San Diego has a variety of shopping malls dotted all around the city and county. While there are shops for every budget from frugal to luxury, it's not just shopping you can find at these malls. Malls also invest in huge entertainment ventures to attract visitors (in the hope that they'll also make purchases). So, a trip to the mall in San Diego can mean a little shopping, followed by something to eat, and then a movie experience, all without having to drive between. The top shopping malls in San Diego offer something for everyone.
Fashion Valley Center
Out of 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. Where else will you find a Tiffany, Burberry, and Hermes store? Good restaurants and an AMC multiplex make this a place to go beyond shopping. H&M, Jimmy Choo, Hugo Boss, Gucci, Ruehl, Apple, Microsoft, and Sony stores reflect the mall's cool factor.
Tip: Parking is easiest and plentiful in the south-side parking structures.
Otay Ranch Town Center located in nearby Chula Vista has a decent variety of stores and a relaxed atmosphere makes it a great place to stroll and shop. There is a weekly farmer's market every Tuesday evening, and even a dog park to let your four-legged friend run around in between stores. It also includes a branch of the San Diego County Library in the center of the mall.
Tip: The "Main Street" allows parking in front of many stores. For entertainment, there is an AMC multiplex and lots of dining, including PF Changs, California Pizza Kitchen, Macaroni Grill, SushiYa, and Cheesecake Factory.
Located in the South County area, Westfield Plaza Bonita is an indoor mall located in National City that is a one-stop budget shopping experience thanks to having a Target, Nordstrom Rack, H&M, and more deal-worthy stores onsite. Westfield Plaza Bonita also has a 14-screen AMC Cinema, expansive food court, and a few sit-down restaurants.
Tip: JC Penney, Target, and Macy's are the anchor stores, and its culinary offerings range from Hot Dog on a Stick and Sbarro to Applebee's and Red Robin.
One of the many Westfield entities, Westfield UTC is a pleasant outdoor mall. Located in the Golden Triangle area, it caters to everyone from undergrads to families to business professionals. The much-used ice skating rink distinguishes the mall from other Westfield malls. Nordstrom, Sears, and Macy's are the major department stores, with an array of other retailers like Apple, Athleta, and Pottery Barn. As for dining, the mall has bumped up the fine dining choices with Tender Greens, Seasons 52, and Eureka! Burger. A 24-Hour Fitness and Arclight Cinema are also onsite.
Tip: The mall underwent an expansion in 2017 to give the mall more of a first-class, resort feel, including courtyards, event space, high-end restaurants, and first-to-market retail.
This quaint mall in La Mesa is the shopping center that time forgot. It's a cozy, well-maintained outdoor mall in La Mesa that is lacking in pizazz but makes up for it with convenience. Grossmont Center is anchored by both a Target and a Walmart, a smallish Macy's. Grossmont also has a nice Reading Cinema, Cost Plus, Barnes & Noble, Sports Authority, and lots of mom and pop style businesses. There are monthly events such as farmer's markets, storytime for kids, and special sales on the last Saturday of every month.
Tip: There's a surprisingly good choice of sit-down restaurants, including the Casa de Pico, BJ's Brewhouse, Panera, Clam Jumper, Fuddrucker's, Olive Garden, Hooley's Irish Pub, and Red Lobster
Yet another Westfield shopping mall. Westfield North County serves the North County bedroom communities of Escondido, San Marcos, Vista, and neighboring cities. Before Westfield took it over, it was known as North County Fair, and people still sometimes refer to it as that. This large, two-level indoor mall has the usual allotment of department stores and shops (JC Penney, Macy's, Sears, Nordstrom), plus a massive three-level Target.
Tip: Parking is plentiful, and there are designated family-parking spots near the entrances for families with young children or expectant mothers.
Parkway Plaza is the main mall serving East County. This is an indoor mall, which is often a plus during the heat waves El Cajon gets. Parkway Plaza has many young adult shops, making this a popular teen hangout. There is also a Regal Cinema and a food court along with restaurants such as Applebee's and On the Border. Anchor stores are Sears, JC Penney, Macy's, and a two-story Walmart.
Tip: There's a good-sized carousel in the middle of the mall.
Westfield Mission Valley is the mall that started the development and urbanization of the Mission Valley neighborhood of San Diego back in the 1960s. Today, it kind of reflects the unbridled development of the valley itself. Its layout is a bit of a mess (a remnant of the 1960s) and it's not the most visually impressive of the San Diego malls, but it does have some things going for it. The selection of shops and the gigantic AMC multiplex suggest a catering to the teen and young adult crowd. But it does have a two-level Target, Macy's, Nordstrom Rack, a Tilted Kilt Pub, and a 24-Hour Fitness gym.
Tip: The mall's West Annex has a Gordon Biersch Brewery. Restaurants built adjacent to the Target parking lot include Corner Bakery and Pei Wei.
Chula Vista Center is one of the smaller malls in the region and often gets lost in the shuffle between nearby renovated Plaza Bonita and the Otay Ranch Town Center. An older mall located in downtown Chula Vista, it has the only Sears store in the South Bay area. It's also anchored by Macy's and JC Penney, and an UltraStar Cinema. BJ's Brewhouse, Carrow's, and Olive Garden are the sit-down dining choices.
Tip: If you want to hit a mall in the South Bay, and don't like indoor malls or aren't swayed by the higher-end shops, Chula Vista Center is a great fit.
The Shoppes at Carlsbad (formerly Westfield Plaza Camino Real) is located in north Carlsbad. It underwent a much-needed refurbishment and expansion under new ownership, and the shopping center now offers a wide range of stores and eateries. There is also a Regal Cinema if you want to catch a movie.
Tip: Full-service restaurants include The Cheesecake Factory, Yardhouse, Wokcano, and Texas de Brazil.