The only thing more daunting than braving long checkout lines at stores during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend? Finding a spot to park your wheels at a crowded mall.
While there’s no parking cheat-sheet that covers all of Miami-Dade County, here are some tips for some of the area’s most popular shopping destinations:
The made-in-Miami app MyPark allows you to reserve a prime parking space with your smart phone, so your spot will be waiting for you when you arrive. Cost for two hours is $3, then another $3 for every hour after that. Currently, two malls in Miami use the service: Dadeland (30 spots) and The Falls (eight spots).
Instead of circling the mall endlessly looking for a spot, head straight to the garages, which usually have plenty of spaces available but may require a little more walking. The Dolphin Mall’s parking garage, located on the west side of the complex near Florida’s Turnpike, accommodates 1,300 cars and boasts a handy digital panel that tells you how many spots are available on each level in real time.
Aventura Mall has a whopping five parking garages, including a multi-level structure connected to the mall’s new three-level expansion. If you shop or eat at Brickell City Centre, parking in their underground garage is free for the first two hours. The Shops at Merrick Park is waiving fees for customers who self-park in the upscale mall’s garage from 6 p.m.-2 a.m. daily through the end of 2017.
Most municipalities in Miami-Dade County provide cheap parking in garages ($1 per hour) within a few walkable blocks of their busiest hubs. Smart-phone technology plays a big role, too: The city of Coral Gables, for example, uses the ParkMe app to point you toward available parking spaces in real time.
If you’re willing to pay to avoid parking hassles altogether, most malls offer valet parking services. Todd Brosius, president of the valet parking company AmeriPark, says Miami is one of the company’s top-performing markets, along with New York City, San Francisco and Chicago. But while business in those cities is fueled primarily by density, Brosius says most people who opt to spend $9-$12 on valet parking at Dadeland or Sawgrass Mills are driven by something else.
“It’s pretty easy to find a parking space at Dadeland or Sawgrass if you want to,” Brosius said. “In Miami, the main driver seems to be convenience.”