the American Carousel.
A word of warning to those who aren’t lucky enough to arrive by tour bus: There are 11,000 parking spots in the mall, but sometimes even that isn’t enough on holidays, before Christmas or when there’s a Panthers game at the stadium across the street (hockey fans, to avoid paying high parking fees at the arena, will often park at the mall and walk across the street.)
If you go:
- Address: Sawgrass Mills is located at 12801 W Sunrise Blvd, Sunrise, FL 33323. Find directions, nearly hotels and Sawgrass Mills parking options here.
- Hours: 10 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sunday. Black Friday hours: 6 p.m. Thursday, Nov. 28, to 10 p.m. Friday, Nov. 29.
- Public transportation: The least expensive transportation to Sawgrass Mills is via Tri-Rail train to the Fort Lauderdale Station, then transfer to BCT bus route 22, which drops off at the Sawgrass Mall Entrance.
- Charter buses: Sawgrass Express is a charter bus offering day trips to the mall on air-conditioned luxury buses with pick-ups from Miami and Miami Beach area hotels. Buses run three times a day and cost $25 with a coupon from the website. Call 305-651-7196 to schedule a pick-up or email joy@SawgrassExpress.com.
- More information: 954-846-2300 or visit www.simon.com/mall/sawgrass-Mills.
- Stores: See a map of Sawgrass Mills here.
- Restaurants: See Sawgrass Mills restaurants here.
- Sawgrass Mills coupons: See the latest Sawgrass Mills coupons and sales here. Travelers should also ask their hotel concierge for a free Sawgrass Mills coupon book.