It’s a mall world after all


‘Tis the season at the city’s shopping malls where wreaths, Santa sightings and the occasional menorah lighting mean the holidays are in full swing.


With its busloads of shoppers touring from different countries, Carlsbad Premium Outlets often has an international feel. Located just off the intersection of I-5 and Palomar Airport Road, it hosts nearly 100 designer and name-brand outlets, and is one of San Diego’s top shopping destinations for locals and tourists alike. Cool breezes, fountains and outdoor dining options are mainstays at this bustling open-air center, whose latest addition is the Levi’s Men’s Outlet, which opened in November 2016. The center is also close to Legoland California, the Museum of Making Music and the world-renowned Flower Fields at Carlsbad Ranch.

Carlsbad Premium Outlets
5620 Paseo Del Norte, Carlsbad

Number of stores: nearly 100

Anchors: Calvin Klein, Barneys New York, Polo Ralph Lauren Factory Store, Tommy Hilfiger, Crate & Barrel, Kate Spade New York

Restaurants: Ruby’s Diner, Panda Express, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill

Holiday highlights: Visit and be photographed with Santa through Dec. 24 in Center Court. Pet Photo Night: 6-7 p.m. Nov. 27 and Dec. 11 - bring a pet to pose with Santa.


The latest arrivals at this south San Diego County shopping center are Perfumania - America’s largest fragrance retailer - and Lovesick, a retailer of trendy, plus-size clothing. According to owner Rouse Properties, the Chula Vista Center is one of the most highly recognized regional shopping centers in the county, serving an area that is home to 1 million residents within a 10-mile radius. The center features the closest full-line department stores to the Mexican border (including the only Sears store in the South Bay region) as well as a host of other retail, dining, recreation and entertainment options that are popular with local and Mexican national shoppers.

Chula Vista Center
555 Broadway, Suite 1019, Chula Vista

Number of stores: 90

Anchors: Sears, Macy’s, JCPenney, AMC Theatre, Burlington Coat Factory

Restaurants: Project Pie, Panera Bread, Olive Garden, BJ’s Brewhouse, Rubio’s Fresh Mexican Grill, Buffalo Wild Wings

Holiday highlights: Santa will be holding court through Dec. 24 (Christmas Eve). Holiday Bazaar and Nutcracker, 1-4 p.m. Dec. 4. Holiday concerts, 1-3 p.m. Dec. 10 and 17.


Fashion Valley is the city’s luxury landmark. A premier retail destination, it is the largest shopping mall in San Diego, with “every international brand - Hermes, Louis Vuitton, Prada - and 200 stores,” says Lourdes Menendez, director of marketing. “Anything that you might need, we have.” New arrivals at the 1.7-million-square-foot-plus center are the first Kendra Scott and Club Monaco stores in San Diego, as well as vince. Fashion Valley will celebrate the holidays in equally large style, with the debut of a 40-foot interactive Christmas tree in River Plaza. The tree - the tallest animated tree in San Diego outside of theme parks - offers an 8- to 10-minute animated light show with synchronized holiday music. Menendez touts the center’s Personal Shopper Program. “It’s a great solution to the stress that comes with holiday shopping,” she says. Choose either concierge service - someone to shop for you - or an escort on a custom shopping tour to help you find the perfect gift. The service is free for the first two hours. Email for an appointment.

Fashion Valley
7007 Friars Road, Mission Valley

Number of stores: 200

Anchors: Bloomingdale’s, Neiman-Marcus, Macy’s, Nordstrom, JCPenney, Forever 21, AMC Movie Theatres

Restaurants: True Food Kitchen, Blue Smoke Sushi Lounge, PF Chang’s, California Pizza Kitchen, The Cheesecake Factory

Holiday highlights: The new interactive 40-foot Holiday Tree bestows a festive glow with an animated light show at 6, 7, 8 and 9 p.m. nightly through Dec. 24. Pet Photo Nights with Santa: 7-8 p.m. Nov. 27 and Dec. 11 in Macy’s Court. Holiday photos with Santa through Dec. 24.

Special features/amenities: Free coat and package check, cellphone charging stations, free personal shopper service, valet parking.


For those wanting to avoid giant malls, The Forum Carlsbad welcomes shoppers with a casual and approachable vibe. “You could find something really nice for everyone at the Forum - without the workout” of hiking miles through a mega-mall, says marketing manager Janis Brown. “The store selection really covers almost all the bases.” Anthropologie just expanded to open its bridal shop; BHLDN and a Pressed Juicery recently opened. Tilly’s, Urban Outfitter, Sur la Table and Geppetto’s are also in the mix. A dolphin fountain and koi pond add to the relaxed feel, says Brown, making The Forum a shopping oasis with quality stores that are affordable. Additional perks: being able to park near favorite stores and avoiding grueling traffic. “We say, ‘It’s what shopping should be,’” Brown says.

The Forum Carlsbad
1923 Calle Barcelona, Carlsbad

Number of stores: 54

Anchors: Anthropologie, Bed Bath & Beyond, H&M, Urban Outfitters, lululemon athletica, J. Crew, Sur la Table, Apple, Jimbo’s Gourmet Grocer

Restaurants: Urban Plates, Buca di Beppo, Casa de Bandini, Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, Panera Bread

Holiday highlights: Santa sightings, 1-4 p.m. Nov. 27, Dec. 3, 10, 17, 18. Hanukkah celebration, 4-6 p.m. Dec. 26 - join Chabad La Costa for the lighting of the menorah in the Anthropologie court.


A fixture in the La Mesa area since 1961, Grossmont Center was recently acquired by new owners. The open-air mall has gotten a fresh paint job, new furniture, more parking and increased security. The Reading Cinemas has upgraded its food offerings, including wine and beer, and the center recently welcomed a Restoration Hardware Outlet. With 1 million square feet of shopping and many unique stores, Grossmont Center also offers two to four free events each month, and more during the holidays. This holiday season will featuring Santa and his elves, Frosty the Snowman and live reindeer.

Grossmont Center
5500 Grossmont Center Drive, La Mesa

Number of stores: 100-plus.

Anchors: Macy’s, Target, Restoration Hardware Outlet, Wal-Mart, Reading Cinemas, Trader Joe’s

Restaurants: Casa de Pico, Smokin’ Blaines BBQ, Momentos Café, Claim Jumper, BJ’s, Fuddruckers

Holiday highlights: Santa Paws Pet Adoption, 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Dec. 3. Santa’s Hut through Dec. 24. Live reindeer: 3-5 p.m. Dec. 4, 11, 18 in the center courtyard. Rock & Roll Giveaway, Dec. 10: win a diamond ring from Daniel’s Jewelers (the Rock) and a 2016 Kawasaki Ninja 300 Motorcycle (the Roll) - register on-site through Dec. 9. Holiday concert with the Mar Dels, 6-8 p.m. Dec. 17. HolidayFest, 2-4 p.m. Dec. 10-11 and 17-18: appearances by costumed characters including the Grinch and Frosty the Snowman, Santa and his elves, and live reindeer.


Add international flavor to this year’s holiday shopping with a visit to Las Americas Premium Outlets, located next to the new PedWest pedestrian border crossing in San Ysidro. With its beautiful courtyard setting and more than 125 designer and name-brand outlet stores - including Adidas, Banana Republic Factory Store, J Crew, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren and Coach - Las Americas is a top shopping destination. What’s new? Under Armour has recently settled in on the west side of the center, and Converse and Old Navy have renovated their spaces. Holidays will be cheery with strolling carolers on Saturdays and strolling Santa on Sundays. Visitors just might be surprised with a special “thank you” gift from one of the shopping center’s ambassadors.

Las Americas Premium Outlets
4211 Camino de la Plaza, San Ysidro

Number of stores: 125

Anchors: Banana Republic Factory Store, J.Crew, Lacoste, Michael Kors, Tommy Hilfiger

Restaurants: Achiote Mexican Restaurant, IHOP, Charley’s Philly Steaks, Rice Garden

Holiday highlights: Strolling carolers on Saturdays; strolling Santa on Sundays. Check website for schedules and more events.


Otay Ranch Town Center offers 100-plus stores, but shoppers can also romp with Fido and select fresh-off-the-farm produce at the farmers market. This shopping destination sports a dog park and is offering Pet Night with Santa as part of its holiday fun. Take a break with a snack at one of the many casual eateries or pick up fresh fruit at the farmers market, which also features live entertainment.

Otay Ranch Town Center
2015 Birch Road, Chula Vista

Number of stores: 100-plus

Anchors: Macy’s, AMC Theatres, Best Buy, H&M, Toys R Us

Restaurants: California Pizza Kitchen, Chili’s Bar & Grill, The Cheesecake Factory, P.F. Chang’s, Romano’s Macaroni Grill

Holiday highlights: Pet Night with Santa - bring a four-legged friend (cats and dogs only) to pose for a photo.

Special features/amenities: Free WiFi., dog park - a great place to exercise Rover and play off-leash in a 10,000-square-foot gated area with other dogs; open 7 a.m.-8:30 p.m. daily, weather permitting, with adjacent parking. Farmers Market & Family Festival: from 4-8 p.m. Tuesdays, enjoy farm-fresh produce, specialty food items, dining options and live entertainment.


Starting in the 1970s with just a Sears and expanding to more than 170 stores today, El Cajon’s Parkway Plaza is a covered mall offering 1.3 million square feet of shopping. New additions include Pandora jewelry, a Victoria’s Secret/Pink, and rue21 Plus. Recent renovations include parkscape areas with free wi-fi and outlets for charging mobile devices. Center Court features a newly designed arch with graphics highlighting parts of the El Cajon neighborhood as well as local notables such as diver Greg Louganis.

Parkway Plaza
415 Parkway Plaza, El Cajon

Number of stores: More than 170

Anchors: Macy’s, Sears, Wal-Mart, Dick’s Sporting Goods, Regal Cinemas, H&M

Restaurants: Applebee’s; On the Border; Rubio’s Coastal Grill; O’s American Kitchen; Five Guys Burgers and Fries

Holiday highlights: Breakfast with Santa, Dec. 3. The 7 Celtic Nations Pipe Band, 1-3 p.m. Dec. 10. The Fiddle Cats, a high-energy musical variety show of female fiddlers who sing and dance while playing, 1-4 p.m. Dec. 17. The Salvation Army Band performs holiday classics, 1-4 p.m. Dec. 24. Holiday Giftwrapping Station fundraiser for the nonprofit Scarlett’s Kids Foundation, through Dec. 9.


“Revitalize,” “renovate” and “redevelop” are the watchwords for The Shoppes at Carlsbad this holiday season. Formerly Westfield Plaza Camino Real, the center began its facelift in this fall (stores remain open during all phases of construction). The new design emphasizes a connection to the beach, with weathered-wood accents, natural stone, native plants and a color-palette of warm whites, muted grays and earth tones. The new streetscape will join the center’s indoor and outdoor elements, adding full-service and fast-casual dining options and inviting plazas. New tenants on their way include The Pizza Press and Dave & Busters.

The Shoppes at Carlsbad (previously Westfield Plaza Camino Real)
2525 El Camino Real, Suite 100, Carlsbad

Number of stores: 100-plus

Anchors: JCPenney, Macy’s, Sears, Regal Carlsbad 12 Theater, Victoria’s Secret

Restaurants: Pizza Press, Panera Bread, Peet’s Coffee and Tea, Luna Grill, Villaggio Café, Robek’s Juice

Holiday highlights: Photos with Santa and Christmas tree lot through Christmas Eve. Pet adoption in partnership with the San Diego Humane Society, 1-4 p.m. Dec. 4. Holiday concert by the 20-piece North Coast Symphony, 1-4 p.m. Dec. 11. Holiday concert by local musicians, 1-4 p.m. Dec. 18.


More than 1 million square feet of shopping and 188 stores greet visitors at Westfield Plaza Bonita in South Bay. This center is also popular with Mexican shoppers to the south, garnering 10.9 million visitors per year. The center has blossomed in the past several years after a revitalization project that brought in AMC Theatres 14, as well as stores including Nordstrom Rack, Target, Macy’s, H&M, Victoria’s Secret and the first Pandora jewelry store in the area. Most recently, Westfield Plaza Bonita has welcomed NYX Cosmetics, A’Gaci clothing and Hooters.

Westfield Plaza Bonita

3030 Plaza Bonita Road, National City

Number of stores: 188

Anchors: JCPenney, Macy’s, AMC Theatres 14, H&M, Nordstrom Rack, Target, Victoria’s Secret

Restaurants: Outback Steakhouse, El Torito, Hooter’s, Applebee’s, Chipotle

Holiday highlights: Visit Santa through Dec. 24. Salvation Army Brass Band concerts, 5-7:30 p.m. Dec. 16, 19, 22.


All roads, they say, lead to Rome. In San Diego, four major freeways lead shoppers to Westfield Mission Valley, drawing roughly 17 million customer visits per year with 1.57 million square feet of retail space. New to the shopping center are the first Bloomingdale’s outlet in San Diego, a Yard House gastropub, Cinnaholic and a Tender Greens restaurant.

Westfield Mission Valley
1640 Camino Del Rio N., Mission Valley

Number of stores: 124

Anchors: Bloomingdale’s The Outlet Store, Macy’s, Nordstrom Rack, Target, AMC Theatres, 24-Hour Fitness, Trader Joe’s

Restaurants: Gordon Biersch Brewing Company, King’s Fish House, Outback Steakhouse, Yard House, Tender Greens, The Habit Burger Grill, Pei Wei, Lazy Dog Restaurant & Bar

Holiday highlights: Visit Santa through Dec. 24. Menorah lighting with Chabad of East County, Dec. 27.


The addition of a 24-Hour Fitness means holiday shoppers can now give their bodies and their wallets a workout at Westfield North County. This recently renovated center, which also just added an A’Gaci clothing store, serves north San Diego County with 1.25 million square feet of retail space. Nearly 10 million shoppers visit each year to check out the latest at stores including Nordstrom, Target, Apple, Michael Kors, Banana Republic, Macy’s, Forever 21, Coach, H&M, LUSH and White House | Black Market. California Pizza Kitchen will be opening soon.

Westfield North County
272 E. Via Rancho Parkway, Escondido

Number of stores: 179

Anchors: Nordstrom, Macy’s, JCPenney, Target, Apple, White House | Black Market, H&M

Restaurants: Black Angus, On the Border, The Cheesecake Factory, Romano’s Macaroni Grill, Red Robin, BJ’s Restaurant Brewhouse, North County Tavern & Bowl

Holiday highlights: Visit Santa through Dec. 24. Menorah Celebration, 6 p.m. Dec. 26.


Westfield UTC is transforming from a shopping center into a shopping resort with new luxury boutiques, top national fashion stores and a sophisticated dining terrace. Dotted with boutiques, outdoor plazas, landscaped gardens and al fresco dining, the first phase of a multistage, $585 million redevelopment project opened in fall 2012 with new common areas, ArcLight Cinemas and a fitness center. Phase two will include a new Nordstrom and an additional 251,000 square feet of top international retailers, bringing the retail space to 1 million square feet. Complementing UTC’s transformation as a destination drawing 14 million visitors annually will be amenities such as a 15,000-square-foot indoor/outdoor event space, a five-level parking structure with cutting-edge “park assist” navigation technology and a palm-lined valet drop-off with arrival lounge. The mall’s newest tenants include Nespresso, Amazon books, Lego, Johnston & Murphy, Pandora, TravisMathew, Warby Parker and Vera Bradley.

Westfield UTC
4545 La Jolla Village Drive, University City

Number of stores: 140-plus

Anchors: Nordstrom, Macy’s, Tiffany & Co., Tesla, ArcLight Cinemas, Anthropologie, lululemon athletica, Michael Kors, Apple, J. Crew, Amazon Books

Restaurants: Tender Greens, Seasons 52, Eureka! Discover American Craft, Lemonade, Veggie Grill

Holiday highlights: Winter Nights (5-8 p.m. Dec. 3, 10, 17), community theater, live seasonal music by local schools, “snow” cascading from the rooftops, free drinks and treats from UTC eateries, “Snow Angel” photo opportunities, interactive toy soldiers on stilts, free photo opportunities with Santa.

Special features/amenities: Plaza Unplugged - acoustic sets by local San Diego musicians in Palm Plaza from noon-2 p.m. Friday through Sunday.

Research contributed by Laura Groch.