What’s more daunting than braving long checkout lines at stores during the Thanksgiving holiday weekend? Trying to find a parking spot before you even step into 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.
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Try the MyPark app for select malls
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 Mall (30 spots) and The Falls (eight spots).
Use parking garages
The garage at Aventura Mall, located on the east side of the shopping center, features five levels of covered parking. Spots are usually available on the even-numbered levels, but you’ll have to take a flight of stairs or use the elevator in order to enter the mall.
Some malls offer deals for shoppers who want to park in their garages. If you shop or eat at Brickell City Centre, for example, parking 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.
Take advantage of county or city options
Most municipalities in Miami-Dade County provide cheap parking in garages ($1 per hour) within a few walkable blocks of their busiest hubs — the Lincoln Road Mall, for example. Smart-phone technology plays a big role, too: The city of Coral Gables, for example, uses the ParkMe app to point you toward available spaces in real time.
If all else fails, valet
If you’re willing to pay to avoid the hassle altogether, most malls offer valet 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.”