There are plenty of places to shop in Orange County, but there’s only one Fashion Island.
Some might argue that you can’t really call Fashion Island a mall (although we do), and it certainly isn’t a real island. Fashion Island is a miniature city whose whole purpose is shopping, relaxing, and enjoying yourself amid excellent company… a luxury retail oasis in the middle of posh Newport Beach.
Where It Started – Fashion Island History
In 1967, Fashion Island began its life as an upscale outdoor mall. Originally called Newport Town Center and aimed at attracting the wealthy Angelenos who summered in Newport Beach and surrounding areas, the high-end shopping extravaganza officially opened on September 9, 1967. At the time, the facility contained fifty-two specialty stores in elegant surroundings for shoppers’ pleasure. The original anchor stores were the Broadway, Buffum’s Department Store, Robinson’s (later Macy’s), and JC Penney.
Only one of those anchors still exists, but over fifty years into its reign as a premier destination for Orange County shoppers, Fashion Island still draws crowds for its broad range of shopping choices, unique offerings, and fantastic location.
Fashion Island Secret #1: In 1978, the only Neiman Marcus store in Orange County was located in Fashion Island.
Of course, like anything that’s been around for a while, Fashion Island has a lot of history, some public and some forgotten. It’s gone through facelifts, additions, expansions, and remodels in its decades of serving Orange County’s shopping needs, but it has never lost sight of its mission to bring class and charm to your retail experience.
Explore Fashion Island
Ready to explore Fashion Island’s al fresco shopping experience? Let’s take a look at what makes this place so special…Size.
Fashion Island is absolutely huge… 909,000 square feet at its inception in 1967, it’s grown to 2.8 million square feet of retail and dining space (as of 2017).
Pro-Tip: When shopping at Fashion Island, or even going for a mall walk, wear really good shoes. 2.8 million square feet will definitely get your daily steps in, but if you want to be able to walk without wincing tomorrow, wear your most comfortable sneakers.
All that retail goodness is loosely organized in the three-story mall, and the sheer size of the place can occasionally make navigation tricky. The mall maps can be difficult to decipher, because it isn’t always clear whether the store you’re interested in is outside or inside. Keep the website map open and click the elevation button in the upper right corner to help you navigate. The zoom buttons will help you look for your target store with pinpoint accuracy.
And if you’re still confused, don’t be afraid to ask the concierge desk for help. Fashion Island’s goal is to provide retail therapy, not retail frustration.
Pro-Tip: The online map has a lot of handy features, but you’ll want to pay special attention to the symbol buttons on the upper left of the screen. Clicking the icons for charging stations, valet, escalators, elevators, bathrooms, etc., will bring that icon up on the map in all available locations. This is especially important for things like escalators, which will affect your navigation through the mall.
Fashion Island Shopping
Fashion Island’s 2.8 million square feet is taken up by some of the most luxe brand stores in the world. Fashion Island’s store listing reads like a Who’s Who of classy retailers, like Apple, Armani, Bloomingdales, Brooks Brothers, Neiman Marcus, Peloton and Rolex… and that’s not even a fraction of the 180 stores Fashion Island currently holds.
If you’re worrying that some of these stores are a little out of your price range, don’t worry… there are plenty of stores that play well with a smaller budget, like accessories giant Claire’s, Barnes and Noble, skin and spa treatment purveyor Bath and Body Works, and clothing giant Forever 21.
The mall is also unique for having the only mall-based car showrooms in Orange County. Luxury automakers Tesla and Lincoln maintain a presence there. Tesla’s space is an interactive showroom that makes a trip there almost as much an event as going to Disneyland, while Lincoln offers browsing patrons the chance to relax in their Connectivity lounge, enjoy a complimentary beverage, and scope out the technology that makes Lincoln such a reliable luxury car.
Tesla isn’t the only store unique to Fashion Island. There’s a short but swanky list of retailers whose only Orange County presence is right here in Newport Beach:
- Timelessly classic Neiman Marcus
- Fresh, fashionable clothes from Alice + Olivia
- Luxury California-inspired apparel from Vince
- Luxury knits from St. John
- Quintessentially SoCal fashion from Joie
- Luxury swimwear inspired by the world’s best beaches at ViX by Paula Hermanny
Pro-Tip: There really is an app for that. Fashion Island has its own app, called Retail Therapy (available on Apple or on Google Play) that will give users instant and easy access to deals and promotions throughout Fashion Island.
One of the things that makes Fashion Island so special is its location within a stone’s-throw of the ocean. Soft Pacific breezes roll off the water to wind through the walkways of the mall, and you can see the ocean from most spots. The enviable location and Mediterranean-inspired architecture give Fashion Island a distinctly continental flair that you just don’t find anywhere else.
Fashion Island Secret #2: A time capsule was buried in Fashion Island during the official groundbreaking, but currently, no one seems to know where it’s buried or what was in the capsule!
As a full service retail experience, Fashion Island also has a robust personal shopping service, with highly-trained personal shoppers ready to guide you through whatever buying experience you desire.
Pro-Tip: If you’re a visitor to Orange County, you’re eligible for an OC Stylish Savings book, with thousands of dollars in exclusive offers and gifts from participating shops and eateries in both Fashion Island and the Irvine Spectrum.
Fashion Island Dining
Fashion Island is considerably more than retail shops. Designed to be a social hub, the center is home to a handful of truly excellent restaurants, as well as the more traditional mall staples like Subway and Auntie Anne’s.
Patrons might not be having their Christmas dinner there anymore, but that doesn’t mean that Fashion Island’s eateries aren’t still something special. Whether your craving is for rich, insanely creamy artisanal gelato at Gelato Paradiso, American favorite Chick-fil-A, coffee giant Starbucks or sushi at the highly-regarded Sushi Roku (reservations highly recommended), there’s something for every taste and every price range.
Pro-Tip: Le Pain Quotidien doesn’t just offer fantastic French pastries, tarts, and breakfasts, it also offers baking classes! This is the only location on the West Coast to do so, so take advantage!
Fashion Island Secret #3: What does Fashion Island have in common with Starbucks? Mermaids. The original sign for Fashion Island had a multi-striped mermaid on it.
Fashion Island Entertainment
When you’re done with people watching, window shopping, and enjoying the outdoor spaces of Fashion Island, head over to The LOT for a movie experience every bit as high-end as the shopping. Not only is the restaurant top-flight, The LOT has an in-theater dining menu that lets you nosh on delicious fresh salads and sharable plates, as well as gourmet popcorn. Save room for your usual theater candy order, though, because that’s here, too.
Fashion Island is an easy drive down the 73, but if you don’t want to drive, the center is served by OCTA transportation. Just hop on route 1, 55, 57, or 79 to skip all the hassle of navigating traffic on your own.
If you are driving, please note that parking is free in both the lots and the parking garages. The parking garage has a handy electronic readout that will tell you what spaces are available and where, eliminating the frustrating drive around the parking structure ritual that sometimes comes with using a parking garage.
For those who wish to take extra care of their car, valet service is available, and the first two hours are free.
Staying in the Heart of Fashion
Fashion Island is more than shopping… it’s an experience of luxury, relaxation among its curated grounds and many fountains, and fine dining and entertainment within eyeshot of the beach. With all that at your fingertips, why wouldn’t you want to stay?
Fashion Island Hotel lets you enjoy access to golf, the water, and the outdoors while still being in the center of all things social in Newport Beach. Hotel patrons don’t even have to worry about walking or driving to Fashion Island – a complimentary tram will take you wherever you want to go.
Fashion Island on a Budget
While Fashion Island is built as a retail experience par excellence, you don’t need to spend a fortune to have fun. For a great time on a budget, grab some free parking, score a coffee at Starbucks, and settle down for some prime people watching.
Want someplace new to take the kids? Fashion Islands many fountains and famous walkthrough koi pond make wonderful interactive exhibits for your little ones.
And yes, Fashion Island is pet-friendly. Dogs must be leashed, though, and don’t forget to clean up anything they might leave behind.
There really isn’t anywhere in Orange County like Fashion Island for shopping, eating, exercising or people-watching. Whether it’s your first time there or you’re a longtime aficionado, there’s always something wonderful to see, do or dream at this retail experience by the sea.
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Kelly Smith is a freelance writer living in Southern California with one dog, two cats, two guinea pigs… and the rest of her family. She writes about Orange County, faith, family, special needs and tea, and world-builds science fiction universes on the side. Find her at www.bluerosecopywriting.com.