Thursday, March 17, 2011

C-ville for shoppers

I think I have a bit of a reputation. It started in Indy for the 2006 national NACADA conference. I was staying in a hotel near the convention center, but the shortest way to the convention center was...through a three storey mall. So, of course, I did a little shopping and talked about shopping pretty often (just ask Art). The national conference for NACADA was in Chicago in 2008, which has the Magnificent Mile and the big Macy's that used to be Marshall Fields. And San Antonio in 2009? We were on the Riverwalk! Of course, I hit the shopping area. I guess that does make me the best person to discuss shopping in C-ville.

Charlottesville is an eclectic shopping experience. It has everything from local specialty boutiques to recognized national retailers. Although I could go on (and on, and on) about the shopping in the area, I will, instead, focus on the three areas you are most likely to go shop 'til you drop.

The Downtown Mall
In the heart of Charlottesville's downtown, this pedestrian friendly area is full of the quirky and the unique. There are craft stores, clothing stores, stationary stores, and even book stores. This is one of the best places to get something uniquely Charlottesville, even if it is just a picture of the happenings on the mall. As the Downtown Mall is also a great place to eat and grab dessert, it can be a great one stop shop for an evening of fun. The best part? If you don't want to drive to the Mall, there will be a shuttle leaving from the hotel to drop you off there on Wednesday and Thursday evening; stop by the hospitality desk for more information. If you do want to drive, stop by the hospitality desk before you leave and we'll let you know who will validate your parking if you park in one of the two parking decks just off the Mall.

Barracks Road Shopping Center
As a graduate student, I spent so much time here, it was a little ridiculous. A massive shopping area, Barracks Road covers almost ever need. There are two grocery stores, a bunch of restaurants, a FedEx Kinkos, a Hair Cuttery...and I'm just getting started. Head to Barracks if your style is Chicos or Old Navy. Drop on by Barracks if you need a book from Barnes and Noble or ribbon from Michael's. Even if you want Lindt chocolate or a drug store, Barracks has you covered. Barracks is also a great place to grab coffee (at Greenberry's) or ice cream (at Ben and Jerry's). Barracks Road is located down 29, near UVA grounds, so you'll want to drive. If a bunch of you are shopping together, I recommend carpooling. Parking is available (for free) at Barracks, but the parking lot is usually very busy and very full. The hospitality table will also have a list of retailers at Barracks Road; feel free to stop by the table and ask.

Fashion Square Mall
Enclosed, traditional malls more your thing? Then you'll want to visit Fashion Square Mall. Housing three department stores (Belk, JC Penney, and Sears) as well as mall standards like Bath and Body Works, Ann Taylor, and Foot Locker, Fashion Square Mall is Charlottesville's local mall. I've always been a fan of Belk and, since Richmond no longer has one, I have been known to drive to C-ville to go to Fashion Square Mall. The mall is on 29, one block north of the Marriott Courtyard, one of our two overflow hotels. There is plenty of free parking. Mall hours are Monday through Saturday 10am to 9pm, Sunday 12:30pm to 5:30pm

Willing to road trip a bit? There are two other shopping opportunities within an hour and a half drive of Charlottesville that will be available during your stay.

Open March 26 to April 10, everyday, form 9am to 7pm
Do you love to read? Then this is the place to go. All kinds of books covering all kinds of topics in all kinds of genres are on sale. In fact, these prices tend to be 60% to 90% off of retail. Both times I've gone in the past, I've lugged a box full of books to my car. It's also a beautiful drive there. So, whether you need six copies of a great book for your book club, a book to read to your three year old niece, or a reference book on a new interest, the savings are worth the drive.

Short Pump Towne Center
Headed I-64 East toward Richmond or points further east? Then, on your way home, you should hop off at the Short Pump exit. A huge outdoor mall with a ton of little shopping areas surrounding it, Short Pump Towne Center is the place to do some shopping. The mall has a Dillard's, Macy's, and Nordstrom's as well as two levels of additional shopping. There are also restaurants, a food court, Starbucks, and Cold Stone in the mall. And, if you love shoes or have a hard to fit foot, Saxon Shoes is a stop worth making. Short Pump is about 10 minutes west of Richmond, Virginia.

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