While online and big-box competition may continue to chip away at this vaunted model of suburban consumerism, the holiday season in particular—when shoppers are seeking out an experience as much as a carload of goodies—is the mall’s time to shine in all of its brick-and-mortar glory. That’s certainly the case at several of the more upscale “lifestyle centers” that have emerged as the leaders of the next generation of suburban malls, which offer a reminder that there’s more to holiday shopping than mouse clicks and free shipping.
The Promenade of Bolingbrook
631 East Boughton Road, Bolingbrook
630.296.8350 | shoppingpromenade.com
The holidays get off to a bright start on November 11 with the Festival of Lights, when over 250,000 colorful bulbs adorning the Promenade’s 48-foot-tall tree switch on for the first time to begin a season of nightly on-the-hour shows of choreographed twinkling to festive carols. Amid the accompanying ornament making, cookie decorating, wagon rides and ice carving, this will also be the first opportunity for families to pass their holiday wishes along to the Jolly Old Elf in his heated tent.
Fashion Outlets of Chicago
5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont
847.928.7500 | fashionoutletsofchicago.com
In addition to extended hours and a marathon 24-hour Black Friday shopping event, the major holiday draw for this massive collection of highly desirable brands is Santa HQ. Opening November 10 (reservations available at santahq
.com), this free, interactive North Pole workshop for the digital age features a variety of tools designed to offer an augmented reality environment and an enhanced social media experience—so maybe leave the paper wish list at home.
100 Oakbrook Center, Oak Brook
630.573.0700 | oakbrookcenter.com
The granddaddy of high-end suburban retail greets the season with a variety of holiday happenings. On November 10, Santa Claus readies himself for a busy few weeks (with reservations available at celebrateyourholiday.com), while the nearby ice rink opens its frozen expanse to skaters of all ages and skill levels. In addition, on weekends starting November 24, shoppers can search for that perfect gift even beyond the mall’s more than 160 permanent tenants, as the Holiday Market features a wide array of local artisans and one-of-a-kind food merchants.