Universal CityWalk

Mall in San Fernando Valley

Flashing video screens, oversized facades and garish color combos (think Blade Runner meets Willy Wonka) animate the outdoor shopping concourse adjacent to Universal Studios. CityWalk's 65 shops, restaurants and entertainment venues offer a mix of mid- and lowbrow attractions, with low leading by a nose.

The mostly chain restaurants here offer less expensive alternatives to meals in the park (get a re-entry stamp), and there's an 18-screen cinema with seven-story IMAX theater.

Our favorite stop is the I-Fly (www.iflyworld.com/hollywood) skydiving simulator. Amid the knickknack stores and chains, the Dodgers Clubhouse Store stands out for Dodgers-related clothing and accessories – including bats broken during games – and the Universal Studios Store lets you buy minion merch and Hogwarts swag without paying the park entry fee.

On a courtyard balcony, the CityWalk branch of San Diego's Karl Strauss Brewery (www.karlstrauss.com) is primo for people-watching while sipping a hefeweizen.

Parking costs $20/10 before/after 5pm; the movie theater and some establishments offer discounted parking with validation.