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Quirky Gifts and Pop-Up Shops: The Best Christmas Shopping in L.A.

When it comes to shopping, Los Angeles is one of the best places on the planet to indulge. And when Christmas comes around, despite the sunny skies and warm temperatures, everyone gets into the spirit of celebrating the season of giving. Take Rodeo Drive, for example, the city's most iconic shopping street. Not only do they decorate (tastefully, of course) the drive and the posh shops located there, they also bring Santa and snow in for a celebration that transforms that Beverly Hills shopping hotspot into a winter wonderland! The Grove gets into the holiday spirit in a big way, too; that hugely popular mall in the Fairfax District has Santa and his elves ready to meet the kids, boasts a gigantic, gorgeously decorated Christmas tree and even has selected pop-up shops in addition to the usual stores, there only for the holiday gift-buying season. Out at the Malibu Country Mart, they even bring in live reindeer to wow the kids – Santa is there, too, as you can tell from the happy giggles as children share their Christmas wish lists. And it really doesn't matter that the temperature is warm and the skies are sunny, the Christmas spirit is alive and well in the City of Angels; once you've checked off all the presents you need to buy, you can even go ice skating outdoors at rinks in Santa Monica, Burbank, downtown L.A. and beyond.


Santa Monica Museum of Art Gracie Christmas Shop
Photo courtesy of Santa Monica Museum of Art/Elizabeth Pezza

Gracie, the Santa Monica Museum's annual pop-up Christmas shop, is only open from November 15 to December 23. So don't procrastinate, or you'll miss out on the one-of-a-kind items here at SMMoA, all chosen by the museum's retail curator. And profits from every present you purchase go toward supporting the museum's exhibitions and programs, so this is really a win-win way to give gifts and support the arts at the same time. Choose special treats for kids, sleek home items for the design lover on your list and pretty ornaments that are sure to complete anyone's Christmas decorating. And don't forget to tour the museum before or after your holiday shopping spree.

Larchmont Village
Devall Design & Home
Photo courtesy of Jenny Peters

Devall Design & Home is a fascinating shop in Larchmont, filled with clever, quirky home goods that any hipster (or design lover) would love to receive as a holiday gift. Design maven Susan Devall searches out items in Europe and beyond, filling her shop with seriously cool stuff. We adore the gold-plated Poison mugs and "bitch" espresso cups; and what home doesn't need an aged brass skull paperweight? Keep looking and you'll discover the "Zombie Couple" altered antique plate and a serving platter covered in "Ants" – there's much to discover and lust after here. Also in the shop are collections of candles, soaps and lotions. And if you like Devall's design eye, she'll redecorate your whole house for a fee, too.

The Grove
Photo courtesy of The Grove

While The Grove is always one of L.A.'s most popular shopping malls, at Christmas time the place really rocks! Santa and his elves are there to greet the kids from November 17 to December 24, in an elaborate gingerbread cottage. Even your pet can visit and take a photo with Santa here! There's a massive Christmas tree, too, carolers strolling and singing, and it even snows every evening right at 7:00 and 8:00 p.m. All the stores are open until 11:00 p.m. starting on December 12, so getting in that last-minute shopping is a snap here. Stores include Nordstrom, Apple, American Girl, Gap, Barnes & Noble and, in a special pop-up holiday shop, Revolve. That huge online store has taken over a spot at The Grove, filled with party clothing for both men and women just in time for the season.

Malibu Country Mart
Photo courtesy of Malibu Country Mart

With over 40 retail shops, plenty of eateries and even a playground filled with fun, the Malibu Country Mart is a year-round shopping destination on Pacific Coast Highway. But at Christmas time the mart pulls out all the stops, with shops offering special sales amid the festive holiday decorations (including a massive tree). Santa comes to visit and brings his live reindeer and every Saturday in December leading up to the big day features special events for kids to enjoy, like holiday face painting and cookie decorating. Shops include John Varvatos, Toy Crazy, Juicy Couture, Ron Herman, Oliver Peoples, Madison and MAC cosmetics.

Jeanie Madsen Gallery
Photo courtesy of Jenny Peters

A unique art gallery and design boutique right in the heart of Santa Monica, the Jeanie Madsen Gallery is chockablock with items that are sure to strike your fancy. Artists' offerings include works in all media, with a focus on Urban, Street and Pop Art. Be sure to head toward the back of the gallery, where Madsen showcases her "Wearable Art" creations. Those are limited edition clothing, jewelry and accessories designed by Madsen as well as Jennifer Verge, Fahmina and Carolyn. Check out the shoes; they alone are worth making visit to this special gallery overlooking the Pacific Ocean, but you may end up buying those for yourself. Don't worry, though, there's plenty of other special Christmas gift possibilities here.

Rodeo Drive
Photo courtesy of Rodeo Drive

No matter what your loved ones fancy for Christmas, you're sure to find it on Rodeo Drive. Bring plenty of cash, however, for when you enter Tiffany's, Van Cleef & Arpels, Bulgari or Cartier to buy jewels, you will need deep pockets. There are plenty of gifts at Valentino, Dior or Dolce & Gabbana; or try Hermes, Saint Laurent and Ralph Lauren for some ideas. Check out Rimowa, where they sell the best rolling luggage on the planet; fill a suitcase with your holiday purchases and head over to Ocean Prime, Bouchon or Spago nearby for a little pick-me-up cocktail when all that holiday shopping gets a bit too overwhelming.

Larchmont Village
Larchmont Sanctuary Spa
Photo courtesy of Le Petit Retreat

When it comes to giving the gift of bliss, there's nothing like sending your favorite person (or couple) off to Larchmont Sanctuary Spa, gift certificate in hand. There's much to love about this serene place in the heart of Larchmont Village, starting with the cozy relaxation room that even boasts a soothing indoor fountain. Treatments can be had indoors or out, and range from the spa's signature Jade Stone Massage to enzyme facials, microdemabrasion, detoxifying body wraps and much more. Gift certificates are available in any denomination; or buy your special someone a specific treatment package instead.

CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles
Photo courtesy of CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles

CRAFTED at the Port of Los Angeles is your one-stop shop for beautifully crafted, handmade gifts. With over 100 artists and crafters offering up their wares every weekend, this gigantic 25,000-square-foot warehouse near the docks in San Pedro is only open Friday, Saturday and Sunday, so mark your calendar and make your lists. Everything from apparel, home goods, ceramics, sculpture, artisanal soaps, body products and more is on display here; and for beer lovers, the Brouwerji West beer brewery and tasting room is scheduled to open in early 2015. Small Business Saturday is November 29, 2014: wine tastings, raffles, a visit from Santa and more will happen that day. And December 20, 2014, is Etsy Takeover Day, featuring an Etsy pop-up shop, crafts demonstrations and live music all day.

Traveler's Bookcase
Photo courtesy of Traveler's Bookcase

There's plenty of interesting travel books to be found here at the Traveler's Bookcase, but that's just the tip of the iceberg. Sure, there are perfect tomes for gifting (check out "The Times Comprehensive Atlas of the World," $200, or National Geographic's "World's Best Cities," $40, for starters), but this special shop also stocks hip L.A.-centric goods like tote bags, glassware and more from SOLA as well as plenty of must-have travel accessories, perfect for the world wanderer in your life. Your favorite writer will love the 7-Year Pen, a writing implement that will last and last and last. We love their large selection of globes, too.

Traditions: Year-Round Holiday Store
Photo courtesy of Traditions: Year-Round Holiday Store

Traditions: Year-Round Holiday Store is SoCal's biggest and best Christmas specialty store. This family-owned shop has been stocking up on holiday must-haves since 1964. You'll find Christmas trees, Santas, snowmen, both new and vintage ornaments, lights, all kinds of collectibles and much more. Traditions stocks plenty of gift possibilities as well, including Limoges porcelain boxes, tea pots, plates, folk art and jewelry. Once you discover this specialty shop, you'll realize that you really do need to visit all year round, for they also stock everything you could possibly imagine for other holidays, from Hanukkah to Valentine's Day and Easter and all the way to Halloween and Thanksgiving.


Meet 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...  More About Jenny