If you live in southern California and are a frequent visitor to the sunny and breezy Santa Monica area, then you probably already heard about the newly re-opened mall. The Santa Monica Place re-opened it’s doors to the public on Friday after an extensive 2-year remodeling development phase and from a mallrat standpoint, it’s only semi-impressive. I got to visit the newly re-opened “open-air” mall yesterday afternoon amidst the hundreds of curious locals and tourists and saw firsthand what kind of atmosphere and ambiance a place like this will do to you. Let me give a breakdown of what to expect:
The area used to be a typical cramped mall with typical run-of-the-mill stores. But as newer and more sophisticated malls were being built in other areas of SoCal, it was only a matter of time before this place would fall victim to mediocrity. The NEW Santa Monica mall is not as cramped and is, in fact, an “open-air” mall. By that, it means that there is NO roof above which allows for lots of cool breezy wind to come flowing from the beach. To be honest, this was the one feature I enjoyed the most. Unlike some other open-air malls that I’ve visited (the Hollywood & Highland mall comes to mind), the breeze of the Pacific Ocean does make this place less stuffy and hot. Although, I shudder to think what’ll happen when it rains.
So far, you will only find clothing stores and few big name chain stores in this mall. There are NO electronics stores, no videogame stores (aww, boo!), no bookstores, and no movie theaters. If you’re looking for those stores (or a few others not in the mall), you’ll have to cross the street to the Third Street Promenade. For example, if you were aching to get some new lingerie at Victoria’s Secret (and who hasn’t had that feeling), you’ll have to leave the mall and go up the street to the Promenade. It’s a bit of a stretch to do all that walking, but I guess it gives shoppers a reason to get out and explore.
–FOOD & DINING
The new mall contains three floors of stores and the third floor is strictly all for food. With that said, don’t expect too many typical fast food joints. There is an outdoor area with lots of fancy glass tables and sofas and an indoor area that contains some fast-food places, although only three of them (a pizza place, a sushi bar, and a BBQ chicken joint) were open as of this writing. Aside from that, there are also separate themed restaurants on the third floor and I got to try out the Japanese-themed restaurant called “Ozumo“.
Ozumo is very similar to another SoCal favorite restaurant of mine, Katsuya, although Ozumo is more stacked. Ozumo features a super-large dining area with fancy tables and chairs as well as TWO sushi bars that are right next to each other. Of course, the food is pricey but the service is quite excellent and much more attentive than at Katsuya. Give this place a try and you might like it (unless you’re a total cheapo).
Just like every mall you visit, expect to bump into lots of people and limited places to shop (if you’re not a clothes guy like me). But the ONE thing I will give a big recommendation is the large outdoor patio on the third floor. The patio offers spectacular views of the Santa Monica Pier and Pacific Ocean and, if you’re lucky enough to score one of the fancy lounge seats on the patio in the evening, you’ll get to witness a beautiful sunset. Let’s see your mall do that!
Should you visit Santa Monica Place? YES, absolutely! It may end up being a favorite hangout of you and your friends or family….or not. The list of stores is impressive for the clothes shopper but nothing else. To be honest, I was a tad bit disappointed at the fact that over $260 million was spent for this renovation and I only feel like I experienced HALF of that investment with this new mall. That being said, I can’t say enough good things about the third floor outdoor patio. The ocean view is definitely worth the visit and the outdoor restaurants are worth a try……if you can find a parking space, that is!!!!