Location: 189 The Grove Drive, Los Angeles, between 3rd Street and Beverly Boulevard just east of Fairfax Avenue. From the 10 Freeway, take the Fairfax Avenue exit north.
Hours: Regular mall hours are 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Mon.-Thurs.; 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. Fri. and Sat.; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Sun. As with all the shopping malls listed in this section, individual business and restaurant hours may vary. Check mall websites for extended holiday hours.
Known for: The Grove is simply a different kind of mall experience — it's a place where shopping is far from the only attraction. There's a trolley, fountains and holiday festivities, and its food offerings are not the typical food court fare. Morel's Steakhouse & Bistro, the Farm and the Whisper restaurant and lounge are consistently packed and have outdoor-seating options (perfect for enjoying a nice day as well as prime people-watching). And there's more to be had at the kiosks that offer ice cream, pretzels and gourmet coffee drinks.
What you'll find: Families, young couples on a date night and off-duty celebrities strolling around the charming outdoor shopping area. With architecture that varies in style from traditional residential to a more upscale grandeur, the mall feels more like a small town than a shopping center. The circular layout is peppered with almost as many food kiosks, restaurants and kid's attractions as there are shops. For a little relaxation or a perfect kid's activity, try the double-decker trolley that runs the perimeter of the Grove, picks up passengers at the historic Original Farmers Market and offers an unobstructed view of the place while dodging the crowd. The mix of stores includes mass-market go-tos (Nordstrom, the Gap and Banana Republic), some trendy spots for tweens and high-low emporiums (Forever 21, Zara and Anthropologie), making it a good one-stop shopping spot.
Vibe: The Grove is always bustling with shoppers, diners and people heading to the Pacific movie theaters near the middle of the shopping center. Even at less crowded times (which would be weekday mornings; weekends, rain or shine, are bound to be extremely busy), the fountains at the center of the mall are usually spouting off to the beat of cheery music that plays throughout the outdoor area. The Grove tends to attract families with young children, so strollers are common, as are toddlers in awe of the lively water attraction.
Bragging rights: NBC's popular entertainment show "Extra" tapes at the Grove from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Monday through Friday, meaning that passersby might spot hosts Mario Lopez and Maria Menounos interviewing celebrity guests live.
Survival strategies: Valet parking will help you avoid the potential headache that can be brought on by navigating the topsy-turvy self-parking structure, which can fill up surprisingly fast. There are valets at both entrances of the Grove (the Central valet, accessible from the Fairfax entrance, and Valet Circle, just off the Grove Drive). Valet rates range from $10 for up to two hours to $24 for the day. It's a luxury, but given the massive crowds that gather, particularly during the holidays, it might be worth it. Plus, at valet you can get your car washed while you shop ($20 for a small car, $25 for an SUV).
Holiday cheer: A 100-foot Christmas tree, Santa's Workshop and a nightly "snow" fall at 7 and 8 p.m. through Dec. 31 are in keeping with the spirit of the season. This month a large stage went up in the center of the mall near the base of the Christmas tree, and musical acts like Robin Thicke, Colbie Caillat, Gavin Degraw and Sean Kingston will perform throughout the season.
For kids: Besides the dancing fountains, trolley and seasonal attractions like Santa's Workshop and the Easter Bunny, there is a kids' club that features movie time, music on the grass and a book club. Also, the American Girl store has a restaurant that's popular for kid's parties.
Nearby: The southwest corner of the Grove marks the beginning of the 3rd Street shopping area, where women's designer boutiques such as Satine, Trina Turk and Hillary Rush are located.
Impressions: Going to the Grove is fun, whether you're a visiting tourist or a born-and-bred Angeleno. The outdoor setting has a vibe reminiscent of Disneyland's Main Street, where stores, music and outdoor eateries make it easy to entertain kids or hang out with friends.
—Melissa MagsaysayCopyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times