Best Shopping Malls in Northern California

Need help finding a mall? BigMallRat can help! This is your guide to the best shopping malls in Northern California and parts of Nevada. Includes the San Francisco Bay Area, Sacramento, and portions of the Central Valley regions.

 

Types of Shopping Malls

In general, you will find only regional centers, super regional centers, and fashion/specialty centers on this Web site. Relatively few community centers were chosen, but appear here because the center may have, at one time, been considered a regional center.

Only a few theme/festival centers were listed in heavily urbanized areas, such as San Francisco, because of their particular attractiveness or size. Finally, the new designation, lifestyle center, displays because of their classic-mall type appearance even though they are without a classic-mall anchor store.

Fashion/Specialty Centers

Characterized as higher end, fashion oriented centers between 80,000 and 250,000 sq. ft.

Community Centers

Characterized as having between 100,000 and 350,000 sq. ft. Usually two types of anchors, such as a discount department store or large specialty/discount apparel store.

Lifestyle Centers

A new designation that has a loose definition. Generally, it’s a center that does not have an anchor tenant in the classic sense (that is, a department store). However, lifestyle centers increasingly have a cinema as a major tenant. Others have just a small collection of exclusive shops.

Outlet Centers

Characterized as manufacturers’ outlet centers between 50,000 and 400,000 sq. ft.

Regional Centers

Characterized as having between 400,000 and 800,000 sq. ft. Usually two or more anchors, such as a conventional department store, junior department store, mass merchant, discount department store, or fashion apparel store.

Super Regional Centers

Characterized as having over 800,000 sq. ft. Usually three or more anchors, such as a conventional department store, junior department store, mass merchant, or fashion apparel store.

Theme/Festival Centers

Characterized as tourist-oriented, retail and service centers between 80,000 and 250,000 sq. ft.

Common Stores Found in California Shopping Malls

Macy’s

According to their website, Macy’s is one of the largest retailers in the United States. The parent company actually holds both Bloomingdale’s and Macy’s. Bloomies (Bloomingdales) is considered more high end, with offerings from designer brands (like Gucci and Prada). Hence, it’s a step higher in price than a typical Macy’s, which doesn’t have the pricing tiers as Bloomies.

Here’s a user video on shopping Macy’s in Union Square:

Macy’s has a lot of offerings, and it’s easy to get lost in the store. In their apparel section, you’ll find brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Nike and Nautica.

In their watch and jewelry section, you’ll find staples like Casio and Seiko. For the truly adventurous and stylist fashionistas, check out their selection of minimalist watches, like Seiko and Vincero, which have taken off in popularity in L.A. Check out some online reviews on Vincero watches and buy one today.

Their makeup section is extensive. They have everything from L’oreal and other famous brands. One particular stands out and worth checking — it’s the Kat Von D brand, an animal cruelty- free makeup brand (they don’t test product on animals).

Forever 21

The mall culture has always been part of teen life, especially growing up in the suburbs and in California (where you need a car to get to anywhere). Because of this fact, shops like Forever 21 have propped up to cater to this demographic. It has many fans in the United States, and quite popular with 15 and under category.

Here’s a video review of this popular teen store:

They offer a good selection of apparel and other fashion items. Here’s what a plus size model thinks about Forever 21, and its pricing model and selection of fashion goods.

Sunglass Hut

A discussion about malls can’t be complete without the mention of the ever-present and ubiquitous Sunglasses Hut that dots American malls. This is an international retailer with a focus on sunglasses and sunglass accessories. Founded in Miami Florida in 1971 and now part of the Italian conglomerate Luxottica Group, it’s easily the largest eyewear chain in the U.S. (perhaps the world).

I could swear I’ve seen this in malls in Asia and Corte Ingles in Madrid. Here’s a video from a store manager:

They offer everything from Ray Bans to Oakley glasses. Our BigMallRat favorite is the Firmoo glasses. Read up on a review of Firmoo eyewear and head on to your nearest Sunglass Hut.

Recommended Shopping Malls in Northern California

Welcome to BigMallRat’s top 10 list of the best shopping malls in Northern California. Each mall rated 8 or higher on our scale.

  1. Westfield Valley Fair mall San Jose
  1. Stanford Shopping Center Palo Alto
  1. Westfield San Francisco Centre
  1. Westfield Oakridge mall San Jose
  1. Stoneridge mall Pleasanton
  1. Roseville Galleria
  1. Santana Row San Jose
  1. Broadway Plaza Walnut Creek
  1. Arden Fair mall Sacramento
  1. Santa Rosa Plaza

Top 10 Largest Malls by Size (Gross Leasable Area)

Gross Leasable Area (GLA) provided by mall owners or operators and may slightly differ due to rounding or opinion.

  1. Westfield San Francisco Centre (1,500,000 sq. ft.)
  1. Westfield Valley Fair mall San Jose (1,475,600 sq. ft.) tied with Stanford Shopping Center Palo Alto (1,475,600 sq. ft.)
  1. Eastridge mall San Jose (1,358,684 sq. ft.)
  1. Roseville Galleria (1,336,009 sq. ft.)
  1. Vallco Mall Cupertino (1,324,133 sq. ft.)
  1. Sunvalley mall Concord (1,323,000 sq. ft.)
  1. Great Mall Milpitas (1,300,000 sq. ft.)
  1. Southland Mall Hayward (1,284,591 sq. ft.)
  1. Stoneridge mall Pleasanton (1,283,000 sq. ft.)
  1. Hillsdale mall San Mateo (1,250,000 sq. ft.)

How BigMallRat Rates Malls

Mall Size

Small (-599,999 sq. ft.): -1
Medium (600,000-999,999 sq. ft.): -0.5
Large (1,000,000+ sq. ft.): No deduction

Architectural Appearance

Dated: -1
Average: -0.5
Chic: No deduction

Services

Services include printed mall directories, security, WiFi, community rooms, information booths, stroller rentals, and more.

0-1: -1
2-4: Mainstream: -0.5
5+: No deduction

Occupancy

Ghost town: -1
Average: -0.5
Bursting at the seams!: No deduction

Stores

Discount or numerous tchotcke stores: -1
Mainstream or those found at most malls: -0.5
Upscale or unique to area: No deduction

Uniqueness

Run-of-the-mill: -1
Nice, but nothing to write home about: -0.5
One-of-a-kind gem: No deduction

Cleanliness

Truck stop: -1
Average: -0.5
Hospital clean: No deduction

Store Quality

Sub-standard: -1
Standard: -0.5
Flagship: No deduction

Personal Opinion

Additional deductions or bonus points for reasons deemed appropriate by the evaluators.

Parking

Parking Jihad!: -1
Average: -0.5
Front row!: No deduction

Location

How convenient the mall is to freeways and public transportation.

Bring a map, compass, and provisions: -1
Not too bad: -0.5
Very convenient: No deduction