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Top 7 Big Box Shopping Centers Around San Diego

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They're convenient, close to home and pretty much offer everything we need. And for those reasons, they've made the traditional, regional shopping mall a bit passe. We're talking about the ubiquitous "big box" shopping "Town Center" or "Marketplace" - you know, the not-quite shopping mall anchored by several "big box" (or gigantic box) retailers. The big box center has become our proverbial town square, and they're here to stay. Here are the best of San Diego's big box shopping centers.

1. Carmel Mountain Plaza Area

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. 11602-11744 Carmel Mountain Rd 92128 858-350-2600.

2. Mira Mesa Market Center

Man, this is what you call the prototypical, modern big box center. Located just west of I-15 and Mira Mesa Blvd., the Mira Mesa Market Center has your classic roster of big-boxers: Home Depot, Old Navy, Barnes & Noble, a huge Edwards Cinema, and an impressive array of restaurants, including Buca di Beppo, Islands, Mimi's Cafe and more. Mira Mesa Boulevard, South side, just West of I-15, at Westview Parkway.

3. Santee Trolley Square Town Center

This well-appointed big box center is literally Santee's Town Center. The Orange Line of the Trolley runs right through the center and ends here (hence the name) and offers a great selection of stores and restaurants: Barnes & Noble, Staples, Target, TJ Maxx, Pier 1, Bed, Bath & Beyond, Old Navy, Tilly's, Chili's, Mimi's Cafe. A recently opened second location of the super popular Phil's BBQ restaurant makes Trolley Square an even more worthwhile destination. 9884 Mission Gorge Road.

4. Fenton Marketplace

You want big box? Fenton Marketplace in Mission Valley has got several huge ones: Lowe's, Costco, and San Diego's only IKEA store anchor this sprawling shopping center. As for town squares, this has to suffice as housing keeps developing in the crowded valley. A nifty public library can be found here, as well as an IHOP, Islands, Starbucks and Oggi's Pizza. The Fenton trolley stop is a short walk away. 2169-2482 Frairs Road, San Diego 92108.

5. Clairemont Town Sqaure

For those who remember, Clairemont Square (the "Town" was added a few years back) used to be a sleepy little shopping center. Recent years have seen it awaken, as the town center concept took hold around the county. Smaller than the newer centers, it still has it's share of big box stores (Burlington Coat Factory, Michaels, Ross, Petco, TJ Maxx, as well as Reading Cinemas, Krispy Kreme Donuts and Outback Steakhouse. 4821 Clairemont Dr. (at Clairemont Mesa Blvd.), San Diego, CA 92117.

6. La Jolla Village Square

La Jolla Village Square is kind of a weird place. Originally an indoor mall in the '80s, it floundered as nearby University Town Centre thrived. It reinvented itself as a town square, with a popular Trader Joe's, AMC multiplex, DSW shoes, Cost Plus, Pier 1, Best Buy, Marshalls, Ross, PetSmart, Ulta Beauty Supplies, and California Pizza Kitchen located here. A TGI Fridays and Landmark Cinema are located across the way in the adjacent convenience center. 8657 Villa La Jolla Dr. La Jolla, 92037.

7. College Grove Shopping Center

Believe it or not, College Grove was San Diego's first regional shopping mall, way back in the early '60s. But it fell on hard times and competition until it resembled a ghost town in the '90s. Then it revived itself a few years ago as a big box center and is thriving again: Kohl's, Ross, Wal-Mart, Target, Sam's Club, Staples, Big Lots, Starbucks, 24-Hour Fitness, and Jamba Juice. Now all it needs are a few good sitdown restaurants to complete its renaissance. At Hwy 94 and College Avenue.
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