20 great destinations for shopping

Shoppers of all kinds will fall in love with the places that made this list of the top 20 cities for shopping. Whether you live nearby or are planning a trip, this list offers places ideal for anyone in need of some retail therapy.

New Orleans, Louisiana

The French Quarter and Bourbon Street are only the starting point in the unique shopping destinations you’ll find in New Orleans. Stroll the French Market and pick up vibrant art from street vendors, or dash down a side street and discover one of the many galleries and specialty shops that sell one-of-a-kind items. This is also where you’ll find all manner of New Orleans themed clothing, voodoo dolls, postcards, and other tourist finds.

After exploring The Quarter, head to Magazine Street, where many of the city’s college students and young professionals flock. If treasures for the home are what you are looking for, then trek to Aux Belles Choses, a “shabby-chic” shop where the owners hand-pick each addition to their store. For the hottest fashions, try Buffalo Exchange and Funky Monkey, where hip fashionistas trade in their old clothes for new outfits and accessories. Be on the lookout for the latest trends and vintage frocks and accessories.Toronto, Canada
I love the the Distillery District, a pedestrian mall and historical district where a number of Toronto’s emerging artists and designers have shops. Tour the works of art at one of Thomas Landry Gallery’s two locations or browse rack after rack of denim masterpieces at Lileo. Peruse the collections of artists like Wendy Walgate, who create pieces with deep meaning out of familiar materials.

Established in 1975, Courage My Love is a Bohemian shopping mecca and is where Hollywood stylists and starlets flock to accessorize. It’s like looking through a friend’s closet, if the closet just happened to take up an entire store. If luxury is more your style, then make tracks to Zenobia, where a personal shopper will compile a perfect wardrobe for you. Your Zenobia representative will help you craft your style months in advance then have your pieces tailored in season.

Tokyo, Japan
The pomp and ceremony at Mitsukoshi is incredible. Founded in the 17th Century, this Japanese department store chain has the most outstanding customer service I have ever seen. Here you can find everything from traditional Japanese garb to gardening tools. Visit the main store in the Nihombashi District or one of the other buildings placed conveniently throughout the city. Another historical and traditional store is Kyukyodo, which sells stationary and writing supplies. Here, even sheets of paper can be works of art.

Boston, Massachusetts
Boston is a city of American prestige and history. While you are here, take in the sights and enjoy the city’s luxuries. At Firestone and Parson, you can find fine exquisite antique estate jewelry and silver as as well as new baubles. Louis Boston is one of the world’s premier sellers of fine clothing. The staff is second to none, and they go the extra mile to get to know their customers. They will work with you to ensure your new wardrobe matches the current fashion climate and your own personal style. While you are in town, design a custom handbag at Lill Studio or, if you don’t have the time, browse their ready-made collection. This innovative store makes shopping an affair to remember.

Marrakesh, Morocco
For Western travelers, Morocco is an exotic and exciting shopping destination. This is why the winding streets around Marrakesh’s Djamaa El Fna Square, with its labyrinth of treasures, plus its hustlers and haggling shopkeepers, is a must see. For a dizzying array of local and international herbs and spices, visit Herboriste du Paradis.

Beijing, China
Beijing is a flourishing shopping city set in the shadow of the iconic Great Wall. You can visit the traditional night market and pick up the usual tourist trinkets, but it’s the quiet cultural revolution taking place here that really gets me excited. China’s art scene is exploding, and I’ve found that it’s easier than ever to find works by contemporary Chinese artists. Formerly a state owned factory district, the 798 Art District is an amazing collection of designer boutiques and galleries, where you can find everything from pop art to chic designer clothing. It is breathtaking to see how the artists-in-residence have transformed and divided their space.

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates
Abu Dhabi is a land of luxury and excess for travelers. Enjoy the modern feel and energetic nightlife, but I would suggest visiting shops with a more local feel. Al Motahajiba sells traditional head scarves and Muslim dress, but you can also find glamorous party dresses and formal wear. Some of these dresses will leave you breathless (but so might the price tags). And, if you truly want to experience Middle Eastern luxury at its best, shop at The Paris Gallery, where you will find traditional perfumes and exclusive luxury products.

Mumbai, India
Mumbai is a bustling, busy, and sometimes dirty city. My favorite shopping destination was Mangadalas Market, where there are plenty of bargains on everything from textiles to clothing, both modern and traditional. This is a great place to find accent pieces (and fabrics to make your own) for your home. Women should definitely check out Naina’s, where you can order customized saris. And, Cottage Industries Emporium has an unbelievable selection of crafts made by skilled Indian artisans.

Tahiti, French Polynesia
For me, Tahiti is THE place to buy pearls. You can find the natural marvels in every shape, color, and size. At Te Tevake Creations, carved mother of pearl and natural pearls are used in exquisite jewelry combinations. Robert Wan offers pearl jewelry in distinctive designs. If you’re looking for more traditional arts and crafts to prove you were here, try the market Le Marche.

Istanbul, Turkey
Istanbul is full of fascinating bazaars and traditional retailers. I loved navigating the stalls at The Grand Bazaar, even though I only got to experience a handful of the loud, bustling marketplace. It has more than 4,000 shops and was established in the 15th Century. The Spice Bazaar is much smaller, but the selection of edible treasures in the form of spices, teas, and more is dizzying. And, at Melda Silverware, the traditional silver is simply stunning.

— The above was written by Wendy Withers, Seed contributor

Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii

I stumbled upon the Ala Moana Center in Honolulu, Hawaii, while searching for a place to buy sandals and I ended up spending hours there. Besides having almost 300 popular stores, the indoor/outdoor setup of the Ala Moana Center provides the ideal environment for both enjoying the Hawaiian heat and cooling off.

Chinatown in Seattle, Washington
Having visited the Chinatown districts of many cities, it’s safe to say that Seattle’s International District beats them all. Besides the shopping, it offers numerous art galleries, restaurants and bars. The Venus Karaoke bar is a must for experiencing karaoke the traditional Asian way, in a private room without strangers watching as you belt out a tune.

Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, Arizona
As I strolled around the Desert Ridge Marketplace in Phoenix, I couldn’t help but feel as though I was walking in a stunning desert park. It’s a place where you can easily spend an entire day. After visiting the shops, I enjoyed an outdoor dinner as I watched the sun set. After the meal I relaxed and painted pottery at the As You Wish Pottery Painting Place, and played video games at Dave & Buster’s while waiting for it to be finished.

Georgetown Flea Market in Washington, DC
The Georgetown Flea Market is perfect for bargain hunters searching for vintage items. Perusing the market is half the fun, rummaging through the antique pieces wondering what you will find. I was lucky enough to come across 3 vintage 1950’s dresses, all for a discounted price significantly lower than anyplace else I have purchased them in the past.

Greenwich Village, New York City
The Greenwich Village shopping experience is unlike any other and is what landed it on this list of the 20 best cities for shopping. Every trip made to Strand Bookstore results in a rare find, and I still love the bright pink fishnets purchased at Ricky’s. The best find of all time? An authentic vintage Chinese wedding gown for the low price of $100, found amongst other unique items at Stella Dallas.

Lancaster, Pennsylvania
Lancaster, Pennsylvania offers diverse shopping. I scored an Amish rocking chair then enjoyed a family-style Pennsylvania-Dutch home cooked meal. The city’s multiple outlet centers prompt return trips every year, and is especially beneficial for school shopping. Extensive sales often bring the prices down to less than $10 an item, and on my last trip to the Lancaster outlets, I left with 12 items for less than $100.

Siena, Italy
The shopping in Siena, Italy provides a noteworthy alternative to the shops found in Rome or Milan. In addition to the many boutiques, Siena offers a variety of weekend markets. I purchased handmade bowls at a tremendous discount as well as several homemade bottles of olive oil that incidentally were selling for $10 more in Rome.

Piccadilly Circus in London, England
A major intersection in London, at first glance Piccadilly Circus doesn’t seem to have much to offer for shopping. However once the weekend comes, Piccadilly springs to life. The weekend market is the perfect place to purchase small trinkets and inexpensive souvenirs. I was able to score postcards, small purse and handmade paper, all on a student budget.

South Congress Street in Austin, Texas

South Congress Street in Austin, Texas, better known as “SoCo,” epitomizes the Austin experience. With a motto of “Keep Austin Weird”, the city boasts several unique and odd places to shop. Staying at the famous Austin Motel on SoCo allowed me to feel like a local, drinking coffee at the trendy Austin Java while taking in the shopping on a daily basis. I came home with loads of fun accessories, one-of-a-kind clothing items and handmade soaps all made by local Austin folks.

The Grove in Los Angeles, California
If you enjoy shopping at a traditional mall, you will love the last of the 20 best cities for shopping, The Grove in L.A. Instead of housing the shops in one building, The Grove spreads the stores across an outdoor pavilion riddled with water fountains. The atmosphere is ideal for taking in the beautiful Los Angeles weather, and I was able to meet several local people who recommended night spots.

— The above was written by Rebecca Reinstein, Seed contributor

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Fiesta: Tokyo’s Hidden Karaoke Gem

I’m not going to lie – I am a karaoke aficionado. Back in Austin, TX I hosted karaoke every week (mainly so that I could cut the line whenever I wanted) and I invented something called Tazeroke.

I knew that they loved karaoke in Japan, so I was pumped to sing when I arrived here. However, after a trying conversation with the girl behind the desk of a karaoke establishment, I had a shocking realization.

All of the karaoke here is in private rooms.

There are no karaoke bars with stages and random patrons to bask in your superstar glory. And for us Westerners, that’s what karaoke is all about – being a rock star for three and a half minutes.

Some research revealed one exception to this national rule. In Roppongi, on the third floor of a building tucked away on a little side street there is a place called “Fiesta.” You’d never find it if you didn’t know it was there.

Last night my friend Todd and I had the honor of being guests of Shintaro Mimura, the director of Fiesta. And let me tell you – this is karaoke at its finest.

Most karaoke bars in the US are regular bars with karaoke as an afterthought. Not Fiesta. Mr. Mimura is a die-hard karaoke lover and it shows.

The room has a three big seating areas, all with good views of the small stage in the corner. The stage has a full lighting rig, three microphones, and monitor speakers. The system itself is connected to the internet and automatically downloads new songs as they come out. The sound system is fantastic.

The best part of Fiesta may be the crowd. It’s largely regulars and they stand up and sing along with every song they know. Most of the singers are good enough that they’re actually fun to listen to – especially Mr. Mimura. If you go, make sure you ask him to sing some Beastie Boys. I’ve heard a lot of people try to sing the Beastie Boys, and he blew them all away.

To find your way to Fiesta, check out their website at www.fiesta-roppongi.com. I’ll be back there on Saturday, March 29, so if you’re in Tokyo come down and sing with me.

Big in Japan: A Night Out at Tokyo’s Gas Panic

There is a house in Tokyo.
They call the Rising Sun.
It’s been the ruin of many a poor foreigner,
and me, o’ God, for one.

If I had listened what Mamma said,
I’d ‘a’ been at home today.
Being so young and foolish, poor boy,
let a pretty Japanese girl lead me astray.

The only thing a drunkard needs
is a night out at Gas Panic.
The only time he’s satisfied
is when he’s out on a drunk.

Fills his shot glasses to the brim,
passes them around
only pleasure he gets out of life
is chasing girls around Tokyo.

Let’s clear something up right off the bat. If you think Japan is all about order, cleanliness, subservience, minimalism and restraint, clearly you’ve never been out in Tokyo on a Friday night.

Although I’m an American (one of the few who has a passport I might add), I consider myself to be fairly well traveled. And, being that I love a good drink from time to time, I make it a point of exploring the night life in virtually every country I visit.

Truth be told, and feel free to disagree with me to your heart’s content, Tokyo’s raging nightlife bests New York City, London, Paris, Hong Kong and just about any other city that I know. Of course, this shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise, given that 35+ million people working 100+ hours per week need to let out some steam from time to time.

If you ever do find yourself in Tokyo, make a point of stopping by a little place in Roppongi known as ‘Gas Panic.’ I promise you that you’ll never look at Japanese people the same way again.

Gas Panic is one of the most notorious clubs in Tokyo, particularly because it’s a mixing ground for foreigners on the prowl and Japanese ready to give it up. It’s a bastion of cheap liquor, sultry beats, loose women, hungry men and enough dancing space to loosen up the legs as well as the drawers. It also serves as a classic introduction to the dirty underbelly of Japanese culture, which sits at the opposite end of the spectrum from raked pebble gardens and silken kimonos.

Now, I know there are a healthy number of resident foreigners and self-respecting Japanese who won’t go near Roppongi, let alone the den of sin that is Gas Panic. But, I’ve always believed that in order to fully understand a culture, you need to experience its best and its worst.

And, let me tell you – Gas Panic is arguably Japan at its worst.

But of course, a little booze and some casual sex never hurt anyone, which is why Gas Panic has reached the heights of fame amongst those in the know. It’s the kinda place where you can forget your name, forget your identity, forget all about life’s little troubles, and most likely forget most of the night if you don’t go easy on the booze.

Sure, it’s sinful, but a little hedonism never damned anyone…

To reach Gas Panic, take the Hibiya Line to Roppongi or a taxi to Roppongi Crossing. The club is located off of Roppongi-dori just past the Don Quijote department store.