AOL PICK from our Editors
You can stuff a duffle bag with souvenirs by assembling your SoCal wardrobe while shopping in San Diego. Hit the surf shops in the beach towns for board shorts, Aloha shirts, flip-flops and skimpy bikinis. Look for chic hats, shades, sandals and sexy sundresses in Fashion Valley's classy shops. The Gaslamp Quarter's San Diego Trading Company carries sweatshirts with lifeguard logos for those chilly evenings on the beach, and tote bags big enough for a towel and toys. Need gifts for the folks back home? Count on discovering trinkets and treasures for all types in Balboa Park's museum gift shops. La Jolla is the best San Diego shopping for contemporary California-born art and jewelry, while Bazaar del Mundo's shops are stuffed with gorgeous folk art and textiles from south of the border.
Neighborhood: Little Italy
San Diego's modest Italian community has become one of the hippest neighborhoods around Downtown with shops and cafes catering to the metrosexual crowd. Dozens of new condo complexes sit shoulder-to-shoulder with longtime barbershops, pizza parlors, and Italian delis. Little Italy now has San Diego's most exciting home furnishing stores, including Mixture, selling clever multi-use Italian furnishings, and Boomerang for Modern, a mid-century Modern treasure trove. As it name suggests, Architectural Salvage is stuffed with old doors, windows, hinges and knobs—there are plenty of tiny suitcase-sized finds here. Small boutiques feature hand-painted silk clothing, imported Murano glass and Venetian masks, French fashions from Cannisse, antiques, vintage clothing and all sorts of irresistible accoutrements. Visit on a Saturday morning and catch the Little Italy Mercado—the weekly farmer's market that offers buffalo meat, sea urchin, and locally grown veggies and fruits.
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Neighborhood: Mission Valley
Shopping malls are akin to small town squares in San Diego, providing a place to meet and eat with friends, catch a movie (nearly all San Diego's theaters are in malls) and wander arm in arm past window displays in the warm outdoors. Fashion Valley has gradually evolved into some of the finest all-purpose shopping in San Diego as a mall with an upscale flair. Over the past few years Hermes, Gucci, Michael Kors, and Barney's have established San Diego outposts at this likeable plaza, bringing a new cachet to San Diego's somewhat boring sportswear-focused fashion scene. Not that there aren't plenty of places to find designer sunglasses and sandals, mind you. Tommy Bahama, Lilly Pulitzer, and Tory Burch are all eager to expand your wardrobe.
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Girard Avenue, La Jolla
Neighborhood: La Jolla
La Jolla's Girard Avenue is San Diego's version of Rodeo Drive, with an Armani boutique (Nicole Miller is around the corner on Prospect St.), a trendy Try Lucy fitness clothing shop, and several galleries including Fingerhut displaying drawings by the late Dr. Seuss, a La Jolla resident. Tulips, roses, mums and poinsettias announce the season outside Adelaide's, a family owned flower shop since 1936 and our favorite place for bouquets and arrangements (think house gifts). Warwick's, another family-owned gem and the best of San Diego's few remaining independent booksellers, has featured signings by top authors since the mid 1930s. Up the street, D.G. Wills Books is a favorite haunt for UCSD scholars and members of the La Jolla Cultural Society who burrow through their purchases while sipping espresso at the Pannikin Cafe, a branch of the family owned coffee and tea purveyors who've been supplying java junkies since 1968. Girard Avenue offers some of the best San Diego shopping, especially if you have some time to stroll and take in the sights. We can't think of another street in San Diego that contains as many beloved locally owned businesses scattered amid cafes, an art-house movie theater, and neighborhood churches. Well worth a leisurely afternoon ramble.
Neighborhood: Old Town
San Diego's neighbors south of the border are celebrated with a tasteful mÃ©lange of colors, sounds and smells at Bazaar del Mundo's shops and restaurants. Artes de Mexico displays exceptional Mexican folk art including everything from papier-mache pinatas to hand-painted Talavera pottery, while South and Central American textiles, clothing and toys are on display at the Guatemala Shop. Libros is packed with gorgeous books on Mexican architecture and cooking and an excellent selection of books on San Diego and California history. Mariachis stroll through the festive dining rooms at Casa Guadalajara, a great place to review your purchases. Until recently, the Bazaar was Old Town's main tenant with scores of fabulous shops and restaurants around a bird-filled courtyard. Now Old Town has turned its focus toward businesses representing early California and Bazaar del Mundo's treasures are packed into a small lot on the edge of the park. It's still the best shopping in San Diego for unusual souvenirs and the best place to sate cravings for killer margaritas and guacamole.
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San Diego's iconic Gaslamp Quarter is adjacent to traditional shopping stop Horton Plaza and hosts a variety of popular stores and local shops on its streets. Unique boutiques like Industry 453 make it a point to highlight local designers, while San Diego Trading Company's many outposts provide the place to find your San Diego souvenirs. You can even find designer wares for fido at Lucky Dog Pet Boutique. At the end of your shopping trip be sure to reward your kids for their patience (and treat yourself) with a classic sundae at Ghiradelli's.
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