The Best Places to Shop in San Diego

San Diego is home to a variety of malls that make for some excellent shopping no matter your budget. Shopping doesn't always mean having to hit the malls, though, and San Diego has some unique shopping centers, too. Here are a guide to the best places to shop in San Diego from malls to design districts to farmers markets. 

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    Where to Shop in San Diego
    ••• Where to Shop in San Diego. Westend61/Westend61/Getty Images

    Fashion Valley has arguably the best of the upscale stores in San Diego. In addition, Nordstrom, JC Penney, Macy's, Nieman Marcus and San Diego's only Bloomingdale's anchor this well appointed two-level outdoor mall. You'll also find a Tiffany & Co., Louis Vuitton, and Hermes stores, upping the luxe factor, while H&M, Burberry, Topshop, Jimmy Choo, Kate Spade, Madewell, Apple, and Zara stores reflect the mall's cool factor. Good restaurants, a great outdoor food court for people watching and an AMC multiplex make Fashion Valley the place to go even beyond shopping.

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    OK, so shopping isn't always about going upscale or slick at regional shopping malls. Sometimes you just want to find a good old bargain, and what better place than outdoors at a swap meet? And as far as swap meets go, Kobey's Swap Meet at the Sports Arena is the place to unearth that bargain or treasure in San Diego. Along with the random garage sale sellers is a large selection of regular vendors offering up their wares, from food and produce to housewares, electronics and clothes. Whatever you're looking for, you have a good chance of finding it while roaming the stalls of Kobey's Swap Meet. Kobey's Swap Meet is open Friday through Sunday (except holidays).

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    North Park

    The re-invigoration of North Park over the past decade has introduced a new generation of hip shops and boutiques to go along with venerable institutions in this popular San Diego neighborhood. Shopping in North Park makes for a mix of retail and services that provides a more eclectic shopping experience than a typical mall. 

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    Also known as the Cedros Avenue Design District, this short stretch of Cedros Avenue in Solana Beach is home to some interesting shops and boutiques, many of which focus on home furnishings and jewelry. You'll also find original art and crafts and some fashion-forward stores. When you need a break, head to Culture Brewing Company for some craft beer tasting or stay into the night hours to catch a musical performance at Belly Up Tavern. 

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    If you want a central, one-stop shopping and dining area for Asian flavored foods and goods, then Kearny Mesa's Convoy Street is the place to head.

    Drive along Convoy and you will notice a sea of strip malls and amid them, a plethora of Asian food places - Korean, Japanese, Chinese, Vietnamese, Thai - you name it. Have a hankering for boba milk teas, noodles, seafood, pho, barbecue, and even karaoke? You have a huge number of choices here. 

    And if you're looking for food items and products specific to Asian cuisine and culture that you can't find in your local Vons or Albertsons, then this is the area you want to come to. A number of well-appointed markets that cater to different cultures are located here including H Mart, 99 Ranch Market, Zion Market, Mitsuwa Marketplace, and Nijiya Market.

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    Remember when they were called "factory outlet centers?" Well, no more. Outlet centers rival regional shopping malls and Las Americas Premium Outlet Center is an impressive one. Latin themed in architecture, this sprawling complex next to the Mexico border offers well over 125 stores to fill every designer addict's need. The outlet store lineup includes Adidas, Banana Republic, BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Coach, Gap Outlet, Guess, J.Crew, Kenneth Cole, Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Sony, Tommy Bahama, Tommy Hilfiger, Under Armour and Victoria's Secret.

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    Carmel Mountain Plaza is one of the better and more established big box shopping centers in San Diego and has more of a town square ambiance than strip mall. California Pizza Kitchen, TGI Friday’s, Reading Cinemas, Barnes & Noble, Pier 1, Sprouts, Sears Outlet, Michaels, Marshalls, Ross, Nordstrom Rack, Jared the Galleria of Jewelry, Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th and many other stores can be found in this center. In addition, (though not technically part of Carmel Plaza) there are 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.

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    Not only can farmers' markets be found almost every day of the week throughout San Diego county, but they’re also a year-round occurrence (ah, the beauty of perfect weather). Although it’s during spring and summer when you find the local bumper crops of fruits, vegetables and flowers grown by Southern California farmers, you can find awesome seasonal produce any time of the year. Alongside the certified farmers, you'll also find many fine food purveyors at most of the farmers markets.

Updated by Gina Tarnacki on November 29, 2016.