Shopping down by the beaches can be as much fun as anyplace else in the L.A. area .
Santa Monica offers your best bet for an entertaining retail experience, since Venice Beach and Malibu tend more toward strip malls.
Looking for the place where middle-class locals come to shop in the L.A. area? Head for the Third Street Promenade (Third St., Santa Monica, http://thirdstreetpromenade.org ). Much of Third Street in Santa Monica is closed to auto traffic to make it easier to walk along the Promenade. This long vertical outdoor mall features all your favorite chain stores for clothing, shoes, jewelry, housewares, computers, and just about anything else you can think of.
You’ll find people plying the Promenade day and night, seven days a week. If your goal is a serious retail spree, come out to the Promenade on a weekday during daylight hours to avoid the bigger crushes of people that pile into the area on weekends.
On the other hand, if you’re looking for a fun social outing, the Promenade gets popular with a younger crowd at night. You can hit one of the movie theaters, stop in at a bar, or just stroll the pedestrian walks enjoying the mild night air and the street performers who work the area. The Promenade is within easy walking distance of the Santa Monica Pier  and adjacent beach as well.
The Promenade’s shops tend toward the classic mall fare. You’ll find a tremendous three-story Gap offering classic clothes to the masses. The high-end Anthropologie and Armani Exchange can get you looking fine for the remainder of your L.A. vacation and beyond. If you need a new computer or a shiny iPod or iPhone to get you back home in style and entertained, a huge Apple Store can hook you up. If you’re looking to catch the latest flick, choose from three different movie theaters, including a Mann Theater. On weekends, you can get the freshest and tastiest fruits and vegetables from the legendary farmers market at the Promenade.