Image source: South Coast Plaza
Southern California's Orange County is a popular travel destination because of its beaches, Disneyland, and proximity to both Los Angeles and San Diego. The city of Costa Mesa is in the center of all this action and has its own unique niche as a shopping destination. From world-famous luxury brands to unique independent stores, any shopper will find something they want in three distinctly different settings.
Baccarat. Balenciaga. Bally. Barbara Bui. Brioni. Burberry. BVLGARI. And that's just the beginning of the alphabet. We could go on with names like Cartier, David Yurman, Fendi, Gucci, Jimmy Choo, Louis Vuitton, Mikimoto, Montblanc, etc. You get the idea.
A shopper perusing the list of 287 stores at South Coast Plaza will find any luxury brand they are looking for. How could they not when for jewelry and timepieces alone there are 29 stores to choose from? South Coast is such a shopping mecca that currency exchange is available because shoppers from other continents regularly make this place a specific destination for a trip. South Coast is the first shopping center in the U.S. to accept the China UnionPay Card to accommodate the many shoppers visiting from that area of the world.
While at South Coast, take a break and choose from 41 different dining options, or look into use of the private concierge lounge where you can relax, have something to eat, consult with a personal shopper, or drop your significant other to watch a basketball game while you continue to hit the stores.
While South Coast Plaza features some of the world's biggest brands, the OC Mix is at the opposite end of the spectrum featuring 23 artisan boutiques and specialty food shops.
This offbeat collection of small shops is where you can find unique businesses such as Analog, specializing in vinyl records and the equipment for listening to them. Women will want to check out Evas Trunk and Denim Bar to find that perfect pair of jeans and a top to pair with it. The idea behind Cloth & Metal is that men can go to one shop to find everything they need whether it be clothing, bags, accessories, shoes, grooming products, and even electronics.
The OC Mix also features restaurants such as Taco Maria, where Orange County native and Michelin-starred chef Carlos Salgado serves items such as Jidori chicken, ancho-almond mole, and onion pickle on the best handmade tortillas we've ever had.
Whatever your reason for visiting the OC Mix, make sure to stop by Portola Coffee Lab, where they've quite literally turned brewing coffee into a science. Their drinks are so favorable that, even if you're addicted to your cream and sugar, you'll find yourself following their advice to "try it black." Portola Coffee Lab also operates Theorem, a nearby coffee bar where baristas invite you to come up and try their latest experiments in creating coffee-based drinks.
The OC Mix sits within the South Coast Collection, also known as SOCO, a collection of over 70 restaurants, showrooms, and stores.
Established in 1993, LAB - an acronym for Little American Business - was meant to be an indoor-outdoor setting filled with unique shops where people would not only want to shop, but also just hang out and enjoy themselves.
More than 20 years later, the LAB is still fulfilling that mission in a variety of ways. For example, Creme Tangerine Records sits in a converted Airstream trailer and is open "12ish to 8ish." Stop by Habana Restaurant for pre-Castro Cuban fare and mojitos, view paintings in a series of shipping containers converted into a gallery known as the ARTery, or check out Blends, a store that pays homage to the humble sneaker.
There are also regular events such as outdoor movie nights or pop-up shops that make the LAB a spot that is more than just a place to buy things.
Whether it's the stores, dining, or just the overall experience, the city of Costa Mesa offers three very different settings that can appeal to a wide variety of shoppers.
What is your favorite travel destination for shopping?
Note: Available plans and coverages may have changed since this blog was published.
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Kathleen Curry and Geoff Griffin are hosts of The Travel Brigade Show - a weekly travel and destination podcast. Kathleen Curry is experienced in both the travel industry and broadcasting. She has worn the hats of travel writer, photographer, travel agent and hospitality evaluator. Her advice of, “No excuses, just travel!” reaches out to listeners who pick up on her enthusiasm for travel and benefit from her savvy advice. Her travel guilty pleasures are eating at a street-cart vendor so she can splurge later to order room service, finding deals to rack up sky miles so she can book her next flight and hoping her social security comes through some day because she has spent her future retirement savings trekking the globe.
Geoff Griffin is a reformed attorney turned travel junkie with over two decades of experience as a journalist and editor specializing in sports, outdoor recreation and travel. His current philosophy is that there are two stages in life - You’re either on a trip, or you’re planning your next trip. His travel guilty pleasure is trying recreation adventures that require the use of an expert guide to keep him from harming himself or hopping on a plane knowing nothing about his destination other than the airport code and wandering about a new town while relying on the locals to point him to the best places.
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