I shop for a living. It started as a favor, sizing up my friends and helping them buy a few things here and there that I thought would look good on them, but always at a steep discount. Eventually I got so good at it that people started paying me to shop for them, especially the ones that realized I had far better skills at ferreting out the best deals. And if there’s one piece of advice I can give you for the best place to shop for holiday gifts, it’s downtown Walnut Creek. Yes, “The Creek” has all the requisite department and chain stores, but it’s the dozens of one-of-a-kind boutique, beauty, and dining spots that make Walnut Creek my go-to place when I need to get some serious shopping done. If you’ve never shopped The Creek, you will be blown away by everything it has to offer.
TIPS FROM THE SHOPPING PROS
I did some initial research, took notes from some local friends, and left for my shopping excursion to Walnut Creek thinking I’d be doing several laps at “the mall” and then find some basic food + drink to tide me over before heading home—not so fast. After easily finding free parking in the Broadway Plaza mall (yes, it’s the little things that can be so treasured), I was initially overwhelmed walking by the endless GREAT stores such as lululemon and H&M (we’ll come back to them later). I needed to some enlist some East Bay expertise to help show me the Walnut Creek shopping scene.
Thus, I met up with my new friend Carolyn Rovner, a style consultant and personal shopper for over 10 years with her company C2 Style. Carolyn focuses on helping men and women from Sacramento to the South Bay find their own personal style as she takes the hassle out of the shopping experience, and Walnut Creek is her #1 choice for shopping in Northern California due to its variety, selection, and accessibility. Best of all, she shared with me her top tips on Walnut Creek’s unique spots for fashion and fun.
Just a warning before we get started here: Plan on spending the weekend here. There’s so much shopping nirvana in downtown Walnut Creek that you’re going to need at least two days to do it properly. Book a room at one of the local hotels such as the Walnut Creek Marriott, Holiday Inn Express, Diablo Mountain Inn, or Motel 6 and make a mini-vacation out of it by going ice skating, seeing A Christmas Carol at the Lesher Center for the Arts, getting spa treatments, and enjoying dinner with friends at Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar, a local favorite.
THESE ARE A FEW OF MY FAVORITE THINGS
I must say, Carolyn’s favorite top spots were really right on target, such as Labels Luxury Consignment clothing and accessories boutique. I had to drag myself out of this store or I wouldn’t be able to pay rent this month with all the great designer steals. You name it, they have it, and they are all well-organized so you can easily find your favorites. The purses and coats can be some of the best buys at the biggest steals!
Another of my favorite stores is Foot Candy, which offers very stylish and artfully displayed women’s shoes with plenty of room to awe at the selection and sit and try them all on—I was in heaven! Everything from Jimmy Choo, Manolo Blahnik, Christian Louboutin, and even the fashion savers Sam Edleman. Your blood will start pumping at your first peak at the “just in” wall to the left when you walk in. And don’t forget the handbags! I can’t believe I left without the reversible number that would make this an even more efficient fashion investment! Plus, they have 10% Off Tuesdays. This store is worth the trip to Walnut Creek alone.
Another “find” for me is Bonne Nuit, which has truly beautiful European lingerie and loungewear. I normally find these places intimidating, but it was so inviting and well displayed with some of the most beautiful bra and panty sets (and more) you’ve ever seen. They’re actually known for their bra fitting skills—if you’ve yet to do it, you probably really need it. Tip: There is a Marie Jo/Prima Donna trunk show coming up on Thursday, November 17, from 2-7pm offering champagne and nibbles. Sharing the space is Jeu de Jupe, which features unique, mostly European clothing designs, and the store often hosts private shopping parties. If you’ve never thrown one, I have to say, especially around the holidays, it’s a great excuse to get either friends or even clients together. What’s more, both stores are happy to offer 10% off through the end of the year to fans of LocalGetaways! Just mention us or this article!
Shopping in Walnut Creek would never be complete without a visit to the amazing Broadway Plaza at the south end of Main Street. An open mall with cute side streets and courtyards, gurgling fountains, outdoor dining spots, and plenty of free parking, it has everything you need for a relaxing holiday shopping excursion.
The big box names you need are here such Nordstrom, Macy’s, and H&M, and Neiman Marcus opens next spring! There are also great designer stores such as Burberry, Lacoste, and Coach, and if you’re not already a fan, don’t miss Cole Haan. Not only can you find high and hot heels that you can walk in, it’s a great brand to get men into because comfort does not have to come in a sneaker (our travel guru Matthew can attest to this—he’s one of my customers). I’m also a fan of Betsey Johnson (great party dresses and accessories), Kate Spade (always timeless), Juicy (I’ve found some of my favorite pieces there), and Eileen Fisher—mom or not, great pieces for all.
WALNUT CREEK SHOPPING TIP #1: The Walnut Creek Marriott is offering a Holiday Shopping Package that includes a full breakfast for two, complimentary valet parking, complimentary shuttle service to Broadway Plaza Shopping, shopping coupons for Broadway Plaza, an exclusive Welcome Amenity, and one complimentary cocktail per person daily (maximum of 2) — all for only $149 per night, including weekends!
For the home gifts there are Crate & Barrel and Sur La Table, but my favorite is one of those “everything stores” that I love: David M. Brian. You walk in without knowing what you are getting for a gift, and the gift finds you in their endless selection of holiday decorations, candles, housewares, toys and more. And for that really special gift, not to worry—there’s also a Tiffany on Main, and even a key chain is romantic when it comes in a little blue box.
KIDS GIFTS & KORRES BEAUTY PRODUCTS
Beauty always makes a great gift for others (but mostly me!). At Broadway Plaza there’s Aveda, L’Occitane, The Art of Shaving, and Sephora (got to have my Sephora). If you haven’t tried their branded product yet, you’re missing out on their great prices and really wonderful and inventive products. They also carry the natural Greek line Korres—yummy body butters, gorgeous lip gloss, and very affordable foundations and skincare. I also peaked in at the I Bar; if your eyebrows have gotten out of hand, you can easily pop in and get a nice new look.
If you need gifts for kids, J. Crew just opened Crew Cuts, and I love the sales any time of year at Janie and Jack. There’s also a Gymboree, but my favorite for unique gifts has to be Five Little Monkeys on North Main Street. I was in the hunt for a mood ring for my niece Kendall’s birthday—found it! Also found so many other things I wanted; “old school” items such as Sea Monkey’s and $1 bins that are filled with perfect stocking stuffers.
WALNUT CREEK SHOPPING TIP #2 : Free Gift Wrap and Bow Demonstrations from The Container Store. Join the experts at The Container Store every Saturday and Sunday at 2:00 pm and 4:00 pm through December 18th to learn how to wrap like a pro.
THE RED BOX
One of my favorite stores on North Main is The Red Box fine accessories store, which is filled from head to toe with unique and hard-to-find items. I found plenty for gift ideas (I love to do the “one for you, one for me” shopping routine at Christmas). Most everything in The Red Box you won’t find in any department store; they have lots of exclusives and a great selection of finds from Milan, Paris, London, New York, and more, and each purchase is wrapped in their beautiful signature red packaging.
You’ll find amazing items like clutches from Daniele Cornaggia who designs for Armani and Dior, handmade jewelry from Florence, Missoni and Bruno Magli shoes that are exclusive to this area, boots from Spain, and amazing handbag lines such as Modula featuring “The Pippa Bag’ (yes, as in the princess’ sister).
There are fabulous gift items for men too at The Red Box, including a Texier men’s cross body bag, watches, cool laptop cases, and great striped and architectural scarves I wish I had a man to throw on at only $45. This sounds like a lot and maybe over-whelming, but really—the layout and design of this store is so on and their buying precise: The true shopper really is going to appreciate this amazing store. Shawls, belts, watches and hats—I loved most everything they have and cannot wait to go back for those “oh what an amazing gift” holiday shopping. Plus, The Red Box is offering 10% off purchases until the end of the year if you mention this article!
After visiting The Red Box, it’s time for a cupcake break. And wouldn’t you know it? There’s a Kara’s Cupcakes right next door. I’ve known Kara since she started this venture, and believe you me—the quality is as amazing. Go in and treat yourself to one (or two). She even has gluten-free options!
OLIVE YOU WE OLIVE
Speaking of great food and gifts, check out We Olive for a true olive oil experience. They offer free tastings of their olive oils, and it’s a convenient spot to buy gifts of premium olive oil for your entire hit list. Featuring 20 unique lines from every region in California, even this half-Greek biased girl was impressed. And you guessed it—they’re offering you, our now hungry readers, 10% off through the end of this year if you mention this article! Look for a wine bar to surface in this great brick-wall-exposed space after the holidays too.
WALNUT CREEK SHOPPING TIP #3: Get a head start on your shopping getaway by downloading the free Walnut Creek Shopping & Dining Directory.
YOU LOOK MARVELOUS!
Let’s have a quick stop for beauty here, as there’s something for men and women alike in Walnut Creek. If you’re fashion hunting with your honey, you’ll find Dimaggio’s Barber Shop an icon on North Main Street for its traditional barber shop look and approach. The barbers are friendly and efficient, and the cuts are affordable and he’ll get a quick cut the old-fashioned way.
For your toes and feet, head over one block or so to The Nail Shop on Locust Street—quick, clean and a super-good deal when you’re not in a city hub. Di Pietro Todd has also made its way from the city and now locals never have to make the city trek again to get an amazing cut or blow-out (great to treat yourself before a night on the town!).
Another insider scoop is Simone Skincare Salon. People come far and wide to see Simon. With over 20 years of experience in skin care industry, Simone was trained in Paris under one of the world-renowned specialists: Monsieur Jean D’Estreé. She subsequently was trained and worked in Switzerland prior to establishing her business in Walnut Creek. I highly recommend making a reservation to see her, and you might even wind up focusing your shopping around your appointments with Simone!
Another unique find is Art & Science of Eyewear—a funky, spacious setting with quirky-artsy décor. If you don’t wear contacts or are looking for an excuse not to, it’s a must go. When I walked in I saw some little kids getting fitted, and they were having fun! They have a frameless line for kids with decorations around the lenses and fun painted designs—they look so fun to wear! They are licensed opticians and offer a full service experience. From custom glasses to unique “non-grandma” chains, cool cases, and tiny readers that collapse into a credit card sized tin—it’s an eye-opening experience (Ouch! Okay, I had to!). If you need one more reason to visit, just use the 10% off for LocalGetaways readers that Anna at Art & Science of Eyewear is extending to LocalGetaways readers.
WALNUT CREEK SHOPPING TIP #4: These not-to-miss unique boutiques are all offering 10% off to LocalGetaways fans: The Red Box accessories and gifts, Bonne Nuit lingerie and loungewear, We Olive gourmet olive oils, Art & Science of Eyewear, and Jeu de Jupe European clothing designs.
Let’s talk about food and beverages! I got the lay of the land from my insiders in advance. There are a lot of dining options to choose from, even for this picky gal. There are some great gems on Main Street, then also down on and off of Locust Street. Va de Vi Bistro & Wine Bar is fun and even has an outdoor patio under a beautiful big oak tree. 1515 Restaurant & Lounge is a cool restaurant/lounge right on Main Street with outdoor seating—such a bonus. Massimo Ristorante on Locust Street offers yummy Italian food. Crepes Ooh La La two doors down is fantastic as well. Farther down, across from the Leisher Center, is Residual Sugar, a very popular wine bar with a cool atmosphere. You should also not miss Lark Creek—always a pleaser.
Pomegranate on Main had the Mediterranean music pumping from inside this authentic looking spot, and Silk Road serves the city’s best Greek cuisine. At the San Francisco Creamery Co. you have to love the authentic feel and being able to order ice cream that’s bigger than the bags you’re carrying. Their “Kitchen Sink” is a trough of ice cream and was featured on Man vs. Food. It’s great for kids and for sharing of dessert with a date after dinner. My sources say there’s also an original steak house that’s a not to miss—Vic Stewart’s (I think their tagline, “famous for steaks”, says it all).
The stores and restaurants mentioned above are just a fraction of the amazing places you’ll discover during a holiday shopping getaway to Walnut Creek. For more information visit the Walnut Creek Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau website at www.walnut-creek.com or call 925/934-2007.
– Kristine Givas, LocalGetaways.com Shopping Guru
FREE DOWNTOWN SHOPPING & BART SHUTTLE
For your shopping convenience Route 4 offers FREE shuttle service 7 days a week for rides around downtown Walnut Creek and to and from the Walnut Creek BART station. The route runs from the Walnut Creek BART station to Broadway Plaza, stopping every other block at locations along Locust Street, Broadway Plaza, and Main Street.
There are two Bay Area Rapid Transit stations in the Walnut Creek area: the Walnut Creek station at Ygnacio Valley Road and Interstate 680, and the Pleasant Hill station at Treat Boulevard and Oak Road. For more information visit BART website.
WALNUT CREEK PARKING GARAGES
The City of Walnut Creek offers off-street parking in three downtown garages (The garages are closed on Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day).
Locust Street Parking Garage: 1625 Locust Street (Adjacent to the Dean Lesher Regional Center for the Arts). Hours: Mon. – Fri. 5:30 AM – 1:00 AM Sat. 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM Sun. 11:00 AM – 1:00 AM Holidays – same as Sundays unless otherwise posted.
Broadway Parking Garage: 1390 Broadway (One block South of the Public Library). Hours: Mon. – Thurs. 6:00 AM – Midnight Fri. & Sat. 5:00 AM – Midnight Sun. 8:00 AM – 6:30 PM Holidays – same as Sundays unless otherwise posted.
South Locust Parking Garage: 1350 Locust Street (Between Mt. Diablo Blvd. and Cypress Street). Hours: Mon. – Fri. 6 AM – 1:00 AM Sat. 7:00 AM – 1:00 AM Sun. 10:00 AM – 1:00 AM
Parking Fees are 50 cents per hour, and $3 all day (maximum charge). Evening fees after 6:00 p.m. are: Parked less than 1 hour $.50; Parked for 1 hour or more $2.00 (Broadway and South Locust Street garages); Parked for 1 hour or more $5.00 (Locust Street Garage)