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Calgary Select: Cross Border Shopping - outlet malls - Great Falls Montana

Driving Tips

If you are planning to visit some of the outlet malls in Great Falls, here are some driving tips.

1. Our GPS system and the road signs once you hit Lethbridge will try to direct you to Highway 4 via Mayor Magrath Drive. That route is slow and full of stop lights. A better and quicker route is the Truck bypass which is a bit further east on Highway 3. Look for signs for 43 St S.

2. Since it is approximately a 6 hour trip from Calgary to Great Falls Montana, you are going to want to stop for gas etc. Shelby is the place to do it. There are two exits from Interstate 15, do not take the first one unless you really want to see downtown Shelby Montana. The second one features a quick on and quick off ramp and there are gas stations and convenience stores right there.

3. Take the newly paved highway 519 at Granum East and then join up with the 23 South, you will save anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes on the trip and completely bypass Fort Macleod.

Duty Free Tip

One of the helpful employees at the duty free shop pointed out to us that you can purchase more than the exemption provides for. Yes, you will pay some additional fees but it will probably still be cheaper than the equivalent  in Canada. When you stop at the duty free ask them about sales and volume purchases. They will usually know what additional fees will be levied by Canada Customs.

Updated article from our blog on Cross Border Shopping in Montana

This article first appeared in our blog and I am reproducing it here with updates and added information, mainly due to the increasing interest in this subject which was spurred on by the rise of the Canadian dollar to parity in September 2007.

 

Honestly, it was pure coincidence that we planned to study the feasiblity of cross border shopping at the same time that the quadruplets were born. Specifically is it practical for Calgarians to head down to Great Falls and root out some bargains? What was wonderful is the photo of the Benefis hospital  that is currently on our front page (now in our archives).

 

 

Before I get into the pros & cons of our shopping trip, I want to point out how the  Charleston Daily Mail makes a pretty interesting point about Calgary's lack of facilities for neonatal care. Their article is titled "Canadians vote with their feet"

sign advertising duty free cigarettesSo back to the shopping trip. From Calgary to Great Falls it is about a 6 hour drive and that includes a modest wait at the border. Our first savings point is being allowed to go to the duty free store when entering the US. A 1 litre bottle of my favourite rum was only $13.00, compare that to about $28 in Calgary.  For the smokers in the crowd, a carton of cigarettes was about $43, compare that to over $90 at most Calgary retailers. So that was the way in and of course there is the exemption on the way out if you stay over 48 hours. ( we did investigate the 48 hour thing and we were assured by the local duty free shop that the border agents have a computer screen that shows exact entry point and time, so don't even think about trying to do 48 hours in less than 48 hours)

Great Falls has some pretty good selection for shopping. Retailers include Target, Kmart, Walmart Shopko, Albertsons, Sam's Club, Scheel's and so on.  We were especially curious about whether groceries would be something that was cheaper south of the border. Although we didn't carry out a systematic study,by browsing the aisles we got the sense that we wouldn't see much savings by stocking up on items that were allowable by customs.

The bigger savings came from clothes and books and CD's. We purchased various articles at Ross and also at JC Penny. A chain store that isn't yet in Calgary is called Hastings and our teens especially like that store because of the wide selection of music and books.

Tropies at ScheelsIf you are into hunting then Scheel's is a must stop for you. Huge selection of all things outdoor and a fascinating display of trophies. (see picture inset).

To summarize the shopping trip, we didn't come out ahead when you factor in gas, accomodation and meals but it made for a entertaining and fun weekend that is just in range for Calgarians. 

Don't forget to cruise around town when you are down there. There are numerous older churches and the County court house is also an interesting building. Did I mention the falls? Yes by all means follow River Drive and view the falls. There are four of them and they are great to see.

Update:

Based on our trip, there are 4 major shopping areas in Great Falls. The Holiday Village Mall which is on 10th Ave S and if you are looking for an outlet mall then this is probably it.  The second being on Market Place Dr which is off 14th St. S ( a bit tricky to get onto). Market Place Drive features many of the big box type of stores (similar to a Calgary power centre ie Deerfoot Meadows). The third spot is along the NW Bypass  and there you will find retailers like Sam's Club, Kmart etc. Finally the Great Falls downtown (Central Ave) features many individual stores.

Find information on shopping, tourism and accommodations at our newest site Greatfalls.aroundmontana.com

 

 

Eye Popping October Update to Cross Border Shopping

TIP : To get the best exchange rate either bring US cash or use your credit card