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Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls offers high-quality brand names and shopping incentives such as rewards programs.supplied

Head to northwestern New York state for laughs and a little retail therapy

There’s no denying we all need a little something to laugh about these days. With the Canada-U.S. border open, a road trip to the National Comedy Center in Jamestown, N.Y., might be just the thing to put a smile on summer. Add a little shopping at the nearby Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls and the happiness quotient goes way up.

Located in the hometown of legendary comedienne Lucille Ball, the National Comedy Center opened in 2018 and is around a three-hour drive from Toronto. Named by USA Today as the “Best New Museum in the Country,” and one of the “World’s Greatest Places” by Time magazine, it offers an immersive experience using state-of-the-art technology.

More than 50 interactive exhibits cover comedy from its origin to the present day; plus, it houses archival documents and artifacts from greats such as Charlie Chaplin, George Carlin, Lucille Ball and Lenny Bruce.

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The National Comedy Center in Jamestown, N.Y.supplied

What makes the centre like no other is the personalized comedy profile that every visitor receives upon entry.

“We ask a number of questions about what you find funny, from TV shows to standup performers,” explains Journey Gunderson, executive director of the centre. “There are hundreds of attributes, from dark to absurd, farce to slapstick.”

A microchipped wristband stores an algorithm of your responses and allows exhibits to respond directly to what makes you laugh.

Good for families and adults (beware the uncensored Blue Room on the lower level!), interactive activities include making a meme, trying your hand at standup, singing in the karaoke lounge and getting physical in the green screen studio. Plus, just like in a comedy club, there are servers to take your beverage orders.

“We have something for everyone,” says Gunderson. “You don’t have to be an aficionado or a comedy nerd to appreciate what is here. This is a comedy mecca designed for hardcore nerds but also casual consumers.”

Gunderson recommends at least three to four hours for a visit and notes that Jamestown makes a great weekend destination. “You can book a hotel overlooking Chautauqua Lake and eat in one of Jamestown’s many independent restaurants. If it rains, just spend more time at the centre.”

The centre will be featuring new exhibits showcasing Johnny Carson (opening July 1) and Carl Reiner (opening in late July), and hosting the Lucille Ball Comedy Festival, with performances by some of standup’s biggest names, such as Margaret Cho, Jeff Foxworthy and Legends of SNL’s David Spade, Rob Schneider and Kevin Nealon, from August 3-7.

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The Lucy Desi Museum.supplied

Dual admission tickets include the Lucy Desi Museum, just a short walk away.

“Laughing is good for your health and immune system,” notes Gunderson. “You can do it with peace of mind here since we’ve worked to make sure the centre is COVID-safe.”

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Another activity guaranteed to make you feel good is shopping for quality brands at discount prices. Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls, an hour’s drive from Jamestown at the U.S.-Canada border, offers 120 outlet stores, including names such as Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Coach, J. Crew Factory Store, Adidas, Nike Clearance Store and Under Armour. The newest additions include Cotton On, an Australian fashion and lifestyle brand, and Windsor, a women’s clothing and accessories brand.

One of the newest shopping incentives is a visitor rewards gift-with-purchase program that runs until the end of June.

“International and out-of-state visitors who spend $400 or more in same-day receipts receive a $20 prepaid card. It’s a way to thank our international visitors, especially Canadians,” explains Katie Walsh, senior marketing manager of the Fashion Outlets.

To get more details on the program, visitors can text “WELCOME” to 811811 or visit There is also the Visitor Savings Pass that provides special offers and discounts worth up to $800 in savings from participating retailers. For a free seven-day trial of the Digital Visitor Savings Pass go to, enter code DRXDYV, and click to download to Apple Wallet or Android Pay.

At the general website,, shoppers can find out about special hotel packages available in Niagara Falls and Buffalo and get an interactive map of the facility. One of the newer services is the text concierge.

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Fashion Outlets of Niagara Falls.supplied

“You can connect with the concierge with your phone, ask a question and you’ll get a response in two minutes,” says Walsh, who notes it’s helpful when locating washrooms, retailers or food outlets.

If you work up an appetite, the facility offers numerous snack and meal purveyors, including Charleys Philly Steaks, Pita Gourmet, Yogen Früz and Applebee’s.

Coming mid-June, you’ll also be able to plug in your electric vehicle at a charging station located in the parking lot, the first one available when crossing at the Lewiston-Queenston and Whirlpool bridges.

Summer spells road trips. What could be better than giggles and great deals? It’s time to get your motor running.

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio with NYSTIA. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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