For some, The Grove is a manufactured retail wonderland that epitomizes everything that’s wrong with L.A., but we still can’t help feeling like a kid at Disneyland when we go there. It’s like the Magic Kingdom and the Third Street Promenade rolled into one, but The Grove is a tourist trap we don’t mind getting caught in. Sure, the train that runs through it is a cheesy trip to nowhere, and it’s way more old-school cool to hang at the adjoining Farmers Market eating fish and chips with the elderly Jewish ladies, but sipping wine by the dancing waterfall fountain after a movie or a bit of shopping is an absolutely lovely way to spend a warm weeknight (weekends are a bit too crowded). The two restaurants that bookend the outdoor mall’s main courtyard, La Piazza and Morel’s, serve flavorful Italian and French (respectively) edibles and have surprisingly good wine selections. While the medley of stores offers nothing you haven’t seen anywhere else — Crate & Barrel’s earthy-swanky house stuff, Forever 21’s throw-away trendoid fashion, the omnipresent Apple Store — dropping cash here isn’t just about the merch. In fact, The Grove’s Apple Store is quite the social swirl. While recently in the colorless asylum nabbing some accessories for our iBook, we ran into a singer-songwriter pal, a goth-dance-club promoter and a pro-marijuana activist we interviewed a few years ago — all within 10 minutes. Third St. at Fairfax Ave., L.A., (323) 900-8080.

LA Weekly