KING OF PRUSSIA The temperature reached nearly 70 degrees, but the Wilmoth family ventured inside the King of Prussia mall on Saturday anyway, searching not for deals, but for the Christmas spirit.
Because if the spirit can be found anywhere, it's in the second-largest mall in America the weekend before Christmas.
"We don't do much shopping while we're here," said Jason Wilmoth, 43, of Dresher. "We just like to get out and feel the hustle and bustle."
Wilmoth said his wife stayed up until 4 a.m. on Black Friday, waiting in line for deals. And the couple bought about half their holiday gifts online this year, a marked increase from last year.
The bulk of their plan Saturday was for their three young children to sit on Santa's lap and to take in the mall vibe, which included "everyone running around like crazy trying to get their gifts" and "parking a mile away."
But throughout the nearly packed mall, a random sampling of shoppers revealed an almost Zenlike quality, unrushed and gratified because they had long finished the heavy lifting of their holiday shopping.
"Every year, we come to the mall just to enjoy it and not have the pressure," said Debra Huss, 58, of Chester Springs. "Ninety-nine percent of our shopping is already done."
She and her husband, Gerald, planned to browse L.L. Bean and Eddie Bauer and buy gift cards for relatives.
Liz and Ellen Kim, sisters on break from college who live in Collegeville, caught up while walking through the mall, their younger brother Alex, 10, trailing them while playing a handheld video game.
"This is family bonding time," Ellen Kim said. "We don't have a goal. We just came here to do some browsing."
Maria Marcum, 17, of West Wyoming in Luzerne County, said the mall atmosphere contained a "good kind of stress."
Her friend Danielle Stillarty, 18, of Wilkes Barre, added: "The online shopping experience isn't fun. Here you get to feel the rush of the people and the Christmas spirit."
Margarita Carroll redeemed a $1,000 mall gift card she won Friday from radio station BEN-FM (95.7).
"Money was pretty tight this year," said Carroll, 31, of North Philadelphia. "God definitely blessed us."
Even without the card, Carroll said she would have come out to the mall.
"I love being around people who are happy and shopping," she said.