Steer your car to these tony boutiques, high-end open-air malls, factory outlets, and specialty stores.
This outdoor retail complex in San Diego County recently underwent a major facelift and expansion, and the finished result is stunning. You can easily spend all day at Westfield UTC browsing the 150-plus shops, catching a movie at the state-of-the-art theater, eating and drinking your way around the beautiful grounds (Lemonade and Shake Shack have long lines for a reason), or just lounging in the sun with a fresh-pressed juice. Serious shoppers will appreciate Westfield’s variety, from familiar brands (H&M to Hermès) to California cult labels like Gorjana (jewelry), Marine Layer (apparel) and Travis Mathew (menswear).
In the beachy neighborhood of Solana Beach in San Diego’s North County, Cedros Avenue is dotted with vibrant specialty shops. Grab a New Orleans–style iced coffee at Lofty Coffee and browse the numerous home décor retailers, both big box (West Elm) and local-designer-curated (check out SoLo’s collectibles and housewares). For on-trend fashions, head to Gerhard and Pink Lagoon, two high-end boutiques specializing in women’s clothing, shoes, and accessories. Take a shopping break on the patio at either Claire’s on Cedros or Homestead, which specializes in local, wholesome ingredients. If you’re parched from all your purchasing, sample San Diego’s epic craft beer scene at Culture Brewing.
Southern California’s largest luxury shopping hub, this Costa Mesa retail mecca offers something for every budget and taste, from Abercrombie & Fitch to Dolce & Gabbana. It would take a week to browse the 250 boutiques at South Coast Plaza, and you’d be well-fed while doing it, too—there are 30 restaurants on site, ranging from the casual eats at Champagne French Bakery Cafe, to the more formal Seasons 52, which serves up a seasonally inspired menu and artisanal cocktails. Another uniquely South Coast Plaza feature: You can wrap your day of shopping with a musical or concert at the adjacent Segerstrom Center for the Arts.
Situated in the heart of Santa Monica, this eclectic, car-free retail thoroughfare stretches three blocks and is anchored by Santa Monica Place, a cluster of popular retail brands like Coach and Michael Kors. Check out the Third Street Promenade’s colorful street performers and shops brimming with collectibles, like multi-hued kaleidoscopes and vases at Adamm’s Stained Glass Studio & Art Gallery, a vast trove of guitars at Truetone Music. Break for lunch at Bruxie’s and try the signature chicken and waffle sandwich. Nearby, Montana Avenue offers more tree-shaded browsing plus possible celebrity sightings at Kreation Kafe’s juice bar.
Beverly Hills’ Rodeo Drive is the pinnacle luxury shopping experience, known for both its glamorous couture stores (think Versace and Prada) and the exotic cars that cruise the iconic stretch. Shop like a jetsetter at prestigious-brand boutiques like Chanel, Fendi, and Dior, all clustered within a three-block radius. Nab an outside table at the elegant 208 Rodeo and enjoy some fabulous people watching over lunch of lobster gnocchi with black truffle cream. Before you leave, snap a selfie by the Via Rodeo sign on Two Rodeo Drive, a faux-European cobblestone alley.
Recharge overnight in a luxurious bed at the Beverly Waldorf Astoria Beverly Hills.
California’s largest outlet shopping destination—1 million square feet!—Ontario Mills houses 200 stores (and counting), including luxury brands like Coach, Hugo Boss, and Kate Spade New York. Browse for bargains for the whole family and home (Restoration Hardware Outlet is a big draw for home-design buffs), then refuel at one of the casual family-friendly dining options, such as Rainforest Café. Before you go, be sure to check the Ontario Mills website for rotating deals and special events.
If you’re a fan of Mad Men’s sleek midcentury-modern aesthetic, you’ll want to head straight to this Palm Springs shopping hub. On North Palm Canyon Drive, dig through the Uptown Design District’s time-capsule shops for retro furnishings and clothing. Treasure hunt through art galleries, antique shops, and consignment stores. Check out Dazzles’ flea market finds: Lucite jewelry, vintage highball glasses, and gold-plated serving dishes. And then swing by Trina Turk Palm Springs, the designer’s flagship boutique that features colorful resort wear and accessories.
This high-end shopping district is a retail oasis in Palm Desert. The nine-block El Paseo houses a number of luxury labels (think Gucci and Louis Vuitton), chic eateries, and locally-owned shops like BG’s El Paseo (colorful women’s fashions), Trestle (home goods), and The Body Deli (hand-crafted soaps and lotions). For some more open-air shopping, head to the Gardens on El Paseo complex, where you’ll find more cult brands like Johnny Was, Kate Spade, Saks Fifth Avenue, and others. In the market for original art to adorn your home? You’ve come to the right place—El Paseo is home to one of the largest concentrations of art galleries in Southern California. After working up an appetite with all that window shopping, grab a patio table (and platter of oysters on the half shell) at Pacifica Seafood Restaurant.