Best US Outlet Mall Destinations
Since factories began selling overstock goods in the 1930s, US outlet malls now number more than 13,000 and cover an average of 200,000 square feet each. (For listings by state, visit OutletBound.com).
Even the Kardashians couldn’t shop that much retail space. So we’ve compiled some of the best outlet destinations in the United States for great bargains and nearby activities that the whole family will enjoy.
Bargains on the BeachSilver Sands is central to this popular Florida Panhandle hamlet — no long drives necessary. The 100-plus stores span Tommy Hilfiger, Banana Republic, Nine West and Under Armour. And the events can’t be beat: The Nike Factory Store invites customers for weekly sunset runs along the beach.
But even great shopping may pale next to Destin's clear waters and powder-white sands. Repeatedly voted one of America’s best beaches, Destin also lauds itself as “the fishing capital of the world.” Watersports, shelling, amazing seafood, birding, the Florida Gulfarium and renowned golf courses are all nearby. Like many outlets, Silver Sands partners with hotels for “shop and stay” packages, including lodging, shuttles, spas and more. Residence Inn Sandestin’s Girls’ Getaway package includes a coupon book “worth $800 in savings.” Other partner hotels: Courtyard Sandestin, WaterColor Inn & Resort.
Civil War History … and Super-Cute Boots!Kiplinger’s Personal Finance recognizes Pennsylvania as a great state for shopping savings -- clothing and shoes (except fur and formalwear) are tax-free year-round. So in the morning, get Dad a new Brooks Brothers shirt and your daughter those Gap jeggings. In the afternoon, tour a landmark battle site and namesake of Lincoln’s historic address. And before the kids cringe, remind them that Gettysburg exhibits include train and wax museums and, well, a fair amount of gore (51,000 killed, wounded or missing). Nearby, Land of Little Horses hosts a bevy of farm animal friends.
Shopping for more American history? Try Leesburg (VA) Corner Premium Outlets (40 minutes from Washington, DC) as part of your Ball’s Bluff or Harper’s Ferry battle site tours. (Holiday Inn Leesburg offers breakfast for two, coupons and a free Samsonite backpack to hold your goodies). And Williamsburg (VA) Premium Outlets feature Coach, Burberry and 130-plus other stores — if Colonial Williamsburg, Busch Gardens, Monticello and Virginia’s famous wine country haven’t already tuckered you out!
Shopping Playground for AdultsLas Vegas shopping is so rich it needs both a Premium Outlets North and South. The North’s 150 stores lean toward the higher end — Cole Haan and Armani — while the South’s 140 stores include the more standard Ann Taylor and Aeropostale. The 2 malls are about 10 miles apart, so plan accordingly. And while you won’t get outlet prices, the Venetian’s Grand Canal Shoppes (with gondola rides) and the Forum Shops at Caesars are worth a visit, if just for the experience.
Of course you know about Vegas’ exciting casinos, restaurants and shows. But don’t forget that Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon (try a helicopter tour or a Colorado River rafting trip) are only 2 hours away.
Shopping Playground for KidsLet’s face it: Even the best-behaved baby can have a mall meltdown. And while many outlets feature IMAX theaters, trampolines and interactive fountains to entertain the little ones, the Lodi Station Outlets, a 30-minute drive from Akron, OH, keep it classic. The 300,000-square-foot mall hosts 60-plus stores like Bass and Corningware, but, in a tip of the engineer’s cap to Ohio’s great rail history, feels like a museum for vintage trains. Ride the hand-built English “Victoria” over the center’s 2 miles of track. You can even schedule a birthday party -- and your child is the engineer! Beyond the mall you’ll discover apple farms, markets, outdoor activities and Amish settlements. And Canton, OH, less than an hour’s drive away, is home to the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
Shopping Is Bigger in TexasSan Marcos Premium offers 140 stores, including Fendi and Michael Kors. It’s designed after the Piazza San Marco in Venice, so no boring brick here. Tanger is also packed with stores and offers free Wi-Fi throughout the mall.
Better yet, San Marcos is situated in Texas Hill Country, rife with bluebells, barbecue and boot-scootin’ dance halls. Texas’ capital of Austin (40 minutes north) is renowned for its offbeat attitude (“Keep Austin Weird,” reads many a bumper sticker) and music scene (try the South by Southwest festival in the spring, or Austin City Limits in the fall). Farther south, the German settlement of New Braunfels boasts the Gruene Historic District, the Schlitterbahn Waterpark and Natural Bridge Caverns. Continue down from New Braunfels another 30 miles for San Antonio’s River Walk shopping and the Alamo.
The Radisson Austin’s shopping package includes breakfast, a $25 food and beverage credit, parking and $500 in shopping coupons. Other packages: San Marcos’ Country Inn & Suites and Embassy Suites.
Small Towns, Big-Name Family FunThe Tanger Outlets mobile app will help you with tips and sales for stores of both national and local flavor. Then again, Branson, MO, is not only one of the top US country entertainment destinations, it also offers many other attractions: a Titanic Museum, zip lining, a tiger sanctuary and the Silver Dollar City theme park.
For more homegrown music and fun, the Tanger Outlets in Sevierville, TN, are within spitting distance of Dolly Parton’s famous Dollywood amusement park, Guinness World Records Museum, Ripley’s Believe It or Not! Museum and NASCAR Speedpark. You’re also at the foot of the Great Smoky Mountains, full of some of the nation’s most beautiful natural attractions.
Tax-Free and GLBTAlthough the mall is sectioned in 3 locations around a busy highway of beachgoing traffic, Delaware’s tax-free shopping is hard to resist, especially when brands are 20-40% off already. If you’re looking for a mid-Atlantic summer beach trip, try Labor Day for additional sales (but again, prepare for crowds).
What makes this area so attractive is a cluster of several very different beach towns. Dewey Beach is a popular party destination for people 21 years old and up. Bethany Beach is a family town with a more natural setting of quiet sands, birding and kayaking. And Rehoboth is lively with large hotels and a classic boardwalk full of carnival games, photo booths and taffy. It’s also a popular destination for gays and lesbians with numerous gay-friendly clubs and taverns.
Shopping Quest From Miami to Key WestStart (or end) your trip to South Florida at this sunny shopping hub, situated at the northern entrance to the Florida Keys. Its 55 stores are uniquely situated within just minutes of everything Florida: beaches, watersports, wildlife and kitchsy hotels and restaurants. You'll also find numerous shop and stay packages (try Holiday Inn Key Largo or the Key Largo Bay Marriott Beach Resort).
Activities are endless as you cruise the historic Overseas Highway. At the south, Key West is known for its party atmosphere and brilliant sunsets. Midway and north are Marathon and Key Largo, where you'll find dolphin encounters, the Turtle Hospital and excellent diving along the only US continental coral reef. John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park is a protected "undersea park" where you can dive, snorkel or stay dry in a glass-bottom boat. As you reach the mainland, visit the Everglades for alligator boat tours and maybe a glimpse of the rare Florida panther. Then finish your trip strolling the shops and Art Deco promenades of Miami's South Beach.
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