By Velia Tarnoff
It's the holiday shopping season. Again. Didn't you just do this? You have to come up with something for everyone from Uncle Bob to Niece Violet – without breaking the bank. How will you make the magic happen this year?
Of course, our goal is to keep our dollars local, and we do that most of the year, right? The pressing goal this time of year is to preserve our sanity. We need ease and simplicity right about now.
I submit to you Fashion Outlets of Chicago, which are actually in Rosemont, Illinois, a western suburb of Chicago.
Open since 2013, it's the only two-story, indoor outlet mall in the Midwest. And, with its 130 stores and counting, it will cover everyone on your list.
In 2014, Fashion Outlets of Chicago earned the title of "The Best Factory Outlet Center" in the world at MAPIC, an international retail real estate show held in Cannes, France each November.
This place strikes the right balance of "fashion" and "outlet," in terms of vibe and prices. The second floor houses the premium brands without being stuffy; the first floor serves up familiar favorites, such as Chico's and Kipling.
Anchored by Bloomingdale's The Outlet Store, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Nordstrom Rack and Sak's Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, the complex also serves up stores from world-class brands, ranging from Prada and Gucci to Joe's Jeans and Tory Burch.
If the retail offerings don't deliver enough visual stimulation for you, you'll enjoy the many pieces of contemporary art sprinkled throughout the property, including Daniel Arsham's falling figure relief just outside the parking garage.
Speaking of parking, it's free all day, every day in the covered and attached structure. Plus, it's ample and "smart." Green and red lights tell you where the vacancies are and aren't, so you can spend less time searching and more time shopping.
And if you really want to maximize your shopping time, you'll make a weekend of it with one of three "Winter Shopping & Holiday Packages" offered by Loews Chicago O'Hare Hotel, which is about a two-minute walk from Fashion Outlets of Chicago.
Two of the packages include breakfast at The Ashburn, which is one of several restaurant options adjacent to the hotel. Dining at The Ashburn is worth the trip in and of itself. It's abundantly apparent – from the traditional Mexican breakfast Mexican chilaquiles to the Wisconsin-sourced beef spare ribs at dinner – that Executive Chef Jose Garay knows, loves and appreciates food.
The only Loews package that doesn't offer breakfast is custom-built for families. "Avoid Cabin Fever with a Winter Escape to Rosemont" will delight the little ones with its exclusive express pass to the "Santa HQ" Interactive Santa Experience, which is live now through Dec. 24. (I assume Santa has to hightail it out there to make his appointed rounds.)
Loews rounds out this package with goodies the family will love: Ice skating at the nearby Parkway Bank Park, an in-room movie credit and hot cocoa, replete with real whipped cream.
Chances are, you'll be able to cross off everything on your list – and have a little fun, too.
A short trip to Rosemont can ensure you stuff your car and your belly with good things – and keep your sanity intact at the same time.
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