7 Neighborhoods (and an Outlet) Perfect for Holiday Shopping in the Bay Area
Whether you’re looking for a special gift or secretly splurging on yourself, San Francisco is home to a number of shopper-friendly neighborhoods and commercial districts brimming with high-end boutiques, trend-conscious local shops, quirky vintage stores and everything in between.
Ringed by hotels and theaters, with the Powell St. cable car running up its western flank, Union Square is as much a shopping Mecca as a public plaza. Prominent department stores such as Macy’s and Neiman Marcus command outsized attention, but other savvy high-profile stores have given the retail-rich neighborhood a fresh gloss. Premier luxury boutiques (Prada, Burberry and Dior) and shopping experiences like CH Carolina Herrera, St. John Knits and Cuyana keep Union Square on top of most San Francisco shoppers’ list.
Yes, PIER 39 is San Francisco’s top visitor attraction. And, yes, the sea lions are very popular. But PIER 39 also offers more than 60 specialty shops throughout two levels. While the kids explore the Aquarium of the Bay or take a boat ride on the Blue & Gold Fleet, you can pick up a jersey at The NFL Store or find wooden puzzles and games at Solve It!. There’s even a shop just for left-handers! If you have a thing for the beach, check out Shell Cellar, where you'll find shells and unique jewelry. Looking for that perfect San Francisco gift? Look no further than Only in San Francisco.
In the Mission District, thriving Valencia St. retail can be found in its thrift shops and specialized bookstores. More recent arrivals to the corridor include uber-hip boutiques (Voyager Shop), artisan goods from local and international designers (Little Paper Planes), terrariums and taxidermy (Paxton Gate), trendy fashion (Everlane) and Japanese denim (Self Edge). There are plucky holdouts like Aquarius Records; audiophile’s paradise, Dijital Fix; and Heliotrope, with its customized aromatherapy blends. Off of Valencia St., you'll find local shops Creativity Explored and Mission Art 415, among the best for great San Francisco artworks, and Sports Basement, the perfect spot to find something for that outdoorsy person in your life.
Channel your inner hippie and travel back in time to the Summer of Love at Haight-Ashbury. If you're looking for quirky and vintage gifts this holiday season, Haight-Asbury is your one-stop shop. Everything tie-dye from Love on Haight, 1960s vintage style clothing from Buffalo Exchange and collector's vinyls from Amoeba Music are just some of the treasures you'll find in the neighborhood.
While it's famed for its long history of jazz, the Fillmore is also known for unique shops, both vintage and luxury. From cultural gifts and hand-crafted products at Cottage Industry to home decor and high-end clothing at Simply Chic, you can find a gift for just about anyone and any taste in the Fillmore's nine blocks of shops.
The Ferry Building is a great place to shop for gifts while supporting farmers, small businesses and specialty shops. Ferry Building vendors sell a variety of fresh produce, coffee, and goods, making it a perfect place to find gifts for every foodie. It is widely acclaimed for its fresh products and artisan goods from shops like Blue Bottle Coffee, Cowgirl Creamery's Artisan Cheese Shop, Dandelion Chocolate, and many others. Don't miss the Ferry Building Farmers Market on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., and Saturdays from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.
While it might be confusing to some visitors, Union Street is nowhere near Union Square. This strip of Cow Hollow is home to lavish health-and-beauty emporiums such as Lash Lab. Similar offerings include specialists in juice cleanses, pilates and yoga apparel. Other neighborhood gems include Marine Layer, jewelers David Clay and La Bijouterie; Moulin Pooch, possibly San Francisco’s fanciest pet shop; stationers Union Street Papery; and Images of the North, which offers one of the most extensive collections of Inuit art.
San Francisco Premium Outlets
With the addition of 185,000 square feet, San Francisco Premium Outlets is now the largest outdoor outlet center in California. Located in Livermore, 42 miles east of San Francisco, there are 170 stores, including luxury and brand-name retailers like Gucci, Versace, Tod’s, Ted Baker, Bally, CH Carolina Herrera, Roger Viver, All Saints, Sarar, A/X Armani Exchange, and more. Tri-Valley Rapid buses connect to the Pleasanton/Dublin BART station. Check out other outlets in Vacaville, Gilroy and Napa.