Shopping is a necessity of life, and with the advent of suburbs in San Diego came the preponderance of mega-malls and, more recently, the convenience of big-box shopping centers. But shopping doesn't always mean having to hit the malls or big boxes. There are areas around San Diego that fall between the ugly but necessary strip/grocery store centers and the regional entertainment shopping centers when it comes to shopping. Here are some of the best and more interesting places to go shopping in San Diego, ranging from malls to local neighborhoods.
The class of San Diego malls, Fashion Valley has arguably the best of the upscale stores. Nordstrom, JC Penney, Macy's, Nieman Marcus and San Diego's only Bloomingdale's anchor this well appointed two-level outdoor mall that was recently refurbished. Where else will you find a Tiffany, Hugo Boss, and Hermes stores? Good restaurants, a great outdoor food court for people watching and an AMC multiplex make this a place to go beyond shopping. Fashion Valley has moved even more towards specialty boutiques like H&M, Burberry, Michael Kors, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Ruehl, Apple, Microsoft and Sony stores reflect the mall's cool factor.
OK, so shopping isn't always about going upscale or slick at regional shopping malls. Sometimes you just want to find a good old bargain, and what better place than outdoors at a swap meet? And as far as swap meets, Kobey's Swap Meet at the Sports Arena is the place to unearth that bargain or treasure. Along with the random garage sale sellers is a large selection of regular vendors offering up their wares, from food and produce to housewares, electronics and clothes, to useless crap, you're probably going to find it roaming the stalls of the Kobey Swap Meet.
Long ago before suburbia took over San Diego, North Park was the place you did shopping if you weren't downtown. And if you are at the corner of University and 30th and squint, you can see vestiges of what once was: retail shops and department stores were the norm. With the re-invigoration of North Park comes a new generation of hip shops and boutiques to go along with venerable institutions. It makes for a mix of retail and services worth heading to North Park for some serious shopping.
Also known as the Cedros Avenue Design District, this short stretch of Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach is mostly known as the home to the awesome Belly Up Tavern concert venue. But it's also home to some interesting shops and boutiques. Discover original fashions, furniture, home décor, collectibles and art. more than 85 one of a kind shops, boutiques and galleries, plus, unique home and garden stores.
San Diego has a large Asian population, and you can find local shops, restaurants and services in the neighborhoods where many Asian ethnic groups reside, like City Heights/Little Saigon, National City, Chula Vista, and Mira Mesa. But if you want a central, one-stop shopping and dining area for Asian flavored foods and goods, then Kearny Mesa's Convoy Street is the place to head to.
Drive along Convoy and you will notice, amid the car dealerships and fast food establishments, a sea of strip malls. But then you notice the plethora of Asian food places - Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai - you name it. Have a hankering for boba milk teas, noodles, seafood, pho, barbecue, and even karaoke? You have a huge number of choices here
And if you're looking for food items and products specific to Asian cuisine and culture that you can't find in your local Vons or Albertson's, then this is the are you want to come to. A number of well-appointed markets that cater to different cultures are located here including the newly opened H Mart, 99 Ranch Market, Zion Market, Mitsuwa Marketplace, and Nijiya Market are extremely popular.
Remember when they were called "factory outlet centers?" Well, no more. Outlet centers rival regional shopping malls and Las Americas Premium Outlet Center is an impressive one indeed. Latin themed in architecture, this sprawling complex next to the Mexico border offers well over 125 stores to fill every designer addict's need. The outlet store lineup includes Adidas, Banana Republic, BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Coach, Gap Outlet, Guess, J.Crew, Kenneth Cole, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sony, Tommy Bahama, Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour, and Victoria's Secret.
Big box shopping centers are more of a necessity and convenience than a destination - unless you consider a sea of parking lots attractive. But as they go, Carmel Mountain Plaza is one of the better and more established big box shopping centers, one that harkened the change from functional strip mall to more of the "town square" ambience. California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Friday’s, Reading Cinemas 12-plex, Barnes & Noble, Pier 1, Sprouts, Sears Outlet, Michaels, Marshalls, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, Sports Authority, TGI Friday's, and In-and-Out Burgers anchor this center.
Not technically part of Carmel Plaza are the other adjacent convenient centers straddling Carmel Mountain Road that feature Home Depot, Trader Joe's, Costco, Best Buy, Petco, Staples, BevMo, and others. So, by hitting Carmel Mountain, you can get a lot of shopping done.
Not only can farmers' markets be found almost every day of the week throughout San Diego county, but they’re also a year-round occurrence (ah, the beauty of perfect weather). Although it’s during spring and summer when you find the local bumper crops of fruits, vegetables and flowers grown by Southern California farmers, you can find awesome seasonal produce any time of the year. And as a certified farmers' market, the State of California ensures that the produce is being sold by the grower, is grown in California and meets all California quality standards. Alongside the certified farmers you'll also find many fine food purveyors at most of the farmers markets.