San Diego’s retail landscape has changed radically in recent years with the opening of several new shopping centers—some in historic buildings—that are focused more on locally owned boutiques than national retailers. Where once the Gaslamp was the place to go for urban apparel and unique home decor, many independently owned boutiques have decided to set up shop in the charming neighborhoods east of Balboa Park known as North Park and South Park. Although downtown is still thriving, any shopping trip to San Diego should include venturing out to the city’s diverse and vibrant neighborhoods. Not far from downtown, Little Italy is the place to find contemporary art, modern furniture, and home accessories.
Old Town is a must for pottery, ceramics, jewelry, and handcrafted baskets. Uptown is known for its mélange of funky bookstores, offbeat gift shops, and nostalgic collectibles, and the beach towns have the best swimwear and sandals. La Jolla’s chic boutiques offer a more intimate shopping experience along with some of the classiest clothes, jewelry, and shoes in the county. Point Loma’s Liberty Station shopping area in the former Naval Training Center has art galleries, restaurants, and home stores. Trendsetters will have no trouble finding must-have handbags and designer apparel at the world-class Fashion Valley mall in Mission Valley, a haven for luxury brands such as Hermès, Jimmy Choo, and M Missoni.
Enjoy near-perfect weather year-round as you explore shops along the scenic waterfront. The Headquarters at Seaport District is a new open-air shopping and dining center in the city’s former Police Headquarters building. Here there are some big names but mostly locally owned boutiques selling everything from gourmet cheese to coastal-inspired home accessories. Just next door, Seaport Village is still the place to go for trinkets and souvenirs. If you don’t discover what you’re looking for in the boutiques, head for Westfield Horton Plaza, the downtown mall with more than 100 stores. The sprawling mall has been going through a major restoration project that included demolishing an unused section and putting in a public plaza.
Most malls have free parking in a lot or garage, and parking is not usually a problem. Westfield Horton Plaza and some of the shops in the Gaslamp Quarter offer validated parking or valet parking.