During the first three months of the year, the BestWestern Palm Beach Lakes Inn located across the street from the Palm Beach Outlets in West Palm Beach welcomed guests from across the world — some living as far away as New Zealand, Singapore and the United Arab Emirates.
Roughly 15 percent of the inn’s bookings between January and March were made by travelers living outside of the United States, according to the hotel.
Rick Netzel, the inn’s director of sales and marketing, said he started noticing an uptick in the number of international travelers staying at the hotel during the last quarter of 2016. He attributes the rise to the inn’s location across the street from the outlet mall, rising room rates in the county and Best Western’s name recognition across the world.
“The outlets, that was a game changer,” Netzel said.
Palm Beach Outlets opened in 2014, replacing the 45-year-old Palm Beach Mall, which had become a sign of blight along Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard and Interstate 95. During its first six months of operation, the outdoor shopping mall drew roughly 4 million visitors, mall officials have said.
Shopping ranks among the top activities for tourists who come to Palm Beach County. A 2012 tourism study found 30 percent of tourists said shopping was one of the reasons for their visit.
According to Discover The Palm Beaches, the county’s official tourism marketing arm, 739,000 international tourists visited the county last year, down from 774,000 in 2015.
You’re not alone. Yes, I’m talking to you, the person who is looking for a way home that doesn’t take you past a shopping mall. Or a way to your doctor’s appointment that won’t lead you along a street where cars will be stacked up in a right-turn lane to get to JC Penney’s.
I used to work at a mall. I was an assistant manager at Picture People at the Mall at Wellington Green while in college, and during the holidays I often walked 10 or 15 minutes from a distant parking space to the store.
And that was after I sat in traffic for 20 or 30 minutes just trying to find a parking space to begin with.
So I know all too well the pain of struggling to navigate traffic around a shopping mall during the holidays. That’s why I’ve put together this list of side roads and alternate routes to help you get around the deadlock.
All of these routes are going to take you a little out-of-the-way. But if you time it just right, you’ll save yourself the headache of sitting bumper-to-bumper with other frustrated drivers who just want to get home.
Check out my suggestions, then comment to share your ideas.
This is a great destination shopping area — but if you want to avoid it altogether, that could be difficult. Suggested routes: Military Trail to Kyoto Gardens Drive, then take Alternate A1A north to Donald Ross Road or south to Burns Road.
This area is surrounded by development, so there’s still quite a bit of potential for congestion, even on side roads. Suggested routes: Use either Village Boulevard or Australian Avenue to travel north and south and avoid the stretch of Palm Beach Lakes directly to the south of the mall, where most people access the shopping area’s parking lots.
I have a particular soft spot for these options, because I use them quite frequently. Suggested routes: If heading or coming from the west, use Stribling Way and State Road 7; if heading or coming from the east, use a combination of Lyons Road, Stribling Way and State Road 7.
This can be a little tricky; similar to the Palm Beach Outlets, the Boynton Beach Mall has seen a surge in surrounding development in recent years, especially with the addition of more homes in Renaissance Commons. If you don’t need to drive near this mall during the holidays, don’t. Suggested routes: For east-west travel, use Gateway Boulevard to the north or Boynton Beach Boulevard to the south. For north-south travel, take either Lawrence Road or head east of I-95 to take Seacrest Boulevard. (Again, these routes aren’t for people in a rush — just for those who want to avoid that bumper-to-bumper traffic you inevitably find near malls around the holidays.)
This area is a great destination shopping spot — along the lines of the Gardens Mall. It also happens to offer some of the more direct routes that let you get around it. Suggested routes: For north-south travel, take either Powerline Road or Military Trail. Just keep in mind that Military does not intersect with Glades Road, so if you need to get onto I-95 or Florida’s Turnpike, you may want to head St. Andrews Boulevard, which borders the mall south of Glades but saves you the trouble of going too far north or south. For east-west travel, take either Palmetto Park or Yamato roads.
Now it’s your turn: Comment to share your thoughts on holiday shopping traffic and how you try to avoid it each year.
The Palm Beach Outlets will host a breakfast with Santa and a holiday toy drive this weekend, according to mall officials.
Santa’s Breakfast & Kids Fun Time Holiday Party, sponsored by South Florida Parenting, runs from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. on Saturday. The event will be held in the shopping hub’s food pavilion.
Mall officials said Santa’s Breakfast is full and no longer accepting RSVPs but the public can still attend the FREE Kids Fun Time Holiday Party, which will feature cookie decorating, face painting, holiday crafts, and music and games with prizes. Santa Claus also will be on hand for photos and each family who poses with Santa will receive two FREE 4×6 inch photos and one digital download.
Palm Beach Outlets and Art of Speed Auto Events will hold a holiday toy drive from 9 a.m. to noon on Sunday. The event is part of a monthly automotive meet and greet for auto enthusiasts.
This month’s theme is “Supercars and Superstars Holiday Toy Drive.” Guests are encouraged to bring an unwrapped toy to donate to the Children’s Healing Institute annual charity toy drive. All exotics, classics, hot rods, supercars, muscle cars, high-end sports cars and euros are welcome to attend this family-friendly event. Cost is $5 per vehicle to display in the show field and free to spectators. Hot coffee and breakfast items will be available for purchase.
The mall unveiled Santa’s “Enchanted Garden photo set” this month. As part of the display, the mall’s grand court has been “dressed up in magical style with boughs of evergreen, decadent, treasure-filled trees, twinkling lights, snow-covered drifts, and festive adornments of red, green, gold and silver.”
Photos with Santa in the Enchanted Garden through Christmas Eve and are available during mall hours.
The mall has also brought back its annual “FastPass” for Santa photos, which allows families to skip the line by scheduling a time for their visit. The passes can be purchased on the mall’s website. For more information, click HERE.
Photo packages with Santa range from $27 to $48.
The cheapest photo package ($27) includes:
One 5 x 7
Two 4 x 6s
Two 3 x 5s
$10 card from Shutterfly
The most expensive package ($48) includes:
Four 5 x 7s
Four 4 x 6s
Four 3 x 5s
Hi-Res Photos on Flash Drive
Santa will pose for photos next to the mall’s annual Ice Palace. Every child who visits Santa will receive a cookie plate gift and a special offer from Lion Country Safari to visit their park during the holidays.
The Ice Palace is open all mall hours with the exception of Christmas Eve, when the hours will be 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Santa takes short break to feed the reindeer from 12:15 p.m. to 1 p.m. and 6:15 p.m. to 7 p.m. Mondays-Saturdays and from 2 p.m. to 2:45 p.m. on Sundays.
The 2016 Ice Palace at The Mall at Wellington Green is described as a “magical, interactive experience for the entire family. Featuring baby arctic animals, guest can make an icy hand print, compare their height to a polar bear, and enjoy a 360 degree visual display complete with snow fall inside a 30’ Ice Palace. The experience culminates with a visit with Santa.”
Each family will receive two 4×6 Santa photo prints and a high-res digital download of single image. Additional photos and Christmas merchandise available for purchase. One giveaway per family, per Christmas season.
Now through December 23, 2016
11:00 a.m. – 7:00 p.m. Monday – Thursday
11:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m. Friday – Saturday
12:00 p.m. – 6:00 p.m. Sunday
Photo Hours on Christmas Eve
9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m.
The Town Center at Boca Raton Santa Experience offers keepsake photo packages starting at $24.99. This holiday season, guests can also choose a Hasbro toy or a $20 Shutterfly promo card gift with select Santa photo packages.
The mall also allows shoppers to make an appointment for photos with Santa. To schedule a photo, click HERE.
Beginning on Black Friday, the Outlets will give each family two free professional Santa photos along with a digital download of a single image. The retail center notes: one giveaway per family, per Christmas season. Some restrictions may apply.
The giveaway, the first of its kind for the outdoor shopping hub, continues through Christmas Eve.
Additional photos and Christmas merchandise will be available for purchase.
“This is a first for us and we are thrilled to give this extraordinary holiday gift to all of our shoppers,” said Palm Beach Outlets Marketing Director Pam Rada. “We hope this personalized keepsake will add to their holiday spirit.”
The first 500 people to spend $100 on Friday, November 25, will receive a free Black Friday Fanatic tote bag. Shoppers should bring their receipts to the Guest Services table in Center Court to receive the free gift.
Description: In addition to the Phantom 5K, Monster Mile and Devil Dash, kids can take part in a costume contest and mall-wide trick-or-treating with participating stores. For more information and to register for any of the races, log onto register.racepartner.com/PhantomRun. Proceeds benefit Quantum House, a caring and supportive home that lessens the burden for families whose children are receiving treatment in Palm Beach County for a serious medical condition.
“Trunk or Treat” Auto Event and Costume Party
Who: Palm Beach Outlets and Art of Speed Auto Events
What: “Trunk or Treat” Auto Event and Costume Party, the theme of this month’s Cars & Coffee Palm Beach event. This monthly gathering of South Florida’s finest automobiles will feature super heroes and super cars and is expected to attract auto enthusiasts from south and central Florida to viewa massive diversity of exotic, custom and classic vehicles. All makes and models are welcome to attend this family-friendly event. Cost is $5 per vehicle to display in the show field and free to spectators. Hot coffee and breakfast items will be available for purchase.
When: 9 a.m. to noon, Sun., Oct. 30
Where: In the northwest and north lot of Palm Beach Outlets, 1751 Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, West Palm Beach
Description: Everyone is invited to dress for a fun day of Halloween. Only children 15 years or younger can wear a mask. Participants may choose to offer “store bought” candy from their cars for trick-or-treating kids. No homemade candy is allowed.