A shopping expedition in captivating Costa Mesa typically starts or ends at the landmark South Coast Plaza. This massive retail mecca, known as the ultimate shopping resort, carries bragging rights as one of the world’s best luxurious shopping destinations, rivaling the fashion meccas in Fifth Avenue in New York, Avenue Montaigne in Paris, Bond Street in London and Ginza in Tokyo. However, that’s not the only reason this particular outpost is so alluring. Another draw is the unique architecture where more than 250 retailers operate.

Beautiful Architecture
This three-story, 2.8 million-square-foot venue includes famous architect Frank Gehry, among others. In 2000, landscape architect Kathryn Gustafson added more attractions by contributing a stunning pedestrian bridge which connected one part of the shopping center to the other. Deluxe has always been the catchphrase at South Coast Plaza, but it is especially after the massive remodel, which added great details like Italian marble, travertine fountains, bronze railings and updated fixtures.

Fashion Mecca
The finest fashion designers and stores are represented at South Coast Plaza, boasting one of the world’s highest concentration of top-quality retailers under one roof. Home to top department stores like Bloomingdales, Saks Fifth Avenue and Nordstrom, South Coast Plaza is also the location of premium boutiques like Versace, Christian Louboutin, Gucci, Harry Winston, Prada, Chloe, Hermes and Louis Vuitton, as well as more affordable but trendy stores like Club Monaco, Banana Republic and Free People. Whatever the price, there is truly something for the most demanding shoppers of all budgets.

Extraordinary Cuisine
Hungry shoppers often spend hours inside the confines of South Coast Plaza, which creates quite an appetite. Luckily, there is plenty of top-rated dining spots to eat at. South Coast Plaza offers top notch eateries like Lawry’s Carvery, which offers a mouth-watering menu of hot sandwiches and signature platters of quality meats, and The Capital Grille, which is known for its dry-aged hand-carved steaks, fresh seafood and extensive wine list. Then there’s also Quattro Caffe, offering a stylish setting for a light meal. You can try the superb dishes from Northern Italy while sipping a glass of wine.

Customer Convenience
Convenience is the name of the game at this shopping destination. A valet is always on duty, so buy to your heart’s content without worrying about carrying too many bags to your car. There’s also translation service in more than 40 languages, everything from Mandarin to Spanish.

Area Specialty Shops
Outside of South Coast Plaza, The LAB and The CAMP are two other shopping destinations that offer one-of-a-kind boutiques and shops of all types. These so-called anti-malls take guests indoors and outdoors to enjoy what some say are slices of paradise for area hipsters.

The LAB (aka Little American Business), once a night vision goggle factory, now plays host to stores like Lobby, which offers the latest in men’s and women’s fashions, as well as the most coveted housewares and hard-to-find books. Other stores inside The LAB offer clothing, as well as unique goods made from local designers.

The CAMP, which is the first-known environmentally sensitive retail campus in the U.S., also offers special places for shoppers, including Active Ride Shop, which serves adventurers with specialty products for all sorts of surf, skate and snow experiences. This “green” friendly retail community, which exclusively houses health-conscious or fitness related stores, also offers unique outdoor spaces to host everything from educational events and art shows to film screenings and more in an attempt to bring the community together. When it’s time to recharge, shoppers can find healthy eateries like Native Foods, which serves gourmet vegan cuisine.

Unique Boutiques
Looking for more standout boutiques? Costa Mesa boasts a variety of smaller places with big followings. Consider the South Coast Collection (SOCO) for dozens of high-quality enterprises and showrooms like Perch for alluring lifestyle brands. The OC Mix is a collection of unique shops run by locals like Eva’s Trunk and Denim Bar, as well as Taco Maria, a Californian-Mexican eatery that is rated among the best in Southern California. And then there’s The Triangle, a group of specialty spaces in which a movie house, a nightclub, a bowling alley, a cocktail bar and a slew of top notch dining spots like Saddle Ranch Chop House dwell in harmony.

Promenade Shops
Also not to be missed are the 17th Street Promenade shops, situated in the Newport Boulevard and 17th Street area. The area, which is made up of a diverse group of businesses working to create a great destination, includes such mainstays as Surfside for all your sporting goods needs, Anne’s Boutique Wines for a highly curated vintage collection and eateries like Mi Casa Mexican restaurant. Happy shopping!

 

Article by Los Angeles freelance travel writer Jane Lasky.

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