Love shopping but don’t have Kim and Kanye’s bank account? Don't worry. We’ve rounded up California's best places to bag designer gear at a discount, from shopping days at Palm Springs to some of the largest outlet centres in the US. Just make sure your suitcase is supersized…
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The Desert Hills Premium Outlets
mall is any shopaholic’s heaven and is known as one of the best in the state, being home to the largest collection of luxury outlets in California. Just over an hour’s drive from Los Angeles and 20 minutes west of Palm Springs, the outlet centre features 180 designer stores including Alexander McQueen, Michael Kors, Montblanc, Saint Laurent Paris, Prada, Gucci and Burberry. So don’t forget to take your credit card because this is some serious luxury shopping at discount prices.
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While ritzy Rodeo Drive in Beverly Hills is the place to flex your credit card muscles, the place for snapping up real bargains in the city is the Citadel Outlets
. There’s more than 130 shops behind its 1,700ft facade, which is like a shrine to shopping. The children will love Tommy Hilfiger Kids and the Toys “R” Us Outlet, while the guys can update their wardrobes at A/X Armani Exchange and Hugo Boss, and the ladies can check out Kate Spade New York, Calvin Klein and a host of other chic shops.
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When you’re not at the Citadel Outlets store, just east of Beverly Hills is The Grove, a famous upmarket shopping and entertainment centre, while in-the-know shoppers head to Beverly and Canon Drives for great celeb-spotting. However, bargain hunters, should head for the LA Fashion District and Santee Alley, with more than 150 shops and street vendors selling almost everything imaginable - a great place to scour for cut-price clothes. Over in Santa Monica, Montana Avenue is where the stars head to for the latest It-pieces, but you can snap up some more affordable pieces at the south end of the promenade at the open-air Santa Monica Place, which features trendy boutiques and a rooftop dining deck with stunning sea views. Just south is Venice Beach’s fun and funky Abbot Kinney Boulevard, home to hip clothiers, galleries and so-cool restaurants and cafés.
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After your trip to Desert Hills Premium Outlets, make sure you save some room in your luggage and pop over to Palm Springs for some artsy, vintage and boho chic shopping. The Backstreet Art District features artist-owned galleries and working studios, giving you a chance to chat with artists as well as buy their one-of-a-kind pieces. Vintage fan? Head to the Uptown Design District, a hotbed of vintage and contemporary treasures in mid-century buildings as retro-chic as the items for sale inside. In nearby Palm Desert, the pretty street known as El Paseo has boutiques, galleries, and shops that have earned it the nickname “The Rodeo Drive of the Desert.” This roughly one-mile strip and adjacent streets house one of the largest concentrations of art galleries anywhere in Southern California.
CC-BY Tony Nungaray
If you want to make like an actual celebrity, head to the South Coast Plaza, a luxury mall where you'll find designer names like Hermes, Chanel and Prada, as well as a Macy's store. Fashion Island at Newport Beach is another posh-purchase hot spot. Want designer goodies at a bargain price though? Zip over to The Outlets at Orange, where your head will be turned by 120 value stores, as well as an indoor Vans SkatePark, cinemas, and bowling. Costa Mesa’s The LAB Antimall is great for independent shops, while there's a host of quality handcrafts and artwork displayed in cool shipping containers at The ARTery.
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For some locally-crafted accessories and boutique clothing options try State Street in Santa Barbara. Start at State Street’s upper end, with luxury retailers such as Tiffany & Co. Next up, La Arcada, with its twisting walkways and boutiques, and then on to the Paseo Nuevo shopping centre, home to more than 50 shops. Still got a shopping appetite? Continue to Victoria Court, which has a cool mix of independent shops and top restaurants.
Flickr CC-BY Franco Folini
While high-end luxury store hunters head to Union Square, this city is great for vintage shopping and perfect for people wanting some alternative shopping options, especially in the Haight-Ashbury area, which was once the epicentre of the hippy culture and, it could be said, still is. Locals in that time included the Grateful Dead at 710 Ashbury, and Janis Joplin at 122 Lyon Street. You can still experience the flavour of that era at many of the shops on Haight, and mixed in with those 60s shops are high-end vintage clothing stores, a number of exclusive boutiques, and trendy restaurants.
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Over in the Tri-Valley city of Livermore, east of San Francisco Bay, you’ll find San Francisco Premium Outlets
, a shopping centre that has a list of designer marked-down merchandise as long as your leg. Armani, Burberry, DKNY, Kate Spade New York, Polo Ralph Lauren, Prada - it’s a veritable wish list of designers, all with prices at up to 65% off full retail. And it’s not just all about the clothes; Le Creuset has an outlet shop, with big price cuts on high-end cookware; you can browse for baubles at Swarovski; get a new perfume at Lancôme; and then a new suitcase to pack up your purchases at the Samsonite outlet.
Flickr CC-BY Allie_Caulfield
This amazing outdoor shopping centre is described as “a mix between California’s relaxed stylishness and a swanky European village on market day”. Yes, there are high-end luxury stores here, but there are also a number of cheaper options, including familiar chains like H&M. The charming complex has benches for relaxing under leafy oaks, large sculptures by French artists, antique fountains, live musicians and open-air seating outside see-and-be-seen restaurants.
Flickr CC-BY Joe Wolf
The Inland Empire Outlets are a great luxe-for-less chain, and the biggest of the bunch is Ontario Mills
, which is actually California’s largest outlet and value retail shopping hotspot. It’s an indoor mall providing the ultimate shopping experience with more than 200 stores, including Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH, Coach Factory Store, Michael Kors, True Religion, Lucky Brand Jeans Outlet, Nordstrom Rack, H&M, Forever 21, J Crew Factory, Tommy Hilfiger Company Store, Abercrombie & Fitch Outlet, Nike Factory Store and much more. *Squeals with excitement*.