If you imagine swanning through celebrity-filled Rodeo Drive stores, think again

|    Laura Randall    |

WASHINGTON (The Washington Post) – Los Angeles’ (LA) Rodeo Drive is among the most famous luxury shopping areas in the world. Exclusive brands such as Gucci, Prada, Cartier and Tiffany fill its three gilded blocks, and it has long been the cornerstone of any visit to Beverly Hills. But despite its reputation as a glamorous celebrity hot spot (Julia Roberts’ shopping spree in “Pretty Woman” still resonates 29 years later), you’re more likely to run into tourists taking selfies under the Via Rodeo sign than glimpse Jennifer Lopez dropping USD2,190 on a jewelled satchel at Alexander McQueen. Tour buses are no longer allowed to cruise the street, and the stores have other ways to keep out the riffraff. Some require – or highly recommend – an appointment just to enter and others have price tags so outrageous (from gold-mirrored sunglasses for USD740 to men’s suits starting at USD10,000) that window shopping is the only rational option, even for those flush with vacation spending money.

There is plenty to gawk at without dropping a fortune, however, such as Anderton Court, the white steepled complex of shops designed by Frank Lloyd Wright; the Matisse lithographs and Dalí collages at the museum-quality Galerie Michael; and the stunning black-and-yellow Bugatti Veyron often parked outside House of Bijan. Consider visiting in the morning before the crowds show up (many garages offer free two-hour parking).

– In Century City, high-end shopping, good food and seating from which to spy stars

For a more accessible, yet still glitzy shopping experience, head two miles west to Westfield Century City. This outdoor mall in LA’s high-rise commercial district got a nearly USD1 billion makeover in 2017 and quickly established itself as a shopping and lifestyle mecca that appeals to a wide swath of Angelenos. Tiffany & Co, Tory Burch, Rolex and Tesla Motors are tenants, as are mall stalwarts such as Gap, H&M and Sunglass Hut. Dining options are equally diverse: Taiwanese soup-dumpling emporium Din Tai Fung; Del Frisco’s Double Eagle, a steakhouse; Compartés Chocolates, a confectionery that has catered the Academy Awards; and kiosks selling everything from waffle fries to probiotic tonics. Eataly, the White House-sized eat-shop-sip Italian marketplace above Macy’s, is a non-stop frenzy of transacting in charcuterie, gelato scoops and wood-fired pizzas.

Linking it all together are teakwood sitting areas, open to everyone, with fire pits, native plant arrangements and a pool-cabana vibe that invites lingering. Other thoughtful touches: modern sculptures on loan from the Los Angeles County Museum of Art and small, discreetly placed parks for dogs and children.

Those hoping for brushes with extreme wealth and fame needn’t worry that it’s all down on Rodeo Drive: Miley Cyrus, Chrissy Teigen, Katie Holmes and Jamie Foxx have all been spotted in Century City, and trendy pop-up events like digital weight-training demos and the launch of Kim Kardashian West’s beauty brand will likely keep them coming. The mall also offers a VIP helicopter experience that flies out-of-towner to Los Angeles International Airport, then whisks them by luxury car to Century City for a day of curated shopping and dining. Selfie-taking optional.

Century City has attractive seating areas that invite lingering. – THE WASHINGTON POST