Best Bay Area malls to shop (or avoid) this holiday season

A boon to some, third circle of hell to others, shopping malls hit their stride during the high shopping holidays from Black Friday to Boxing (return) Day. And whether you venture into the specially perfumed air for the mythical deals, there are some things you can be sure of: long lines: from the parking lot to the cashier to the Wetzel’s Pretzels kiosk. You can also pretty much cross off your entire shopping list in a day, meet Santa, and try on that $500 leather jacket you’ve been wanting, like, forever. Or, just go online and order everything in an hour from the comfort of your couch.

The City
Westfield San Francisco Centre / Metreon
This multi-storied mall takes up an entire city block smack dab in the center (excuse me: centre) of the city on Market St. It’s aesthetically more pleasing than your typical box-o-stores, with a sky light-filled atrium, and offers pretty much all your mall standards, with Bloomingdale’s as the anchor. But Westfield SF really ups its game with interesting food offerings, like Brazilian churrasco, a lobster house and cream puffs. There’s a parking garage across the street. The Metreon is adjacent, which these days is more food than stores (the Target excepting).

Crocker Galleria
This curious little mall may have had bigger ambitions when it first opened near Union Square. There are no large anchor stores; instead, numerous small shops fill the three stories along the length of the glass-topped atrium. There are a few parking garages around, but nothing next to it.

Stonestown Galleria
Down south in the “suburbs” of San Francisco, Stonestown is a Muni ride away. The mall is fairly pedestrian, with a Macy’s and Nordstrom as anchors. But there are 100-plus stores in all (including food), so you should find what you want, and a parking lot that’s reasonable to navigate.

Stanford Shopping Center
Located next to Stanford the university, this open-air mall features a couple large anchors in Macy’s, Bloomingdales, Neiman Marcus and Nordstrom’s. There’s an Apple store of course, and plenty of high-end boutiques to keep the trophy wives happy. The parking lot is poorly designed, though there is a small parking structure.

South Bay
Westfield Valley Fair / Santana Row
San Jose/Sunnyvale/Santa Clara is possibly the most suburban part of the Bay Area, so it stands to reason that one of the main shopping attractions around is this mall. It’s big, with about every type of mall-ish store packed inside. They’re building a larger parking garage, so parking for now is a little dicey. Across the road is the upscale and open-air Santana Row, which includes a Tesla store to give you an idea.

The Great Mall
There’s a place in the middle of predominantly Asian Milpitas called the Great Mall (get it?) and it’s ginormous. It’s also pretty ugly, with Kohl’s and Marshall’s as the anchors, with a huge parking lot surrounding.

East Bay
Southland Mall
In Hayward, a mall with a Macy’s, Kohl’s, Sears and JCPenneys as anchors.

Bay Street Emeryville / East Bay Bridge Shopping Center
You’ve probably seen the Ikea along the 580, which is at the southern edge of the Bay Street mall in Emeryville. The three-level, open-air mall is smaller with Old Navy the largest store. The big box stores (Target, Best Buy) are nearby at the East Bay Bridge center.

North Bay
Napa Premium Outlets
This is an open air mall/shopping center with outlet stores that supposedly give you special prices, with Calvin Klein, Kenneth Cole and the Gap.

Town Center / The Village at Corte Madera
Set across from each other on either side of Hwy 101, this is the main mall of the North Bay. Nordstrom’s and Macy’s are the main anchors, along with an REI, Eddie Bauer and other typical mall stores. There’s no shortage of parking for either mall.

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