Whether you’re a San Diego resident or visiting from out of town, knowing the best places to go shopping saves time and perhaps even a little money. San Diego boasts a wide variety of boutiques, malls, outlet malls and even museum gift stores that are all worth stopping into.
Topping the list of best shopping in San Diego is Fashion Valley Mall. Though the stores are common throughout the nation, this mall has unparalleled variety along with a larger selection of merchandise in comparison to local counterparts. From Neiman Marcus to H&M, all budgets can shop and dine here.
Probably the most unique store on this list is Urban Seed, a charming home decor boutique located in the middle of touristy Old Town, usually an area of extreme souvenir shopping. Impressive, earthy displays and selection of soaps, plants, cut flowers, paper and home decor items keep locals returning often.
If your travels take you to the museums at Balboa Park, do plan for extra time to wander into the museum gift shops for unique gifts ideas. Not to worry, entry to these gift shops is free! The favorite is the Mingei International Museum Collector’s Gallery / Museum Store for it’s diverse selection of books, D.I.Y. crafts, jewelry and more.
Wherever you are in San Diego, have no fear, shopping is near. Check this list for advice.
Fashion Valley, centrally located in San Diego’s Mission Valley district, is a shoppers’ delight, not only because of its 200 stores and restaurants, but because of its outdoor ambiance on two levels. The center houses a wide variety of retail stores, including Macy’s, Nordstrom, Tiffany & Co., Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus, and JC Penny. The city’s only TopShop, AllSaints, Louis Vuitton and Prada are located here, too. Excellent outdoor cafes and sit-down restaurants are interspersed throughout the complex, providing a respite for sore feet after hours of walking through the myriad stores and shops. There is plenty of parking, including valet which you may want to consider during the busy holiday rush.
Cedros Avenue Design District is located in Solana Beach between the streets Via de la Valle and Lomas Santa Fe. It’s 2 1/2 blocks of more than 85 shops, restaurants, spas and boutiques. You’ll find everything from books, maternity clothes, pet supplies, home decor to jewelry. World renowned architects and interior designers have offices here. On Sundays from 1:00 pm – 4:00 pm, there’s even a Farmer’s Market at the south end. It’s also within a quick walk of the Amtrak train station. Start at Claire’s on Cedros for amazing pre-shopping pancakes. This area is an easy 2 1/2 block stroll.
The Carlsbad Premium Outlets are located just west of The Flower Fields and east of the I-5, near LEGOLAND. This outlet mall has over 90 stores and restaurants offering an average savings of between 25%-65% off retail prices. Sometimes you can even find current merchandise, just at a discount. Popular stores include Barney’s New York, Banana Republic, Gap, Theory, Stride Rite, Coach, Skechers and Crate and Barrel. There’s plenty of fast-casual dining including a Ruby’s Diner or Rubio’s, but if you’d like a nice sit-down meal, try Bellefleur. There is plenty of parking around the mall and even a handful of stores like St. John now across the street.
Sometimes called the Rodeo Drive of San Diego, La Jolla’s Prospect Street overlooks the Pacific Ocean and is lined with small specialty shops, boutiques, antique emporiums and art galleries. The streets intersecting Prospect, like Girard and Ivanhoe, also include awesome boutique shopping. In addition to offering elegant, designer fashions in sophisticated apparel shops, La Jolla is also known for its exquisite and original fine jewelry. Some big brands like Kate Spade, GAP and Lululemon have popped up over the years, but the area still retains a small-town charm. Parking on the street is 1-hour but there are lots and 2-hour parking on other streets. A number of the city’s best restaurants are also within walking distance.
This 16-block section of downtown is a national historic district filled with over 100 specialty shops, art galleries and restaurants. Numerous theaters and nightclubs call the Gaslamp Quarter home, so there’s plenty to do after the sun sets. Shoppers can find cutting-edge fashion in quirky independent boutiques and retailers like Urban Outfitters, The Puma Store, Volcom and Quicksilver. Unusual shopping opportunities also abound, from the latest in skateboarding gear at Street Machine, to cigars hand-rolled on-site at the Cuban Cigar Factory, to outrageous pet fashions at Lucky Dog. You can park at Horton Plaza for 3 hours with a validation from their kiosk.
A favorite among locals, Urban Seed provides home and garden decor as well as consultation services, should your home or garden need a quick pick-me-up. They do actually carry disease and pest resistant, high yielding seeds along with unique glassware, fresh-cut flowers, paper, furniture, air plants and garden accessories making it a perfect place to look for a gift. Its Fiesta Del Reyes location in Old Town makes this store and easy stop for visitors also in search of authentic Mexican food and a little California history
San Diego’s Little Italy is a delightful combination of urban chic coupled with the history and tradition of Italian and Sicilian immigrants who settled on its shores in the early 20th Century. If shopping is on your radar, there are numerous art galleries, home decor stores, boutiques and even antique dealers. Italian eateries predominate, of course, but there are plenty of alternatives if your appetite leans toward other cuisines. On Saturdays, Little Italy is also home to one of San Diego’s most popular Farmer’s Markets with a wide range of produce and products made by local artisans. Little Italy is a very upbeat, pleasant place to spend an afternoon shopping.
The colorful and whimsical architecture of Horton Plaza sets it apart from any shopping mall in the region, in fact, the complex has become somewhat of a San Diego icon since its construction in the mid 1980s. The construction of this multi-level and intricate complex is credited with jumpstarting the Renaissance of San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter, and it continues to appeal to visitors alike to this day. You will find major retailers in addition to a wide array of shops, eateries, and restaurants, making it a popular noontime stop for downtown workers. During the holiday season, an outdoor ice-skating rink adds a festive touch.
This colorful shop is located inside the Mingei International Museum and features a wonderful selection of folk art and collectibles from around the world. Merchandise varies with the current exhibits but expect to find gorgeous tea sets, stunning jewelry, housewares, books, D.I.Y. crafts and much more. Shoppers can find something for all ages and in a number of prices ranges. Have a difficult person to shop for? This store may be the answer because the carefully-curated merchandise isn’t commonly found elsewhere. Although museums charge an admission fee, visitors who want to enter museum gift shops only are not required to pay.
This 14-acre waterfront village features over 50 specialty shops and galleries. Some of the items you’ll find include handmade soaps, nautical collectibles, home accessories, magic tricks, jewelry, hot sauces, toys, sportswear, books, decorative tiles, kites, music boxes, coffee beans and hammocks. All the shopping may leave you a bit hungry, but never fear. Dining options include gourmet restaurants, burger and pizza joints, even cookie and ice cream shops (restaurant hours vary). Do enjoy the free entertainment at the gazebo on Sunday afternoons. The area has also been greatly enhanced by the addition of The Headquarters, a revitalized entertainment complex including Puesto and Eddie V’s restaurants.
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