The standard suburban mall is roughly the same from Topeka to Topanga: There's your Banana Republic, your J. Crew, your Baby Gap. You can buy shoes at Nine West, a gift for your dude at Champs Sports and, when you're ready for a pause in the shopping, a salad and a glass of wine at California Pizza Kitchen. Yawn! Which is one reason we find ourselves drawn to Santa Monica Place. It's not just that we love a good Bloomingdale's (although, really, who doesn't love Bloomingdale's?), but also that the overall mix in this open-air shopping center is both smart and eclectic. You could go from buying a new dress at 3.1 Phillip Lim to lunch at the Curious Palate to purchasing your man a new shirt at Thomas Pink (a huge upgrade from Champs, protest though he might). With its great location just off the 10 freeway, adjacent to the Promenade, Santa Monica Place is the sort of non-mall-like mall you could get sucked into and never return. Oh, and did we mention there's a Barney's CO-OP? 395 Santa Monica Place, Santa Monica, 90401. (310) 260-8333, —Sarah Fenske

LA Weekly