The Santee Alley Shopping Experience

The fashion district in downtown Los Angeles (DTLA) is filled with enticing shopping deals. None better (or less expensive) than in Santee Alley.

Walking through this pedestrian only alley you are surrounded by small colorful stalls and shops of all kinds. You can find amazing deals on just about everything from clothes, shoes, handbags, luggage even toys and housewares. I love coming to Santee Alley to stock up on disposable trendy clothing. The kind of clothing that is on trend now, but I most likely will be sick of by next season. But who cares when it only cost $5. I purchased my favorite pair of flip flops, which lasted me a few summers from here and they were only $14. I also love buying costume jewelry. There are tons of stalls offering fun playful pieces for 70% less than you would pay elsewhere. I’ve definitely purchased my fair share of 99 cent silver bangle bracelets and rings. You can bargain with most shop owners. Smile and ask for a lower price. Most times you will be rewarded. If you buy in multiples you will always score a deal.

I never come to Santee Alley looking for something specific. It’s not that kind of shopping destination. You just wander around and wait until something catches your eye. On my most recent trip, I fell in love with $20 PVC 4 wheel suitcases. They are small enough to fit in the overhead bin and come in a million varieties of patterns and colors. I also stumbled upon a Korean beauty store called Nature Republic with a spa like atmosphere. It felt like a quiet zen retreat among the bustling street outside. I purchased some awesome green tea face masks for only a dollar!

My tips for a successful Santee Alley shopping trip:

  • Take your time. Santee Alley has so much to see, you might as well make a day of it. The Alley can get jam packed with shoppers so wandering though the masses of people can be slow work.
  • Don’t buy the first one you find. Many shops offer the same (or very similar) merchandise. But what costs $20 in one place, may be $35 in another. Some shop owners are willing to bargain with you on price, where others are not as inclined. So go to where you get the best deal for your money.
  • Bring cash. More and more shops are taking credit and debit cards. But cash is still king in downtown. If you pay cash, you usually can get away with not paying sales tax. If the shoes say $20, you can literally hand the owner a twenty dollar bill and be on your way with you fab new purchase.
  • High pressure sales is a real thing. If you’ve never been to an outdoor market or bazaar in another country, you may not be used to aggressive and very vocal salespersons. As you walk through the alley many shop owners shout out deals to try to get you in the store. As you leave the store they may offer you lower prices on items at which you were “just looking.” Don’t let it bother you. Smile, say no thanks and walk on. They won’t follow you I promise.
  • Come hungry. If you don’t you will be once you smell the bacon wrapped hot dogs, and taco carts. Want a healthier portable snack? There are plenty of carts selling fruit slices and bottled water Try my favorite, mango slices with chili and lime. Yum! If you need something more substantial or just want to sit and rest your feet from all the walking around there are plenty of great restaurants nearby. I love Soup Bazaar. Terrific fresh salads, soups and sandwiches.
  • Visit on a weekday. Lucky enough to have a weekday off? Come to Santee Alley. It’s less crowded. The Alley is open 365 days a year from 10am – 6pm. Be warned, Saturdays are the busiest.

The Santee Alley shopping experience always offers something new. I love coming here just to walk around and feel the heartbeat of DTLA. The people are as colorful as the wares they are selling. I’m always amazed by the bargains I find and I rarely leave empty handed.

Santee Alley DTLA

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