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South Coast Plaza

The Costa Mesa shopping center is a treasure trove of luxury brands, only-in-California stores, and high-profile dining

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Go to South Coast Plaza and you’ll quickly see how Orange County got its reputation for world-class luxury shopping.

Located on a former lima bean farm in Costa Mesa, the shopping center opened in 1967 with just a few classic department stores. Then in the 1970s and ’80s, big names started opening locations here, often bypassing the bigger nearby cities—like the first West Coast locations of Halston and Coach, and the first Nordstrom outside the Pacific Northwest. Today it’s home to more than 250 stores and 30 restaurants—from Saks and Bloomingdale’s to iconic brands such as Hermès, Chanel, and Prada. You’ll also find names not typically associated with malls: Alexander McQueen, Christian Louboutin, Stella McCartney, and contemporary golf-fashion brand Psycho Bunny.

South Coast Plaza continues to debut exclusive shops, too, offering the only West Coast locations of Reiss London, the Italian linens of 120% Lino, and bridal designer Monique Lhuillier. The center offers two Louis Vuitton stores, including the only pop-up Louis Vuitton California Dream, inspired by the designer’s fragrance of the same name. The mall’s Tiffany & Co., meanwhile, includes a Blue Box Café (the second in the nation), where you can live out your Breakfast-at-Tiffany’s dream through its elegant menu of morning pastries or an afternoon tea with scones, tea sandwiches, and petit fours.

Even the culinary options convey luxury: Consider the Asian-fusion-meets-fashion at AnQi Bistro, which has a catwalk for fashion shows; the French cuisine of Knife Pleat, co-created by Michelin-starred chef Tony Esnault; and the Spanish tapas at Vaca, helmed by Top Chef finalist Amar Santana. Even the casual dining options are elevated, such as the acclaimed dumplings of Din Tai Fung and a Wolfgang Puck Kitchen.

South Coast Plaza also offers an array of bespoke shopping experiences: tailored clothes, made-to-order shoes, custom-made jewelry and watches, even Coach bags that you personalize yourself. In the wake of the pandemic, the shopping center instituted curbside pickup and expanded personal shopping options that offer both safety and convenience. For in-person shopping with extra protocols, book an appointment at The Pavilion, where you can have items from one of 80 participating shops brought to the open-air area equipped with its own dressing rooms and shopping consultants.

Given its flair for aesthetics, it’s not surprising that South Coast Plaza is considered worthy of inclusion on the Costa Mesa Art Walk. Take the free, self-guided audio tour to check out the stained-glass dome over the mall’s Jewel Court and the pedestrian bridge that connects the shopping center to the Segerstrom Center for the Arts across the street.

Insider tip: If you live outside Orange County, be sure to sign up for South Coast Plaza’s VIP Passport before you arrive. The visitors-only deals typically include 20 percent off purchases at a variety of stores—a savings that can add up fast in this luxury haven.

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