Occupying prime real estate at the geographic heart of San Diego, Mission Valley has long been a heavily residential area populated by apartment complexes, major highways, and large shopping centers. The most famous of these large shopping centers are Fashion Valley and Mission Valley Center, both of which are open-air shopping malls known for their wide selection of stores, restaurants, and entertainment amenities. Mission Valley is located just east of Old Town San Diego, and slightly north of the bustling Hillcrest neighborhood and iconic Balboa Park.
Getting to Know the Neighborhood
Mission Valley takes its name from the presence of the nearby Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá, one of the first Spanish settlements in the area and a historic structure still standing today. From the time Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá was constructed in 1769 to the end of World War II in 1945, Mission Valley was a relatively quiet, rural, and undeveloped region at the fringes of San Diego, a stretch of land defined by dairy farms and rock quarries. In the 1950s, though, what we know today as United States Interstate 8 was built, and this major highway running right through the river valley opened up the neighborhood for significant development.
The 1960s were a boom period for Mission Valley. Mission Valley Center opened its doors in 1961, San Diego Stadium (which over the years went by many names and has now since been demolished) was built in 1967, and Fashion Valley followed in 1969. Today Mission Valley is entering a new phase of its existence, with several massive redevelopment projects planned for the area in the next few years alone. Shopping options will probably increase dramatically as these projects come to life.
Popular Mission Valley Shopping Destinations
If you’re in the market for a retail district characterized by flashy big-name designers, reliable chain brands, and respected department stores with sturdy legacies, then Mission Valley is the perfect San Diego shopping destination for you. Here you’ll find multiple traditional shopping complexes and frontage-road strip malls surrounded by an assortment of major hotels, movie theaters, restaurants, and more.
Fashion Valley is considered by many locals to be San Diego’s nicest mall, and with nearly two-million square feet of stores to choose from, it’s easy to see why. This upscale, open-air property is one of the largest shopping centers in all of California. It’s home to approximately 200 distinctive stores and brands such as Anthropologie, Dolce & Gabbana, Apple, Fabletics, H&M, Armani Exchange, Kendra Scott, Ann Taylor, Kate Spade, Marc Jacobs, and Macy’s, just to name a few. On-site dining options include favorites like California Pizza Kitchen, Panda Express, and Cheesecake Factory. Fashion Valley also features an 18-screen movie theater on its premises.
Just down the road from Fashion Valley is the Mission Valley Center, currently owned by the European-based mall-operating conglomerate Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. Westfield Mission Valley has over 100 unique shops and restaurants spread out across its roughly one-million square feet of retail space. Here you’ll encounter popular stores like Bloomingdale’s, Macy’s, Champs Sports, Nordstrom Rack, Target, Old Navy, and many more, as well as restaurants such as King’s Fish House, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf, and Panda Express. Mission Valley has a multi-screen movie theater on its grounds, too.
Though Fashion Valley and Westfield Mission Valley take most of the headlines, there are several other prominent shopping centers located within Mission Valley. These include Park Valley Center, with its Best Buy, Saks Off 5thAvenue, Staples, and Qdoba; Rio Vista Shopping, which contains a Home Goods, TJ Maxx, and Jersey Mike’s; and Hazard Center, where you can enjoy a Barnes & Noble, UltraStar Mission Valley Cinemas, and BJ’s Restaurant & Brewhouse.
Other Ways to Enjoy Mission Valley
Mission Valley is known primarily as a shopping destination and residential neighborhood, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other notable attractions in its general vicinity. In particular, visitors with an interest in San Diego’s rich history will want to make time to stop at Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá. This Franciscan mission was founded by the Spanish during the eighteenth century as part of their efforts to colonize southern California. Mission Basilica San Diego de Alcalá remains an active church, but it’s still open to the public for tours.
Mission Valley’s location near the center of the greater San Diego metropolitan area places it within convenient reach of a number of the city’s most popular attractions. Just southwest of Mission Valley is Old Town San Diego State Historic Park. With its remarkable mixture of historic buildings, restored structures, art galleries, shops, and restaurants, Old Town makes for a quintessential San Diego experience, one that’s not to be missed.
Other important San Diego attractions located nearby include the Junipero Serra Museum, which houses the impressive collection of the San Diego History Center; Mission Trails Regional Park, at nearly 6,000 acres one of the biggest urban park spaces west of the Mississippi River; and of course, the many wonders of Balboa Park.