If Southern California’s El Niño has you feeling all kinds of cabin crazy, it may be time to escape the house for a little fun. While San Diego has plenty of outdoor malls and parks, don’t be fooled into thinking an indoor shopping oasis doesn’t exist. These five indoor shopping malls are perfect spots for kids and parents to let off some steam while the rain keeps falling.
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Photo: Jacqueline T. via Yelp
If the rains are falling down south, then retreat to Westfield Bonita. Newly renovated, there are more than 184 shops to check out including family favorites like Target, Disney Store and H&M, plus dining options like Applebees, Panda Express and Wetzel’s Pretzels. For younger kiddos, check out the smart carts if you don’t feel like hauling a stroller. For a small fee, you can choose from a race car or fire truck with a moving steering wheel so while the kids imagine away you can shop up a storm. Or if you want to get some play time in, pay a visit to the ocean-themed play space, sponsored by the Chula Vista Living Coast Discovery Center. There’s a huge aquarium with more than 30 exotic fish to ooh and ahh over. And if you’re looking to up your entertainment action, you’ll be thrilled that Westfield Bonita is also home to a AMC movie theater. With 14 screens, it’s a perfect way for everyone to curl up away from the rain. Make sure to check out the special student pricing (after 4 pm) and military pricing.
3030 Plaza Bonita Rd.
National City, Ca 91950
Photo: Westfield North County Facebook Page
Westfield North County
If you’re a North County family, you’ll love Westfield North County with its 17,000+ feet of space in Escondido. You’ll find plenty of shops like Target, Macy’s, Gap, Old Navy and Thomas Toy Store to check out. You won’t be hungry with cool restaurants like The Cheesecake Factory and BJ’s, as well as more basic options like Subway and Starbucks. There’s plenty of kid-friendly dining at the level 3 food court with colorful mini tables and chairs, perfect for the mini-est of diners. The mall has two family lounges complete with private nursing areas, toys and kiddo approved television shows if you need a break.
Be sure to check out the Westfield play space for an indoor playground that will make you saying, “What rain?” And if you have train buffs, be sure to check out the miniature train taking little ones cruising around the bottom floor of the shopping center. Parking is plentiful (although keep in mind most of it is uncovered, so you will need an umbrella).
272 E Via Rancho Pkwy.
Escondido, Ca 92025
Photo: James Faucet via Flickr Creative Commons
Parkway Plaza is San Diego’s oldest indoor mall, originally built for customers to escape the high temperatures in El Cajon in air-conditioned comfort. It’s also a great place to hide away when the winter rains come calling! You’ll find plenty of shopping favorites like JC Penny, Sears and Forever 21, but there are two things set Parkway Plaza apart. There is a huge, two-story Walmart so not only can you shop for clothes and goods, you can also grab the weekly groceries (a double shopping whammy if you will!). There’s also an old fashioned double-decker carousel that kids love. With fair-themed music and classic animals to ride, it’s sure to put a smile on anyone’s face. Keep in mind the carousel isn’t cheap, so budget at least $3 per rider. There’s plenty of parking at Parkway Plaza, including a rain-friendly, multi-level parking structure on the south side of the mall.
415 Parkway Plaza
El Cajon, Ca 92020
Photo: Stephan Cruso via Flickr Creative Commons
Westfield Carlsbad is the perfect alternative if you’re looking for indoor spots on the North County coastal region of San Diego. This two-story indoor mall is quiet and isn’t filled with thrills; however it gives you everything you need to escape the rain. More than 100 shops and a small kid’s playground is waiting. The center also includes a family lounge and restrooms, free WiFi and smart carts. We love the family-allotted parking close to the mall entrance so little feet don’t have to walk as far. While you’re at Westfield Carlsbad, be sure to check out Kidsville just opposite the parking lot on Marron Road. This play gym and gymnastics classes facility is the perfect spot for the kids to get their energy out at the open play session. Your wee ones can explore the play houses, climbing ramps, trampolines, balance beams, cargo nets, ropes and so much more. It’s worth keeping in mind open play isn’t available all the time, so check the website for their daily calendar to see what’s happening that day.
2525 El Camino Real
Carlsbad, Ca 92008
Photo: Pete via Flickr Creative Commons
South Coast Plaza
Hop in the car, head up the 5 Freeway and make a day of it at one of Southern California’s best indoor malls, South Coast Plaza. Located about an hour from San Diego, this shopping center is well worth the drive. This mall has all the big names like Nordstrom, Saks and Bloomingdales, as well as amazing retailers you won’t find in San Diego like Land of Nod, Uniqlo and Cos. Dine at one of the more than 40 restaurants, including quick bite favorite, Din Tai Fung (an uber famous and delicious dumpling house). There’s also fun spots like Ruby’s Diner and the Rainforest Cafe. There’s a carousel that everyone young to old will love, along a train ride on level two, some cool fountains to “ooh and ahh” over on the ground level, and convenient services like a family restroom with private nursing suits and strollers for hire. There’s plenty of underground and open air parking available.
3333 Bristol St.
Costa Mesa, Ca 92626
Do you have a favorite indoor mall? Let us know in the comments below!
— Lenya McGrath