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New York City

From world-renowned department stores like Macy's (34th Street and Seventh Avenue), Bloomingdale's (59th Street and Lexington Avenue), Saks Fifth Avenue (50th Street and Fifth Avenue) and Henri Bendel (56th Street and Fifth Avenue) to specialty shops, charming boutiques and bargain basements, Manhattan is truly a shopper's heaven. Looking for souvenirs? Take home a Yankees cap or anything that looks like the Statue of Liberty or Empire State Building.

Get an overview of the city's shopping scene with a Shop Gotham tour. These two- to three-hour excursions focus on stores that are exclusive to New York City and include information about not only shopping but also the history and culture of the local neighborhoods.

The city offers districts of stores devoted to particular items, such as furs off of Seventh Avenue in the West 30's, hats on West 37th Street, diamonds on West 47th Street and musical instruments on West 48th Street. For buttons, plumes, sequins and other sewing notions, check out the West 30's, along Sixth Avenue. The crystal district -- between 58th and 63rd streets, along Madison Avenue -- is another great stop.

On Cortlandt Street in Manhattan's Financial District, Century 21 was once appropriately nicknamed "New York's best-kept secret." No longer is that the case for this store. It's pretty doubtful you'll leave empty-handed, considering this is the bargain hunter's mecca for deeply discounted designer merchandise. Be prepared to elbow your way through weekend crowds of savvy New Yorkers and international tourists to find your size. But who cares? It's worth it.

For an eclectic shopping experience, check out Chinatown. It's more Shanghai bazaar than city streetscape along Pell and Mott Streets, where funky herbal medicine shops and kitschy novelty stores sell everything from silk pajamas to Chinese board games and embroidered slippers. Come weekends, it's hard to break through the five-deep mob checking out the hard-to-tell-from-the-real-thing Gucci and Prada along Canal Street's stalls. Be sure to leave time for a stop at the Pearl River Mart for dirt-cheap items.

If you're dying to shop but not eager to break the bank, consider the SoHo Antiques Fair any weekend on Grand Street and Broadway. Another popular open-air market is GreenFlea, offering antiques, collectibles, jewelry and handicrafts on the Upper West Side.

Bibliophiles should look beyond the usual Barnes & Noble outposts -- New York is home to a number of great independent bookstores. One after our own heart is The Complete Traveller, which carries vintage travel books and rare maps. Set in a historic townhouse, Rizzoli is great fun to browse. Bluestockings is the spot for lefty types with its wide selection of titles on feminism, queer studies, capitalism and liberation. And Harlem is the site of Hue-Man Bookstore & Cafe, the largest African-American-owned bookstore in the nation.

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