Shopping at University Town Center in Sarasota

    By Janet K. Keeler

    The Mall at University Town Center in Sarasota has had a facelift and, baby, is it a pretty place to shop.

    The sprawling two-story mall went through a major spruce-up in 2014 and now there’s enough glitz to keep a shopper going all day. The Mall at UTC, as it’s informally called, sits just off Interstate 75 and so it’s an easy-off, easy-on stop for travelers.

    The anchor stores are Dillard’s, Saks Fifth Avenue and Macy’s, and there are many more places to browse and buy goodies for the entire family, especially babies, children and soon-to-be parents. One of the hottest trends in cloth bags for every conceivable occasion are the colorful offerings from Vera Bradley. No need for a new mom to give up her Vera for a boring diaper bag. She can stuff diapers, wipes, clean onesies, etc., etc., etc. into a Havana Dots baby backpack. Or make that Kiev Paisley. Perhaps Lilac Tapestry. Patterns abound.

    But let’s start at the beginning: maternity wear. The large department stores usually carry clothes for expectant moms, and a stop into Motherhood Maternity provides more choices per square inch. Bathing suits for babymoons, lingerie and nursing bras, plus other clothes appropriate from work to play. Plus sizes also available.

    Though not specifically for pregnant women, Fabletics and Lululemon Athletica specialize in fashionable workout wear aimed at yoga queens and exercise divas. Growing bellies will find room to breathe with the stretchy comfort here.

    Head to Papyrus for “Welcome Baby” cards, wrapping paper and even journals in which Dad can write down every detail from bottles to burps to bawling.  Get your engraving on at 3D Crystals and Things Remembered. Personalized necklaces, bracelets, frames and even toys will likely be in their keepsake boxes for years to come. Put some Benjamins in the college-fund bank before you wrap it up.

    At The Mall at UTC, shopping for children’s clothes is a walk in the park, even if you’re pushing a stroller. Start at Gymboree, which is on the lower level near Dillard’s, to begin checking the essentials off your list: footie PJs and newborn sleeping sets, sun hats and beanies, baby bodysuits, and jeans because what wee human doesn’t need them? Gymboree has toddler and child clothes, too.

    At the other end of the mall, upstairs and by Saks Fifth Avenue, is Janie and Jack, part of the Gymboree family though you wouldn’t know it when you get inside.  If you need your baby bathing beauty to look like she’s heading to Rio, stop here for a sophisticated swimsuit. Off the shoulder and with ruffles. Boys aren’t left out and you can turn yours into a fashionisto with a straw fedora and swim jams covered in flamingos or palm trees. Everyday and fancy togs for infants, toddlers and children.

    In between these kids’ clothing bookends, you will find Gap Kids, H&M, J. Crew and Lilly Pulitzer (speaking of flamingos), all fun places to shop for the youngsters in your life.

    Shoes are next on the shopping list and many stores at the Mall at UTC carry children’s sizes. Kids Foot Locker puts pint-sized Nikes and Adidas under one roof.

    All this shopping for the kids might put you in the mood for an adult beverage and certainly some substantial food to go with. Maybe a coconut mojito with pan-seared tuna sliders at Kona Grill? Or a sloppy burger and a frothy beer at the aptly named Burger & Beer Joint, conveniently located in the middle of the mall and near an entrance to a parking lot. Plan accordingly. Of course, all mall eateries have selections of non-alcoholic beverages.

    You might want to end your kids’ shopping extravaganza with a double scoop of salted caramel gelato at 4D Gelateria. Babies (and baby shopping) can make you do that.

    When you go…
    The Mall at University Town Center
    140 University Town Center Drive
    Sarasota, FL 34243

    Places to Remember