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I love to shop, and Bergen County is a great place to drop a buck or two. Here is my current list of the top five shopping destinations in The BC. I’m sure I will issue a new list in the future, seeing as our malls and towns are forever changing, but these are the top five hot spots of the moment:

1. City Place, Edgewater

This outdoor promenade of shops and restaurants is the perfect place to visit on a warm summer day. Situated along the Hudson River, you’ll enjoy the New York City backdrop as well as the cool breezes off the water. There’s something for everyone here including Anthropology, Ann Taylor Loft, Banana Republic, Pier 1 Imports, and several other specialty shops and boutiques. And if you get hungry, try one of City Place’s five dining options including Panera Bread and Bergen County’s well known Baumgart’s Cafe.

2. Garden State Plaza, Paramus

As New Jersey’s largest shopping mall, Garden State Plaza is filled with almost 300 stores, specialty shops, and boutiques. It houses five department stores: Nordstrom, Lord & Taylor, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, and J.C. Penney. There’s upscale shopping with boutiques like Louis Vuitton and Michael Kors. If you’re looking to buy basics, check out J.Crew or Express or Abercrombie & Fitch. If you want something funky, peek into H&M or the brand new Kira Plastinina boutique. For bath and beauty products, visit Sephora or Aveda or C.O. Bigelow. And if you get hungry, choose from one of the mall’s 45 dining options. My personal favorites are California Pizza Kitchen, Grand Luxe Cafe, and Legal Sea Foods. And if you still have energy to spare after a long day of shopping, check out what’s playing at the brand new 16-screen AMC Theatre.

Garden State Plaza is a perfect rainy day adventure. Just don’t be surprised if you have trouble finding a good parking spot.

3. Miracle Mile, Ridgewood

With its beautiful tree-lined streets and its mix of tudor and classic colonial architectural styles, Ridgewood is truly the “Pleasantville” of Bergen County. The center of Ridgewood, situated along East Ridgewood Avenue between Broad Street and Maple Avenue, has been deemed the Miracle Mile…and it’s easy to understand why. This main drag is filled with a wide variety of boutiques and specialty shops. Women’s wear designer Yansi Fugel has her flagship store here. Across the street is Shoe Inn, which carries a great selection of moderate to expensive women’s shoes. And if you didn’t get your shoe fix from Shoe Inn, check out Just Our Shoes around the corner on North Walnut, with Bergen County’s premier selection of Mephistos.

If you’re shopping for your kitchen, bath, or home, stop in to the innovative and luxurious Waterworks or the more traditional Pierre Deux. Are you in the market for hand-crafted wood furniture? Checkout the Pompanoosuc Mills showroom, which anchors the Miracle Mile at the bottom of the hill (in the old Sealfons building). If you’re looking for basic apparel, there’s GAP, GAP Kids, Lucky Jeans, and Ann Taylor. Feeling crafty? Stop by the Bazaar Star Beadery where you can pick out your own beads and make your own necklace or bracelet. If you’re after the real bling, there are several jewelry stores lining the main drag including Paris Jewelers and Lenore Jewelers.

And if you build up an appetite while journeying through all of these great shops, there’s a huge selection of dining options, perhaps one of Ridgewood’s more well-known attributes. For a delicious light meal of Greek and Italian classics, try Mediterraneo on North Broad Street. Wild Ginger on Chestnut Street serves up some of the county’s best sushi. Winberie’s on Oak Street is perfect for American classics. If you’re craving caffeine, visit the Ridgewood Coffee Company, a town staple. There’s also a Starbucks for those who can’t part with their Caramel Macchiatos.

Ridgewood is ideal for a spring or autumn day, and a good parking spot isn’t too hard to find. Just be sure to bring a lot of quarters for the meter.

4. The Shops at Riverside, Hackensack

Located on Route 4 west, The Shops at Riverside is The BC’s swankiest shopping destination. Anchored by a large Bloomingdale’s and Saks Fifth Avenue, the mall houses over 80 high-end boutiques and shops including Burberry, Hugo Boss, Salvatore Ferragamo, Hermes, Barneys Co-Op, and Tiffany & Co. But don’t worry…there are also more affordable options like GAP, Banana Republic, J.Crew, Ann Taylor, and Chicos. If you’re buying for your tots, the mall has several specialty children’s wear stores including Janie and Jack, La Petite Gaminerie, and Hanna Andersson. And did I forget to mention the huge two-floor Pottery Barn?

If you get hungry, you’re definitely in the right place. The mall has seven (soon to be eight) delicious sit-down restaurants to choose from. Stop by The Cheesecake Factory for their infamous huge-portioned meals, and try to save room for the cheesecake. Just be prepared to wait a while for a table. P.F. Chang’s serves up Chinese classics with a modern twist. If you’re in the mood for Italian, I highly recommend Maggiano’s. In fact, I highly recommend every restaurant at The Shops at Riverside. And if you do have to wait for a table, give your cell phone number to the hostess and continue your shopping adventures until your table is ready.

5. Tice’s Corner, Woodcliff Lake

Chances are you didn’t even know this shopping center existed. Located off Garden State Parkway exit 171 in Woodcliff Lake, Tice’s Corner has become a shopping hot spot for northern Bergen County residents. The open strip mall sits on the former site of Tice Farm and is home to such stores as Anthropology, J.Crew, Pottery Barn, Express, Talbots, and The Apple Store. There’s also a Panera Bread, which gets very busy around lunchtime.

Tice’s Corner is a great alternative to traveling down to one of the larger malls in Paramus. You can leisurely stroll from store to store or get in and get out as quickly as you’d like. It’s a perfect destination for a beautiful sunny day, and parking is very rarely a problem. Just beware during the holiday season…you’ll need a lot of patience dealing with the aggressive soccer moms and their monstrous SUVs.

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I love Garden State Plaza. Being from northern Bergen County, it’s always been my mall of choice…and why not? It is home to the largest Nordstrom in New Jersey, the biggest Banana Republic on this side of the Hudson, a huge Macy’s (not taking into consideration its lack of organization and helpful associates), and a massive 16-screen AMC Theatre with über-comfy seats.

As the largest mall in New Jersey, Garden State Plaza houses hundreds of chain and unique stores. It has J.Crew, Club Monaco, a very large GAP, Urban Outfitters, Free People, Sephora, Teavana, Papyrus, Restoration Hardware, and the list goes on. And as a testament to its upscale status, it is now home to such boutiques as Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Juicy Couture, Louis Vuitton, Stewart Weitzman, and Missoni.

If you build up an appetite while strolling the 2.13 million square feet of retail space, there are plenty of great meals to be had at one of the mall’s 45 dining options. There’s a Grand Luxe Café, with its extensive menu and huge portions. For a fine dining experience, try Napa Valley Grille. If you’re in the mood for Italian, hit up the recently renovated Paparazzi. And if you’re craving Mexican, head out to the free standing On the Border by the Route 17 entrance.

With all that I just mentioned, you’re probably wondering what’s not to love about Garden State Plaza. Well for starters, the parking situation is terrible. If you go to the mall during the week, you shouldn’t have a problem finding a good spot. I like to park in the Nordstrom/Lord and Taylor parking deck, and I more often than not grab a spot on the second or third tiers, sometimes even on the first. But on the weekends, parking at the mall is a disaster.

Unless you feel like waiting over 20 minutes for that perfect spot or having an argument with one of New Jersey’s world-renown aggressive drivers, It’s not worth trying to find a spot within the direct ring of Garden State Plaza Boulevard. So I usually find myself parked in the lot across the roadway and on the other side of the stream from the JC Penney entrance. I’m not a lazy person, so I don’t mind walking. I do mind, however, traversing the very busy roadway to get to the mall entrance. Sometimes mall security helps to direct traffic, but I’ve experienced crossing the roadway during the weekend sans security and it is downright dangerous!

My next spiel with Garden State Plaza is the traffic. If you’ve ever been to the mall during the holiday season, then I’m sure you’ve experienced the insanely long lines just to get out of the parking lots, not to mention the additional traffic on Routes 4 and 17. Unfortunately, not much can be done about the traffic situation. As it is, Bergen County has very minimal space for roadway expansion, and it appears that the Garden State Plaza has just about tapped out its buffer space. Word to the wise…shop online when you know the mall is going to be difficult to maneuver.

And finally, I loathe the new generation of mall rats that scour the mall looking for trouble. Just the other day I was riding the escalator, and in the opposite direction several punk teenagers were riding the rails, interfering with other shoppers and inevitably putting their own lives at risk. I don’t go to the mall to be bombarded by immature adolescents looking for cheap thrills. I like to shop in peace and solitude, and lately, that hasn’t been the case. I understand that the mall attracts an array of people from all walks of life. But for the sake of others and your own well-being, put your grownup pants on and act like an adult.

So there you have it…my love-hate relationship with Garden State Plaza. I may have a bad experience from time to time, but it never stops me from coming back for more. After all, where else am I going to find all the stores I love under one roof around here?

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