The weather may be getting colder, but when it comes to shopping at the shore, there is no better time to be outside.

The area's best summer shopping hot spots - places such as Asbury Avenue in Ocean City, the Washington Street Mall in Cape May and the Atlantic City Outlets - don't close up shop just because the leaves are changing colors.

For savvy shoppers, the off-season is the best season to take advantage of sales, special holiday promotions and a lack of summer crowds. Businesses are touting everything from free gift wrap, tote bags and shuttle buses, to wine and cheese hospitality nights and early-bird shopping events - in your pajamas.

"It's not just shopping - there also are events going on every weekend, so there's always something to do," said Michele Gillian, executive director of the Ocean City Regional Chamber of Com-merce. "Shopping is at the top of the list of course, but we also have great entertainment, whether it's a car show, a Christmas festival, hayrides on the Boardwalk or a Halloween costume contest for dogs."

That, Gillian said, is what makes it worth the trip for out-of-town families to come and shop at the shore.

"That's what is great about shopping in a small downtown," Gillian said. "We don't want the mall environment. People can come and shop, and maybe stay for lunch or dinner."

Here are just a few shopping destinations worth visiting in southern New Jersey as the weather gets colder.

Atlantic City

The Outlets at The Walk

Fall marks a good time to stop in any of the 100 factory outlet stores that line Atlantic and Michigan avenues in Atlantic City, including retailers Coach, Calvin Klein, Banana Republic and DKNY.

In addition to the everyday outlet deals, between Nov. 30 and Dec. 20, shoppers can score free gift wrapping on all same-day purchases, free valet parking on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, free gift bags to the first 100 customers each day with a coupon, "Shopper's Express" shuttle buses on Mondays and extended store hours.

"It's the best name brands, you can get some really great values, and that happens year-round," said Kim Butler, general manager of The Walk. "Come fall and winter, people are looking to spruce up their wardrobes and get holiday gifts. … We've got some festivals going on for the holidays, free gift wrapping and a shuttle service running from Egg Harbor Township to Mays Landing. It's a fun time to be outside."

For more information, call 609-872-7002 or visit

Cape May

Washington Street Mall

Wreathed gas lights, lighted trees and candlelit windows set the scene for some picturesque, colonial-style holiday shopping along the historic Washington Street Mall in Cape May.

Here, shoppers can pick up unusual finds at dozens of stores including A Place on Earth, a handmade soap shop, or Kaleidoscope, a women's shop carrying everything from feminist dish towels to flasks with funny sayings.

"Everybody closes a little early, but everything is still open every day," said Joe Bogle, own-er of The Original Fudge Kitchen in the mall. "The shops are quaint. The dining is nice too. And there are things unique to Cape May that you can't buy at Target."

The mall will host two candlelight hospitality nights 7 to 9 p.m. Dec. 9 and Dec. 10, where merchants will offer wine and cheese, plus other treats such as cookies and candies.

For more information, call 609-884-2834 or visit

Millville

Glasstown Arts District

Shoppers looking for one-of-a-kind gifts will want to make their way to High Street in Millville, where a mix of private art galleries featuring original paintings, ceramics, glass art and mosaic pieces meet specialty shops that offer everything from quilting supplies to antiques, candy and clothing.

The 10th annual "Soul of the Season" takes place 6 to 9 p.m. Dec. 11 and features horse and carriage rides, Santa's village, live entertainment and extended holiday shopping hours.

For more information, call 856-293-0556 or visit

Ocean City

Asbury Avenue

If hitting the stores by 7 a.m. the Saturday before Thanks-giving seems a little tough, Ocean City is making it easy. Just roll out of bed.

The merchants along downtown Asbury Avenue are hosting an "Earlier than the Bird" shopping event from 7 a.m. to noon Nov. 20 - and they encourage shoppers to show up in their pajamas. Free coffee, free photos with Santa, free horse-and-carriage rides, shopping deals and free turkeys to people sporting the best PJs should help encourage the shoppers, said Gillian.

"We have more than 100 stores from Sixth Street to 14th Street … and it's a great time to get a lot of good buys anywhere, but especially in Ocean City, Gillian said.

The off-season also means lots of sales for bargain hunters at any of the downtown gift shops, galleries, specialty surf shops or clothing stores, Gillian said.

Christmas Hospitality Week-end begins Dec. 4 and includes a Christmas parade and free carriage rides through the downtown.

For more information on downtown Ocean City, call 609-398-4662 or visit

Stone Harbor

Third Avenue and 96th Street

The streets get fairly quiet in Stone Harbor once the temperature dips, but merchants along Second and Third avenues and 96th Street want shoppers to know they're still open for business - and they're welcoming shoppers with plenty of holiday events.

"Thanksgiving weekend is hospitality weekend in Stone Harbor," said Joann Delvescio, Stone Harbor's director of tourism. "We kick off that Friday with all sorts of events, carolers, all sorts of entertainment, Santa and a Christmas parade."

The downtown shops are a mix of small boutiques, such as the Little Egg Harbor Soap Co., Paisley Christmas and Rattles to Ribbons, with a few classics such as Hoy's Five and Ten.

"We have everything - shops that cater to women, children and men," Delvescio said. "There are art galleries, Christmas shops. There's plenty to come and see."

For more information, visit