From the day after Thanksgiving until after the new year, cash registers around the country will be getting a lot of love — but isn't time you got something back? You tell yourself: "If I have to fight the traffic, the crowds and the lines, it better be worth it." Good news is — these holiday shopping spots are worth it. Each of them can turn what might otherwise be just a boring day at the mall into an amazing holiday vacation memory.
Crown Center, Kansas City, Missouri: Crown Center comprises what might be the kid-friendliest downtown neighborhood in the United States. Anchored by the corporate headquarters for (and owned by) Hallmark Cards, the 85-acre complex was designed as a space residents and visitors alike can use and enjoy year-round. From romping the cool glass walkways connecting the two hotels and the mall to touring the Hallmark Visitor's Center or dropping by Kaleidoscope for some arts and crafts time, there's little risk of boredom here — especially if you save the most fun part for last: a romp through the fountains in Crown Center Square.
Downtown Carmel-by-the-Sea, Carmel, California: The side streets of Downtown Carmel are cuteness personified. But the shopping is the biggest draw for most: Giorgiou has a shop here; Coach has a shop that includes an outlet; and there are many, many high-end jewelry stores, clothing boutiques, and galleries, as well as shops selling fudge, ice cream and other treats. Holiday time means there's an added magic with lights, décor and a very large Christmas tree.
Downtown Disney, Walt Disney World, Florida: Since Disney is an entire world unto itself, it's fitting that it should have its own downtown complete with a retail center, nightlife hub, and even its own funky West Side. It's liveliest at night, when grown-ups take a break from theme-park fare and head to eateries like Wolfgang Puck (the celeb chef has a nice kids' menu too). You and the kids will be inspired by the LEGO structures in the Downtown Disney Marketplace section and will have a tough time choosing among the hordes of souvenirs from the various Disney shops that sell everything from pet gear to toys to holiday décor to kitchen gadgets to artwork.
Dylan's Candy Bar, New York City, New York: Kids, meet candy. Candy, meet kids. Oh, you've already met, huh? Since you'll need to eat during all that shopping, there's no better place to go for a sugar rush than Dylan's. When children walk through the door of this tony two-story sugar emporium, eyes light up, stomachs rumble, and you hear a lot of "Can I...?" and "Pleeeease?" The selection is massive and hard to resist. Though you can probably say no to, say, a rhinestone-encrusted Pez dispenser, you should definitely belly up to the ice cream bar.