Los Angeles is a big, sprawling city, with little shops and sexy boutiques on just about every corner. But the sprawl makes choosing the place for a day of shopping a logistic decision; do you want to shop near the beach, in the heart of Beverly Hills or even out in the San Fernando Valley? And the location is only the first criteria needed to plan your day; next, you'll have to choose the sort of shopping experience you're up for. There are gigantic malls (the Beverly Center is a monster, for example), beachfront strolls (don't miss the Venice Beach Boardwalk) and whole streets devoted to selling you something you actually cannot buy anywhere else on the planet (try Abbot Kinney Boulevard and Melrose Avenue for that sort of thing). But be ready to face the crowds, for shopping is a serious sport in L.A., especially in the incredibly popular spots, like the Grove and the Commons at Calabasas. Perhaps that is because of the terrific shops, restaurants and movie theaters found there, but it just might be because famous Hollywood faces are constantly seen strolling around in both those two shopping meccas. You might even see a celebrity or two at the Citadel Outlets, the area's only outlet mall, for let's face it, there's a bargain hunter inside all of us.
The Citadel Outlets is the only outlet mall within easy striking distance of most Angelenos, located about 10 miles south of downtown Los Angeles just off the Interstate 5 Freeway. There savvy shoppers will save on discounted goods from top designers like A|X Armani Exchange, Hugo Boss, Michael Kors, Kate Spade, Kenneth Cole, Coach, Nike, Reebok, NYJD, Quiksilver and more. With over 130 stores and 16 food choices, the Citadel Outlets is a one-stop shop for bargain lovers who prefer the best quality goods for the least amount of money. With the Camarillo Outlets being a larger and very popular outlet mall (160 stores), but located more than 50 miles away from L.A., the Citadel really is the top choice in town for great deals. (323-888-1724)
The Commons at Calabasas
Like the Grove in the Mid-Wilshire District of L.A., the Commons at Calabasas is another Caruso Affiliated shopping center and it feels very similar. Beautiful gardens and fountains make up the center of the outdoor mall, while Mediterranean-influenced structures housing boutiques, restaurants and the Edwards Grand Plaza stadium-seating multiplex line the perimeter. It's such a pleasant place that people come for the ambiance alone. But there are plenty of well-known stores to shop, of course, from Kade Spade and Lululemon Athetica to Barnes & Noble, Williams Sonoma and Gymboree. Plus, this a favorite place for Hollywood types who live in mansions nearby to stop in, so keep your eyes open, as you never know when Kim Kardashian or her clan might wander by. (818-637-8922)
Venice Beach Boardwalk
There's no other beach scene in Southern California quite like the one you will find on Venice Beach. Starting with the fact that it's the only place that we have a boardwalk right along the sand, where shops selling everything from beach basics like surfboards, boogie boards, wetsuits, bathing suits, sunscreen and flip flops to hippie jewelry, incense and stoner paraphernalia await the crowds that flock there, especially on weekends. Add in the chance to see the famous Muscle Beach outdoor workout area, the running-chainsaw jugglers, the drum-circle bangers, the medical marijuana hucksters and all the gorgeous bikini-clad gals and ripped guys who cycle by on the bike path and there's no question that the Venice Beach Boardwalk is a must-visit L.A. shopping area. (310-822-5425)
With over 100 top shops including Burberry, Dolce & Gabbana, Fendi, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Yves Saint Laurent and Salvatore Ferragamo, the Beverly Center has been a Los Angeles shopping fixture since it opened in 1982. Towering eight stories high, the mall has appeared in numerous films and television shows; it truly is an iconic shopping structure! Bloomingdale's and Macy's are here, too, as well as restaurants that sit mostly on street level. Inside, there's a feeling of spacious grandness and luxury. The best way to experience this huge mall is to go in without an agenda and just stroll – especially on a hot day, when the cool indoor space just might offer up that perfect little item you've been looking for. (310-854-0071)
Day or night, summer or winter, the Grove always teems with shoppers. It's such a popular place that teens like to hang out there, taking selfies by the animated music fountain in the center of the open-air mall; adults like to hit the diverse shops (from Apple to American Girl to Barney's, UGG Australia, Unionmade, Abercrombie & Fitch) and department stores (Nordstrom, Crate and Barrel); and everyone loves the 14-screen Pacific Theatres movie palace. There's great food at the Whisper Restaurant and Lounge and at Morel's French Steakhouse, too, and just a stroll away (or take the kitschy Grove Trolley) is the Original Farmer's Market, where a collection of classic restaurants awaits. Try the Gumbo Pot there for an authentic taste of New Orleans! (323-900-8080, 888-315-8883)
Start out near the Beverly Center and La Cienega Boulevard and you'll find some of the world's top designers on Melrose Avenue – Marc Jacobs, Vivienne Westwood, Paul Smith and the Fred Segal boutique, where many different labels call home. Continue on towards La Brea Boulevard and the shops change, transforming into funky, edgy boutiques packed with reasonably priced, trendy outfits. So whether you've got a punk sensibility or a more elegant sense of style, there is a retail outlet somewhere on Melrose Avenue that will yield up a treasure. And part of the fun is spending a day meandering along the very-long street (you'll have to drive to see it all), making unique discoveries along the way.
With more than 150 high-end shops selling everything from home furnishings to children's clothing, Montana Avenue's shopping district spans over 10 blocks of beautiful places with unique products. Make sure to stop into Platino for gorgeous jewels and other accessories that every woman will adore, then hit Weathervane, where both men and women can find the latest fashions. There's children's apparel at Peek, home and kitchen goods at Williams Sonoma and even a Balance Massage outpost, where you can get all your kinks worked out. Finish up your Montana experience with a meal at Fathers Office or a luscious treat at Sweet Lady Jane Bakery, then head a few more blocks west and watch the sun set over the Pacific Ocean.
Santa Monica Place
The old, Frank Gehry designed Santa Monica Place is gone, replaced with a sleek new open-air shopping center anchored by Nordstrom and Bloomingdale's. There's a big indoor fancy-food market, plenty of high-end boutiques (Burberry, 7 For All Mankind, Kitson, Pandora, etc.) and a happening restaurant scene on the top floor, where views of the ocean pair with crafted cocktails or fine California wines. Park in one of the numerous garages that surround the mall, and make sure to take a walk down the neighboring Third Street Promenade as well, where even more shops, restaurants and some often seriously strange people watching await. (310-394-5451)
Abbot Kinney Boulevard Shops
Once a sleepy little boulevard that boasted some nice restaurants (Hal's, Joe's, etc.) and a few art galleries, these days Venice's Abbot Kinney is the hottest shopping spot in town. New boutiques seem to open every week – think Tom's Shoes, Will Leather Goods, the Mystic Journey Bookstore, Marine Layer, Warby Parker, Huset, Timbuk2, just to name a few. So start to stroll at the corner of Venice Boulevard and Abbot Kinney and don't stop until you hit Main Street. The discoveries here are endless. And don't worry, there are plenty of great places to eat, too, including Gjelina, Chop Daddies and Willie Jane. Hal's and Joe's are both still there too, thankfully! (310-396-3772)
Rodeo Drive needs no description, as it is certainly the most famous shopping street in the world, thanks to Hollywood. So many movies have filmed scenes here it is too hard to count; but as the ultra-luxe shops come and go, one thing remains the same: this is the Beverly Hills spot where money rules. Bring plenty of it when you enter Tiffany's, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari or Cartier to buy jewels; you'll need deep pockets at Chanel, Valentino, Roberto Cavalli or Prada, too. Be sure to stop into Rimowa, where they sell the best rolling luggage on the planet; if you've been busy, you can fill your suitcase with all your purchases and easily roll it all the way home.
About Jenny Peters
Jenny Peters – aka Jet Set Jen – is a Los Angeles-based freelance journalist, editor and party columnist specializing in travel, entertainment, film, food, wine, fashion and the other good things in life. She is a founding/voting member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association, who present the Critics’ Choice Movie Awards every January. Her favorite places to be are on the beach in Southern California playing volleyball, scuba diving with the sharks in warm tropical waters or strolling the streets and soaking in the atmosphere of one of the world's great cities (New Orleans and Florence are her favorites).
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