Location: 3333 Bristol St., Costa Mesa, at the San Diego (405) Freeway and Bristol Street.
Hours: 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. Monday through Friday; 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Saturday; 11 a.m. to 6:30 p.m. Sunday
Known for: The largest shopping center in California, South Coast Plaza is the Rodeo Drive of Orange County, with nearly every luxury brand in the universe under one roof. The mall has 250 boutiques and 30 restaurants.
What you'll find: Almost everything you could ever want or need. Anchor stores are Bloomingdale's (the best one in Southern California),
An outdoor bridge over Bear Street connects to South Coast Plaza West, formerly called Crystal Court, where there are even more stores —
As a bonus, nearby Metro Pointe at South Coast, owned by a separate company, houses discounts aplenty at Nordstrom Rack, Loehmann's and Marshalls.
Vibe: Tourists, tanned and toned moms in tennis skirts, and ladies who lunch. (Overheard at lunchtime at the next table at Quattro, "I'd have another glass of wine, but I have carpool.")
Survival strategies: Pace yourself, drink lots of water and wear comfortable shoes. When it comes to shopping, this is the big leagues. Try parking in the small lot behind the south parking structure between Bloomingdale's and Saks. It's usually not so crowded. Also note there are four concierge desks throughout the main building. They all offer package check services, as well as stroller and wheelchair rentals.
Take a break: Forget the food court. Fine dining abounds, whether you grab a steak at Charlie Palmer at Bloomingdale's, a foie gras torchon at Marché Moderne or an order of garlic noodles at AnQi by Crustacean. For more low-key fare, try Quattro for pasta and salads, Lawry's Carvery for roast beef sandwiches or the Champagne Bakery — a nice respite outside by the bridge over Bear Street to South Coast Plaza West — for a latte.
Holiday cheer: The carousel horses are transformed into reindeer, and kids can take pictures with Santa at his workshop in Carousel Court or enjoy craft activities in Santa's Village. Check the website for updates on live musical performances between now and Christmas.
For kids: The carousel, between Sears and Bloomingdale's in Carousel Court, has several kid-friendly destinations clustered nearby, including Rainforest Cafe (check out the large aquariums), the
Nearby: The Segerstrom Center for the Arts (600 and 665 Town Center Drive) hosts music, dance and theater productions (including South Coast Repertory's
Impressions: With multiple levels, locations and shops, it can be quite overwhelming. But as long as you focus, and plot out a route, there's something here for everyone. When it comes to fashion, this mall would be perfect, except that it doesn't have