If addresses and phone numbers are not given here, refer to the store's listing.
L.A.'s Westside and Beverly Hills
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 shop that started it all is Modernica, 7366 Beverly Blvd. (tel. 323/933-0383; www.modernica.net). 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). Scent Bar, 8327 Beverly Blvd. (tel. 323/782-8300), the sleek retail shop from the wildly popular fragrance website www.luckyscent.com, is the place to go for exclusive fragrances from Monyette Paris and Parfums de Nicolai.
British designer and rock royalty Stella McCartney, 8823 Beverly Blvd. (tel. 310/273-7051; www.stellamccartney.com), opened her eponymous digs in an ivy-covered 1920s cottage. Here you'll find the entire collection, from ready-to-wear and fragrance to footwear and handbags. At nearby Erica Courtney, 7465 Beverly Blvd. (tel. 323/938-2373; www.ericacourtney.com), celebs like Julia Roberts, Sandra Bullock, and Eva Longoria Parker are all fans of Courtney's drop-dead gorgeous diamonds. 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. (btw. Fairfax and La Brea aves.; tel. 323/936-6210; www.remixvintageshoes.com). This shop sells vintage (1920s-1950s) -- as well as brand-new reproductions (as in unworn) -- shoes for women and men (though the selection is smaller for men), such as wingtips, Joan Crawford pumps, and wedge-styles. 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 are often spotted here.
Other vintage wares are found at Second Time Around Watch Co., 8763 Rosewood Ave., West Hollywood (tel. 310/271-6615; www.secondtimearoundwatchco.com). 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.
When it's time to unwind and beautify, hit Ona Spa, 7373 Beverly Blvd. (just east of Martel Ave.); tel. 323/931-4442 for a tension-relieving massage; the attached Privé Salon is one of the city's trendiest salons where celebrity-sightings are common.
La Brea Avenue (north of Wilshire Blvd.) -- This is L.A.'s artiest shopping strip. La Brea is anchored by the giant American Rag, Maison Midialterna-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 top restaurants, such as Campanile.
Upscale seekers of home decor head to Mortise and Tenon, 446 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/937-7654; www.mortisetenon.com), where handcrafted heavy wood pieces sit next to overstuffed, velvet-upholstered sofas and even vintage steel desks. The best place for a snack is the La Brea Bakery, 624 S. La Brea Ave. (tel. 323/939-6813; www.labreabakery.com), which epicureans 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.
Robertson Boulevard (btw. Wilshire and Beverly boulevards) -- If you're a fan of celeb magazines like US Weekly, you simply must pay a visit to one of L.A.'s most popular shopping streets. It's common to see the likes of Jessica Simpson, Lindsay Lohan, and Paris Hilton shopping at trend-obsessed boutiques like Kitson, 115 S. Robertson Blvd. (tel. 310/859-2652; www.shopkitson.com), and Lisa Kline, 143 S. Robertson Blvd. (tel. 310/246-0907). A splashy Dolce and Gabbana flagship boutique at 147 N. Robertson Blvd. (tel. 310/247-1571; www.dolcegabbana.com)? has the full spectrum of men's and women's clothing and must-have accessories like sunglasses and jewelry. After shopping like a celebrity, dine among them at the Ivy.
Just up the street, one of L.A.'s most unique day spas beckon the tired, the stressed, and the famous. In fact, skin-care specialist Kinara Spa, 656 N. Robertson Blvd. (tel. 310/657-9188; www.kinaraspa.com), lists among its faithful fans Halle Berry, Naomi Watts, and Jennifer Garner.
Rodeo Drive and Beverly Hills's Golden Triangle (btw. 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. (www.rodeocollection.net), a contemporary center with towering palms; and 2 Rodeo (www.tworodeo.com), 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 seven city-run lots offering 2 hours of free parking.
The big names to look for here are Missoni, 469 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/246-3060); Prada, 343 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/278-8661); Chanel, 400 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/278-5500); Bulgari, 201 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/858-9216); 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 a three-story Tiffany and Co. that's one of the largest Tiffany stores in the world, 210 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/273-8880). There's also the ultrachic clothiers Dolce and Gabbana, 312 N. Rodeo Dr. (tel. 310/888-8701); British plaid palace Burberry, 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).
When all that walking and gawking tires you out, do what all the Beverly Hills beauties do: Hit a spa. Thibiant Beverly Hills Day Spa, 449 N. Canon Dr. (tel. 310/278-7565; www.thibiantspa.com), has been offering classic treatments since the 1970s. Guys have a place of their own at the high-end barbershop the Shave, 230 S. Beverly Dr. (tel. 310/888-2898; www.theshavebeverlyhills.com). Those looking for eco-friendly pampering can visit Chi Nail Bar and Organic Spa, 9390 Little Santa Monica Blvd. (tel. 310/858-8803; www.chi-nailbar.com), for treatments and facials. You don't need to stay in one of the fabulously luxurious Beverly Hills hotels to get all the pampering services. At the Spa at the Four Seasons, California-flavored treatments use everything from pumpkin to caviar in decadent massages and facials. The Spa at the Peninsula Beverly Hills uses diamonds, emeralds, rubies, and sapphires in some of their signature treatments. At the Beverly Hills Hotel Spa by La Prairie, the facials and massages are some of the most expensive in town, but it's a great reason to spend a decadent day at the "Pink Palace" without having to drop $1,000 a night on a suite.
The Sunset Strip (btw. 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. 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; www.billymartin.com), 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. Book Soup, 8818 W. Sunset Blvd. (tel. 310/659-3110; www.booksoup.com), has long been one of L.A.'s most celebrated bookshops, selling mainstream and small-press books and hosting book signings and readings.
The Sunset Strip's trendiest hotels have in-house spas and spa services -- like Agua at the Mondrian, 8440 W. Sunset Blvd. (tel. 323/203-1138; www.mondrianhotel.com) -- which offer great added amenities for hotel guests. But to feel like a real superstar on the Strip, go to the "facialist of the stars": Ole Henriksen Face/Body, 8622 W. Sunset Blvd. (tel. 310/854-7700; www.olehenriksen.com/spa), is where stunners like Ashley Judd and Charlize Theron go for glowing skin.
West 3rd Street (btw. Fairfax and Robertson boulevards) -- You can shop until you drop on this trendy strip, anchored on the east end by the Farmers Market and The Grove. Many of Melrose Avenue's shops have relocated here, along with terrific up-and-comers, several cafes, and restaurants. 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. Traveler's Bookcase, 8375 W. 3rd St. (tel. 323/655-0575; www.travelbooks.com), 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.
There's lots more to see along this always-growing street. Refuel at Chado Tea Room, 8422 1/2 W. 3rd St. (tel. 323/655-2056; www.chadotea.com), 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.
Hollywood Boulevard (btw. 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 Hollywood Book and Poster Company, 6562 Hollywood Blvd. (tel. 323/465-8764; www.hollywoodbookandposter.com), which has an excellent collection of posters (from about $20 each), strong in horror and exploitation flicks. Photocopies of around 5,000 movie and television scripts are sold for $15 each -- Pulp Fiction is just as good in print, by the way -- and the store carries music posters and photos.
The legendary Fredericks of Hollywood, 6751 Hollywood Blvd. (tel. 323/957-5953; www.fredericks.com), located just a block east of Hollywood and Highland, is worth a stop if you're looking for devilish dainties. The flagship store features lingerie worn by celebrities like Sharon Stone, Julianne Moore, and Halle Berry.
Larchmont Boulevard (btw. Melrose Ave. and 3rd 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 have infiltrated 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, 248 N. Larchmont Blvd. (tel. 323/461-3619), which specializes in comfort lines like Josef Siebel. Or even better, stop in for a foot -- or full-body -- massage at Healing Hands Wellness Center, 414 N. Larchmont Blvd. (tel. 323/461-7876; www.healinghandswc.com), which has affordable 1-hour massages starting at $55. An entire afternoon of pampering can be had at Le Petite Retreat Day Spa, 331 N. Larchmont Blvd. (tel. 323/466-1028; www.lprdayspa.com), which offers great packages for couples or a girls' day out.
Melrose Avenue (btw. 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 19th-century pocket watch, an inflatable girlfriend, and glow-in-the-dark condoms on the same block? Here are some highlights:
l.a. Eyeworks, 7407 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/653-8255; www.laeyeworks.com), revolutionized eyeglass designs from medical supply to stylish accessory, and now their brand is nationwide. Off the Wall Antiques, 7325 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/930-1185; www.offthewallantiques.com), 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, 7248 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/653-3028; www.wastelandclothing.com), 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. An outpost of the edgy Floyd's Barbershops, 7300 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/965-7600; www.floydsbarbershops.com), keeps the street's style-for-less theme by charging around $21 for men's and $24 for women's cuts. It's like a salon, music store, and Internet cafe rolled into one.
Melrose Heights (btw. La Cienega Blvd. and Fairfax Ave.) -- This posh section of Melrose, anchored by the venerable favorite Fred Segal, 8100 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/655-3734; www.fredsegal.com), houses designer boutiques such as Diane Von Furstenberg, 8407 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/951-1947), and Paul Smith, 8221 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/951-4800). L.A. jewelry designer Suzanne Felsen, 8332 Melrose Ave. (tel. 323/653-5400), is a celebrity favorite -- she transformed a 1920s Spanish home to house her gold and platinum baubles lined with Peruvian opals and Mandarin garnets. Perennial fashion favorite Marc Jacobs has three stores at 8400, 8409, and 8410 Melrose Ave., featuring ready-to-wear, accessories, menswear, and the less expensive Marc by Marc Jacobs collection.
Santa Monica and the Beaches
Main Street (btw. Pacific St. and Rose Ave., and Santa Monica and Venice boulevards) -- 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-based ladies' clothier whose loose and comfy cotton and linen line is carried by many department stores and boutiques. 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.opticalshopofaspen.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 and Letters, 2665 Main St. (tel. 310/392-9076), 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.
Montana Avenue (btw. 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. 310/736-2224; 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 and Fitch, and Old Navy. You can easily browse for hours at Hennessey and 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, 1413 Third Street Promenade (tel. 310/393-9201), was the original location of this now regional chain and you'll find an array of toys and puzzles, as well as many 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.
Santa Monica Place Mall -- This spanking-new outdoor shopping mall (300 block of Colorado Ave., between Third Street Promenade and the Santa Monica Pier; www.santamonicaplace.com) opened on August 6, 2010, in Downtown Santa Monica, offering high-end shopping options in true California form (just 2 blocks away from the beach). The mall is anchored by Bloomingdale's and Nordstrom, and features shops such as Hugo Boss, Burberry, Kitson, and more. Distinguishing attributes of the outdoor shopping haven include its pretty view overlooking Santa Monica Beach, unique event space, fine rooftop dining and bar scene, and modern outdoor fireplace.
Abbot Kinney Boulevard: L.A.'s Antithesis to Rodeo Drive
When you're finally fed up with the Rodeo Drive attitude and megamall conformity, it's time to drive to Venice and stroll the eclectic shops along Abbot Kinney Boulevard. This refreshingly anti-establishment stretch of street has the most diverse array of shops, galleries, and restaurants in Los Angeles. (Locals still cheer that there are no franchises in the neighborhood.) You can easily spend the entire afternoon here poring over vintage clothing, antique furniture, vintage Vespas, local art, and amusing gifts. Or if you're looking for a unique gift, you'll want to try Strange Invisible Perfumes, 1138 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (tel. 310/314-1505; www.siperfumes.com), where they can custom-make a scent to match your musk. Then there's Firefly, 1409 Abbot Kinney Blvd. (tel. 310/450-6288; www.shopfirefly.com), a local favorite. It's that one store you can go into and find everything from great baby gifts, stationery, and books to quirky handbags and cool clothing. DNA Clothing Co., 411 Rose Ave. (tel. 310/399-0341; www.dnaclothing.com), is the mother lode for those in search of the coolest, most current styles for men and women at great prices (stylists and costumers often use DNA as their resource for sitcoms and feature films). You'll find all your major brands as well as their own private-label wear, and fresh stock arrives weekly. Take a break to eat at one of the boulevard's many restaurants, including Joe's (the best California cuisine in L.A.), Primitivo, Axe, Lilly's, Jin's Patisserie, French Market Café, Tasting Kitchen Gjelina, and, of course, Hal's Bar and Grill, with its live jazz music. Heck, there are even 2 hours of free street parking.
Silver Lake and Los Feliz
Located at the eastern end of Hollywood and technically part of Los Angeles, these two communities have been rising steadily on the hipness meter. Silver Lake, named for the man-made Silver Lake Reservoir at its center, is a bohemian community of artists and ethnic families that's popular for nightclubbing and barhopping. Los Feliz is northwest of Silver Lake, centered on Vermont and Hillhurst avenues between Sunset and Los Feliz boulevards; it's slightly tamer and filled with 1920s and 1930s buildings. You'll find tons of unique businesses of all sorts, including artsy boutiques, music stores, and furniture dealers.
Because so many alternative bands call Silver Lake home, it's not surprising to find cutting-edge music stores around every corner. A neighborhood mainstay with lots of used CDs, collectible disks, and new releases is Rockaway Records, 2395 Glendale Blvd. (south of Silver Lake Blvd.; tel. 323/664-3232; www.rockaway.com).
Vintage clothing is another big draw in these parts. The most reliable yet eclectic selections to browse through are at Ozzie Dots, 4637 Hollywood Blvd. (west of Hillhurst Ave.; tel. 323/663-2867; www.ozziedots.com); Pull My Daisy, 3908 Sunset Blvd. (at Griffith Park Blvd.; tel. 323/663-0608); and Squaresville, 1800 N. Vermont Ave. (south of Franklin Ave.; tel. 323/669-8464).
Rubbish, 1627 Silver Lake Blvd. (north of Sunset Blvd.; tel. 323/661-5575; www.rubbishinteriors.com), specializes in vintage furnishings. One not-to-be-missed highlight is the wacky and eclectic Soap Plant/Wacko/La Luz de Jesus Art Gallery, 4633 Hollywood Blvd. (west of Hillhurst Ave.; tel. 323/663-0122; www.soapplant.com), a three-in-one business with candles, art books, erotic toys, soap and bathing items, and a large selection of lava lamps. Local fixture Y-Que, 1770 N. Vermont Ave. (tel. 323/664-0021; www.yque.com), almost defies description, selling a variety of stuff ranging from a knockoff Austin Powers penis pump to psychedelic lava lamps to L.A. neighborhood T-shirts.
With a focus on small-production, high-quality, affordable wine from around the world, and a large selection of microbrew beer and sake, Silverlake Wine, 2395 Glendale Blvd. (tel. 323/662-9024; www.silverlakewine.com), is a great place to visit. Get your friends together and check out any one of their weekly tastings: Sunday at 3pm, Blue Monday from 5 to 9pm, and Thursday Night Flights from 5 to 9pm (call ahead to confirm times). Located in Sunset Junction (at the southeast corner of Sanborn Ave. and Sunset Blvd.), the Cheese Store of Silverlake, 3926-28 W. Sunset Blvd. (tel. 323/644-7511; www.cheesestoresl.com), sells fine cheeses, wines, and gourmet products such as Revival confections, Latini pastas, Agrumato flavored oils, and McQuade's chutneys. Next door is the West Coast's first Intelligentsia Coffee and Tea, 3922 W. Sunset Blvd. (tel. 323/663-6173; www.intelligentsiacoffee.com), where Mac-using hipsters convene for artfully poured lattes and Chemex-brewed, single-origin coffee.
Since the late lamented Bullock's department store closed in 1993 (its Art Deco masterpiece salons were rescued to house the Southwestern Law School's library), Downtown has become less of a shopping destination than ever. Although many of the once-splendid streets are lined with cut-rate luggage and electronics stores, shopping here can be a rewarding -- albeit gritty -- experience for the adventuresome.
Savvy Angelenos still go for bargains in the garment and fabric districts; florists and bargain hunters arrive before dawn at the vast Los Angeles Flower District, 766 Wall St. (btw. E. 8th and E. 7th sts.; tel. 213/622-1966; www.laflowerdistrict.com), for the city's best selection of fresh blooms; and families of all ethnicities stroll the Grand Central Market, 317 S. Broadway (btw. 3rd and 4th sts.; tel. 213/624-2378; www.grandcentralsquare.com). Opened in 1917, this bustling market has watched the face of Downtown L.A. change while changing little. Today its sawdust-covered aisles serve Latino families, enterprising restaurateurs, and cooks in search of unusual ingredients -- stuffed goat heads, mole, plantains, deep-fried smelt, Mexican cane alcohol -- and bargain-priced produce. On weekends you'll be greeted by a mariachi band at the Hill Street entrance, near my favorite market feature, the fruit-juice counter, which dispenses 20 fresh varieties from wall spigots and blends the tastiest, healthiest "shakes" in town. Farther into the market, you'll find produce and prepared foods, spice vendors who seem straight out of a Turkish bazaar, and a grain-and-bean seller who'll scoop out dozens of exotic rices and dried legumes. It's open 9am to 6pm daily.
Another of my favorite Downtown shopping zones is Olvera Street (tel. 213/680-2525; www.olvera-street.com), a lively brick pedestrian lane near Union Station that's been lined with stalls selling Mexican wares since the 1930s. Everything that's sold south of the border is available here, including custom leather accessories, huarache sandals, maracas, and -- but of course -- freshly baked churros. On weekends you're bound to see strolling bolero musicians, mariachis, folk dancers, and performances by Aztec Indians. It's open daily from 10am to about 8pm.
If you're looking to find the best shopping deals in handbags, luggage, shoes, costume jewelry, and trendy fashions, then find a parking meter or park in one of the parking structures from Olympic Boulevard to 12th Street and explore Santee Alley, located in the alley between Santee Street and Maple Avenue. Often referred to as the heart of the fashion district, this is where you'll find everything you've ever wanted at bargain prices. Go early on Saturday mornings if you want to blend in with the locals.
Okay, so you have to wake up a little early to experience the Southern California Flower Market, 755 Wall St., between 7th and 8th streets (tel. 213/627-2482; www.laflowerdistrict.com), but if you do it right -- wear comfortable shoes, bring cash, and pick up a cup o' joe -- you'll find walking through the myriad of flower stalls a very tranquil experience. Besides the usual buds and stems that you see in Sunset Magazine, you'll be surprised to find tropicals such as torch ginger, protea, and bird of paradise. You can purchase flowers by the bundles at amazingly low prices.
Downtown Deals -- At the base of the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising's Downtown campus, you'll find the FIDM Scholarship Store, where donated new merchandise is sold at bargain prices. All sales go toward scholarships for FIDM students, so you can shop with the karmic awareness that you're helping the fashion industry's next generation of designers with their tuition. It's located at 919 S. Grand Ave., at W. 9th Street (tel. 213/624-1200; www.fidm.edu).
Gr8 Finds in West L.A.'s J-Town
What started off as a magazine has spawned two of L.A.'s most talked-about stores -- Giant Robot, 2015 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/478-1819), and GR2, 2062 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/445-9276) -- and gr/eats restaurant, 2050 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/478-3242; www.gr-eats.com). Located across the street from each other in West L.A.'s Japantown (at Sawtelle and Olympic boulevards), both shops specialize in a wide range of Asian-American pop-culture items, including T-shirts, books, music, stationery, toys, art, and accessories (check out the Takashi Murakami pins ). Several other cool shops and restaurants occupy this 1 1/2-block stretch as well. One of my favorite stores is Happy Six, 2115 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/479-5363), which sells playful apparel and accessories for men and women that are reminiscent of Hello Kitty on acid. If you're hungry, my favorites along Sawtelle are Manpuku, 2125 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/473-0580; www.manpuku.us); Sawtelle Kitchen, 2024 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/473-2222; www.sawtellekitchen.com); and Hurry Curry of Tokyo, 2131 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/473-1640; www.hurrycurryoftokyo.com). Or you can pop into Nijiya Market, 2130 Sawtelle Blvd. (tel. 310/575-3300; www.nijiya.com), and grab a bento (Japanese boxed lunch) to go.
The San Fernando Valley
Studio City (Ventura Blvd. btw. 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. Melanie Shatner, daughter of William, stocks Marc Jacobs and Joie at her chic boutique Dari, 12184 Ventura Blvd. (tel. 818/762-3274). Fashionistas flock to TV personality Lisa Rinna's Belle Gray, 13812 Ventura Blvd. (tel. 818/789-4021; www.bellegray.com). Actress Kirsten Dunst's mother has a day spa, Belle Visage, 13207 Ventura Blvd. (tel. 818/907-0502; www.bellevisage.com), that caters to the young and the beautiful -- or at least those in search of youth and beauty. 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.
Pasadena and Environs
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 10am, and while some close at the standard 5 or 6pm, many stay open until 8 or 9pm to accommodate the before- and after-dinner/movie crowd.
Old Pasadena -- Dating back to the 1880s, the 22-block-long Old Pasadena district (centered on the intersection of Colorado Blvd. and Fair Oaks Ave.; www.oldpasadena.com) 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 and Barrel. Going through its own sort of renaissance, more upscale shopping has been added to the strip, including a Tiffany and Co., 68 W. Colorado Blvd. (tel. 626/793-7424; www.tiffany.com), which has become somewhat of an attraction more than a store, and the new (and hugely popular) H&M fashion store, 60 W. Colorado Blvd. (tel. 626/793-8974; www.hm.com), which now is an anchor to the neighborhood. As you move eastward, the mix of businesses begins to include more eclectic shops and galleries commingling with dusty, pre-yuppie relics, but it's a good segue between Old Pasadena and the Paseo Colorado mall.
Travelers also seem to find something they need at Distant Lands Bookstore and Outfitters, 20 S. Raymond Ave. (tel. 800/310-3220 or 626/449-3220; www.distantlands.com), a pair 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 travel accessories.
Other Pasadena Shopping -- In addition to Old 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 Blvd.). 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 [560-7469]; www.rgcshows.com). The horseshoe-shaped 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 9am to 3pm rain or shine, is a favorite of Los Angeles antiques hounds (who know to arrive as early as 7am 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 $8 after 9am. (Early-bird admission is $10 at 8am, $15 at 7am and $20 from 5-7am.) Free admission for kids 11 and under.
Anglophiles will enjoy Rose Tree Cottage, 801 S. Pasadena 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 $33 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.
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.