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World Travel Guide > Guides > North America > United States of America > California

California Shopping and nightlife

Shopping in California

Some visitors come to California just for the shopping. Whether they are after the latest fashions or quaint handicrafts, the state's vast range of shops and malls will satisfy any consumer.

The boutiques and department stores of Los Angeles are famous worldwide. Rodeo Drive is as much an iconic tourist destination as it is an uber-luxurious street dedicated to some of the most expensive and outrageous fashions in the world. Be warned, Rodeo is not pronounced like the event for cowboys, correct pronunciation is ‘roh-DAY-oh’. For some of the best luxury and bargain retail stores in a beautiful outdoor mall, drive over to The Grove: a movie theatre, multiple restaurants, and a farmer’s market round out the activities.

Orange County and Santa Barbara are also known for the quality and variety of their shopping. Good souvenirs include bottles of wine from northern California, surf gear and equipment in San Diego, and high fashion from Los Angeles. Street artists sell a variety of art, photographs, and handicrafts up and down the beach through most of the state. Look for organic and all-natural bath and beauty products made in California and sold in most drug stores or gift shops.

Shopping hours

Mon-Sat 1000-2000 or later. Malls close earlier on Sundays.

Nightlife in California

There are few places in the world that can rival California's nightlife. Los Angeles is home to an array of illustrious clubs with rich and famous patrons. You can rent a table at an exclusive nightclub, like Le Deux, for VIP bottle service or wait in long lines with the masses. Dress smart and you can get in before midnight. Alternatively, there are more mellow bars near the beach where the clientele drinks draft beer while listening to an acoustic band. For some of Los Angeles’ famous sex, drugs, and rock and roll history, check out The Viper Room (www.viperroom.com) on the infamous Sunset Strip, where bands from around the world vie for stage time. The bar crowd runs more grungy than glamorous. For laughs, head to The Laugh Factory, where legions of famous comedians get their start and continue to entertain after making hit TV shows and movies (www.laughfactory.com).

San Francisco, with its young, lively population, is known around the world as a great party town, especially for the LGBT population, with all night dance clubs and an underground rave scene leftover from the 90s. Club lines aren’t as long as in Los Angeles, and the dress code isn’t as strict. San Diego is the best city to check out independent and local bands who give free (or at least cheap) before they head to Los Angeles, sign a record deal, and make it big.

For those travellers looking for a more sophisticated nightlife experience, Northern California wineries often host evening tastings to the mellow soundtrack of a string quartet or jazz band.

One trend that’s happening throughout California is the faux-dive bar: a well stocked and professionally staffed bar that’s been decorated to look like something left over from the 1970s or earlier. Think deer heads on the wall, vintage video game machines, and graffiti in the bathrooms. The only thing modern is the high price for a drink.

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