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Town Centers Around Shopping, Fun

My birthday was fast approaching and I was in need of a major piece of my new birthday outfit. I had heard some interesting advice to check out the St. Johns Town Center and wanted to shop around the outdoor mall to see what I could find.

The five-year-old mall spans 1.1 million sq. feet and welcomes over 10 million visitors each year. That explains the interest I developed in visiting the massive outdoor spectacle after passing it while driving to shagging lessons.

I pulled off Gate Parkway and into the mall where I first noticed the many shopping centers that connected to the center. For example, a Toys “R” Us and a Publix line the actual mall while a Target sits nearby.

Rolling through the area, I noticed Whiskey River on my left. Whiskey River is a newer nightclub in Jacksonville; something I am proud to say originated in Charlotte and has made its second chain installment here.

I tried to take in all the stores I saw as I passed through the entrance, but unfortunately, I was unable to do so without annoying the vehicles behind me.

Heading in, I managed to scrounge around the many parking lots and find suitable parking behind Barnes and Noble. Then it was into Dillard’s, back outside and then onto Victoria's Secret. After making some purchases there, I walked along the streets and took in the atmosphere and the few stores I had not heard of.

Artsy Abode was a store I was not familiar with and I visited in search of some fun pieces for my new apartment in the upcoming semester. They had a few things that would be perfect in my apartment, but I left without anything.

I continued past more stores, like Betsey Johnson, a place I never shop at, but love going inside to see what fun designs are available. I went into MAC cosmetics, a great place to shop for make-up, particularly if an occasion arises and I need an extra-special look.

Charlotte is home to three major malls, all home to mostly the same stores as St. Johns Center. The only major difference being, those malls are all indoors.

BCBG Maxazria and Aldo Shoes were my next stop. Both places are more "uppity" than I can afford, but I enjoy stopping in and trying clothes and shoes on. Tired from shopping, I crossed the street and passed by Cole Haan and Juicy Couture.

Then I saw it! Bakers shoes! For those not in the know, Bakers offers a large selection of designer copycat shoes, at semi-reasonable prices. Going inside, I saw a pair of wedge sandals I fell in love with and felt I had to purchase. I reasoned the sandals were a necessity in Florida and the perfect souvenir from my summer here.

I walked by Lacoste and Puma. One of my favorite stores, Ann Taylor Loft, was down the way and I went into look around. Starving and tired, I stopped at the Nathan’s Hot Dog stand and grabbed a snack. Then sat down on a bench and enjoyed my hot dog and took in the scenery.

I had heard from some locals that the Town Center was only home to snobby stores, or that the parking was too much of a disaster to even venture there.

Not true.

Yes, parking was a bit of an issue, but once I found a spot, the shopping experience was very pleasant. I didn’t go to every store, I felt such a conquest is better left for multiple days, not just one. But, the Town Center did have what I was looking.

Next time, I should leave my wallet at home to avoid going broke.

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Mary Elizabeth Robertson is a journalism student spending her summer on the First Coast. She'll be interning for the Jacksonville Observer and writing a twice-weekly column about her experiences called New Girl in Town.

Got a suggestion for something thing Mary Elizabeth should try?  Post a comment below!

7 Responses »

  1. "Yes, parking was a bit of an issue"

    How is parking at the Town Center an "issue"? There's tons of it, it's free and the spaces are all fairly wide.

    • There's tons of free parking if you want to go to Target or Best Buy on the ends. If you want to go to the main shops and stores in the "downtown" part of it, you either have to valet park at a restaurant, or find a spot way out of the way behind Dick's sporting goods or at the hotel in the back.

  2. Yeah, there's walking involved.

    It's hard to know where to park cause the thing is so long.

    What do you work for them or something?

    • No, I don't work for them. I'm just trying to understand how anybody could consider parking a problem when about 4 or 5 times as much area is consumed by parking as is used for shopping areas.

      Maybe we should just convert all shopping in Jacksonville to drive thrus.

  3. Mary E!! I love St. Johns! Many cute things have been purchased by this little girl from there! Just a question... when is parking ever not a problem at a shopping complex such as this one? A little "heart parking" never hurt anyone!
    <3 "Little"

  4. Jacksonville got this right or should I say SIMON MALLS. Maybe St. Johns Town Center has something to do with people not going downtown? Or maybe its the parking tickets, the bums and the one-way streets. St. Johns Town Center is like one gigantic black hole sucking up all the shopping business in the city. Maybe this is why they are getting $50 a square foot for retail space.

    And after all that...visit Town Center...witness the bad economy. Yeah, RIGHT.

    If you don't like to walk from a parking spot, ride with a Lexus owner. Lexus owners can park free at the Cheesecake Factory and the valet will actually park their car for them.