Standing in the center of San Francisco’s Union Square during the holidays is an experience not to be missed. The city has a living pulse of its own this time of year. All the stores are resplendent with twinkling lights and fanciful displays. Christmas trees festooned with lights and ornaments fill the square while children stand in line to talk to Santa. Sharing these kinds of special moments while discovering the perfect gift for your loved ones are what the holidays are all about. Being in the fashion industry for nearly ten years, I have come to find that San Francisco is loaded with high-fashion hideaways all over the city, and here are a few of my favorites.
HOLIDAY DEALS IN SF
Nothing beats Union Square for its high-end boutiques, ritzy department stores, fabulous trunk shows, and sample sales that truly make holiday shopping a treasure hunt. Head in any direction and you’re bound to run into one of your favorite retailers. I can never pass up Neiman Marcus and Barney’s New York shoe salons (Christian Louboutin shoes would look fabulous with that NYE dress). While you’re in Neiman’s, head upstairs to The Rotunda for full tea service (available with champagne now—the perfect shopping re-fuel!). Don’t forget to also pop onto their website at www.neimanmarcus.com and download their free chocolate chip cookie recipe that has been circling the globe for years.
When you’ve exhausted Union Square, walk over to Market Street and hit the San Francisco Centre. After the new renovations and big name additions, the shopping center is a feast for all. Many of the featured brands at Bloomingdale’s and Nordstrom’s also offer free gift-wrapping. On December 19th, “Wrappin’ it up with Marc by Marc Jacobs” at Bloomingdale’s will be in full swing—buy any accessories purchase and you’ll receive free gift-wrapping. Everyone needs a little extra help with that, unless your 30-year-old brother still employs you to do it for him (yes John, I’m referring to you).
For even bigger discounts on great holiday gift ideas, the off-price stores like Marshall’s, Ross, and Burlington Coat Factory are also just a short walk away from Union Square. If you don’t mind spending a little time weeding through the racks, most of your shopping can be completed in one store with serious savings (Anyone for $19 cashmere sweaters? C’mon!). Right now at Burlington Coat Factory if you bring in your gently worn coat to donate to the One Warm Coat charity, you’ll receive an extra 10% off your entire purchase.
Watching people skate and laugh at the Union Square Ice Rink always makes me want to dig out my old blades and hit the ice. So when you’ve finally checked everything off your shopping list, plan to stop by and spend an hour or two twirling and spinning like a snowflake.
Gina’s SF Shopping Tips: Before starting your spree, Bay Area residents should log onto www.OnlyinSanFrancisco.com to see which stores are offering 15% off or more when you show your Bay Area zip code. This will definitely help you decide where to begin. Also, always make sure to ask about discounts. Truth of the matter is everyone is hurting these days, even the retailers. Sales associates can often ring you up with an extra discount just because you inquired about promotions or used the store’s credit card. And remember to always hit the clearance section!
MORE GREAT SHOPPING GETAWAYS
My favorite secret shopping spot outside of San Francisco are the Napa Outlet Stores. From Benetton to Barney’s to BCBG, find amazing discounts for many top designers. Each store offers serious savings, from 20% to 80% off the regular MSRP. With the huge variety of brands, most of your shopping can be done all in one place. Just a short drive from the Napa Outlet Stores is St. Helena’s Main Street, featuring many more darling boutiques and another outlet store complex. In fact, consider making a whole weekend out of it with a stay at the luxurious Meritage Resort, which is offering a fantastic lodging deal at www.localgetaways.com.
Another of my favorite secret shopping meccas is Los Gatos. Dozens of chic boutiques line Santa Cruz Avenue, which has become the Rodeo Drive of Northern California. From December 12th through January 31st, 65 Los Gatos merchants are participating in the “Second Saturdays Reward Card”. Sign-up for this card and make sure to get it punched at participating stores to earn a free gift-with-purchase. For more info log onto www.losgatoschamber.com or call 408/354-9300. Want to make a longer excursion out of your Los Gatos shopping experience? Check out the fantastic deal we’re offering at the tony Toll House Hotel (see our Hotel Deals section for details).
For more tips and ideas on fun holiday shopping getaways throughout Northern California that you’d like to share, feel free to add your own comments and advice to our Holiday Shopping blog below. We’d love to hear from you.