L.A.’s Best Malls and Why We Love Them

Yeah, we still hang out at the mall—big whoop

How old were you when you learned it wasn’t cool to love the mall anymore? I was about 20, in college getting a liberal arts degree, and dating an anarchist who subsisted on vegan ice cream sandwiches and Noam Chomsky books. It was way back around the dawn of the new millennium, when shopping on the internet was really becoming a thing, a big ol’ recession was on the horizon, and years of trickle-down economics that didn’t actually trickle left the average suburban mall dweller without disposable income to blow on Sharper Image foot massagers.

 

In the years since then, a lot of ink has been spilled about the demise of the shopping mall and who’s to blame for the slow death. In 2017, an L.A. Times writer said, “The mall—suburbia’s onetime lifestyle nexus for giant pretzels, ear piercings and a girl’s first thong—is battling a decline in cultural relevance as the social meeting place for young Americans continues to transition from physical spaces to phone screens.” While changing times have resulted in a number of casualties—RIP Westside Pavilion—L.A.’s malls aren’t relinquishing their cultural-institution status without a fight. I mean, when’s the last time you tried to find a parking space in the Glendale Galleria’s garage on a Sunday afternoon?

From Caruso’s ersatz small-town town squares to Westfield’s revamped behemoths to smaller complexes that reflect the cultural tastes of their respective neighborhoods, we’re re-embracing the shopping mall. Here are our favorites presented in a vague ascending order. —Gwynedd Stuart


Fig at 7th

Fig at 7th is like if someone built a mall at the bottom of an abandoned rock quarry, or inside the Sarlacc pit from Star Wars. You have to take, like, eight escalators to get to the underwhelming food court at the lowest floor. Supposedly you can access the mall by walking in from Figueroa, but I’m guessing 99 percent of people drive in through the insanely complicated parking garage, which is a whole other seven circles of hell to navigate. The good news is that all the effort is worth it, since you get to access to a modern, still-looks-brand-new Target that is weirdly quiet and uncrowded for a store in the middle of downtown. There’s also a Nordstrom Rack, which is a badge of honor for any aspiring mall, and, for some reason, a Morton’s Steakhouse. Who is going to this mall to eat a $60 filet mignon?? 735 S. Figueroa St., downtown. —Garrett Snyder

South Coast Plaza

Though it’s not technically in Los Angeles, this bougie Orange County establishment is worth a trip for the people watching and window shopping alone. At 2.8 million square feet, it’s the largest mall on the west coast, with a sprawling array of high-end stores that bring in over $1.5 billion annually. Grab a Godiva hot chocolate and ogle extravagant displays at Hermés and Saint Laurent amidst the posh sweatsuit-wearing masses, then head down the street to take a breather at this secret Noguchi Sculpture Garden. 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa. —Zoie Matthew

Westfield Topanga & the Village

The distinguishing factor with Westfield Topanga is the outdoor offshoot known as the Village. The mall itself is large and has most of the chain retailers you would expect, but cross the street to see where this shopping center shines. Rent the Runway has their only L.A.-area retail shop for picking up last-minute fancy dress orders (or swapping your Unlimited subscription)–and you can pop into Drybar, Blushington, Skin Laundry, and Sugar Nail for the complete pre-party primping package. And there is Go Greek, an entire café dedicated to Greek yogurt, so that’s obviously worth a trip, right? 6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park. —Brittany Martin

Westfield Fashion Square

Often confused with the Sherman Oaks Galleria (maybe only by me), the Westfield Fashion Square is good for mainly two things: the food court and Sephora. But I come here for other things, too. It’s a pretty chill mall, with no crazy lines or disorganized stores. Until, of course, the holidays come around. But even then, the environment here doesn’t feel as stressful as other malls in the Valley—it can get nasty in other places. 14006 Riverside Dr., Sherman Oaks.  —Pamela Avila

Burbank Town Center

Ah, good ol’ Burbank mall. I’ve been coming here for like my whole life now, and while it’s definitely not the best mall out there and it can totally be a hit or miss–it just feels like the most accessible and inviting mall in the Valley. Perfect for last minute holiday presents or a last minute outfit, Sears, Macy’s, Old Navy, and Forever 21 will be there to your rescue (or maybe just mine). The mall recently underwent a renovation too though, so they’re stepping their game up, they even have an H&M in there now! And a way better food court than before. FANCY. Overall, it’s easy to find your way around Burbank Town Center and if you don’t find what you need inside mall, you can always walk down N. San Fernando Boulevard, where you’ll have more to choose from. 201 East Magnolia Blvd., Burbank. —Pamela Avila

Northridge Fashion Center

I didn’t know the Northridge Fashion Center’s existence until I moved from North Hollywood to Arleta, and I usually only come here for last minute Christmas shopping or when technology fails me and I need the Apple Store to save my ass. It’s a good mall though, like a less-nice version of the Glendale Galleria and it has way more variety than the Burbank Town Center. It’s where you come when all the shelves at the Burbank mall are wiped out. On weekends, local artists and businesses also set up shop on the second floor of the mall so when you’re done giving into consumerism you can shop a little local, too. Balance it out. Also, parking over the holidays is a plus–Burbank and Glendale, on the other hand, can be total nightmares. 9301 Tampa Ave, Northridge. —Pamela Avila

Baldwin Hills Crenshaw Plaza

Thanks to a centrally located popcorn kiosk, the air inside this otherwise totally pleasant mall with a great TJ Maxx is always redolent of artificial butter topping. Escape the aroma inside Macy’s, where you’ll find the Museum of African American Art tucked away behind the bed department on the third floor. Come for Palmer C. Hayden’s terrific series of paintings on folk hero John Henry, and stay for the cheaper-than-average tickets at the adjacent Cinemark movie theater. —Gwynedd Stuart

Glendale Galleria

You have to love a mall with not one but two parking decks (both of them free—no validation necessary). Smack dab in the middle of Glendale, the Galleria is deceptively large and has an Apple Store that tends to be less crowded than the more visible one at the Americana next door. Shopping-wise you’ll find all the usual suspects (including two Abercrombies, which seems excessive) and a family play place/restaurant called Giggles n’ Hugs, which, despite the slightly unpleasant name, seems a lot more chill and a lot less germ-ridden than the average Chuck E. Cheese’s. 100 W. Broadway, Glendale. —Gwynedd Stuart

Koreatown Plaza

With its geometric architecture, waxy tropical plants, and pastel pink-and-green tiles, the Koreatown Plaza mall is a consumerist dreamscape straight out of 1987. Step away from the bustle of Western Avenue to peruse cosmetics, clothes, and KPOP merch in its quiet selection of mom-and-pop shops, before grabbing some bibimbap in the not-to-be-missed basement-level food court. For dessert, head to the mall’s Plaza Market, a full-service Korean grocery store with an impressive array of candy and mochi. 928 S. Western Ave., Koreatown. —Zoie Matthew

Westfield Culver City

This humungous mall in the no-man’s land between Culver City and Westchester loses immediate points for ditching its former name, the Fox Hills Mall, a legendary teen hangout through the Golden Decades of Malls (aka the ‘80s-‘00s). You may remember it being featured in the hit comedy Superbad, starring a not-yet-svelte Jonah Hill. Nonetheless, the Westfield Culver City ranks pretty high: aside from the abysmally named Mongrill Gourmet Mongolian BBQ, it has one of the most consistently great food courts in the city (Beef rolls! Fish tacos! Kabobs!) and the three-tier structure of the complex makes it surprisingly easy to get from Foot Locker to See’s Candies (get that free sample!) without being harassed by those guys at the kiosks selling hoverboards or whatever. Parking is ample too. 6000 Sepulveda Blvd., Culver City. —Garrett Snyder

Palisades Village

Palisades Village is designed for those who prefer the convenience of a shopping mall to come with the aesthetics of the main street of a small (yet impeccably curated) town. It’s leafy, the streets are brick, the buildings look individual and inviting, restaurant seating spills out to the sidewalks, and the movie theater at the core was originally built in 1948 (it’s now a luxurious Cinépolis). At just 31 retailers, Palisades Village is compact, and isn’t trying to cater to everybody, but as you stroll around, living your best, Goop-iest life, you’ll find all essentials of a certain type of posh, fashionable existence. Think: Alo Yoga for athleisure, Paige for denim, drapey, neutral-colored knits from Vince, and gluten-free baked goods from Sweet Laurel. 15225 Palisades Village Lane, Pacific Palisades. —Brittany Martin

Little Tokyo Galleria

This three-story artifact at the eastern edge of Little Tokyo feels like a set piece from an ‘80s action movie. You half expect to see Mel Gibson and Danny Glover from the original Lethal Weapon sliding down one of the escalators to catch a perp. What we’re saying is that it feels old, but in a cool retro-futurist way. The most amazing thing is how much stuff they managed to cram into three levels of grey concrete. There’s an arcade, a bowling alley, a Japanese dollar store (shout out Daiso!), a karaoke bar studio, a supermarket, a place that sells really good cream puffs, and a bunch of other kooky knick-knack shops you’d be hard pressed to find outside of Osaka. Despite all the amenities, the mall is empty most of the time, which only adds to the bizarro time-warp vibe. Apparently, and perhaps unsurprisingly, there are plans to tear the place down soon and replace it with yet another mixed-use residential complex. Sad! 333 S. Alameda St., downtown. —Garrett Snyder

The Grove

Comfortably navigating the Grove on foot on the weekends (especially during the holidays) is not a thing. If you’re not dodging a GD trolley, you’re dodging some rich lady on a cellphone making a beeline for Barneys. That said, the Grove is an iconic L.A. experience and its proximity to the Original Farmers Market makes it a totally decent place to spend an afternoon with visiting relatives. And big bonus points for the single, most logical parking garage in all of Los Angeles, which has an inside track you can climb rather than being forced to traverse each and every level when all the little electronic signs indicate there’s no parking on the first several levels. Seriously, can builders please start emulating this model? I feel strongly about this. 189 The Grove Dr., Beverly Grove. —Gwynedd Stuart

Westfield Santa Anita

Though this might seem like your typical Westfield mall at first blush, its food court is in a league of its own. Located in the wealthy, majority Chinese neighborhood of Arcadia, its become a hub for upscale Asian restaurants in recent years, including the famed Taiwanese dumpling house Din Tai Fung, the hot pot spot HaiDiLao, and the chic Sichuan eatery Meizhou Dongpo (which serves a mean la zi ji, aka spicy fried chicken). 400 S. Baldwin Ave., Aracadia. —Zoie Matthew

Beverly Center

Of the three L.A. malls immortalized in Clueless, the Beverly Center is the only one where we imagine a modern-day Cher and Di would go on a shopping excursion today. There’s a mix of shops from Uniqlo to Balenciaga, so you can pick up something stylish at any price point–and enjoy some glam window-shopping even if you’re not hitting the more luxe boutiques. This fall, the results of a years-long renovation project were finally revealed; in addition to a new façade, the interior is brighter and outfitted with modern furniture and an abundance of phone-charging outlets and other nice details. Restaurants including Cal Mare, Easy’s, Lamill, and Pitchoun offer dining options far better than the typical “mall food,” so while you might get shopped-out, at least you won’t be hangry. 8500 Beverly Blvd.e, Beverly Grove. —Brittany Martin

Westfield Century City

The shopping experience at Westfield Century City is uncommonly pleasant. The elevated terrace has pretty views of the surrounding glass skyscrapers, the stores are a perfect mix of luxury brands that make for interesting peeking around, more accessible shops where you probably actually buy things, and rotating pop-up spaces that keep things fresh. It’s an especially good destination for gift-shopping, because there are tons of options to buy things other than clothing (not so at all malls). Ever-popular chain Anthropologie recently opened a sprawling flagship here, there’s an entire shop dedicated to Moleskine notebooks and writerly goods, Compartes and Sugarfina sell colorful, made-in-L.A. confections, Eataly has every kind of food gift imaginable, and Aēsop, Fresh, and Lush cover the pretty, nice-smelling self-care treat categories. 10250 Santa Monica Blvd., Century City. —Brittany Martin

The Americana at Brand

What is it about the Americana—the Grove’s Glendale-set sibling—that makes it so much more pleasant than its counterpart in L.A. proper? It’s definitely still crowded and has a trolley. It has a Cheesecake Factory and a movie theater (both v. important). Between its mix of 30-something-friendly stores, dancing fountains, and central location, the Americana somehow really nailed the pleasant Saturday by oneself (or, fine, with family and friends). Its my inner capitalist’s happy place, and by the looks of it, I’m not alone. Don’t tell my anarchist ex-boyfriend. 889 Americana Way, Glendale. —Gwynedd Stuart


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