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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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