By Denise Ortuno Neil

There’s shopping and then there is shopping in Orange County. The Southern California stereotype of racy expensive cars, high end shops and heavenly bodies are all OC staples. But you will find much more than the superficial while flexing your spending arm shopping in the OC. You will find one of the most outstanding and beautiful shopping havens in Southern California: Fashion Island. And as an added bonus, you will get some cooler weather and a fabulous desert summer heat escape.

It’s an outdoor shopping paradise of up-scale department stores, shops and boutiques, with just enough main stream stores to keep it from being too exclusive…it is the height of shopping with an ocean view, it is Fashion Island in Newport Beach (or depending on your budget, Fantasy Island).

Built in 1967 on the expansive land of Irvine Ranch, Fashion Island has become the jewel of shopping centers in Southern California. Even to call it a shopping center doesn’t sound good enough for it….it is as if it needs a royal moniker of some sort. If you were to look at it from an aerial viewpoint, it actually does look like an island, perched in a round about setting slightly above everything else.


Fashion Island has grown up over the decades, it has made great strides from once only housing 52 shops, 2 restaurants and old school anchor stores which included Broadway, JC Penny, Robinsons and Buffums ( now that’s reaching back).These days the island proudly boasts approximately 150 retail shops, and 40 restaurants…plus a brand new 7 theatre cinema.

There is a variety of shopping on the island. Anchor stores of days past have been replaced by Macy’s, Nordstrom, Bloomingdales and Neiman Marcus…how times have changed. On the way to the big boy stores are plenty of smaller stores and boutiques to spend freely at such as JOIE, BCBG Max Azria, Anthropoligie, and the awesome home store Z Gallery, just to scratch the surface.

Of course all of that shopping is bound to make your stomach growl for some shopping energy, and the island is more than happy to accommodate. There is something sure to please your palate with the immense selection of restaurants and quick serve eateries. Dining favorites such as CPK, The Cheesecake Factory and PF Chang’s are available, along with Flemings, Roy’s Asian Fusion and the newly opened Blue C. Sushi. There also more casual dining options which include Wahoo Fish Taco, Subway, plus many other quaint places to fill your belly before continuing your shopping excursion.

Now let’s get to that cinema! The Island Cinema is an experience all its own. The 7 theatre movie house has ultra-modern Sony RealD XLS Cinema System, wide leather seats with large attached arm trays, gourmet food service which includes champagne, wine and beer. They will even serve you at your seat…that’s right, I said “At your seat”. There’s no waiting in line and clumsily navigating through the dark for your chair while carrying your food…nope, not in Fantasy…I mean Fashion Island. The price tag for this kind of movie experience is not for the thin wallet crowd…tickets go for $19 for adults and $16 for kids. And the food goodies, well, I’m sure you can imagine.

One of the best parts of Fashion Island is just walking around it, feeling the soft ocean breeze on your skin as you window shop. It is simply beautiful, no matter what time of year you go (the tree lighting ceremony during Christmas is a must) or how much money that you have to spend. The crown of Orange County shopping awaits you, beckoning you to enjoy the fantasy and have a glorious desert summer heat escape on the island.

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