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Shopping in Austin is a mixed bag of fun. It’s a very young, casual and laid back city so there’s not much in the way of formal style, fashion or art. Depending on what you’re looking for, you can find some very unique objects, or great deals.
Major areas to shop in alphabetical order are:
Arboretum Market: Located immediately off of Mopac and TX-183 about a 15 minute drive from downtown Austin. Officially the Arboretum is one shopping center, however the entire area has adopted the name and there is plenty of shopping within a few blocks. The shops are generally high end in a boutique-style open air environment. You will find national-chain suburban favorites such as Ann Taylor, Pottery Barn, Banana Republic, Gap, Victoria Secret, Williams and Sonoma, Coach, Sephora, as well as the only (tiny) Saks Fifth Avenue with Armani Cosmetics and a Louis Vuitton boutique. Across 183 and within a mile of that area you will find other stores such as REI, Crate and Barrel, as well as Costco Wholesale. Some unique stores include Heroes and Legacies, a small cigar and memorabilia shop with a good humidor and the only smoking club in Austin, as well as Luxe Apothetique, which is a hip retailer of cosmetics, toiletries as well as some fashion, and accessories.
Barton Creek Square Mall: Located off of both Mopac and 360 Barton Creek has all the boutique stores listed above as well as Abercrombie and Fitch, Aeropostale, etc., but in a mall environment. Department stores include Foley’s, Sears, Dillard’s, JC Penney and Nordstrom. The Nordstrom is respectable for the size. For a while you could find great deals on professional clothing since Austin’s so laid back no one wears suits. Barton Creek Square Mall also has the only Apple Store and Armani Exchange in Austin.
“The Drag”: Also known as Guadalupe between MLK and 30th Street. This area borders the UT campus so it has the traditional funky collegiate shops as well as the University Co-op and Urban Outfitters. On the weekends you can find an artists’ market that sells jewelry, accessories, small sculpture and other crafts in a courtyard between the 23 and 24th block of Guadalupe across from campus.
Central Austin: A few unique shopping areas dot the central west side of town. On North Lamar, the Central Market Shopping area centers around an upscale grocery store that all foodies must visit. HEB's "Central Market" offers an eye-popping array of fresh produce, meats, cheeses, breads, cakes and freshly prepared gourmet foods. The store's Cafe offers a great place to sit outside and enjoy a bite to eat or a glass of wine. Central Market shopping area also includes some Austin-original stores like Scarborough's, an upscale ladies clothing store; Paper Place, a stationery and gift store that carries beautiful papergoods and writing instruments; and Clarksville Pottery, a store offering a dazzling selection of high-quality pottery, ceramics, jewelry and gifts made by local artists. On 35th street across from Seton Medial Center, the 26 Doors Shopping Center is home to several independent clothing boutiques, gift shops, restaurants and salons. The center itself is darling with its tropically themed architecture and colors. Palm trees line the parking lot and lime stone pavers cover the sidewalks. This is a perfect spot for an afternoon gelatto at Teo's or a margarita on the patio at Santa Rita's.
Breed Hardware on 29th is a great store, it's got a LOT more than hardware, dishes, kitchen items, food items - great place to look for gifts for her or him. A little north of Central Austin off Mopac (Loop 1) , turn right on Anderson - their you will find Steinmart (great discounts on his, her's & home stuff), a Restoration Hardware, several furniture & fabric stores.
East 6th: Located on the East side of 35 this unique, hip and creative district is home some great hidden gems. If you're looking for handmade treasures and local craft the East Side is a must! The Lions Nest is a delightful and refreshing art gallery and handmade gift shop with a great collection of jewelry. Maga L Boheme will outfit you in trendy Austin-style clothing and HELM boots is a beautiful and thoughtful store where you can find handcrafted leather boots and belts for men. This district not only sports some of the best shopping the city has to offer, but it is also home to some of the best food trucks in Texas, ecclectic bars with abundant patio seating, and world famous restaurants, like Qui.
UT Themed Shopping: The University Co-op has the largest selection of UT Longhorn merchandise under one roof, and it's across the street from Campus! Also, Sue Patrick on Burnet has a very nice selection of UT-wear & other UT-themed items.
Downtown: Mostly offices, clubs and restaurants, but there are galleries and Texan memorabilia shops inter-dispersed up and down Congress Ave. On 6th and Lamar is a small urban/residential area where the world headquarters of Whole Foods Market resides. They also have their flagship store with 80,000 square feet that sells groceries, a full bakery, chocolatier, gelateria, coffee bar, massive chef’s case, etc. It is not just another grocery store and worth going if you enjoy food (not just organic food). Across the street is Waterloo Records, an independent record store and another Austin institution and Amy's Ice Cream, another local favorite. Occasionally they will have bands play as well as beer. There are also other galleries and boutiques within a few blocks of this area. Additionally, if you want to get a tattoo or piercing, your best bet is one of the shops up and down 6th street.
San Marcos: About 45 mins south of Austin on I-35 is quite possibly the world’s largest complex of outlet stores. Technically it is not Austin, but it might be worth the trip. There are two malls, one gigantic and the other large right across the street from one another. Between the two malls there are well over 200 stores that sell everything from clothes, shoes, accessories to house wares, furniture, and electronics. Serious shoppers can spend a week here. Avoid going on the weekend, especially holiday weekends as the crowds and lines in the most popular stores Gap can try even the most patient. Since they are outlet stores do not expect to find the latest fashions or first quality merchandise (most merchandise is off season though). Average savings is about 10-35% off retail, but better bargains are available for limited quantities of items. For furniture shoppers most stores do not offer shipping or assembly and often require that you take your merchandise by the end of the day.
2nd Street District: an up-and-coming cafe & shopping area, on and round 2nd Street between San Antonio St. and Red River St. Many boutiques feature local artists and designers, as well as unique goods not easily found elsewhere. For example, be sure to check out Sikara & Co.'s global and unique jewelry designs!
South Congress: Just south of downtown are a few Antique/resale shops that sell everything from Edwardian jewelry to blue Tina Turner-era hair wigs. You can spend half a day just going in and out of storefronts and gawking at their wares. This area also sports some wonderful restaurants, so you can fill up in between shops.
Domaine Shopping Center (North): One of Austin's newest malls, Domaine is upscale (it has a Neiman-Marcus), but also more regular shops like Sur la Table (cooking & kitchen) and Dillard's. It's an outdoor mall that you walk outside between stores. It has several good restaurants. Maggiano's is one of the more affordable ones.
Lakeline Mall (Far North, Cedar Park): This is another new mall. It's near 620 (Toll 45) & 183 in Cedar Park.