Panera (coffee!) + Southpoint Play Area + Mall Walking ++ More Mall Walking + Panera Bread (lunch!)
(I promise this isn't an advertisement for Panera. But I do love Panera.)
Anyways, start your morning off right with a big ole' cup of coffee. Get the plain, boring, black coffee. There are free refills, so you can keep your caffeination-IV going for the entirety of the morning. Once you've filled up, stow your gear and warm up at the play area.
If you have a more reserved little one, show up around. The mall isn't open until 10 so you can play without too much of a crowd. If your kiddo craves lots of playmates, wait until 10:30. That's when the calvary arrives. Once you've both gotten your fill (my 2. yr. old can last up to about 45 min. before he gets bored), start walking.
Here's my favorite route, starting at the play area:
--Head into JC Penny's and ride up (and down and up) the escalators. If it's Spring, you can check out all the cool swimsuits that you'll never wear.
--Finish on the top floor and get a good bird's-eye view of the play area. There are cool lights up here, too. Totally worth checking out.
--Return to the first floor via the escalators in front of Belk. Repeat as many as times as it's necessary.
--Swing by the play area and wave to the random people you ran into but aren't going to get to talk to.
--Keep walking. Try not to look in the Godiva chocolate store (warning: they have freebies).
--When you get to the Mall-Center (where Santa likes to visit), run through Williams & Sonoma. They usually have something out for the little ones to sample, and they are super kid-friendly. If you have an extra $250 on you (ha!), buy one of those awesome Le Crueset dutch ovens.
--Do some more escalating. Nordstrom has an excellent selection of shoes and you can actually SEE them from an extended escalator-tour.
--Run into the food court and get some water. It's free.
--Check out the open space and ginormous windows in the very back. Play chase. Ignore people giving you the eyebrow.
--Head downstairs and outside!
--Don't let the creepy golden-eyed fountain children look at you. *Creepy.*
--But do enjoy splashing the water a *tiny* bit.
--Go to Barnes & Noble and play with the trains on the second floor.
--AND... approximately one hour before your scheduled lunch date, start heading back to Panera.
Now. Enjoy some lunch with your friend. You have approximately 25 min. before you have to ride some more escalators.
when to go: anytime!
what to bring: you can pack super-light for an early-morning mall visit. Just bring the basic necessities.
what it'll cost you: coffee at Panera is under $2. Lunch for two can run from about $8-$12
advisories: I guess the only thing you really need to watch out for is a mall closing. But that NEVER HAPPENS EVER. So enjoy!