Outlet bargains, high fashion, and everything in between
A Shopper’s Paradise
The Golden State’s iconic malls, bohemian shops and posh boutiques can astound even the most jaded sophisticate. An enticing range of California’s eclectic creativity awaits visitors throughout the state, from theme park collectibles to homegrown surfing gear to fine wine. Foodies can sample fresh-made cheeses in artisanal food shops. Fashionistas will love San Francisco’s luxurious haute couture haunts. And art lovers can bring home an original California landscape from a redwood-scented artists’ enclave.
California shopping safaris may entail sighting a celebrity in a Los Angeles boutique, arriving at a mall by boat or hunting bargains behind the walls of a recreated Mesopotamian palace. And super shopping opportunities entice savvy shoppers in millions of square feet of retail space.
Malls sprawl throughout Los Angeles, crowned by Rodeo Drive’s stratospheric price tags. But you’ll find significant bargains in rings, necklaces and other pieces at prices up to 70 percent less than those in Beverly Hills in the historic Jewelry District, one of the country’s largest. More than 1,500 jewelry showrooms stand roughly on 5th and 8th streets to the north and south, and Broadway and Olive to the east and west. Behind a facade of bas-reliefs of Babylonian princes and heraldic griffins, the Citadel Outlets holds 700,000 square feet of retail bargains inside a one-time 1929 tire plant modeled on an ancient Assyrian palace. And between the Farmer’s Market and The Grove shopping center, the Grove Trolley provides shoppers free rides along First Street.
The West Hollywood Design District features high-end fashion, interior design, furniture, decorative arts and luxury brand stores on Melrose Avenue and Robertson and
Beverly boulevards. Sunset Boulevard’s world famous Amoeba Music is the nation’s largest music emporium, stocking an overwhelming selection of vinyl, CDS, tapes, posters and collectibles—at rock-bottom prices.
In Santa Monica’s breezy, three-block pedestrian shopping mecca, Third Street Promenade, find the usual mall suspects, Anthropologie, Zara and Gap, as well as celebrity-soaked cafés and eateries.
Artsy shoppers should head to nearby Venice Beach’s hip art galleries, bookstores and vintage shops. For bargains, drive north to Camarillo’s giant 160-store Camarillo Premium Outlets.
In Orange County, quintessential Socal shopping experiences await in huge openair malls, complete with valet parking. Inspired by Spain’s Alhambra, the Irvine Spectrum Center holds 130 stores, restaurants and a 21-screen cinema, anchored by Nordstrom and Target.
Fashion Island, with its casual resort setting featuring splashing fountains and a koi pond, overlooks the Pacific. Leading with Neiman Marcus and Bloomingdale’s, this coastal center has more than 100 shops and 36 restaurants.
Beyond the malls, Laguna Beach’s stylish art galleries line streets sloping to a pretty beach. And, if heading to Palm Springs, stop at the 180-store Desert Hills Premium Outlets in Cabazon for luxury designer brands.
Southward in San Diego, begin your shopping trip with a delightful morning at waterside Seaport Village. Then, hop on the Coronado Island ferry and cruise to the Coronado Ferry Landing Shops for more sunny shopping.
In the city center, the 16½-block Gaslamp Quarter features mall chains as well as hip shops and art galleries occupying restored Victorian buildings. San Diego’s own Rodeo Drive—prospect Street in La Jolla—has art galleries, boutiques and sweeping Pacific views. In coastal Carlsbad, north of San Diego, you’ll find an elegant outlet mall, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets.
Heading north? Check out the Outlets at Tejon, found along Interstate 5 between Los Angeles and Bakersfield, just south of the Highway 99 interchange at the base of the Grapevine. The sprawling, 400,000-square-foot mall contains the usual, Nike and Polo Ralph Lauren, and some newcomers to the outlet scene, H&M and Pottery Barn, among the shady walkways and Mission Ranch architecture.
Northern California Elegance
San Francisco’s massive malls and quirky boutiques showcase the city’s European style. Join the Prada-clad parade circling downtown Union Square to max out your platinum card in the upscale department stores. Stroll down nearby Maiden Lane, once lined with Barbary Coast brothels, for more luxury.
Nearby, the Westfield San Francisco Centre is an architectural gem with 155 stores, restaurants and two food emporiums under a stunning 1908 dome.
Don’t miss San Francisco’s great shopping neighborhoods. On Chinatown’s Stockton Street you can pick up Asian antiques, silk clothing bargains or rare tea. Herbal pharmacies proffer Chinese medicinal remedies, ginseng, deer antlers or herbs costing $100 per pound.
Near Pacific Heights, Sacramento Street houses fancy consignment shops, luxury goods retailers and haute couture children’s boutiques. Hippie culture thrives in Haight Street shops selling incense, used records and vintage San Francisco postcards, which make great gifts.
North Beach and Jackson Square are famous for the legendary City Lights bookstore, Italian cafés and antique stores. Japantown offers authentic Japanese goods, tansu chests, bonsai and antique kimonos.
Finally, Hayes Valley, a hipster haven, has trendy stores and nary a chain store in sight.
Two hours south, in Carmel-by-the-sea’s storybook village, shops display fine French linen and European antiques. Big Sur’s rugged coast inspires the art found in small art galleries. On Ocean Avenue, explore designer shops such as Bottega Veneta or Kate Spade in Carmel Plaza shopping center amid cafés, artful bronze sculptures and abundant plants and flowers.
North, in the wine country, discover artisanal food shops, olive oil producers and cheese makers on Sonoma’s main plaza. Napa Valley wineries offer fine vintages, and foodies will love the seasonal abundance at Petaluma’s organic Green String Farm and in local farmers markets. Or explore Saint Helena’s historic main street for culinary tools and vintage luxuries.
Three outlet malls—in Petaluma, Napa and Vacaville—offer brand names and mall time.
Farther Afield: North Coast, Yosemite & Theme Parks
California’s wild north coast inspires the handcrafted furniture and handicrafts, pottery or jewelry found in artsy Mendocino’s ocean view lanes.
Yosemite Valley’s majesty and history inspire the gifts and mementos found in Yosemite Museum’s Gift Shop, including authentic Native American-woven basketry. The Ansel Adams Gallery sells photographic reproductions and collectible prints.
Shopping in theme parks goes beyond sunscreen or souvenirs. In San Diego Zoo Safari Park, The Bazaar stocks authentic African artifacts and unusual jewelry. In Disneyland’s Downtown Disney District, you’ll find surf gear and Disney collectibles. Finally, the world’s largest selection of LEGOS awaits in Carlsbad’s LEGOLAND California Resort.
From sun-splashed malls to sophisticated art galleries, even the most experienced shopaholic can score the perfect gift or memento during a delirious California shopping experience. And it’s all located on stage sets of ocean views, mountain majesty, innovative architecture and quiet redwood groves.
SHOPS AND CAFÉS on State Street, Santa Barbara, left; shopping at Huntington Surf & Sport, opposite top.
PIER 39 is a popular tourist attraction and shopping area in San Francisco, right; shopping on Main Street in Saint Helena, bottom.