Shopping is a favorite American pastime that borders on obsession. Most don't take a vacation from shopping – they are likely to plan their vacations around it.
If that is the case, then Florida has what it takes – plenty of shopping opportunities! Over the years, shopping for souvenirs in Florida has changed dramatically. No doubt, these changes are, at least in part, due to the way we travel. Gone are the leisurely drives down two-lane roads with stops at mom and pop souvenir stands. In their place are high-speed interstate highways that allow us to travel for miles without stopping. Also, air travel is more popular than ever. The latest figures, representing the fourth quarter of 2000, show that 55 percent of Florida's 16.6 million tourists arrived by air. We are whisked to our destinations – often self-contained resorts – where we do little travelling while there.
Another factor has to be the sophistication of today's travelers. Air travel, good exchange rates, and popular destinations bring more international visitors to Florida every year. Shopping areas that market successfully to this segment tend to add European touches like sidewalk cafes and upscale shops. And, it seems that no matter where tourists come from, they want to be entertained, thus the introduction of shopping "experiences" that often include live entertainment.
Finally, let's not forget the Internet – it has changed the way we shop for everything!
When I was growing up here in Florida, my parents owned a souvenir shop on what was then a major highway in the Tampa Bay Area. That was back before the influences of specialty stores, outlet malls, and Walt Disney World.
Outside our little shop stood a flock of plastic pink flamingos and a mountain of conch shells. Inside were rows of souvenirs that were popular at the time – alligator handbags; t-shirts that simply said "Florida"; cypress-knee lamps; and, anything made of shells including lamps, dolls, key chains, and more. It wasn't enough that it looked like it came from Florida either, a souvenir had to be imprinted prominently with "Florida."
That was then. Now, tourist dollars are more likely to be spent on trendy clothes and decorations than on tacky trinkets. Also, tourists not only shop for souvenirs, but they flock to outlet malls to find bargains, and upscale specialty stores to find the unusual. They dine at sidewalk cafes or fancy restaurants that serve various cuisines, and are often entertained by live musicians.
Whatever the reasons for the changes in Florida shopping over the years, it is more fun than ever! You'll find quaint shopping villages and modern shopping meccas. You'll find sidewalk cafes, international cuisine, and plenty of entertainment. Make one of these destinations part of your next trip, and experience Florida shopping with a touch of international flair.