It’s no secret that San Diegans flaunt a style all their own. Who are we kidding? We have got it goin’ on.
Our aesthetic borrows some of the urban edge that mirrors our city’s downtown grit and more from an effortless breeze of bohemian beach bum, which infuses a little something I like to call “spunk” into our daily get-up.
We’re known for inimitable trends that get mimicked and magnified to all parts of the world, so as part of our lifestyle regimen, it’s fundamental to stay up to speed on the latest trends and know where to find the best San Diego boutiques.
Lucky for us, this trendy city of ours came equipped with a handful of top-notch malls: upscale, outdoors and each reflective of San Diego’s hodgepodge of personalities.
The pressure for us fashion-conscious folks eases away around here, where not a single shopping sprint is without gorgeous views and sun-drenched walkways amongst the finest designers. Go out and find your own spunk that only comes from a city like this.
Discover ten of our favorite San Diego shopping malls and plazas.
The Forum in Carlsbad
It’s a well-known virtue that when you veer off the beaten path, you’re bound to find a treasure. The Forum in Carlsbad is no exception to the rule.
Nestled among the relaxed suburbs of San Diego’s North County, the Forum welcomes visitors with elegant outdoor walkways, ornate architecture and vibrant floral arrangements. The plush ambiance makes way for some of the best outdoor eating spots accompanied by arrays of colorful umbrellas, a refreshing change from the stiff indoor shopping swamps.
Between premier clothing brands and fine dining at a myriad of restaurants, the Forum is ideal for outdoor moseying amongst fountains and groomed landscape. For the boho chic shopper, you’ll find your niche at the Anthropologie and Free People stores here.
This upscale mall even includes a Wine Loft, family run and owned wine bar and retail store for some sweet sipping and take-home tastes. If you time it right, you may even spot a horse and carriage ride sauntering around the parking lot during the holiday season.
If these luxuries weren’t enough to bring out your most relaxed self, the Forum features the Rejeuvine Med Spa, Bella Forma Pilates, and even the North County Laser Eye Associates, customizing in LASIK surgery. You may be leaving Carlsbad with much more than you came in for. The Forum's shops are located along 1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad. For more details please call 760.632.4800 or visit theforumcarlsbad.com. (pictured)
Otay Ranch Town Center
You won’t hear the word “mall” uttered around this Eastlake area of Chula Vista. The Otay Ranch Town Center gets its prominence as a self-proclaimed “lifestyle center,” complete with storefronts facing a Main Street that vehicles and pedestrians can effortlessly amble through.
This center kicks things up a few notches with four themed areas highlighting distinct California flavors. The Garden Court on the west side of the center features a popular mix of traditional retailers; the Center Court shoppers can offers fashionable retailers, food pavilion, party space, fountains, chalk garden and a fireplace; the Entertainment Court, located on the east side, includea a book store, first-class restaurants and a 12-screen AMC Theatre complex; and Lifestyle Row, on the far west side of the center, features upscale lifestyle tenants.
With every interest in mind, you’ll find Macy’s, REI, Barnes & Noble, Apple, Sephora and White House Black Market, just to name a few. Opened in October of 2006, this relatively new mall still has that fresh and untouched feel. Otay Ranch Town Center was built with the intention of a gathering place, more than just a shopping center but a place to slow down and enjoy the fountains, landscaping and old-town paths with family, friends, children, and pets.
Otay Ranch Town Center is located at Eastlake Pkwy at Olympic Pkwy, Chula Vista, CA 91915. For more details, please call 619.656.9100 or visit otayranchtowncenter.com.
Fashion Valley Mall
Though the Fashion Valley Mall is long celebrated and notorious as San Diego’s upscale shopping hub, locals will agree that the mall offers a comforting feel, one that keeps us coming back and bringing visitors to enjoy, as well.
This Simon Mall is San Diego’s premier retail destination, with a little something for everyone’s tastes. But ordinary is not something San Diego does well, so prepare yourself for Fashion Valley’s extraordinary feat: six department stores including Saks Fifth Avenue, Neiman Marcus, and Bloomingdales.
While the mall houses specialized beach-bum stores, the classic favorites remain popular purchase destinations, including the stylish H&M, American Apparel, and Michael Kors. In fact, two hundred stores and restaurants lined up in this outside arrangement offer you everything from Tiffany & Co. to M.A.C. cosmetics.
Even if you’re not looking for new threads, it’s worth the trip just for the food, with a popular Bing Crosby’s Restaurant and Piano Bar here, PF Chang’s China Bistro, and my personal vote, the Cheesecake Factory to dig your fork into. And what better way to spend the end of a successful shopping day then under one of 18 screens at the AMC Theatre?
It’s the mall that brings all corners of the county together, with a classic feel to some chic shops. Visit Fashion Valley at 7007 Friars Road, San Diego, CA 92108. For more details, please call 619.688.9113 or visit simon.com.
Carlsbad Premium Outlets
Say “premium” and my ears perk up, but then say “outlets” right after and I’m already six steps ahead of you, out the door, in the car on my way to Carlsbad. At the Carlsbad Premium Outlets, you’ll find the best of designer stores and biggest brands at some of the most affordable prices.
With these kinds of savings, you’ll be able to get all you essentials and still afford a few extra accessories and kicks just for fun. Carlsbad Premium Outlets features 90 outlet stores with the best of the brands, including the ever-chic Banana Republic Factory Store, Calvin Klein, Coach, Juicy Couture, Kenneth Cole, Lacoste Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, True Religion and many more.
If you’re on the prowl for some home décor and electronics, the Carlsbad Premium Outlets are unquestionably the place to look, at the Crate and Barrel outlet store, Kitchen Collection outlet, and Bose electronics outlet. Bargain steals on all the high-quality merchandise keep locals and tourists coming back for more.
After all, the outlets are neighbors to Legoland California and the California State Beach camping areas of South Carlsbad and San Elijo, just off of the 5. Let the deal steals begin at 5620 Paseo del Norte, Carlsbad. For more details, please visit premiumoutlets.com.
Westfield UTC La Jolla
Family friendly, outdoor, and activity-laden give this Westfield mall a place for young and old to come enjoy a day of adventure, whether at the classic shops, restful fountains, or with the UTC indoor skating rink.
Located in La Jolla, all of the go-to essentials are conveniently and aesthetically arranged in one spot, including the Apple store, Coach, Bare Essentuals, Ann Taylor, Crate & Barrel, and Restoration Hardware. Opened in 1974, the University Town Center is known to please a wide range of customers with plenty of parking!
It’s not uncommon to spot a few children playing under the elegant dolphin fountains between shops and ears. There are deciduous trees a-plenty along the walkways, coloring the paths and bringing nature into the shopper’s experience. If it were up to me, I’d rename this mall UTCA- University Town Center of Accessories. There seems to be a bountiful selection of add-ons to any ensemble.
Leaving with a completely decked-out outfit is inevitable, from the best of shoe brands, such as Aldo, Nine West, and Charles David, to jewelry that will make you sparkle with Kay Jewelers, Carati Paris Jewelry, and David & Sons Jewelers. Did I mention the skating rink?
Whether it’s your first date or a family outing, public skating sessions are offered seven days a week. Visit Westfield UTC at 4545 La Jolla Village Drive, San Diego. For more details, please call 858.546.8858 or visit westfield.com/utc.
Flower Hill Promenade
Between the lavish communities of Del Mar, Carmel Valley, Rancho Santa Fe, and Fairbanks Ranch, the Flower Hill Promenade offers premiere shopping and dining with 42 specialty spots that are near and dear to the community’s hearts.
Developed in the mid 1970’s by the Fletcher Family, certain shops still remain as classics since 1977, including Thinker Things Toys, The BookWorks, and Papachino’s Italian Ristorante. Flower Hill has something for the bride-to-be at Bliss Bride, with a unique selection of designer wedding gowns in an intimate setting.
Looking for something shiny and new? Diamond Boutique has the finest in luxury and designer brands from around the world. You’ll feel transported out of the shop ‘til you drop mantra when you enter into Spa Gregorie’s Day Spa and Salon, voted Best Day Spa by American Spa Magazine. They’ve got massages, facials, body treatments, wraps, wellness and nutrition services, and Salon services.
Oh and while you’re there, you may want to stay a while and enjoy the UltraStar Cinemas that offers the biggest blockbusters and best independent films. Visit the Flower Hill Promenade at 2720 Via De La Valle, Del Mar. For more details, please call 858.481.7131 or visit flowerhill.com.
Del Mar Plaza
Like a pair of designer Italian sandals or an expensive French yacht, the Del Mar Plaza mixes beachside with exquisite European marketplace shopping. Unique clothing shops, accessories, fine art and an irresistible ocean view give the luxury of an experience beyond mere shopping.
Throughout its expansive three levels, unique men’s and women’s boutiques fill the coastal space with one-of-a-kind shops and steals. You’re bound to stumble upon one of many eclectic specialty stores, such as the Del Mar Hat Co., Loghman Jewelers- Italian and custom designed jewelry and watches, Three Dog Bakery- the bakery for dogs, and Saratoga Saddlery and International Boutiques- Equestrian clothing and gifts from around the world.
Once you’ve worked up your well-deserved shopper’s appetite, enjoy the Del Mar Plaza’s Harvest Ranch Market for fresh produce, health food, and rich wines and coffees, as well as some of the best Del Mar restaurants that overlook that big blue beauty.
Salons, spas, and cosmetic enhancers are ready to spruce you up too, such as Haim, Ltd. full service salon, so don’t forget to put your beauty on the top of your Del Mar shopping list. Del Mar Plaza is located on the corner of Camino Del Mar and 15th Street in the heart of Del Mar Village. For more details, please visit delmarplaza.com.
Westfield Plaza Bonita
Near Chula Vista in Bonita, the Westfield mall Plaza Bonita offers a huge assortment of chic cloths and brands for the fashionista within. H&M, Hollister, Victoria’s Secret, Aeropostale Clothing, Love Culture, Foreign Exchange, Zales diamond store, MAC Cosmetics and many more give this mall a proverbial feel perfect for the shopper who knows what they need and are on their mission to make it happen.
Plaza Bonita is not without plenty to munch on in the meantime. Johnny Rocket’s, Outback Steakhouse, and Pat & Oscar’s are classics for bringing the whole family together in the name of good eats. John’s Incredible Pizza serves more than just great buffets, but also amusement rides, video games and an all-around family fun experience for the young and young at heart.
Let’s not forget about the modern all-digital AMC Theater showing the box-office hits or Borders Bookstore, where you can spend some time browsing the latest best sellers. If you can’t find some of the basic items you need at the mall’s two department stores- Macy’s and JC Penney’s, then the Target that Plaza Bonita houses will be sure to have what you’re looking for, at their low prices.
Check it all out at 3030 Plaza Bonita Road, National City. For more details, please call 619.267.2850 or visit westfield.com/plazabonita.
Westfield Horton Plaza
You’d think that 7 levels twisting through 6 and a half city blocks would put the pain back in shopping, but something about Horton Plaza in the Gaslamp District manages to remain fun, intriguing, and slightly eclectic. Influences to the design have come from Venice, Italy’s architecture and Native American tastes- which combined make for an original and bohemian experience.
Walkways, staircases, and ramps slant up at juxtaposing angles, transitioning the shopper from one stretch of the mall to another in just a skip and a few steps. But attractive architecture isn’t all you’ll find in this hub of downtown. High-quality shopping and satisfying foods will make up for any lost time spent in navigation.
Both Nordstrom’s and Macy’s department stores grace Horton’s premises, in addition to top retail carriers. Here you’ll find BCBG Max Azria, Levi’s Store, San Diego Trading Co, and Coach and Louis Vuitton accessory stores. Like many malls, the Westfield Horton Plaza has a movie theater...the United Artists Horton Plaza 14 Theaters. Don’t forget to grab some sweets and treats at Godiva Chocolatier and the Sweet Factory candy store.
You can’t miss the entrancing structure of the Horton Plaza downtown, at 375 Horton Plaza. For more details, please call 619.239.8180 or visit westfield.com/hortonplaza.
Las Americas Premium Outlets
At the epicenter of two countries, two major cities in the San Ysidro region near the international border, Las Americas Premium Outlets gives you a reason to stop and stay, not just pass through. Featuring the top designers at 25% to 65% every day, it’s a shopper’s paradise worth some all-day exploring.
125 stores are bound to have something you’ve been lusting after at an affordable price, including Calvin Klein, Coach, Sony, Hugo Boss, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and more. Swarovski, Wilson’s Leather Outlet, and Sunglass Hut International are among some specialty stores you’ll spot here. Victoria’s Secret was a more recent add, with rumored unbeatable deals on all their bras, panties, and PINK clothing.
Courtyards abounding with fountains make the ambiance rich and rewarding, while the steals you’ll be finding don’t hurt too much either. Unbeatable quality at unbelievable prices makes these outlets noteworthy on all accounts. Restaurants include Fresh Pizza Factory, Achiote, IHOP, Iron Wok Asian, Starbucks, San Diego Teriyaki & Roll, and Rice Garden.
Las Americas Premium Outlets is less than 1,000 feet from the International Border including Tijuana's historic Avenida Revolucion Tourist district and only 20 minutes from downtown San Diego. You can find them at 4211 Camino De La Plz, San Ysidro. For more details, please call 619.934.8400 or visit premiumoutlets.com.