By Patti Roth
Sometimes an excursion to a posh shopping promenade is a vacation in itself. Strap on your hiking shoes and savor a landscape of fresh fashions, sparkling jewels and plush decor. Breathe air scented by al fresco eateries. Scout out unique points of interest such as a gourmet popcorn tasting bar in Naples and an outdoor mural in Palm Beach for which the geometric design is accomplished with plants instead of paints.
Whichever shopping venue in Florida you select, enjoy the trip, and send
Fifth Avenue South is a vibrant shopping and entertainment district with Mediterranean-style architecture and an enticing Main Street ambience.
Plazas and mini-parks positioned between buildings provide picturesque places to sit and nibble a well-deserved treat.
In addition to fashion boutiques, galleries and restaurants, Fifth Avenue South offers pubs and entertainment venues. The Naples Players theater troupe and Naples Art Association are based in the district. Distinctive stores include The Popcorn Cellar, with a tasting bar where the rotating assortment of popcorn flavors may include Key lime pie and truffle parmesan.
Fifth Avenue South stretches from the Tamiami Trail to the Gulf of Mexico in Old Naples. Popular seasonal events include Evening on Fifth festivities with live music. Valet parking is offered November to April. The Naples Water Shuttle, which runs along the Gordon River two blocks away, provides transportation to various points of interest. 239-821-5219, naplesdowntown.com/fifth.htm.
Shady sidewalks line the Park Avenue shopping district featuring about 140 shops and restaurants adjacent to the city’s Central Park. Popular national merchants are in the mix, along with museums and such enticing boutique shops as The Ancient Olive, featuring olive oils and balsamic vinegars from around the world. If that whets your appetite, dining options include various ethnic fare, wine bars and pastry shops.
For extra shopping opportunities, The Winter Park Farmers’ Market is most Saturdays, 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. Events at Central Park include jazz performances, art festivals, ice skating and movies. In walking distance, a boat tour vendor offers floating excursions of the sights along lakes and waterways. The avenue is pet friendly, and dogs often accompany their best pals at sidewalk cafes. 500 N. Park Ave. to 500 S. Park Ave., Winter Park, 407-644-8281, experienceparkavenue.com.
Worth Avenue is a showcase for prime designer labels – Pucci, Gucci, Tiffany, Armani and Hermès, to name a few. The famous district veering westward from the beach features an assortment of independently owned stores, restaurants with al fresco dining and a streetscape anchored by symmetrical rows of towering palms.
Snap a photo at the tall vertical garden wall, where different types of foliage form a lush, living tapestry. Popular seasonal events include historical walking tours and a holiday window decorating contest. If you’re so inclined, allow your pooch to tag along. Dogs are permitted in many shops, including Ralph Lauren, where the staff may treat your best pal to a refreshing drink, elegantly served on a silver tray, says Gregg S. Beletsky, president of the Worth Avenue Merchants Association. 561-659-6909, worth-avenue.com.
Perhaps you typically drive to Las Olas Boulevard. For a fun twist, hop on the Water Taxi, a floating trolley that rolls in two blocks from the bustling stretch of top-notch shops, galleries, nightclubs and restaurants.
Along with well-known merchants such as Tommy Bahama, Sunglass Hut and Chico’s, Las Olas Boulevard offers rich assortment of independent stores selling apparel, wedding gowns and eye glasses. Art galleries include a shop that imports glass sculptures from artisans in Murano, Italy.
The eclectic district with Mediterranean-style architecture, parks, office towers, an historic hotel, tropical landscaping and old-fashion lampposts hosts an assortment of events and seasonal activities. Events include art fairs, a wine and food festival, holiday parades and a Snow Mountain attraction.
Other highlights in downtown Fort Lauderdale include The Broward Library, The Broward Center for the Performing Arts, Museum of Art | Fort Lauderdale, and the Museum and the Museum of Discovery and Science with an IMAX theater. The boulevard runs from Andrews Avenue to the beach, with much of the shopping district from Southeast Sixth to Southeast 11th avenues. lasolasboulevard.com.
Gulfstream Park, famous for its racetrack and slot machines, features an open-air Mediterranean-style shopping plaza with a bevy of popular home-design stores, galleries, fashion boutiques, restaurants and nightclubs. For a fun photo opportunity, snap a picture of Bart Simpson and likenesses of his animated TV family seated on a bench at Barker Animation Art Gallery.
Restaurants at The Village of Gulfstream Park represent various regions of the globe and include grab-and-go fare and fine dining. Events include free music performances and the Symphony of Lights during the winter holidays. Gulfstream Park, 501 S. Federal Highway, Hallandale Beach, 954-378-0900, thevillageatgulfstreampark.com.
Hyde Park Village is an open-air shopping, dining and activity hub amid grand homes and an Air Force base. A fountain serves as an anchor, providing a scenic backdrop for hanging out and occasionally for popping the question and weddings. Events include seasonal art festivals and a fresh market with entertainment and handcrafts the first Sunday of most months.
Merchants include Anthropologie, Restoration Hardware, Brooks Brothers, The Pink Petticoat, Tommy Bahama, Bang and Olufsen, Pottery Barn Design Studio and Pottery Barn Kids. Popular nightlife venues include the Irish 31 pub and CinéBistro for dining and movies. Pets are permitted inside a variety of stores. 1602 W. Snow Ave., 813-251-3500, hydeparkvillage.com.