Where to shop in Southern California
As promised, we have a whole new batch of photos from inside Santa Monica Place, the new mall that just opened at the end of Third Street Promenade, steps away from the iconic Santa Monica Pier. (C'mon, you've all seen it in "Forest Gump.")
While Third Street Promenade has provided most of the recreational and retail action for Santa Monica, it's going to have to take a backseat to this new mall. Aside from the designer brands (Louis Vuitton, Bloomies, Nordstroms, Burberry and Barneys Co-Op), Santa Monica Place is finally giving shoppers what they really want--a wide variety of food options.
The third-floor open-air Dining Deck has a mix of high-end restaurants (Sonoma Wine Garden, XINO and La Sandia) mixed in with somewhat upscale food court options like tacos, pizza, and Chinese food. Of course, you can still get a cinnamon sugar pretzel at Wetzel's Pretzels.
Way back in January 2008, Santa Monica Place, the mall at the end of the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, Calif.--near the world famous Santa Monica Pier--closed for an extensive renovation. And we mean, extensive.
Much of the old mall, designed by Frank Gehry in 1980, was demolished and in its place, a 500,000sq.ft. three-story, open air shopping "destination" was erected.
Today that mall reopens as a spectacular high-end retail experience anchored by a stunning new Bloomingdale's. And not only does this new shopping mecca look pretty and modern but it's also eco-friendly and hopes to earn a LEED Silver certification.
Nearly a year ago we spoke of our love for Fred Segal Santa Monica, a posh, celeb-frequented, overpriced boutique with cutesy department names like Flair, Fun and Emphatic.
Back then, we mentioned that we preferred this boutique over its West Hollywood counterpart largely because it was close to the beach, free of D-list celebrities holding their appointments with the paparazzi and with more manageable parking. We'd like to take all of that back now that we've learned the store has just announced its own reality show on Bravo.
The show will focus on the oft-stressed and competitive sales team as they cater to well-to-do customers who demand the latest in clothes, shoes, accessories and beauty products.
If you're a regular reader of the weekly trashy tabloids (not that we are or anything), then the name Fred Segal should be very familiar to you. It's the trendy store where celebrities are always spotted buying new clothes, catching a bite to eat and staging some convenient photo ops.
Now, there are actually two Fred Segal stores--one on Melrose Avenue where most of the paparazzi camp out--and the more low-key one in Santa Monica on Broadway, just off the Third Street Promenade.
This is the Fred Segal that we prefer. Why? Well it's close to the beach, it's bigger (which means more merchandise) and the parking is way more manageable.
The Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, California is one of the most popular flea markets in the country. The bargain shopper's paradise is held every second Sunday of the month in and around the Rose Bowl stadium from the special VIP opening time of 5 am until 4:30 pm.
The market has pretty much everything you can imagine for sale from antique sewing machines to 1950s furniture to African beads, vintage clothes, china, old records, old-school toys (My Little Ponies, Karate Kid figurines), appliances and our fave, shabby chic decor.
While the crowds really start to pack in around 11 am, we suggest going early--like at 8 am--if you want to spot celebrities. That's what we did and we spied "Grey's Anatomy" star, T. R. Knight getting some cash out of the ATM while his new boyfriend waited patiently. That's our stalkerazzi shot above.
Excuse us while we get all girly on you.
In this edition of the LA Shopping Map, we spurn the pedestrian shopping malls and centers in favor of truly haute couture mecca in Los Angeles. We hesitate to call it a shopping district or anything really with the word "shop" in it because we are not so sure that's what goes on here. After all, does anyone really go on a shopping spree at Carolina Herrera?
Nevertheless, to experience some of LA's best fashion designer offerings head to Melrose Place.
Yes, Melrose Place in Aaron Spelling's world consisted of an apartment complex of 20-something-year-olds who slept with each other and then cried about it. Either that or they went completely postal on each other.
But the real Melrose Place is probably the preferred shopping--eek we had to say it--street for celebs, even more so than Rodeo Drive. Why? Because the design houses are cooler, the offerings unique, the experience is much more private (each store is like a private little home) and there's little to no tourists. (That is until we just told you to go there.)
If you're headed to Santa Monica, you will most likely end up spending some time at the Third Street Promenade--a three-block stretch of all your "favorite" mall stores (Gap, Banana, B&N, Apple, Express, etc.), coffee shops and some sub-par restaurants.
We don't want to lie to you and so we won't: The Promenade, while convenient, sucks. It's always crowded and dirty and the random street performers don't make things any better. Seriously: Is there a need for a father-son gymnastics duo here? Also, there are tons of parents who like to pimp out their kids on the Promenade by making them do "acts" like playing the keyboard or singing over a Lauryn Hill tape.
It's not just sad; it's annoying. Tourists who think these kinds of acts are cute crowd up the sidewalk making it harder for us to get the hell outta the place.
We haven't updated our Shopping in SoCal Map in a bit (eek!) but with Halloween just around the corner we couldn't resist filling you in on a Westside costume shop we like.
Ursula's Costumes on Wilshire in Santa Monica is perfect for all your silly, not-to-be-taken-too-seriously costume needs. To the point, we like it because it is stocked to the brims with those easy to assemble Halloween costumes that come in plastic packages and cost anywhere from $35 to $50. We have easily spent that much going from places like Goodwill to Target to Joanne's Fabric Store trying to put together a costume.
At Ursula's our only problem was trying to decide between the Slutty Wizard (really) or a Slutty Merchant's Wife (seriously). In the end we chose Slutty Corrections Officer because we get to hit people with a plastic baton all night. Men can choose from less slutty options like Caveman, Doctor, Zoot Suit Gangster and other cliched costumes. Also, your pet can have his or her pick of costumes too.
For those who want to go to the next level, Ursula's has a costume rental department as well as a tailor who will custom make your outfit. (That takes about two months, so you'll buy off the rack for this weekend. But it's never too early to get a jump on next year!)
The only downside is that during Halloween time it gets crowded and parking (as per usual) is either unavailable (meters on Wilshire are hard to score) or costly. We hit the lot behind the building which charges $1.00 for every 20 minutes. We were also disappointed in the wig section which carried a so-so collection. Plus you have to buy a $1.99 wig cap before you try any wigs on, even if you don't end up buying a wig.
Ursula's is still open after Halloween and orders are accepted online so it fits any costume party needs--not just those happening around Oct. 31st.
The Beverly Center ain't pretty on the outside. In fact, it's quite garish but it sure is pretty on the inside. This shopping center is a must-stop in Los Angeles partly because it's hard to miss and partly because of what it has to offer.
The center recently underwent some renovations adding more designer stores as well as trendy budget stores like H&M and a hip lounge/restaurant called The Wave on the bottom floor near the central escalators.
Sure, there's still a bunch of cheesy stores (Guess anyone?) and a few eccentric ones like Traffic but as a whole, we could definitely spend hours wandering in this mall. Oh wait, we have done that.
A few years back Westfield Shopping Center's Century City was a snoozy little mall, pretty much a second-hand or third-hand stop after the Beverly Center and anything along Rodeo Drive. But we used to frequent it because a) it was close to our apartment; b) it had a Bloomingdale's and a Macy's and c) no one was ever there, meaning parking was a cinch.
Alas, this is not true anymore. Century City went under a huge renovation last year (parts of it are still undergoing changes) unveiling a brand-spanking new AMC theater, a modern trendy food court (no Auntie Anne's Pretzels here) and in addition to all the mall staples, a slew of cool new stores like an Apple Store, The Container Store, and most recently, a hip new hangout/restaurant called Pink Taco. (The other location is in the Hard Rock in Las Vegas.) And yes, this is still considered a family center.
Parking gets pretty tricky on the weekends but the good news is that it's free for the first three hours.
· Westfield Century City [Official Site]
Now, Marina Del Rey is not often regarded as a shopping destination simply because the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica and the shops along Abbott Kinney in Venice offer so much more.
But we were able to cruise around the Waterside shops and were pleasantly surprised by what we found. Should we have even doubted it in the first place? After all this is a Caruso property. The man can do no wrong.
Sure it has a creepy Brave New World feel to it. But the man-made Utopia has everything we love about LA: It's clean, picturesque, and unapologetically capitalistic.
And it has an authentic trolley that rolls on through the place. We're suckers for old-time modes of transportation.