Courtesy Chicago CVB
A holiday shopping trip to a big city is perhaps the quickest sell a bank director will experience all year long. Just post the date and location, put on your Santa hat, turn on a little Johnny Mathis and roast a few chestnuts.
Then sit back and relax because the roster will soon be full.
Life shouldn’t be this easy, but who can resist a ride to the big city with someone else at the wheel and not having to worry about those hard-to-find parking spaces?
Who wouldn’t want to spend a day with friends amidst the most dazzling holiday sparkle? And who wouldn’t want the opportunity to Christmas shop ’til they drop at the biggest and best anchor stores and the tiniest of hip boutiques you can find only in the city?
This is a day that will attract your longtime members, busy boomers and 20-somethings. So while peeling those toasty chestnuts, ponder the idea of a second motorcoach.
The best way to kick off your bank group’s holiday season is to enjoy some hot chocolate and roasted chestnuts along Chicago’s Magnificent Mile the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
“We throw the best light festival and parade ever,” said Bill Schmitt, tourism manager with the Chicago Convention and Tourism Bureau.
The Magnificent Mile is an eight-block stretch along Michigan Avenue that offers 460 stores featuring luxury items and bargain buys. Retail giants like Macy’s at Water Tower Place, Saks Fifth Avenue at Chicago Place and Nordstrom at the Shops at North Bridge, and specialty stores such as American Girl Place make for happy girls of all ages.
Take a break when shopping in the Loop area on State Street, and grab a box of popcorn at Garrett Popcorn Shops at one of their three Loop locations, and then head for Urban Outfitters, Old Navy and Forever 21. For more than a little sparkle, the Midwest’s largest jewelry district on Wabash Avenue isn’t far.
“Great boutique shopping happens in the areas like Wicker Park-Bucktown shopping district. This is where trendy local designers show their stuff. For upscale shoppers, Lincoln Park is the place,” said Schmitt.
End the day at Christkindlmarket, a German-style market where brats, beer, carolers and gifts can be found during the holidays.
With 80 blocks of skyways that connect your group at their hotel with restaurants to shopping, there is no need to face the cold in Minneapolis. However, rosy cheeks are in fashion at this city’s Holidazzle Parades, a frequent event at the Nicollett Mall, a pedestrian mall that extends over 12 blocks of great shopping.
“From Thanksgiving weekend through Christmas, these festive parades feature storybook characters, choirs and lots of music,” said Kristen Montag, marketing communications manager for Meet Minneapolis.
The parade route includes Gaviidae Common, a mall with Neiman Marcus, Ann Taylor, cozy bookstores and spas. “The two-story flagship Target store is also at Nicollett Mall. Macy’s even offers an auditorium with a big holiday animated show — a great place to take the grandkids to see all the scenes,” said Montag.
Holiday decorations sparkle everywhere, including the Warehouse District, a historic area home to hip home decor and artistic pieces; Uptown, the place to find vintage apparel; and the Riverfront area, where one-of-a-kind gifts including wine and cheeses at Surdyk’s find their way to under the trees of bank travel shoppers.
While strolling down Memphis’ funky Beale Street during the holidays, multicolored strings of lights dangling from the juke joints, you just might hear the King of the Blues, B.B. King, crooning “Merry Christmas, baby — you sure did treat me nice” from his own restaurant on this famed bricked boulevard.
“Memphis is where to come for barbecue, blues and a gift you surely can’t find anywhere else,” said Alissa Clark, communications specialist with the Memphis Convention and Visitors Bureau. “My favorite places to shop are the local downtown galleries, like Art Under a Hot Tin Roof, where stunning art and jewelry are to die for, and the National Ornamental Metal Museum gift shop. This museum that offers a great view of the Mississippi River just so happens to have the coolest jewelry and household items crafted from metal.”
For those looking for a gift fit for a king, try Lansky Bros. The legendary shop is deemed Clothier of the King, as it was Elvis Presley’s favorite store. Today, it offers the traditional 1950s style that defined a generation. There are four Lansky Bros. shops around town, including the original in the historic Peabody Hotel.
Head back to merry Beale Street, and enter the Memphis Music store; there, take your pick of perhaps the largest collection of blues CDs in the South and locally crafted items from ties to clocks to toilet lids.
Next door, A. Schwab, established in 1876 and the only remaining original business on Beale Street, is a small warehouse full of quirky souvenirs and tchotchkes. Its motto says it all: “If you can’t find it at A. Schwab, you’re probably better off without it!”