Updated July 2005
It’s always fun, when visiting an outlet mall, to play Spot the New Yorkers. They’re the fast-moving ones with the crazed gaze, briskly combing through the racks for something black as they mumble, “Do you know what this costs at Barneys?!” We’ve combed the outlet world ourselves and picked five bargain lover’s meccas within driving distance of the city, complete with dining recommendations, lodging suggestions, and ideas for other things to do, should you need to placate a non-shopping-addicted spouse. (Thanks to Karen Brown, author of the Karen Brown’s Guides series, for many of the B&B suggestions. For more, see her Website, karenbrown.com.)
Where it is: Central Valley, New York.
The draw: Frette, Fendi, Chanel, Calvin Klein, and even Prada and Miu Miu (even the outlet store, curiously named “Space,” is crisp and minimalist).
What else to do: Dia:Beacon is thirty minutes away, and Brotherhood Winery in Washingtonville, the oldest in the U.S., is even closer. Or drive up to the Bard College campus and gawk at the new Gehry building.
Where to stay: It’s a fifteen-minute drive to the Cromwell Manor Inn (845-534-7136; doubles from $165-360), a Greek revival redbrick house built in 1820; the “Shop & Stay” program offers a discount every Monday through Thursday if you mention Woodbury Commons.
Where to eat: Try Il’Cenacolo, a Tuscan spot in Newburgh that’s received a 28-out-of-30 rating in the upstate Zagat guide (845-564-4494). Specialties include wild branzino, oven-roasted with rosemary and filleted at your table.
How To Get There:
By Car: From the upper level of the George Washington Bridge get onto the northbound Palisades Interstate Parkway. Get onto Route 6 west at Exit 18 (Central Valley). Exit onto Route 32 north, make a right turn at the traffic light, and proceed to center entrance on right.
By Bus: Gray Line New York buses run from the Port Authority Bus Terminal about six times a day ($37 for adult round-trip). Shortline New York buses also leave several times a day from the Port Authority ($35 for adult round-trip). These packages include round-trip bus fare, discount coupon books, and discount lunch and dinner coupons.
By Train: Take the PATH train ($1.50) from any of its Manhattan stops to Hoboken, NJ. From Hoboken, board the NJ Transit train bound for the Harriman Station ($13.25). At the Harriman Station a trolley ($1) picks up passengers bound for the Outlets.
Where they are: Both in Bucks County, Pennsylvania, about a half-hour drive north of Philadelphia.
The draw: At Franklin Mills, Last Call from Neiman Marcus, Kenneth Cole, Off 5th-Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet, Sam Ash Music; at Penn’s Purchase, G.H. Bass, Nautica, Nine West.
What else to do: Philly, of course. If the whole idea was to get away from city life, though, try the pretty little town of New Hope, Pennsylvania. Several festival weekends are scattered throughout the year.
Where to stay: The Darrah House Bed and Breakfast in Hartsville (doubles range from $140-200 per night; 215-328-9567), about a 20-to-30-minute drive from the malls, offers breakfast on the terrace and Federal period décor featuring a variety of fine antiques.
Where to eat: Try Baci, in Buckingham, known for its unusual but tasty mix of northern-Italian dishes and British pub grub (215-794-7784).
Where it is: Flemington, New Jersey
The draw: L.L. Bean, Waterford Wedgwood, Nautica.
What else to do: Flemington’s pretty sleepy, but consider the forty-five-minute drive to Princeton—the university’s museum is shockingly well-stocked (from the ancient Greeks to de Kooning), and a stroll around Palmer Square is a study in preppy Americana.
Where to stay: Another “Shop & Stay” deal at the Bridgeton House, a romantically quaint inn just across the river in Upper Black Eddy, Pennsylvania (610-982-5856; deluxe rooms are $159 midweek and $189 weekends).
Where to eat: Try the Harvest Moon Inn (908-806-6020) in nearby Ringoes. The dining room offers nouvelle specialties like pan-seared tuna in a ginger-and-sweet-pea coulis.
Where they are: About a ten-minute drive apart, in Clinton and Westbrook, Connecticut.
The draw: At Clinton Crossing, Versace, Barneys, Coach, and Royal Doulton. At Westbrook, Rockport, Levi’s, and Eddie Bauer.
What else to do: The Ivoryton Playhouse is Connecticut’s oldest theater, and the Goodspeed Opera House (famous for out-of-town tryouts, including Annie and Man of La Mancha) and its sister, the The Norma Terris Theatre, both hold a summer series. Essex has the Connecticut River Museum, devoted to the area’s considerable maritime history.
Where to stay: The Griswold Inn has been operating in Essex since the Revolution (860-767-1776; doubles from $132).
Where to eat: Besides the Griswold, which has good-size restaurant and bar, you can head up the street to Chester, where Restaurant du Village (860-526-5301) is a country-French spot that consistently lands atop the best-in-Connecticut roundups.
Where it is: Riverhead, New York.
The draw: ABC Carpet & Home, Brooks Brothers, Saks, Le Creuset. Oh, and Tupperware.
What else to do: Tour the North Fork’s vineyards and farmstands. Sang Lee Farms (631-734-7001) sells exotic greens and edible flowers. The Lenz winery (631-734-6010) has won numerous awards, particularly for their Chardonnays.
Where to stay: Try the Greenporter, a former motor lodge turned modern-chic inn in Greenport (631-477-0066; queen rooms from $179 Mon.–Thurs., $229 Fri.–Sun.).
Where to eat: The Jamesport Country Kitchen (631-722-3537) serves fresh local seafood and produce in a cozy, down-home setting.