The shopping mall we love to hate

Angelenos love to shame The Grove, but let’s face it: There are reasons why the 15-year-old outdoor mall has become a Los Angeles institution.

Before the recent rise of al fresco “lifestyle centers” like Culver City’s Platform and Downtown’s ROW DTLA, Los Angeles megadeveloper Rick Caruso envisioned a destination where visitors could congregate in a space that reflected “a better place and time,” he once told Vanity Fair. He did just that in 2003 when he unveiled The Grove, and with it came a “Main Street for a city that does not have one.”

With its Art Decoesque movie theatre and cobblestone walkways, many consider The Grove an anachronistic amalgamation of European and American design styles (the horror!), but that hasn’t stopped Angelenos and tourists alike from enjoying the centrally-located conveniences that this one-stop shopping destination has to offer. Victor Gruen, father of the modern mall, would surely be proud of Caruso.

Here, we’ve put together the ultimate survival guide to The Grove, from the best parking hacks and little-known factoids to the story behind its design and where else to go if you’ve committed to hanging out in the Fairfax and Beverly Grove area.

The essentials
• Don’t park at The Original Farmers Marketlot as they don’t offer validation for The Grove.
• Use the restrooms, where original works by none other than Picasso are on display.
• If you prefer not to navigate your way through the crowd of selfie-taking tourists, your best bet for beating the masses is to arrive at 10 a.m. when the perennially bustling center opens.
• Stop by Ladurée for ispahan, a rose-flavored macaron sandwich with rose petal and lychee cream.
• Take the trolley for novelty’s sake. Whether you’re a observe-the-plebes kind of rider or just want to get off your feet and away from the crowds, the short ride is actually (admit it) kind of a whirl.

Take note of the level and section number where you’ve parked—The Grove’s garage is notorious for taking away any sense of direction. If you plan on dropping $250 or more, sign up for Caruso Rewards, which gets you free self-parking or valet, among other perks. If you forget to ask for validation, there’s validation machine at the women’s shoe section in Nordstrom’s.

Don’t park at The Original Farmers Market garage as they don’t offer validation for The Grove. Avoid parking on the first three levels—instead, your best stress-free bet is to head straight to levels 4 and up.

Candies and more on display at Dominique Ansel Bakery. Dominique Ansel Bakery via Eater LA
Where to eat
189 by Dominique Ansel: (yes, the Cronut creator) has finally arrived in our city—and with it, inventive confections like the ice cream avocado toast sandwich and gooseberry elderflower pavlova that go “right for Angeleno heartstrings” notes Eater LA.

Ladurée: For a petite taste of Paris, the fashionable luxury bakery two-story outpost at The Grove (its first on the west coast) is the next best thing to heading to CDG from LAX. Famed for its colorful macarons, the French restaurant offers a full breakfast, lunch, and dinner menu and indoor and outdoor seating. Don’t forget to stop by the pastry counter for the best-selling ispahan, a rose-flavored macaron sandwich with rose petal and lychee cream.

Fountain Bar: Just-opened and located “under one of the most stunning trees at The Grove,” it serves up a menu of California fare: Think fried chicken sliders with avocado, arugula, tomatoes, and special sauce ($16) and peppered tuna nicoise salad ($21) alongside an array of wines and creative cocktails, like the Big Daddy Cane Plantation, a concoction of pineapple rum, Smith & Cross rum, apricot & sweet vermouth ($16).

Pssst, did you know…
• You can see original works by Pablo Picasso—in the restroom seating areas of the Grand Lobby, no less.
• That gorgeous green double-decker (and battery-powered) trolley was built on a historic 1950s Boston street car’s undercarriage.
• There’s a little piece of Sin City at The Grove: Those 60-foot dancing fountains are brought to you by WET Design, the company behind the massive fountains at the Bellagio in Las Vegas. That precious water—all 50,000 gallons of it—is recycled to the tune of Harry Connick, Jr. (among other crooners) every two hours.
• Losing juice on smartphone? You can rent a free Android or iPhone charger from the concierge in the Grand Lobby.
• The Simpsons’ Towne Centre at Springfield Glenne features a bright red trolley, a dancing fountain, charming walkways, and an “American Princess” doll boutique (complete with an in-store cafe). Sound familiar?
• By entering The Grove, you are enjoying a Manny Pacquiao-free zone (but note that the Donald Trump ban has been lifted).

Grove style
The Grove’s movie set-like architecture is distinct for its retro facades that have been called “manufactured” by some—which makes sense, given that Caruso is chummy with big Hollywood players. In fact, the billionaire developer found inspiration from popular pedestrian-friendly stretches like Charleston’s King Street, Boston’s Newbury Street, and New York’s Madison Avenue when designing the center, giving it a decidedly more community feel compared to the impersonal, enclosed behemoths that LA mall shoppers were accustomed to.
Caruso’s approachable open-air philosophy is credited with breathing new life into modern shopping mall designs, as we’ve seen with Westfield’s multimillion-dollar makeovers at its Topanga (which debuted The Village two years ago) and Century City locations and the fashionable facelifts at the Beverly Center and Glendale Galleria (no doubt, a move to rival Caruso’s Americana at Brand next door).

I’m Groved out, now what?
If you’ve fulfilled your quota of Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin songs but have already committed to staying within the vicinity, there are plenty of other things to do nearby that are within walking or driving distance. Better yet, take an Uber or Lyft and save yourself the headache of re-parking.

Television City. Shutterstock
• Explore the adjacent Original Farmers Market (6333 West 3rd Street), which opened in 1934 as a local go-to for fresh produce and has since evolved into a tourist-frequented hot spot for gourmet food and flavors both local and global.
• Walk across the street to Pan Pacific Park (7600 Beverly Boulevard), where a Streamline Moderne-inspired recreational center pays homage to the now-demolished historic landmark Pan-Pacific Auditorium. Once you’re done daydreaming of LA’s bygone days, take a stroll through the rest of the rolling greens or visit the Museum of the Holocaust in the park’s northwest corner.
• Visit the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (5905 Wilshire Boulevard), or LACMA, home to Chris Burden’s photogenic “Urban Light” installation, Michael Heizer’s “Levitated Mass”, and a permanent collection that includes works by Pablo Picasso, Wassily Kandinsky, Henri Matisse, and others. The museum is closed Wednesdays, and tickets are $15 for adults and free for children 17. Take a stroll around the, uh, fragrant La Brea Tarpits while you’re there, too.
• If you’re not completely spent (both energy- and funds-wise) and prefer to patronize local boutiques and designers, West 3rd Street (between La Cienega and South Fairfax Boulevards) is where it’s at. There’s edgy-luxe womenswear by LA designer Raquel Allegra and Cali-cool clothing at Polka Dots & Moonbeams (plus stellar vintage at its sister shop a few doors down) and cool menswear at Wittmore and Douglas Fir. The food scene ain’t bad, either: Options include popular haunt Joan’s On Third, seafood spot Son of a Gun, and French fave The Little Door.
• Catch a live and free taping at CBS Television City (7800 Beverly Boulevard), where you can be part of the audience of The Late Late Show with James Corden or The Price Is Right, —but note that may require some advanced planning depending on each show’s schedule. Each show’s process for requesting tickets is different, so be sure to check their websites for more details.


By Danielle Directo-Meston