Here’s a confession from this shopaholic – I love a good deal. I especially love bargains when they are on brands I can’t get my hands on easily in Canada. Sometimes I want that Kate Spade purse so badly that I am willing to travel abroad to get it. I guess you could say I’m a cross-border shopper, willing to go anywhere there’s a good deal to be had. Since I, like 90% of Canadians, live within a two-hour drive of the US Border, a weekend shopping trip is an easy getaway.
How much can you bring back Duty-Free into Canada?
Every shopper is personally exempted from paying duty and taxes on CAD $200 of goods after spending 24 hours or more outside of Canada. That exemption then goes up to CAD $800 after 48 hours and includes an exemption for alcohol and tobacco.
To get you in the mood for a little bargain-hunting city getaway, here is a round-up of my favourite cities near Southern Ontario offering up the brands and labels I trust and love. Where to stay the obligatory night on your 24 hours away? I’ve rounded up a list of shopaholic-friendly hotel picks that make waiting out that duty-free exemption period all worth it!
Shopping in Niagara Falls, NY
Shopping with a view; does it get better than that? Named a natural wonder of the world, Niagara Falls is not only a must-see destination for its beauty and family-friendly attractions, but also for its incredible shopping options. The shopaholic in all of us will definitely find a treasure or two here!
Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls
For the stylish side in all of us, the Fashion Outlets are the perfect spot. Regardless if you’re one to gravitate to labels, high-end couture, or simply well-known trusted brands of all price points, this shopping mall has something for everyone. Browse in the shops featuring over 200 familiar labels from small steals to big splurges, like Kate Spade, COACH, and Fossil. You will seriously be in awe of the deals! I scored an incredible COACH bag for one-third of the price. Daily sales add additional appeal and temptation for the weekend visitor.
For the middle of the road budget, there are tons of options for you as well. In particular, why not grab a stylish pair of sneakers at Adidas or a fresh new business suit at Calvin Klein without breaking the bank? For the sweet tooth out there, Godiva Chocolatier is ready to help with their world-famous truffles and chocolate-covered strawberries.
Macy’s Boulevard Mall
The Macy’s in Boulevard Mall may not be as large as the location on 34th Street in NYC, but you’ll still find an impressive selection of brands we all know and love. Serving shoppers since 1898, you can trust that Macy’s will have your bargain-hunting back as one of the American department stores yet to expand northwards. Looking for something other than clothing and accessories? Macy’s has a great selection of fragrances, jewellery, and other items. I particularly love their selection of women’s perfumes like Gucci, Chanel, and Bobbi Brown, featuring exclusive bonuses you can’t get in Canada. Have a look and see if something jumps out at you.
Steps away from both the gorgeous Niagara Falls and city centre shops and restaurants, the Sheraton at the Falls is a great choice for your overnight stay. The amenities on hand at this pet-friendly hotel offer guests an evening of fun and relaxation after the shops close. Take a swim in their heated indoor pool, work off the calories from a delicious meal at the onsite TGI Fridays in their 24-hour gym, try your luck at the casino, or curl up in your room and binge-watch your favourite HBO programs.See rooms from $186 »
A short drive from Downtown Niagara Falls, the DoubleTree by Hilton Niagara Falls may just be the cozy hotel you are looking for. Enjoy comfortable accommodations, a hot tub on the terrace to soothe your aching shopping muscles, and an on-site restaurant for added convenience. Located along the Niagara River, the DoubleTree is eager to welcome guests looking for a lower budget alternative to the luxurious hotels in the area. Interested in exploring your surroundings? After checking in and dropping off your shopping bags, head out to Niagara Adventure Theater, Niagara Falls State Park, and Bridal Veil Falls located only a short drive away.See rooms from $134 »
Shopping in Buffalo, NY
For some great shopping coupled with unmatched sights and attractions, head to Buffalo for a fun-filled mini city break. Enjoying a revamped reputation, Buffalo provides its guests that exciting, jam-packed holiday they are looking for on a two hours’ drive from Toronto. Enjoy comfortable and convenient lodging, awesome shopping, and a variety of attractions, including the famous Botanical Gardens, Buffalo Zoo, and Elmwood Village. Buffalo is truly a weekend getaway with all the bells and whistles.
This is one of the top shopping destinations in Buffalo. Walden Galleria is exactly what you need for more of your favourite upscale brands. Located 20 minutes from the Peace Bridge, enjoy not only shopping in over 200 shops, but also an array of activities and delicious eateries to whet any appetite. Grab dessert at the Cheesecake Factory before trying to perfect your skee-ball skills at Dave and Buster’s. Or check out the raceway inside the complex – an attraction perfect for all ages before nabbing that perfect fitting pair of Jeans at True Religion.
Jared – Galleria of Jewelry
I love Pandora jewellery. In fact, I love it so much that I have five bracelets. Excessive? Possibly, but I like to think of it as a gorgeous collection of jewels for all occasions. And thanks to my love for this Danish line of jewellery, I sought out rare pieces in various themes for my collection. This search led me to discover Jared – Galleria of Jewelry. This classy American jeweller is definitely a must while across the border, especially if you’re like me and looking for a Pandora collector’s piece. Jared carries its own exclusive line of Pandora charms offered strictly in their stores, including a number of limited edition Christmas charms and a special ornament design alongside the company-wide release.
Stay in the thick of all the shopping action with a touch of luxury at the Hyatt Regency Buffalo. Set right in the centre of the financial, dining and shopping districts, the Hyatt Regency Buffalo brings superior service with numerous amenities to its guests. Enjoy spacious rooms, a 24-hour gym, and a gorgeous rooftop pool boasting panoramic views of the city as you swim. If you wish to unwind beyond the pool and fitness facilities, why not book a spa treatment at the in-house spa? Everything from manicures, pedicures, facials and massages are available with an appointment.See rooms from $151 »
Looking for a reasonable hotel near the action but with a slightly cheaper price tag? The Embassy Suites may be the perfect choice for you. Located less than a kilometre away from the city centre, you can check in, leave your shopping bags behind and quickly get back in town for some nightlife, to take in a Buffalo Sabers Game, or simply stay put and relax in your suite. The hotel offers an indoor pool, generous rooms with comfortable pillow top beds, and cooked-to-order breakfasts every morning. No plans after store hours? Attend the evening reception for complimentary hors d’oeuvres.See rooms from $145 »
Shopping in Cleveland, OH
We cannot leave Cleveland out of the mix when it comes to great deals for that bargain-hunting fashionista. Located less than five hours away from Toronto, on the shores of beautiful Lake Erie, Cleveland offers a charming blend of Rust Belt grit mixed with trendy shops and businesses moving back into the city.
Tower City Center
This architectural glass-encased beauty is a delight for visitors. Prior to serving shoppers, Tower City was home to Cleveland Union Terminal. It still serves as the hub of public transportation and is anchored on historic Public Square, which itself recently completed a multi-million dollar makeover. Inside, you’ll want to grab those labels and bargains from retailers like Victoria’s Secret and Brooks Brothers.
The 5th Street Arcades
If you like finding one-of-a-kind items the way I do, then the 5th Street Arcades is the spot for shopping. Take the “Whatknot Bowtie Company” for example. This brick and mortar shop in the heart of Cleveland brings beautifully handcrafted bow ties in a variety of patterns and sizes. Check out their slim and traditional bow tie designs as well as their new Christmas ugly sweater selection for an added fashion statement.
Staying in the city for longer than a day? Cleveland has some top-notch accommodations that you can easily book ahead of time. Here are some of our favourite spots to recuperate after a day of bargain-hunting and sightseeing in this one-of-a-kind lakeside city.
With all the deals you landed in town, why not indulge a little with a luxurious stay at the Ritz Carlton? Enjoy spacious suites, in-house dining and art exhibits, and top-notch customer service. What makes this hotel choice all the better is its proximity to both Tower City and the 5th Street Arcades.See rooms from $470 »
Another great choice is The Renaissance. Stay in style with appointed accommodations, an array of services, and great views of the lake. What makes this hotel so popular with travellers is its 100-year history and proximity to many city attractions. Head out to a Cavaliers game at the Q Arena or check out an Indians baseball game at Progressive Field. If relaxing is your preference, the Renaissance offers in-room local restaurant delivery, premium cable in each room, and comfortable beds to relax your mind and body.See rooms from $181 »
The lesson should be clear: Don’t let the currency exchange rate get you down! Besides, you’ll be feeling better once you nab some of those incredible shopping deals and get a luxurious night’s sleep at the hotel.