Main Street (between Pacific St. and Rose Ave., and Santa Monica and Venice blvds.)
An excellent street for strolling, Main Street is crammed with a combination of mall standards and upscale, left-of-center individual boutiques. You can also find plenty of casually hip cafes and restaurants. The primary strip connecting Santa Monica and Venice, Main Street has a relaxed, beach-community vibe that sets it apart from similar strips. The stores here straddle the fashion fence between upscale trendy and beach-bum edgy. Highlights include Obsolete, 222 Main St. (near Rose Ave; tel. 310/399-0024), the most hip antiques store I've ever seen. Collectibles range from antique carnival curios to 19th-century anatomical charts from Belgium (you'd be amazed at how much some of that junk in your attic is worth). CP Shades, 2937 Main St. (btw. Ashland and Pier sts.; tel. 310/392-0949; www.cpshades.com), is a San Francisco ladies' clothier whose loose and comfy cotton and linen line is carried by many department stores and boutiques. Horizons West, 2011 Main St. (south of Pico Blvd.; tel. 310/392-1122), sells brand-name surfboards, wet suits, leashes, magazines, waxes, lotions, and everything else you need to catch the perfect wave. If you're looking for some truly sophisticated, finely crafted eyewear, the friendly Optical Shop of Aspen, 2904 Main St. (btw. Ashland and Pier sts.; tel. 310/392-0633; www.osainternational.com), is for you. Ask for frames by cutting-edge L.A. designers Bada and Koh Sakai. For aromatherapy nirvana, it's Cloud's, 2719 Main St. (tel. 310/399-2059), where Jill Cloud (happily assisted by her lovely mom) carries the most heavenly scented candles. Then there's Arts & Letters, 2665 Main St. (tel. 310/314-7345), a stationery haven that includes invitations by the owner herself, Marilyn Golin. Outdoors types will get lost in 5,600-square-foot Patagonia, 2936 Main St. (tel. 310/314-1776; www.patagonia.com), where climbers, surfers, skiers, and hikers can gear up in the functional, colorful duds that put this environmentally friendly firm on the map. For a dose of beachy pampering, check out the Bey's Garden, 2919 Main St. (tel. 310/399-5420; www.beysgarden.com). Part aromatherapy apothecary, part gift shop, part day spa, you'll find everything from waxing to "energy work" available.
Montana Avenue (between 17th and 7th sts., Santa Monica; www.montanaave.com)
This breezy stretch of slow-traffic Montana has gotten a lot more pricey than in the late 1970s, when tailors and laundromats ruled the roost, but the specialty shops still outnumber the chains. Look around and you can see upscale moms with strollers and cellphones shopping for designer fashions, country home decor, and gourmet takeout.
Montana is still original enough for residents from across town to make a special trip here, seeking out distinctive shops like Shabby Chic, 1013 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/394-1975; www.shabbychic.com), a much-copied purveyor of slipcovered sofas and flea-market furnishings, while clotheshorses shop for designer wear at minimalist Savannah, 706 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/458-2095); ultrahip Jill Roberts, 920 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/260-1966; www.jillroberts.com); and sleekly professional Weathervane, 1209 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/393-5344). Leona Edmiston, 1007 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/587-1100; www.leonaedmiston.com), houses the Aussie designer's famed frocks. For more grown-up style, head to Ponte Vecchio, 702 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/394-0989; www.pontev.com), which sells Italian hand-painted dishes and urns. If Valentine's Day is approaching, duck into Only Hearts, 1407 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/393-3088; www.onlyhearts.com), for heart-themed gifts and seductively comfortable intimate apparel. And don't forget the one-of-a-kind shops such as Sun Precautions, 1601 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/451-5858; www.sunprecautions.com), specializing in 100% UV protection apparel, and the second-largest Kiehl's store outside of New York City, 1516 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/255-0055; www.kiehls.com). Skin is taken incredibly seriously at the flagship store and spa, Dermalogica on Montana, 1022 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/260-8682; www.dermalogicaonmontana.com), where "touch therapies" and "skin mapping" are just the beginning of the dynamite facials. Enjoy a meal at the local favorite, Café Montana, 1534 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/829-3990), for great people-watching through its floor-to-ceiling glass windows; the original Father's Office, 1018 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/393-2337; www.fathersoffice.com), for microbrews and one of the city's best burgers; or R+D Kitchen, 1323 Montana Ave. (tel. 310/395-3314), for classic California cuisine and cocktails.
Third Street Promenade (3rd St. btw. Wilshire Blvd. and Broadway Ave.; www.downtownsm.com)
Packed with those ubiquitous corporate chain stores, restaurants, and cafes (gee, another Starbucks), Santa Monica's pedestrians-only section of 3rd Street is one of the most popular shopping areas in the city. The Promenade bustles all day and well into the evening with a seemingly endless assortment of street performers among the shoppers, bored teens, and home-challenged. There are, however, a few shopping gems squeezed between Gap, Abercrombie & Fitch, and Old Navy. You can easily browse for hours at Hennessey & Ingalls, 214 Wilshire Blvd. (tel. 310/458-9074), a bookstore devoted to art and architecture. Restoration Hardware, 1221 Third Street Promenade (tel. 310/458-7992), is still the retro-current leader for reproduction home furnishings and accessories. Puzzle Zoo, 1411 Third Street Promenade (tel. 310/393-9201), voted "Best in L.A." by Los Angeles magazine, is where you'll find the double-sided World's Most Difficult Puzzle, the Puzzle in a Bottle, and many other brain-teasing challenges.
Exhale is perfect for those seeking quiet time and relief from the crowds. There's yoga and Core Fusion classes, the Healing Waters sanctuary with eucalyptus steam rooms, relaxing spa services, and the simply titled "Quiet Room" for rejuvenation. Stores stay open late (often until 1 or 2am on the weekends) for the moviegoing crowds, and there's plenty of public parking in six structures along 2nd and 4th streets between Broadway and Wilshire Boulevard.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.