Bal Harbour: Shopping

By Shayne Benowitz

On a Florida beach vacation, you might find yourself torn between spending your day shopping or spending your day in the sunshine. If you’re vacationing in Miami, fortunately you don’t have to make that decision if you’re at the lush, open air Bal Harbour Shops.

The legendary and luxurious mall has made the Miami Beach village of Bal Harbour synonymous with shopping. Opened in 1965 by owner and developer Stanley Whitman, it became Florida’s first exclusively high fashion shopping center on what was once World War II army barracks. The 450,000 square foot, two-story al fresco mall features over 100 shops and is anchored by department stores Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue.

Al Fresco Shopping Experience

Whether you’re in Bal Harbour to spend serious money or just looking to enjoy an afternoon of window-shopping, Bal Harbour is a shopper’s heaven on earth. The pedigree of retailers is comparable to other great fashion destinations, like New York’s Fifth Avenue or Madison Avenue, Paris’ Champs Elysee and Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive, yet the atmosphere is purely Miami. Designed in the Miami Modern architectural style with catwalks and shaded breezeways, it’s landscaped with palm trees, bright tropical flowers, limestone and marble fountains and koi ponds, creating a relaxing, pleasant shopping environment. Unlike a massive, indoor, air-conditioned megamall, Bal Harbour Shops offers a more intimate shopping experience.

Retail Therapy

Often referred to as the “Shopping Hall of Fame,” the retail selection at Bal Harbour Shops is certainly swoon-worthy. Think, Chanel, Prada, Gucci, Balenciaga, Chloe, Carolina Herrera, Oscar de la Renta and Valentino. For the shoe fanatic, there’s Jimmy Choo, Giuseppe Zanotti and Tod’s.

If you’re shopping for bling, you’ll have plenty to choose from with Harry Winston, Bulgari, Chopard, Tiffany & Co. and Van Cleef & Arpels. For watches, there’s Hublot, IWC and Piaget. For menswear, visit Ermenegildo Zegna, Brooks Brothers and Vilebrequin. Other shops that feature more than one brand include Intermix and Oxygene Boutique. The latter is a must visit purely to see its collection of designer baby and kids clothing.

Some new additions to the mall include Alexander McQueen, Stella McCartney, Saint Laurent and a newly renovated Chanel store. Designer Alber Elbaz’s Lanvin opened its first United States flagship store here in 2009 before he even opened one on Madison Avenue. It’s no secret that Bal Harbour Shops is highly coveted real estate for luxury retailers and the waiting list for brands that want to call it home will soon be accommodated with a 250,000 square-foot expansion and an additional 40 stores.

Dining

Of course, what’s an afternoon at the mall without resting your feet and your shopping bags to enjoy a satisfying meal? At Bal Harbour Shops, some of the dining options are so divine they’re enough to elicit a trip to the mall unto themselves. Makoto takes Japanese cuisine, like sushi and robata, and elevates it to the sublime. Chef Makoto Okuwa’s menu features such inventive dishes as frosty kobe fried rice with foie gras, shichimi and a jidori egg; tuna air bread with Caesar foam, tomato and red onion; and salmon with ponzu, crispy brussel sprouts and ikura. The presentation is a work of art and the thoughtful service matches the high caliber flavors of the meal.

For fine French bistro fare La Goulue is another fabulous option. Enjoy steak tartare, onion soupe gratinee, escargot or the quiche of the day while sipping champagne at this delightful restaurant. For more casual bites at Bal Harbour Shops, there’s Santa Fe News & Espresso for fresh sandwiches and salads. Another popular choice is the Books & Books Café, which is also home to the charming, independent bookstore Books & Books. With locations in Coral Gables, South Beach and Miami International Airport, it’s a staple of Miami culture and a must visit.

Events

A favorite playground amongst Miami’s fashionistas, Bal Harbour Shops and its retailers also have a knack for hosting incredible events, including trunk shows and meet and greets with celebrity designers. Other happenings include fashion photographer Sharon Socol’s book signing at Books & Books, Carolina Herrera unveiling her latest collection, Pharrell Williams celebrating the grand opening of Moncler during Art Basel Miami Beach and a personal appearance by Stella McCartney.

Bal Harbour Shops also gets into the action for Fashion’s Night Out in September, an annual event that started in New York in 2009 during the height of the recession. It spread to over 500 cities nationwide and 30 internationally to encourage shopping during slow economical times and to raise money for the New York City AIDS Fund.

Bal Harbour Shops is the lap of luxury in Miami and it offers a pleasant retreat for anyone who wishes to enjoy it. Come to ogle the designer merchandise and stay for an exceptional meal. There’s something quintessentially Miami about spending an afternoon at the easy, breezy al fresco Bal Harbour Shops.

Shop Miami Month

Are you going to be in town during February? Celebrate Greater Miami and the Beaches’ leading retail destinations with exciting offers! Visit Shop Miami Month for more details.

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