When I think of Carlsbad, I think of rich people and outlet shopping (which is hit or miss, by the way—I prefer Las Americas near the border). So, when I read somewhere that the resort town calls itself "the preeminent downtown of North County" (because of course it does), I had to go and see what the hell that really meant. While it's not quite the descriptor I'd use, I will give credit to the Carlsbad Village Association: There's more to see and do—and most importantly, buy!—here than I thought.
I really enjoyed my early evening stroll down Carlsbad Village Drive and environs last week. OK, maybe that was the freedom talking. I was without my husband and toddler (read: peace and quiet). I probably would've enjoyed sitting on the curb, drinking a 40 next to the randomly discarded love seat with the worst floral pattern ever (#RichPeopleTrash) in the parking lot behind Fish House Vera Cruz. But I digress. Vacationers happily inhaled fro-yo at Swirlicious, and live music flowed from nearby restaurants and pubs. The air smelled clean, and everyone I talked to was really nice—a little too nice, if you ask me, but what I do know? I'm from Philly.
And then there were the shoes. Tan, black, leather, wedge, sandal, heel. A place called Blues and Shoes (457 Carlsbad Village Drive) had it all, and then some. The ladies minding the store here are expert stylists and will be fitting you with sexy skinny jeans and a hot pair of heels to match in a matter of seconds. Best of all, you could leave with an entire outfit for less than $100. This place is truly a gem. Just know that the style skews bohemian-chic. My own style couldn't be further from that, but even I found something cute—a cream-colored tank ($26) with hand-stitched detail on the front from the L.A.-based designer Hem & Thread.
After you're done there, head over to B&S's sister stores, Ragz Dressware and The Beat. Both had an interesting collection (guy stuff included!), some for the younger crowd, some for, well, my crowd. You just need to go and enjoy the experience of browsing and letting a stream of people bring you outfits to try on.
If none of this is your scene, you have many more options. That's the great thing about this little village. You can wander in and out of dozens of local shops that carry the latest trends, much of them from popular L.A. designers that you won't find in too many places in San Diego (a lot of these brands sell wholesale only).
One of these designers is Love Stitch, which appears to be taking SoCal by storm. Another wholesale-only brand (a retail site is rumored to be coming soon), Love Stitch is an affordable, really well-made line of wardrobe necessities, fun but work-appropriate tops, date-night dresses and more, all with flirty detailing, flattering lines and simple patterns. I got a black-and-white silk-and-cotton top with lace detailing for $40; at a place like, say, Express, that would have been at least $10 to $15 more. You can find Love Stitch at Cielo Boutique & Body Bar (2969 State St.). The name almost stopped me from going in, but I think I saw a dress in the window that looked interesting. Glad I did; the inside definitely had the feel of a boutique store.
All in all, I think I did pretty well here. Two sleeveless tops and a sundress for my 18-month-old. I wasn't expecting to leave with anything. Who knows how I would have fared at the outlets. But who cares? I ate a carne asada burrito completely uninterrupted.