As I frantically scan the internet and virtually shop for cyber Monday deals, I’m wondering how many people truly opted outside for Black Friday? Do we really hate shopping all that much or is there is a difference between shopping to see innovative and beautiful things and shopping aimlessly hoping to get a deal on a purchase we probably don’t want or need.
I happen to love shopping malls. I love seeing the different stores that are prevalent in the places I travel. I love checking out food courts. I live for seeing pop-ups, gorgeous displays and creative design. My heart adores the art and history behind the places that hold the soon-to-be-purchases that make their way into our homes and ultimately our own histories. Don’t you wonder about where the things we love lived before they entered into our lives?
South Coast Plaza in Orange County is one of the dreamiest shopping centers that I’ve ever visited. Nearly 15 years ago when I first moved to the United States to live in California, I remember it as a gleaming beacon of wonderfulness with all its fancy stores-it was truly one of the most spectacular malls I’d ever seen and I think it is still one of the largest malls in the United States. It was such an honor to revisit this shopping destination on a press tour recently and learn a little more about its history. Back when I first came here I didn’t realize it opened on a lima bean farming area-I just knew it had beautiful versions of my favorite stores like Macy’s and Nordstrom and Sephora and I loved to shop in all the stores. It was refreshing to revisit the mall as a writer this time and gaze up at its gorgeous stained glass dome and walk by the carousels teeming with kids and think about how many people have passed through this space in the 50 years since this shopping center first began. Thinking about all the attention to detail and aesthetics that defines a place like this, I was reminded of how much I love going out to go shopping.
I’m surprised that back when I first visited South Coast Plaza I also didn’t know it housed a world-renowned garden created by Isamu Noguchi. This is where you can thank goodness for Instagram. I was following South Coast Plaza to research my trip and the garden popped into my insta-feed. I immediately became enthralled with the idea of visiting this beautiful, hidden garden and see what it was truly like in real life.
I can tell you now that I wish more malls had “secret” gardens like this one and maybe they do and we just don’t know about them. I wasn’t sure exactly what I would see in this garden that I was dying to find, but in the 5-10 minute walk out of the busy shopping center I passed over a scenic concrete bridge immediately into a place of peace. I ambled through a grassy area dotted with sculptures and headed towards the TGI Friday’s parking lot where I was told the garden would be nearby. My pace slowed as I was overwhelmed with all the beauty around me and my senses began to awaken. I was caught in a place between nature and consumption, where the shopping whims I was considering became trivial beneath the juxtoposition of sculptures and tall trees and towering glassy buildings surrounding me. The bustle and pizzaz of the shopping center felt very far away.
When I arrived in the garden, Noguchi’s California Scenario, this beautiful peaceful space took my breath away. It truly is a gem and I love how you can opt to get outside in between your purchases and reflect a little on California’s natural history in between reflecting on the things you dream about buying in stores. There are redwoods, cacti and palms and places to sit a while and think about the land and the area that this once was. I’m so thankful that this garden has been around for nearly 30 years in such a hidden state In one of the most preeminent shopping areas in the world; there were handfuls of people while I visited but it was virtually empty. It truly is the secret garden of Orange County and I hope more people find themselves here in the next little while. And I totally wish more shopping plazas were created as thoughtfully as this one.
(PS if you are looking for an Art Tour of South Coast Plaza you can find a description through this link and if you’ve visited I’d love to hear what you think too. Do you love to look for hidden gardens? Here’s one in Pike Place market too!)
(PPS I visited Orange County as part of a press tour from Visit Orange County and as always the views on this blog are my own.)