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Girlfriend Jill wanted to hit the malls, but she needed help. She’s pregnant and has a couple of little ones besides. I called around to see what was out there.

Sonia at Mission Valley Center (619-296-6375) told me that they did indeed have expectant mother parking, “between Target and the Outback Steakhouse. We also have some on the other side of the mall by Nordstrom Rack. And there’s a family lounge where mothers can nurse their babies. It features private booths with curtains, and there is also a TV with a DVD player, some books and toys, a restroom, and bottle warmers for formula.”

Once inside, we could hit the concierge “in the center of the mall. They have strollers for rental there — $4, with a $1 refund upon return. They’ll help with shopping questions — they’ll offer gift ideas, and if you’re looking for a particular item, they can direct you to a store. You can also go to them if you need package carry-out to your car. You can also purchase gift cards there, and if you spend $250 on any given day between December 1 and December 15, you can bring your receipts to the concierge for a free gift.”

So much for shopping; what about activities? “Santa arrived on November 25, and he’s here for pictures and wishes. We’ll have carolers here on December weekends from 3 to 6 p.m. On December 5 at 6 p.m., we’ll have a Christmas tree-lighting ceremony by Nordstrom Rack, and at 6 p.m. on December 6, 13, 20, and 23, we’ll have artificial snow for kids to play in. And, of course, we’ll have the Salvation Army Giving Tree by the food court. You pick a name off the tree, purchase the specified gift for that child, and drop the gift back at the tree.”

Annie at Parkway Plaza (619-579-9932) offered expectant-mother parking “over by the JCPenney. Our concierge station is by Pat & Oscar’s — we have some awesome women there who love to help. They have free wheelchairs, but the strollers are $5 to rent, with $1 back upon return. And if you purchase something heavy or awkward, we can help carry it to your car.”

For kids, “There’s a play town, and next to that, there are some rides that cost a few coins. And there’s a double-decker carousel for $3 a ride. I’ve heard that it seems faster if you ride on the upper level. On December 7, kids can come and have breakfast with Santa for free. We’ll have activities and a little snack breakfast.”

Nancy at Horton Plaza (619-239-8180) told me that the downtown mall’s parking garage featured expectant-mother parking on levels four and five. “It’s painted with blue and pink stripes — for either a boy or a girl. You can get three free hours of parking by validating your ticket at one of the five stations inside the mall. The concierge station is on level one of the mall, by Victoria’s Secret; they have wheelchairs and strollers available for use in the mall at no charge.”

The mall’s gift-wrap station was set up on level five, “overlooking Santa’s House. It’s a brand-new Winter Wonderland this year, very white and snowy-looking. You can bring your children there for pictures, and on December 14, the day of the downtown Santa Paws parade, you can bring your pets. Outside the mall, there’s a skating rink — from 10 a.m. to 10 p.m., you can skate for two hours [$10-$12, including skate rental], and all the proceeds go to Children’s Hospital.”

Kyle at UTC (858-546-8858) told me that their Santa was “available for photo ops on the mezzanine level.” The concierge, meanwhile, was “located by the large water fountain in the center of the mall. We can provide wheelchairs or strollers free of charge; you just need to fill out a liability form. We can help with package carry-out, provide customer escorts, call you a cab, or make you a dinner reservation. Expectant-mother parking is in the Sport Chalet Wing down Towne Centre Drive — the first two rows. For kids, we have a kiddie train [$3 a ticket, buy five tickets and get five free], three rock-climbing walls [$5 for all three], and an Astro Jump [$3].”

Summer at North County Fair (760-489-0631) told me to look for a large black sign designating expectant-mother parking “at all major entrances. There are strollers [$5 for a single, $7 for a double] at the entrances as well.” The wheelchairs, however, are kept at the concierge station. “And we have a family lounge with changing stations, nursing areas, a family bathroom, a TV, and a few books. There’s also a kids’ play area on the second level. And Santa’s here from 10 a.m. until 7 p.m.; kids or four-legged animals can have their picture taken with him.” Grownups can enjoy the music of “several musicians, providing entertainment throughout the mall. And the Salvation Army Giving Tree is here.”

Finally, I spoke with Kirsten at Viejas Outlet Center (619-659-2070). “We have wheelchairs available at the security office, but no stroller rental. Santa is here for photos — you can take pictures using your own camera if you want to. And we have a wonderful Christmas tree. Our skating rink is the largest in Southern California. It’s open Monday through Friday, 4 p.m. to 10 p.m., and Saturday from 10 a.m. until 10 p.m. The cost is $12 — that includes skate rentals and 90 minutes of skating.”

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