Shopping in the States
August 31, 2009 6:27 PM   Subscribe

I want to drive across the border for clothes + electronics - Where can I shop in the US of A? I'm from Canada - GTA.

Please suggest shopping areas / specific stores to find deals on clothes + electronics in the states. It must be reasonably close, such that I can drive down in the morning, shop, and then return in the evening / night.

I am located in the GTA.

Bonus points for tips on dealing with customs.
posted by FusiveResonance to Travel & Transportation (13 answers total)
Boston, Detroit and Seattle are the largest cities closest to the border...but the border is pretty long? And Boston's not really that close.

I guess there's Buffalo, NY, too, but I don't think of it as a shopping mecca.
posted by dfriedman at 6:30 PM on August 31, 2009

dfreidman - GTA refers to the Greater Toronto Area.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 6:46 PM on August 31, 2009

Detroit would be a 4-5 hour drive for you.

Buffalo is probably your best bet, because you can get there in 2 hours. there's plenty of shopping (and outlets). if you've never been to Target before, you should check it out - tons of great stuff for cheap.

not sure about electronics, so hopefully someone else has some suggestions...

if you have access to the internet on your cell phone, check the border wait times as you approach St. Catharines, so you know which highway to take (QEW to Peace Bridge or 405 to Lewiston).
posted by gursky at 6:48 PM on August 31, 2009

oh, as for customs - there are no tricks, really. i go across the border anywhere from 1-4 times a month, and there doesn't seem to be a 'typical' experience. sometimes i declare my shopping expenses and have to pull over to pay duty, sometimes i'm just waved right through. it doesn't matter how much i've spent or how long i've been in the US - it seems to be pretty random.

i find it much nicer returning to Canada though. the border guards are pretty relaxed, and more often than not, they welcome me back! o, Canada.
posted by gursky at 6:51 PM on August 31, 2009

Thanks for the explanation re GTA.
posted by dfriedman at 6:56 PM on August 31, 2009

We've done the Buffalo thing a few times in the last year or so and I've been really underwhelmed. Aside from a few things for the kids at Target nothing was really any cheaper than here, especially when you factor in the dollar (and we went when the Canadian dollar was worth MORE.) We sort of just bought stuff because we drove all the way so we might as well. I checked out clothes, electronics and even guitar deals. Maybe it's better now but it was disappointing.
Oh, but beer is insanely cheap there, which is great (the imported beer, that is.) But that's more because of our insane Canadian taxes. And when we go, we love to do the Canadian thing of going to a grocery store and marvelling at the aisles and aisles of junk food and buying crazy junk that you can't get here.
I agree about Customs, there's no tricks. I'd rather pay the $60 tax or whatever than deal with fines and who knows what else. Sometimes they just wave you through when you say what you bought, sometimes not. We saw 2 different people try to keep driving through when the Customs guy told them to pull ahead and go inside to pay their duty...then seconds later they're being chased by flashing cars and (apparently) it's an immediate $1000.
posted by chococat at 8:10 PM on August 31, 2009

Conversely, the only place to find Lime Crush is in Canada. And mint Aero bars. And the impossibly awesome Cherry Blossom.

Everyone from GTA comes the outlet mall in Niagara Falls (which is no bargain) and the Galleria Mall in Cheektowaga (ditto). They wear old clothes to the US and dump them in the parking lots and wear the new clothes back.

People in Buffalo go to Erie, PA, because there's no sales tax on clothing there. Not that the selection is anything great.

And no, you won't find anything particularly amazing at our guitar stores. They're all picked over by the likes of me.
posted by jdfan at 8:19 PM on August 31, 2009

Yeah, you'd want to go to Buffalo.

There are several crossing, when you get around St. Catharines call (or have your passenger call) 800-715-6722 for current bridge conditions.

You're not going to find OMG AMAZING SAVINGS!!! except maybe on booze and cigs. Especially not since the CAD went up and lots of things in Canada had their prices dropped.

Specific areas, with directions if you took the Rainbow Bridge and south on 190:

(1) Niagara Falls Blvd. When you smell what you think is your car about to explode, take 290 east to Niagara Falls Blvd south. Then there's a set of connected strip malls with Target, Best Buy, shit Lowes, Office Despot, various other big boxes. If you've never been, Target (pron. "tar-zhay") is worth a visit. I suppose it's like Zellers but better. A little farther south on NF Blvd is Boulevard Mall, which is a mall with standard mall stores. Across the street from the food court is a Wegman's, which is like one of those mongo-gigantic Loblawses but arguably better. It's seriously like the Platonic form of the supermarket.

(2) Galleria area. Keep going on 290E until there's a sign GALLERIA--> and go that way. It's a big fucking mall with higher-end stores than Boulevard Mall. There's also a Target in that vicinity, and a Borders.

(3) Transit Road. You'd want the exit from 290 to Sheridan, which is between NF Blvd and the Galleria. You want to go east. Keep going a ways through darkest suburbia and you'll get to Transit Road. You'll see Eastern Hills Mall kitty-corner to you, which is a smaller mall but tends toward the higher-end stores. If you keep going down Transit, there's a horde of big-box strip malls.

There are also the outlet malls in Niagara Falls, which I've never heard much good about. Or boutique-ier shopping in the Elmwood area of Buffalo proper. But when the Canuckian relations come to go shopping, it's usually at the big malls and Target. On the electronics side, I'd check out the Best Buy or Sears, dull as that sounds.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:06 PM on August 31, 2009

If you drive another couple of hours east, there are also the Waterloo Premium Outlets. If you decide to make the drive, wave to me as you pass exit 46 for Rochester!
posted by Wild_Eep at 9:22 PM on August 31, 2009

Ok, I'm a Canadian who used to live in Buffalo (I too now live in the GTA). There are definitely deals in Buffalo - much better deals than can be had in Toronto - but there are a couple tricks. For one, you have to be willing to go through the sale and clearance racks. The regular priced stuff, meh, not much difference. But end of season clearance in the US is ridiculous compared to Canada. Here, a pair of jeans at the Gap will go on clearance for $19.99. The exact same pair of jeans will be $9.99 or less in Buffalo. But of course you have to time it right, and by this point most of the good summer stuff is probably gone.

I disagree with those who said the outlet mall is crap. Sure it's a tourist trap, but I went there frequently and almost always left with good deals. Specifically, I liked the Children's Place, Stride Rite, and Gap and Old Navy outlets there.

Target is definitely another great place to go, for lots of things. I still stock up on John Frieda hair products when I go there; they're about 30-40% cheaper even with the conversion.
posted by yawper at 9:37 PM on August 31, 2009

If you're willing to fo farther, I've heard good things about the clothing stores in Grove City, PA. I think you're looking at a good 4 hours to get there, though, so you'd have to leave quite early, and leave late to make a full day of it.
posted by backwards guitar at 5:36 AM on September 1, 2009

I don't really buy electronics on the US side of the border (and rarely on the Canadian side FWIW), but I'd second Buffalo's Boulevard Mall. Many of the same stores as Galleria, but less picked over by tourists. They also have a carousel if you have youngsters in tow.

In the Detroit area I know of three malls worth looking at; Oakland Mall, (a short drive from all the chains, as well as Super Kmart), Twelve Oaks Mall, (somewhat higher end - not really my style), and Great Lakes Crossing - a larger cousin of Vaughan Mills.

I heard mixed things about shopping in Pennsylvania

(Sorry for not adding links - I'm trying to finish typing before my Leechblock kicks in.)
posted by Chuckles McLaughy du Haha, the depressed clown at 6:36 AM on September 1, 2009

Thanks for all the answers. I'd like to mark them all as best answer but that seems a little communist.

I have decided that I am not going to drive down specifically to shop in Buffalo. I suppose I'll just stop by if I'm ever down there.
posted by FusiveResonance at 2:08 PM on September 1, 2009

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