Inside The Galleria: This is everything you need to know before you go to this Houston shopping destination

The Galleria in Houston is seen in this file photo. (KPRC/File)

HOUSTON – The Houston Galleria is an experience. To make that the best experience possible, take a look at what we’ve learned through the years while visiting this massive Houston shopping destination.

1. Parking

Most people drive to The Galleria. There are multiple parking options at or near the facility and they can be confusing for the uninitiated. There are free spots. There are for-pay spots and valet options for the ultra-fancy. I suggest you try out parking at the Galleria during a non-peak time. That means you might not want to try negotiating the parking situation for the first time the week before Christmas. You’ll likely have a bad experience.

Before you go, get familiar with the parking on the mall map and plan your parking near the stores you want to visit, if possible. If you use a maps app like Waze, you can also search for parking by searching “Galleria parking.”

Also -- remember where you parked. The parking options and levels are a dizzying prospect. Take a picture of your parked vehicle’s location. Get the level you’re on and the garage name/color in the photo so you can refer back to your photo if you forget where you parked after your long day at the stores.

2. Have a plan

If you have the entire day to spend at the stores, disregard this guidance. You can be leisurely. Stroll. I remember those days. Vaguely.

If you’re like me and need to run at least 300 more errands before the end of the day, know what you want and where you could get it. A list is your friend. Put down the item and the store you have in mind.

3. Know your stores and where they are

If you have stores in mind you want to visit, look at the store map before you go to plan your route. I know that sounds kind of boring, but trust us, the Galleria is massive. The place is 2.4 million square feet of space with 400 stores and restaurants.

Print the store directory here.

Just to give you an example -- if you’re going to hit up Zara, Neiman Marcus and Coach, you could be walking quite a way – and if you forgot that you need to also go to the Disney Store to pick up something for your niece’s birthday, you could be walking even farther and get sucked in by the other stores along the way. Don’t get us wrong, the Galleria is all about being caught up in the allure of the consumeristic thing for a while, but this place can be a lot. Overwhelming even. If you have limitations of time (and don’t get us started on budget limitations) keep a route in mind. You won’t regret it.

4. Know where the bathrooms are

Bathrooms at malls are often tucked into corners and sometimes sporadically placed. This has been our experience at The Galleria. Look for those signs every so often, especially if you have kids.

5. Know where the food stops are

Shopping and walking and socializing will work up an appetite. There is a food court and multiple food stops throughout the space. Take advantage of the food options that the Galleria has to offer. The high-end restaurants are surprisingly diverse, from South African steak at Peli Peli to sushi at Nobu. While we’d probably go elsewhere for budget dining options that are available no matter your budget.

6. Online deals for in-store finds

Shopping in-store can be a great thing because you can feel the fabrics and know exactly what you’re buying.

As we all know now, online deals are numerous and coupon codes are aplenty. In many stores, the online sales are honored in store. If you’re buying something, be sure to look it up online and if it’s on-sale, ask for the online price to be honored in-store. It never hurts to ask, particularly if it’s a heavy item that you’ll have to haul around the space and out to your car.

7. There are things for the kids to do

A visit to the Galleria doesn’t have to be all about shopping. There are things for kids to do beyond buy things. There is a full-size ice rink for recreational and figure skating and a children’s play area.

There are also just some fascinating things to watch. Have your kids seen the sushi conveyor belt at Sushigami? They might walk away obsessed. The chicken pot stickers might be a good option for your picky eaters.

If you do want to go shopping with the kids - remember to plan your trip, but here are some great stores to visit: Disney Store Outlet,

8. Visiting at peak shopping times can be stressful, so use amenities if you can

For some folks, holiday shopping at a packed venue is a beautiful, wonderful event. For the rest of us, it’s a nightmare. For those folks, there are a number of ways to get around the crazy.

Valet parking, personal shoppers and online order pickup at some stores are just some of the ways you can expedite the processes of shopping at the Galleria. The Galleria Insider program also promises deals and knowledge about mall events so you can be sure to visit when it fits your schedule and when you can avoid the crowds.

9. There is help.

The Galleria has the Management Office. Located near Signature Eye Care, this office -- open Monday through Friday 11 a.m. - 5 p.m. -- has more information about its stores, services and guest amenities. You can get complimentary wheelchair rentals here as well as purchase gift cards for the mall here.

What tips do you have for shopping at The Galleria? Let us know in the comments what people need to know before they go.

About the Author:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.