The Top Shopping Malls in Boston and Cambridge, Massachusetts

If you are looking to shop your way around your Boston vacation, you have many options. One of those choices in particular, is to situate yourself in one of the three major malls for the day and squander your money on new articles of brand name designer clothing, one of a kind novelty (or non) souvenirs for the people back home, and possibly some chocolate truffles to carry along for the ride. The mall alternative to random Boston store shopping is good for traveling tourists because you can pretty much find everything you need and more in one huge building. Sure, there are plenty of great independent shopping spots in the city of Boston, but if you have only a limited time here, the mall is your best option. If you do decide to visit a mall during your stay in Boston, though, you best be aware of your option and what each one entails, before wasting your time in a place that is not quite your style. Because the three major shopping malls in and around Boston as accessible to public transportation, are extremely different in scope. Whether you choose to shop till you drop for exclusive designer name clothes at Copley Place, tourist necessities and take home gifts at the Prudential Center Mall, or for the latest clothing styles as dictated by some of your typical, everyday, but all the while, trendy and fun favorite stores at the Cambridge Side Galleria Mall in Cambridge, you best know what to expect. This will prevent wasted time, wasted money and wasted leg muscles that you are surely going to need if you plan to spend a few days bopping around Boston’s hot spots. It is indeed a walking city.
So� an overview on the three major malls:

The Copley Place Mall
100 Huntington Avenue
(617) 369-5000

**Copley Stop on Green Line Subway (Walk West On Boylston, Cross library grounds across Copley Plaza open park area and towards Park Plaza Hotel, enter through Westin Hotel or continue a block further to a main mall entrance in front of Back Bay Station)
**Back Bay Stop on Orange Line Subway (Exit to Exeter Street and look ahead to right)

Copley Place, located in the heart of Boston’s Back Bay Copley Plaza, is a mall of great distinction and luxury when it comes to shopping areas in the Massachusetts state. People come from all over to visit the two floors of 100 or so total stores that make up the prestigious mall. The mall complex also is home to thousands of office facilities and a parking garage, but the main attractions, that include shopping and dining, are located on the first two floors of the 9.5 acre center. Copley Place is the place to shop if you are looking for those stores in the “exclusive” category. In other words, if you have a ton of money to spend on high quality brand name products, this place will be like a heaven for you. With stores like Barneys of NY, Saks Fifth Avenue, Coach and Gucci, there is not a single outlet in the Copley Place mall that one would consider thrifty. And that goes for make, name and reputation alike. There are also some lower end nice designer style stores in the mall like Bebe, J. Crew, and Banana Republic, these being a category of stores that are still hip and trendy but not as costly and the clothes are not as formal or hand designed as each an original piece of artwork as is the case in many specialty stores. Copley Place also has a Godiva Chocolate Store and a movie theatre. The movie theatre is definitely not up to par with the top notch cleanliness and shall I say, richness of the rest of the mall, as I know from experience, but they have dedicated their screenings in the past few years to strictly independent and foreign films so they draw in quite a diverse crowd with that. However, I will stress that the unique film showings are pretty much the only reason one would find themselves attending this grungy, old looking and old smelling cinema. Still, though, I suppose that is a good reason, if there were any. Next to the cinema on the ground floor is a Chilis restaurant, which is the only one that is directly inside the Copley Place specific shopping area. There is also a Starbucks and the Marriott Hotel restaurant and jazz lounge, in the Marriott Hotel, one of the two luxurious lodging spaces within the mall itself. The other one is the Westin. The Copley Place mall additionally is home to Turner Fisheries Seafood Restaurant and Bar, the Fizz Lounge, Osushi, the Palm Restaurant and the Huntington Restaurant, all within the Westin Hotel area of the complex.

The Prudential Mall, Shops at Prudential Center, or The Pru
800 Boylston Street, Boston, MA

**Take Green Line Subway to Copley Stop and Walk West (away from Downtown). You will see it.
**Take Green Line E Train (and only E Train) to Prudential Stop. Get out, and look upward until you see the huge building in front of you. This way is sometimes tricky, I’ve gotten lost here many a time, as sad as that sounds. Note that when you get out of the train station, you will be walking perpendicular to the Huntington Street Traffic.

Next, is the Prudential Center Mall, sometimes referred to as “The Pru”. While The Prudential Center is home to many corporate office spaces, including that of the Gillette Company, it is also known for its down to earth shopping choices and fantastic restaurant options. One of the tallest buildings in Boston, you can’t miss this ever growing shopping location; all you need to do is look up while anywhere in the Boston vicinity and you will know where to go. Lit up beautifully at night, the Prudential Tower is a Boston monument, so much so that it is considered one of the area’s prime candidates for terror attacks, in the unfortunate case of another one targeted this way. Not to worry though, the mall is prepared for easy and quick evacuations in case of an emergency and security guards employed in the garages and near all elevators to the upper levels ensure that an optimal level of safety measures are utilized daily at this busy locale. Therefore, you should feel free to shop with the same amount of confidence as you would any area in the larger city of Boston.
That being said, what to expect from the Prudential Mall? First and foremost, one needs to be aware of its convenient but somewhat confusing location. The Prudential Mall, within The Prudential Center, is actually attached by a classy indoor bridge walk to Copley Place Mall. Many people get the two confused or call them all by a single name. In fact, even though both are really designated as two separate shopping arenas, as well as two separate business office complexes, even their respective websites advertise some of each others shops and restaurants when really they do not belong to the facility doing the advertising. This is obviously to better market themselves as more versatile in the shopping category but it confuses people out to find one store or another. So keep in mind that even though they are connected, the Prudential Center Mall and the Copley Place Mall are separate, with their own set of stores, the former being much less expensive overall than the latter. If you wish to find a store in the Prudential Center Mall, you may enter it by passing through the Copley Place Marriott, which borders the two, but to be certain you are in the right place (for, say, meeting people reasons, for instance), your best bet is to enter the mall up the escalator at Boylston Street. Next to the Hynes Convention Center and above the Shaws Supermarket, there lies a guaranteed entrance to the Pru.
So now that you know where to go, what kind of shopping should you expect? Well, while it does contain some higher in status stores like Saks Fifth Avenue and Sephora, many of the specialty clothes stores consist of unique boutiques that cater to a middle ranged budget. Stores like Arden B., Barami and J.Jill are dispersed among more gift oriented specialty stores like The Sharper Image, Swarovski Crystal, and Levenger home Furnishings. The Prudential also has some beauty and cosmetic related shops such as L’Occitane, Sephora and Travel 2000 for luggage and other traveling accessories. And finally, for those on a budget and/or those who are kids or kids at heart, the mall has a couple retail outlets of more casual chains such as Claire’s Boutique jewelry store, Barnes and Nobles, and GameStop for video games, movies and fun computer software. Finally, the Prudential contains a very large and diverse food court. Unlike many mall food courts, the one at Prudential actually has some places that carry hearty salads and clean pieces of white chicken, grilled and not fried nor covered with thick heavy sauces that render it unrecognizable as meat to the human eye and taste buds. Not, that is, unless that is what you are looking for. There is a wide variety of food here, from many different genres, such as Chinese, Japanese, Italian and American. There are even a couple places with vegetarian selections. A wide open area to sit in, too, this food court at the Prudential Mall has become a hot meeting place for friends, blind dates, studying scholars looking to read their course material over a couple good bites, and additionally, much to my usual dismay, sloppily mannered homeless people. This last one can be a bit unappetizing, but bless their hearts, at least they have somewhere clean and properly cooled or heated to go during particular seasons. Just be sure to seat yourself accordingly. And psst! They seem to like the edge of the food court, a good people watching spot, the best!

Cambridge Side Galleria
100 Cambridge Side Place, Cambridge, MA

**Take Green Line Subway Inbound to Lechmere, Last Stop. Cross back over tracks and intersection toward candy factory- look for steam!!- pass Bank of America ATM on left and enter mall before the end of the block.
**Or take Red Line Subway to Kendall (Towards Alewife) T-Stop where you can catch a shuttle bus to Cambridge Side. This is a more difficult option to figure out, please note.

Finally, the most traditional of the three major Boston area malls is the Cambridge Side Galleria located in guess where, Cambridge, Mass. It is only a short drive from downtown Boston, right over the bridge, but this area is a bit hard to navigate. I definitely suggest taking the subway if you plan to shop at this large three-story mall. Simply take the green line inbound all the way to the last stop, which is Lechmere, and follow the crowd of people who will most certainly be getting off of the train and passing over the tracks, across the street, and down a ways before reaching the hard to miss 120-store shopping complex. Once there, you will probably be able to feel your way around, as the Cambridge Side Galleria is basically just your average cookie cutter shopping plaza, probably not unlike one you frequent in your own hometown. It has an array of stores, catering to a variety of different audiences. There are a couple of higher end designer stores like Buffalo, J. Crew, and Guess, and even more good-for-everyone stores like Victoria’s Secret, Old Navy and Sears. If you are looking for electronics, check out the MacIntosh Store, Best Buy and Radio Shack or get your cell phone upgraded at T-Mobile, Nextel or one of the many other cell phone service company kiosks. The mall really has a lot to offer. There is even a CVS inside, though without the pharmacy. The shopping area of the Cambridge Side Galleria is pleasant. It doesn’t get too crowded and it is plentiful, with endless unique kiosks making good use of the space in the malls walkways, just outside of the bigger stores. However, the mall does have one downfall in my opinion and that is in the food court department. Not only does it really only offer greasy, unhealthy fast food (Au Bon Pain Bakery is probably the healthiest selection), but it is a fairly dirty and crowded space in the large mall. I don’t know what it is but no matter what time of the day I choose to try and (fruitlessly) find something decent to eat at this mall, it always seems as if every other shopper has decided to do the same, at the same exact time. Not to mention in the same exact place, for only the outdoor tables which are often wet or met with too hot or too snowy weather, enable you to sit without having to watch this that or the next guy gnaw at their Chinese beef or Sabarro extra large pizza while simultaneously trying to carry on a very open-mouthed conversation with his buddies or loud, hyperactive family of 7. Bitter much? Indeed I am. But a mall makes a lot of money off of its food vendors, Cambridge Side is missing out on a great opportunity. For I now avoid that food court at all costs except for an occasional fountain coca cola beverage. And here is a warning that you should too. Eat before you leave the house. More money to spend on clothes, anyway.

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