Whether you're looking for trend-setting fashions or just some tourist schlock mementos, Los Angeles has your shopping needs covered like no other place in the world. Heck, Los Angeles practically invented the shopping mall.
San Fernando Valley
Here's a rundown of L.A.'s top shopping areas -- from chic to cheap -- along with some highlights of each neighborhood to give you an idea of what you'll find there.
Studio City (Ventura Blvd. between Laurel Canyon Blvd. and Fulton Ave.) -- Long beloved by Valley residents, Studio City is where you'll find small boutiques and antiques stores, quirky little businesses (many dating from the 1940s and 1950s), and less congested branches of popular chains like Gap, Pier 1 Imports, and Blockbuster. Parking is a cinch on the street except during holiday season, when stores team up to decorate these blocks and often observe extended evening hours. The 4 blocks of Ventura Boulevard between Laurel Canyon Boulevard and Whitsett Avenue are the most concentrated.
Compared to L.A.'s behemoth shopping malls, the streets of pretty, compact Pasadena are a breeze to stroll. As a general rule, stores are open daily from about 10 a.m., and while some close at the standard 5 or 6 p.m., many stay open till 8 or 9 p.m. to accommodate the before- and after-dinner/movie crowd.
Old Pasadena (centered on the intersection of Colorado Blvd. and Fair Oaks Ave.)
Dating back to the 1880s, the 22-block-long Old Pasadena (tel. 626/666-4156; www.oldpasadena.com/) district offers some of the best shopping in L.A. -- if it retains the mom-and-pop businesses currently being pushed out by the likes of Banana Republic and Crate & Barrel. As you move eastward, the mix begins to include more eclectic shops and galleries commingling with dusty, preyuppie relics.
Penny Lane, 12 W. Colorado Blvd. (tel. 626/564-0161), carries new and used CDs, plus a great selection of music magazines and kitschy postcards. The stock is less picked over here than at many record stores in Hollywood. Travelers also seem to find something they need at Distant Lands Bookstore and Outfitters, a duo of related stores. The bookstore has a terrific selection of maps, guides, and travel-related literature, while the outfitter two doors away offers everything from luggage and pith helmets to space-saving and convenient travel accessories. An Old Town mainstay is Rebecca's Dream, 16 S. Fair Oaks Ave. (tel. 626/796-1200), where both men and women can find vintage clothing treasures. The store is small and meticulously organized (by color scheme); be sure to look at the vintage hats adorning the walls.
Other Pasadena Shopping
In addition to Old Town Pasadena, there are numerous good hunting grounds in the surrounding area. Antiques hounds might want to head to the Green Street Antique Row, 985 1005 E. Green St. (east of Lake Ave.), or the Pasadena Antique Center, on South Fair Oaks Boulevard (south of Del Mar). Each has a rich concentration of collectibles that can captivate for hours.
You never know what you might find at the Rose Bowl Flea Market, at the Rose Bowl, 1001 Rose Bowl Dr., Pasadena (tel. 323/560-SHOW; www.rgcshows.com/RoseBowlFleaMarket/tabid/52/Default.aspx). The horseshoe-shape Rose Bowl, built in 1922, is one of the world's most famous stadiums, home to UCLA's Bruins, the annual Rose Bowl Game, and an occasional Super Bowl. California's largest monthly swap meet, held here on the second Sunday of every month from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. rain or shine, is a favorite of Los Angeles antiques hounds (who know to arrive as early as 7 a.m. for the best finds). Antique furnishings, clothing, jewelry, and other collectibles are assembled in the parking area to the left of the entrance, while the rest of the flea market surrounds the exterior of the Bowl. Expect everything from used surfboards and car stereos to one-of-a-kind lawn statuary and bargain athletic shoes. Admission is $7 after 9 a.m. (early bird admission is $10 at 8 a.m. and $15 at 7 a.m.).
Anglophiles will enjoy Rose Tree Cottage, 828 E. California Blvd. (just west of Lake Ave.; tel. 626/793-3337; www.rosetreecottage.com/), and its charming array of all things British. This cluster of historic Tudor cottages surrounded by traditional English gardens holds three gift shops and a tearoom, where a superb $28 high tea is served thrice daily among the knickknacks (and supervised by the resident cat, Miss Moffett). In addition to imported teas, linens, and silver trinkets, Rose Tree Cottage sells English delicacies like steak-and-kidney pies, hot cross buns, and shortbread. It's also the local representative of the British Tourist Authority and offers a comprehensive array of travel publications.
Beverly Boulevard (from Robertson Blvd. to La Brea Ave.) -- Beverly is L.A.'s premier boulevard for mid-20th-century furnishings. Expensive showrooms line the street, but the one that started it all is Modernica, 7366 Beverly Blvd. (tel. 323/933-0383). You can still find vintage Stickley and Noguchi pieces, but Modernica has become best known for the authentic -- and more affordable -- replicas they offer (Eames storage units are one popular item).
Every Picture Tells a Story (7525 Beverly Blvd.; tel. 310/451-2700), a gallery devoted to the art of children's literature, displays antique children's books as well as the works of more than 100 illustrators, including lithos of Curious George, Eloise, and Charlotte's Web. Across the street from Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, the Mysterious Bookshop (8763 Beverly Blvd., between Robertson and San Vicente boulevards; tel. 310/209-0415), carries more than 20,000 used, rare, and out-of-print titles in the field of mystery, espionage, detective stories, and thrillers. Author appearances and other special events are regularly scheduled. If you can name more than three tenors, then the pleasantly cluttered Opera Shop of Los Angeles, 8384 Beverly Blvd. (3 blocks east of La Cienega Blvd.; tel. 323/658-5811), is for you. Everything imaginable with an opera theme is available: musical motif jewelry, stationery, T-shirts, opera glasses, and tapes, videos, and CDs of your favorite productions.
If you complain that they just don't make 'em like they used to . . . well, they do at Re-Mix, 7605 1/2 Beverly Blvd. (between Fairfax and La Brea aves.; tel. 323/936-6210). This shop sells only vintage (1940s - 70s) -- but brand-new (as in unworn) -- shoes for men and women, such as wingtips, Hush Puppies, Joan Crawford pumps, and 1970s platforms. It's more like a shoe-store museum. A rack of unworn vintage socks all display their original tags and stickers, and the prices are downright reasonable. Celebrity hipsters and hepcats from Madonna to Roseanne are often spotted here. Other vintage wares are found at Second Time Around Watch Co., 8840 Beverly Blvd. (west of Robertson Blvd.; tel. 310/271-6615). The city's best selection of collectible timepieces includes dozens of classic Tiffanys, Cartiers, Piagets, and Rolexes, plus rare pocket watches. Priced for collectors, but a fascinating browse for the Swatch crowd, too.
La Brea Avenue (north of Wilshire Blvd.) -- This is L.A.'s artiest shopping strip. La Brea is anchored by the giant American Rag, Cie alterna-complex, and is also home to lots of great urban antiques stores dealing in Art Deco, Arts and Crafts, 1950s modern, and the like. You'll also find vintage clothiers, furniture galleries, and other warehouse-size stores, as well as some of the city's hippest restaurants, such as Campanile.
Bargain hunters find flea-market furnishings at Nick Metropolis, 100 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/934-3700), while more upscale seekers of home decor head to Mortise & Tenon, 446 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/937-7654), where handcrafted heavy wood pieces sit next to overstuffed velvet-upholstered sofas and even vintage steel desks. The best place for a snack is Nancy Silverton's La Brea Bakery, 624 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/939-6813; www.labreabakery.com/), which foodies know from gourmet markets and the attached Campanile restaurant.
Stuffed to the rafters with hardware and fixtures of the past 100 years, Liz's Antique Hardware, 453 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/939-4403; www.lahardware.com/), thoughtfully keeps a canister of wet wipes at the register -- believe us, you'll need one after sifting through bags and crates of doorknobs, latches, finials, and any other home hardware you can imagine. Perfect sets of Bakelite drawer pulls and antique ceramic bathroom fixtures are some of the more intriguing items. Be prepared to browse for hours, whether you're redecorating or not. There's a respectable collection of coordinating trendy clothing for men and women, too. Hipsters also head up the street to Yellowstone for vintage duds, and souvenir seekers know to visit Moletown for studio merchandise featuring logo graphics from the hottest new movies.
Rodeo Drive & Beverly Hills's Golden Triangle (between Santa Monica Blvd., Wilshire Blvd., and Crescent Dr., Beverly Hills) -- Everyone knows about Rodeo Drive, the city's most famous shopping street. Couture shops from high fashion's Old Guard are located along these 3 hallowed blocks, along with plenty of newer high-end labels. And there are two examples of the Beverly Hills version of minimalls, albeit more insular and attractive: the Rodeo Collection, 421 N. Rodeo Dr, a contemporary center with towering palms; and 2 Rodeo, a cobblestoned Italianate piazza at Wilshire Boulevard. The 16-square-block area surrounding Rodeo Drive is known as the Golden Triangle. Shops off Rodeo are generally not as name-conscious as those on the strip (and you might actually be able to afford something), but they're nevertheless plenty upscale. Little Santa Monica Boulevard has a particularly colorful line of specialty stores, and Brighton Way is as young and hip as relatively staid Beverly Hills gets. Parking is a bargain, with nine city-run lots offering 2 hours of free parking and a flat fee of $2 after 2 p.m.
The big names to look for here are Bvlgari, 201 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/858-9216); Giorgio Beverly Hills, 327 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 800/GIORGIO); Gucci, 347 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/278-3451); Hermès, 434 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/278-6440); Louis Vuitton, 295 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/859-0457); Polo/Ralph Lauren, 444 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/281-7200); and Tiffany & Co., 210 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/273-8880). The newest arrivals are the ultrachic clothiers Dolce & Gabbana, 312 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/888-8701), and Badgley Mischka, 202 Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/248-3750); British plaid palace Burberry Limited, 9560 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/550-4500); and NikeTown, on the corner of Wilshire Boulevard and Rodeo Drive (tel. 310/275-9998), a behemoth shrine to the reigning athletic-gear king.
Wilshire Boulevard is also home to New York-style department stores (each in spectacular landmark buildings), like Saks Fifth Avenue, 9600 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/275-4211); Barneys New York, 9570 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/276-4400); and Neiman Marcus, 9700 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/550-5900).
The Sunset Strip (between La Cienega Blvd. and Doheny Dr., West Hollywood) -- The monster-size billboards advertising the latest rock god make it clear this is rock-'n'-roll territory. So it makes sense that you'll find legendary Tower Records in the heart of the action. Tower insists that it has L.A.'s largest selection of compact discs (more than 125,000 titles) -- despite the Virgin Megastore's contrary claim -- and it's open 365 days a year. At the east end of the strip sits the gigantic Virgin Megastore. Some 100 CD "listening posts" and an in-store "radio station" make this place a music-lover's paradise. Virgin claims to stock 150,000 titles, including an extensive collection of hard-to-find artists.
The Strip is lined with trendy restaurants, industry-oriented hotels, and dozens of shops offering outrageous fashions and stage accessories. One anomaly is Sunset Plaza, an upscale cluster of Georgian-style shops resembling Beverly Hills at its snootiest. You'll find Billy Martin's, 8605 Sunset Blvd. (tel. 310/289-5000), founded by the legendary Yankees manager in 1978. This chic men's Western shop -- complete with fireplace and leather sofa -- stocks hand-forged silver and gold belt buckles, Lucchese and Liberty boots, and stable staples like flannel shirts. Next door is the fine-jewelry store Philip Press, Inc., 8601 Sunset Blvd. (tel. 310/360-1180), which specializes in platinum and diamonds, handcrafted to evoke ornate estate jewelry. If you want to commemorate a special occasion or want the best selection, this is the place to go. Book Soup has long been one of L.A.'s most celebrated bookshops, selling mainstream and small-press books and hosting book signings and readings.
West 3rd Street (between Fairfax and Robertson boulevards) -- You can shop till you drop on this trendy strip, anchored on the east end by the Farmers Market & The Grove. Many of Melrose Avenue's shops have relocated here, along with terrific up-and-comers, several cafes, and the much-lauded restaurant Locanda Veneta. Fun is more the catchword here than funky, and the shops (including the vintage clothing stores) are a bit more refined than those along Melrose. The Cook's Library is where the city's top chefs find classic and offbeat cookbooks, wine guides, and other food-oriented tomes. Browsing is welcomed, even encouraged, with tea, tasty treats, and rocking chairs. Traveler's Bookcase is one of the best travel bookshops in the West, stocking a huge selection of guidebooks and travel literature, as well as maps and travel accessories. Nearby Memory Lane is filled with 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s collectibles.
There's lots more to see along this always-growing street. Refuel at Chado Tea Room, 8422 W. 3rd St. (tel. 323/655-2056), a temple for tea lovers. Chado is designed with a nod to Paris's renowned Mariage Frères tea purveyor; one wall is lined with nooks whose recognizable brown tins are filled with more than 250 different varieties of tea from around the world. Among the choices are 15 kinds of Darjeeling, Indian teas blended with rose petals, and ceremonial Chinese and Japanese blends. You can also get tea meals here, featuring delightful sandwiches and individual pots of any loose tea in the store.
Window Shopping -L.A. Style
The gorgeous Bvlgari jewelry store at the corner of Rodeo Drive and Wilshire Boulevard -- former home of the Brown Derby restaurant -- displays many of the priceless (literally) jewels worn by the stars at the big awards ceremonies. Look wealthy and they might even invite you upstairs for an espresso.
A Very Beverly Hills Bookstore
If you're a connoisseur of small bookstores, you'll definitely want to pay a visit to the new TASCHEN bookstore at 354 N. Beverly Dr., in Beverly Hills (tel. 310/274-4300; http://www.taschen.com/). It's the German-based publishing house's first American store (the other two are in Cologne and Paris) and a fitting monument to the company's beautiful high-quality books. French designer célèbre Philippe Starck was commissioned to create the long, narrow store's dramatic interiors -- glossy walnut woods, shimmering bronze bookshelves, purple mirrors, and handmade glass walls. Befitting the world's leading art publisher, the artwork alone is worth the trip: Artist Albert Oehlen created 20 computer-generated collages for the walls and ceiling, inspired from the wide selection of TASCHEN's art, design, and erotic books. Prices range from a few dollars to several thousand for Helmut Newton's SUMO, the biggest and most expensive book produced in the 20th century. Truly, TASCHEN is unlike any other bookstore you've browsed. Open daily 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Hollywood Boulevard (between Gower St. and La Brea Ave.)
One of Los Angeles's most famous streets is, for the most part, a cheesy tourist strip. But along the Walk of Fame, between the T-shirt shops and greasy pizza parlors, you'll find some excellent poster shops, souvenir stores, and Hollywood-memorabilia dealers worth getting out of your car for -- especially if there's a chance of getting your hands on that long-sought-after Ethel Merman autograph or 200 Motels poster.
Some long-standing purveyors of memorabilia include Book City Collectibles, which has more than 70,000 color prints of past and present stars, along with a good selection of famous autographs. Hollywood Book and Poster Company has an excellent collection of posters (from about $15 each), strong in horror and exploitation flicks. Photocopies of about 5,000 movie and television scripts are sold for $10 to $15 each -- Pulp Fiction is just as good in print, by the way -- and the store carries music posters and photos. The Collector's Book Store is a movie buff's dream, with enough printed memorabilia for an afternoon of browsing; vintage copies of Photoplay and other fan mags cost $2 to $5, and the selection of biographies is outstanding.
Larchmont Boulevard (between Beverly Blvd. and 2nd St.)
Neighbors congregate on this old-fashioned street just east of busy Vine Avenue. As the surrounding Hancock Park homes become increasingly popular with artists and young industry types, the shops and cafes lining Larchmont get more stylish. Sure, chains like Jamba Juice and The Coffee Bean are infiltrating this formerly mom-and-pop terrain, but plenty of unique shopping awaits amid charming elements like diagonal parking, shady trees, and sidewalk bistro tables.
One of L.A.'s landmark independent bookstores is Chevalier's Books, 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. (tel. 323/465-1334), a 60-year Larchmont tradition. If your walking shoes are letting you down, stop into Village Footwear, 240 N. Larchmont Blvd. (tel. 323/461-3619), which specializes in comfort lines like Josef Siebel.
Melrose Avenue (between Fairfax and La Brea aves.)
It's showing some wear -- some stretches have become downright ugly -- but this is still one of the most exciting shopping streets in the country for cutting-edge fashions (and some eye-popping people-watching, to boot). Melrose is always an entertaining stroll, dotted with plenty of hip restaurants and funky shops selling the latest in clothes, gifts, jewelry, and accessories that are sure to shock. Where else could you find green patent-leather cowboy boots, a working 19th-century pocket watch, an inflatable girlfriend, and glow-in-the-dark condoms on the same block? From east to west, here are some highlights.
L.A. Eyeworks, 7407 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/653-8255), revolutionized eyeglass designs from medical supply to stylish accessory, and now their brand is nationwide. Retail Slut, 7308 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/934-1339), is a rock-'n'-roll shop carrying new clothing and accessories for men and women. The unique designs are for a select crowd (the name says it all), so don't expect to find anything for your next PTA meeting here. Betsey Johnson Boutique is a favorite among the young and pencil-thin; the New York-based designer has brought to L.A. her brand of fashion: Trendy, cutesy, body-conscious women's wear in colorful prints and faddish fabrics. Across the street, Off the Wall is filled with neon-flashing, bells-and-whistles kitsch collectibles, from vintage Wurlitzer jukeboxes to life-size fiberglass cows. The L.A. branch of a Bay Area hipster hangout, Wasteland has an enormous steel-sculpted facade. There's a lot of leather and denim, and some classic vintage -- but mostly funky 1970s-style garb, both vintage and contemporary. More racks of vintage treasures (and trash) are found at Aardvark's Odd Ark, which stocks everything from suits and dresses to neckties, hats, handbags, and jewelry. This place also manages to anticipate some of the hottest new street fashions.
A Hollywood Production Worth Checking Out
Every Sunday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., the Hollywood Farmers Market takes place on Ivar Avenue between Hollywood and Sunset boulevards. Along with fresh California-grown produce, there's plenty of live entertainment, an artisan and crafts fair, and ethnic food stalls. There's even free parking off Vine Street.
For a complete listing of Frommer's-reviewed stores, visit our online shopping index.
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