California: A Retail Dreamland

The California state of mind is legendary - laid back living that is effortlessly elegant. It is innovative, pioneering, colorful, relaxed, and playful, where anything goes from haute to hipster and everything in between. California is the place where global trends begin, from the red carpet to street style, to athleisure ensembles. Brands are born here, and designers from around the world turn to California’s landscapes and culture for inspiration. Take Levi’s, for example, which was established in San Francisco in 1853. Today Los Angeles is the prime location for denim.


Shopping extends far beyond fashion, as well. Whether you’re looking for fashion-forward souvenirs or want to take advantage of low prices and a strong exchange rate, or simply aim to stock up on American classics, shopping opportunities abound throughout the state. In this section, we unveil a variety of shopping experiences and environments, as well as uniquely Californian goods that are worth buying an extra suitcase for. It’s not just clothing that gets visitors swiping their credit cards - art, accessories and homewares also tempt shoppers. No matter what you’re in the market for, you’ll find something unique in California.

Click the weblink icon on the right to view some of California's Shopping Hot Spots.

California Style Stars

California is a brand name in itself. Known as a global trendsetter for fashion, it's no wonder California is home to so many world-renowned designers. From haute couture to completely casual, California's fashion houses span the spectrum to fill your closet. And let's not forget the nod to California's love of the great outdoors, with equally impressive outdoor and active lifestyle brands, which will be elaborated on in a later section.


California is the king of denim, being the birthplace of the Levi Strauss headquarters. The Market Street flagship store in San Francisco is one of the largest Levi's stores in the world, believe it or not. Here discover the classics, plus limited-edition Japanese selvage pairs, as well as vintage remakes of the original copper-riveted dungarees. Discount racks are brimming with deals, as well.


Californians are big fans of keeping it local, as well, and this is no different with fashion. Many big-name designers are proud to tout their California roots. Rodarte, for example, is the brainchild of Kate and Laura Mulleavy, two California natives who opened the label in Los Angeles. Derek Lam, a big star in the New York City fashion scene, originally hails from San Francisco. Other California fashion icons include Philip Lim and Jeremy Scott, who is the creative director for Moschino. California is also home to the Trina Turk & Mr. Turk flagship boutique in Palm Springs, while Mary Kate & Ashley Olsen sell their label at The Row on Melrose and the Elizabeth & James flagship at The Grove. Need to get red carpet ready? Monique Lhuillier hails from California, as well. Or glam up for a night of rock'n'roll style with Chrome Hearts.


But California isn't just known for its haute couture. Don't forget its epic surf culture. In fact, surf legend Al Merrick's daughter is building her own fashion brand in downtown Los Angeles. California is also known for its social responsibility, and fashion is no exception, especially with designers like Cuyana, a socially conscious brand with a San Francisco showroom and Los Angeles store.


And as with anything fashion forward, never forget to accessorize. California is known for its jewelry designers like LFrank, Irene Neuwirth, and Jennifer Meyer, as well as Clare V handbags.

Major Malls

Mall culture in California is truly an experience. California's shopping malls have stepped up their game over the years and now offer many exclusive services for visitors. From VIP shopping lounges to personal stylists and bag storage, a trip to the mall in California is an event all its own. Embracing California's outdoor lifestyle and climate, many of the malls in the Golden State are outdoors, and they are destinations where you can spend an entire day, thanks to a full range of restaurants, fitness studios, and beauty bars.



In Los Angeles, The Grove is one of the most premiere shopping destinations, as well as hot spot for dining and entertainment. With stores like Anthropologie, Apple, Michael Kors, Coach and Nordstrom, guests are enamored. Add to that the old-fashioned trolley rides and dancing fountains and The Grove has become a 'must see' destination in L.A.


Savor the moment at Santa Monica Place, a modern shopping & dining destination located in the heart of Santa Monica. The contemporary mix of stores and restaurants are exactly what Santa Monica is about.


Recently, Westfield Century City underwent a $1-billion makeover, which added another dose of decadent on top of an already luxe establishment. With secret elevators, parking for luxury cars, and high-end retail, the mall recently added an Eataly, as well as more than 200 mostly new shops and restaurants, as well as VIP private lounges, and special shopping hours for celebs.


Discover the ultimate in shopping, dining, entertainment, and luxe living at The Americana at Brand. From the carefully chosen boutiques to the beautiful ambience, customization is key at this retail oasis.


There is also the Beverly Center, with more than 100 specialty boutiques, along with big league names like Burberry, Fendi, Gucci, Saint Laurent, and Ferragamo.


Orange County

For haute beach browsing, consider South Coast Plaza, California’s largest luxury shopping complex, with iconic luxury brands like Hermes, Chanel, and Prada. Newport Beach has more spoil-worthy shopping at Fashion Island, where Italian-style piazzas palm trees, and koi ponds (plus ocean views) feel more like a resort than a shopping mall.


San Diego

More than 18 million visitors each year see the dynamic, fine shopping environment in Fashion Valley. Spanning 1.7 million square feet of space, housing more than 200 fine stores and restaurants, Fashion Valley meets every budget, style and taste. There is also a movie theater, six department stores, a newly renovated food court, water features, and soft seating areas throughout the mall's common areas.


Central Coast

In Santa Barbara, State Street is synonymous with shopping. If you're ready to dive in, start at the upper end, with luxury retailers at La Cumbre Plaza. As you continue south, visit the babbling fountains and lush landscaping.


The Desert

Get a dose of Rodeo Drive deep in the California desert. Stroll the swanky strip, El Paseo, in Palm Desert. The roughly 1-mile strip and adjacent streets house one of the largest concentrations of art galleries anywhere in Southern California. But what you are there for is the shopping. Think top designers, including Bottega Veneta and St. John. Find more shops at the Gardens on El Paseo complex: Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor, Pottery Barn, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Bahamas, and more.


Bay Area

Northern California has its fair share of shopping, as well. For more than 50 years, Palo Alto has touted Town & Country Village, a collection of more than 70 high-end shops, restaurants, and services - now with free public Wi-Fi!


In San Francisco, just two blocks from Union Square, discover Westfield San Francisco Centre. This iconic nine-story shopping destination offers San Francisco's ultimate style collection, as well as the west coast flagship Bloomingdale's, the second largest Nordstrom in the U.S., 200 shops and restaurants, as well as San Francisco's largest day spa, Burke.

Click the slideshow icon on the right to view more images of shopping in California.

Boutique Shopping Centers

For a more intimate, customized shopping experience, consider one of California's any boutique shopping centers. These are small in scale and well-curated with many independent designers and emerging brands, to provide a compelling alternative or companion to the big malls. Looking for something one of a kind that truly fits your personality and style? These are the places for you.


In Los Angeles, discover the neighborhood of Brentwood. Located on the west side between Westwood and Santa Monica, the neighborhood is chock full of green pastures, trees, and curated, boutique shopping. Visit the historic Brentwood Country Mart with its marketplaces, shops, and stalls arranged around a central courtyard.


You can shop for beach fashions, and maybe even spot one of local celebs, at the Malibu Country Mart and Malibu Lumber Yard, two adjacent and upscale retail centers.


Farther up the coast, discover the Montecito Country mart, which serves as a classic example of the Santa Barbara lifestyle. A combination of services, market, restaurants, and boutiques, the Montecito Country Mart is a luxury lifestyle experience.


In Orange County, artisans, tastemakers, chefs, and curators come together to share their talents and draw inspiration from the sea. Enjoy charming boutiques, stylish shops, al fresco dining, and a scaled village ambiance. Also, in Orange County, the CAMP is a green, eco-friendly retail complex that promotes active, healthy lifestyles and environmentalism.


The Bay Area offers Temescal Alleys in Oakland. These two pedestrian alleys in the Temescal District feature a curated selection of locally owned artisan shops, as well as an ice cream shop and cafe.

Big Deals: Outlets, Duty Free & Sample Sales

Bargains abound in the Golden State, whether you're hunting for luxury goods or simple sneakers. Outlet malls are located up and down the state, and there's stellar Duty-Free shopping at LAX and SFO. And if you're a really hard-core fashionista, look up sample sales taking place when you're in town.


Discover the Citadel Outlets near downtown L.A. with more than 130 stores and a hotel. Citadel is a shrine to contemporary shopping. Take the little ones to Tommy Hilfiger kids and the Toys "R" Us Outlet. Guys can update their wardrobes at A/X Armanix Exchange and Hugo Boss, while women should check out Kate Spade New York.


And then there's California's collection of renowned Simon Premium Outlets. In San Francisco, this consists of a collection of more than 100 high-end retail outlets in the Tri-Valley city of Livermore, east of San Francisco Bay. Or visit the Desert Hills Premium Outlets complex near Palm Springs, with 180 stores including brand names like Burberry, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Kate Spade New York, Roberto Cavalli, Tom Ford, and Valentino. There are also Simon Premium Outlets in Camarillo, Carlsbad, Las Americas, Gilroy, Pismo Beach, Napa, Vacaville and Folsom meaning wherever you are in the Golden State outlet shopping is close by!

Luxury Shopping Destinations and Services

California's luxury is where the highest concentration of designer fashions and accessories can be found. Plus, services like Santa Monica-based LALALUXE offer customized shopping tours, wardrobe makeovers, and other divine retail experiences, including private in-store parties and limousine rides down Rodeo Drive. Want to get red-carpet ready? Consider hiring your own Hollywood stylists for a personalized A-list look.


From world-renowned fashion houses to one-of-a-kind local boutiques, Beverly Hills offers a shopper's paradise located with a compact, walkable area. Known as the Golden Triangle, experience world-famous Rodeo Drive where you'll find Prada, Gucci, Valentino, Dior, and more. Discover Two Rodeo Drive, with quaint cobblestone walkways that lead to Versace, Jimmy Choo, and Tiffany. Blocks east of Rodeo, shop Beverly and Canon Drives with local boutiques, restaurants, and open-air cafes. Anchoring the southern border is Department Store Row, home to Neiman-Marcus, Saks Fifth Avenue, and Barneys New York.


Melrose Avenue is one of L.A.'s most famous streets, with a myriad of shopping, dining, and entertainment destinations. Melrose runs north of Beverly Boulevard and south of Santa Monica Boulevard.


Get a dose of Rodeo Drive deep in the California desert. Stroll the swanky strip, El Paseo, in Palm Desert. The roughly 1-mile strip and adjacent streets house one of the largest concentrations of art galleries anywhere in Southern California. But what you are there for is the shopping. Think top designers, including Bottega Veneta and St. John. Find more shops at the Gardens on El Paseo complex: Saks Fifth Avenue, Ann Taylor, Pottery Barn, Brooks Brothers, Tommy Bahamas, and more.


Gain celebrity status in Santa Barbara at Coast Village Road. The most vibrant part of the community of Montecito, it has just about everything to offer in the way of boutique shopping, dining, hotels, and businesses.


In Carmel-by-the-Sea, shopping is inspired. The most discriminating shopper is sure to find something in one of the town's stone-paved alleyways or designer shops. From outdoor malls, to family-owned boutiques, there is something for every refined taste.


In San Diego, visit The Shops at La Jolla Village, an outdoor neighborhood center with a unique collection of shops and restaurants, including Nordstrom Rack, Whole Foods, and Paper Source. There is a mix of 26 stores and nearly a dozen restaurants and eateries.


Or discover downtown San Francisco's land of luxury. Union Square is elegantly circled by palm trees and is the hub for luxury shopping. Walk streets bounding the square to jot down your anything's-possible wish list of finds at Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and Bulgari. You'll also find Saks Fifth Avenue, Macy's Neiman Marcus, and Nike. Just south of the square, on Market Street, you'll find Westfield San Francisco Centre, the city upscale, indoor shopping mall.

Street Cred

For those who prefer to march to their own beat, these shopping streets and districts offer a mix of established global retailers and independent boutiques. The people-watching is an experience in itself, as well!



In Santa Monica, the street to beat is Montana Avenue, which sits at the city's northern edge. It is home to a stretch of more than 150 restaurants and retailers. Though it's just a short walk from Downtown Santa Monica, it feels removed from the hustle and bustle of the 3rd Street Promenade and Pier.


Just minutes from Venice Beach, Abbot Kinney Boulevard is a mile-long strip of the latest fashion, art and food. This bustling district stretches from Venice Boulevard to Pacific Avenue, and is the premiere destination for the Boho-chic style.


Spend the afternoon shopping at Sunset Plaza on Sunset Boulevard, which contained more than 20 stores, from clothing to books, and more.


And if exploring the Downtown L.A. Arts District, brace yourself for a stream of boutiques, galleries, cafes, and museums. In particular, be sure to visit 3.1 Philip Lim Los Angeles, Alchemy Works, Poketo, and Apolis.


San Francisco

In San Francisco, there are no shortages of shopping areas. Rising in the ranks of the city's best has been Fillmore Street. Located between Japantown and Pacific Height, this street has recently been named one of the best shopping streets in America, known for its up-and-coming trends.


Meanwhile Union Square is a bustling hub of shopping, hotels, and events. Home to department stores, world-renowned luxury brands, and local favorites, shopping is an all-day event.



One of the most desirable neighborhoods in Oakland, Rockridge, just happens to be one of the best-dressed, as well. Boutique, local shops pull in the trend-setting youth of Oakland who are testing the latest fashions and taking it to the streets.


Santa Barbara

Though typically known for its luxury lifestyle, Santa Barbara is showing off a funkier side, as well. Over the past few decades its Funk Zone has become a fast-growing favorite among hipster shoppers. Converted warehouses and buildings decorated with graffiti murals set the tone for boutique tasting rooms, cafes, galleries, and shops, as well as surfboard shapers, vintage wares, and more.

Palm Springs

The Downtown and the Uptown Design District offer a vibrant collection of mid-century modern retailers, boutiques, consignment dealers, galleries, and antiques. Stroll through more than a dozen artist-owned galleries and working studios.

Surf, Skate & Active Apparel

When it comes to staying in shape, Californians do it best. They also know how to dress the part. California is a year-round playground for outdoor adventure and this has played a role in making the state an outdoor lifestyle brand hub. Companies like Patagonia, North Face, O'Neill, Channel Islands Surfboards and UGG are rooted here. Many have exclusive flagships where you can have unique retail experiences that are native only to California.


No discussion of skateboarding history is complete without a mention of the Combi pool. But while this legendary skate relic is technically no more, a perfect replica exists at the center of the indoor Vans Skatepark, located at The Outlets at Orange, just steps from Disneyland. Add to that a 20,000 square-foot main course and a mega onsite Vans gear store, and this is pure skater heaven.


Or scoot up the coast to Santa Barbara to visit the Deckers Brand Showcase, a first-ever multi-brand retail store designed for the great outdoors, showing off brands like Ugg, Koolaburra, Teva, Sanuk, and Hoka One One. You might also want to check out the Channel Islands and Burton flagship store in Santa Barbara, as well as the SeaVees Showroom & Guide Bar.


Patagonia fans can see where the magic all began at the Ventura flagship store, as well.

Click the weblink icon on the right, to discover 7 classic surf shops in California.

Vintage & Antiques

Vintage and antiques are styles for the real treasure hunters, and California is packed with hidden gems waiting to be discovered. Nearly every town has consignment shops, thrift stores, vintage retailers, and antique depots.


One of the best in the state is the Rose Bowl Flea Market. Treasure hunters and bargain seekers flock to the Pasadena legend the second Sunday of every month. With more than 2,500 vendors touting antiques, vintage clothing, local art, and specialty products, this 45-year-old legend attracts 20,000 buyers, including celebs and interior designers.


Cruise over to Melrose in Los Angeles to discover Decades, the international hotspot for vintage couture. Set in a 1926 Art Deco building, it focuses on everything from design pieces and separates to red carpet ready ballgowns.

Souvenir Shopping List

Showcase the very best of your California experience by bringing home the perfect souvenir. These California brands will help you remember your vacation long after you've returned home.


Heath Ceramics is a California legend, owned by two families since 1948, selling products handcrafted by skilled artisans.


Got a favorite California city? Tell the world with your Apolis Market Bag. These resilient, reusable, fashionable shopping bags are eco-friendly, which is a major part of the California experience.


Visit P.F. Candle Co. to purchase the Golden Coast candle, inspired my California's coast with notes of sea air, redwood, eucalyptus and white lavender. It has also been infused with essential oils like Sage and Palo Santo.


Rock your best Janessa Leone accessory, like her iconic hat. The Los Angeles-based brand creates sophisticated pieces with a focus on minimal designs.


Or try your own hand at California cuisine with a cookbook from one of California's many talented celebrity chefs, like Wolfgang Puck, Alice Waters, Michael Mina, Mette Williams, Brian Malarky, Thomas Keller, and more.

Stop by the California Welcome Center at Ontario Mills to pick up a uniquely Californian souvenir and get through your list of items to bring back to friends at California’s largest indoor outlet center.

And lastly, get your tech covered in Silicon Valley at The Great Mall in Milpitas, where you can stop and get your SIM card at ATT or T-Mobile.


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