By Herb Sparrow
Although shopping has always been a popular group tour activity, several sites around the country offer group travel leaders the option of shopping, dining and entertainment combined in one stop.
Developed under names such as lifestyle centers, urban retail centers and destination shopping, these sites provide a wide range of activities, including the chance to just sit back and relax on a bench in front of a fountain on a beautiful spring day.
“It’s a mix of service, retail, dining, experiential and entertainment,” said Bethany Braden, marketing manager for Easton Town Center, near Columbus, Ohio. “Our goal is to be a location where you can shop, dine and do it all.”
Easton Town Center
There are nearly 200 retail, entertainment and dining venues along tree-lined streets in Easton Town Center, which also includes open-air gathering spaces, fountains and parks.
“It’s like a town square setting. It takes you back to how towns were set up, with two-lane streets, fountains and open streetscapes,” said Braden. “There is plenty of [outdoor] seating [where] you can kick back and read, or enjoy a meal outside.”
There are a number of free regular events at Easton Town Center, among them Movies by Moonlight on Tuesdays during the summer, Wednesday-night jazz concerts on the town square and a farmers market on Thursday evenings, also on the square.
“The holidays are huge here,” said Braden. “There is a large lighting ceremony on the Friday before Thanksgiving. The whole property is lit up for the holidays.”
Easton Town Center has several experiential programs for groups. Personal shoppers present information about the latest fashion trends or areas of particular interest to a group at a morning session at Nordstrom. Groups have breakfast with the presentation and are given time to shop before the large department store opens.
Archiver’s, a large scrapbook supply store, presents hands-on classes on making greeting cards and calendars, and Sur La Table has hands-on cooking classes.
Legends Outlets Kansas City
Kansas City, Kan.
Legends Outlets Kansas City is more than just a shopping center. “It’s a shopping center that is almost like a museum,” said Amy Kraft, regional marketing director for the center.
As shoppers walk the landscaped streets past the center’s nearly 100 stores and restaurants, which include 33 high-end outlets and 34 restaurants, they find information about and tributes to more than 80 Kansas icons — people, places and things.
“There are a lot of things people wouldn’t know about Kansas,” said Kraft. “It is very educational — not boring educational, but fun educational.”
The tributes are presented in a variety of ways, such as round medallions in sidewalks, murals on the sides of buildings, statues, posters and even a yellow brick road to honor “The Wizard of Oz.”
The buildings are designed to resemble an old warehouse district, and a large fountain in the center has hourly displays synchronized to music.
The center is in the heart of Village West, a retail and en tertainment district. Nearby are the Kansas Speedway, the new Hollywood Casino at Kansas Speedway, the Schlitterbahn Vacation Village Waterpark, the Nebraska Furniture Mart and Cabela’s.