Outlet shopping malls tout prices at 35 to 65 percent off normal retail; however, they don’t promise fashions will be this year’s latest. Still, if you love the search for a bargain or you prefer classic styles year in and year out, you’ve got nothing to lose. Of course, that’s the same thinking others have in mind, as evidenced by the crowds these outlet centers attract. Limited numbers of men’s fashion stores, home wares and children’s fashion are available at these locations. Each one has a full directory listing and map online, including transportation options besides driving.
San Francisco Premium Outlets
2774 Livermore Outlets Drive
Livermore, CA 94551
It’s early days at the Bay Area’s spruced up outlet mall, re-branded and pegged to become the state’s largest. With a new name to appeal to bus loads of international shoppers, it’s 40 miles east of San Francisco. Construction continues, and parking is a major challenge on weekends. An additional 35 stores are part of phase two including a higher-end focus: A/X Armani Exchange, CH Carolina Herrera, Ermenegildo Zegna, Jimmy Choo, Rag & Bone New York, Scotch & Soda, Ted Baker London, Tory Burch, UGG Australia, Versace and Vince. The rollout of the 50 stores expansion to the 130-store center is planned in stages through 2016. The food court fails to impress, but it’s a work in progress. Across the street, Shoppes at Livermore is under construction, a high-end shopping center with five restaurants.
Gilroy Premium Outlets
681 Leavesley Road
Gilroy, CA 95020
About 80 miles south of San Francisco, it’s not the closest outlet mall, but it has been the benchmark for quite some time. Handy for residents of San Jose and South Bay, Gilroy is just off Highway 101. The center’s 145 stores are divided into four sections, two on either side of Leavesley Road, so plan on plenty of walking once you park. There are big fashion names such as Banana Republic, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren, Nike, Gap, Coach, J. Crew, Levi’s and Brook Brothers, plus a fair number of shoe stores and luggage stores. Open Monday to Saturday from 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. In-N-Out Burger is adjacent and although not part of the center, everybody knows it’s there.
Petaluma Village Premium Outlets
2200 Petaluma Blvd N.
Petaluma, CA 94952
Smaller than the other Bay Area outlet centers, Petaluma has a limited array, but more shoe stores than most. Popular brands in footwear include Nike, Adidas, Puma, Converse, Coach, Vans, G.H. Bass & Co., Clarks Bostonian and Stride Rite Keds Sperry for kids. The kids will also be on the lookout for the food truck serving Petaluma’s own organic Three Twins ice cream. This isn’t a day out destination or a shop ’til you drop magnet, but rather a hit-or-miss shopping experience most of the time. It makes the list for a place to pop into until 9 p.m. six days a week.
447 Great Mall Drive
Milpitas, CA 95035
When it’s too hot for shopping, the air-conditioned solution may be just the thing. Less than 10 miles from Santa Clara or San Jose, this is Northern California’s largest indoor mall. About 200 stores include anchor stores such as Last Call by Neiman Marcus and Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5TH plus H&M, Forever 21, Abercrombie & Fitch Outlet, Gap and Michael Kors. The mall’s circular layout is practical. You can also catch a movie, take the kids to play at Bounce-A-Rama and satisfy your hunger at Dave & Buster’s, Olive Garden or Outback Steak House. They’ve tweaked the Sunday hours to 11 a.m. to 8 p.m.
Napa Premium Outlets
629 Factory Stores Drive
Napa, CA 94558
The newest additions to the lineup here are Skechers and Merrell for athletic footwear, Under Armour for kids and adults, Janie and Jack for children, plus fashion from Adidas, American Eagle Outfitters and Michael Kors. Add those to Max Studio, BCBG, Banana Republic, J. Crew and Sunglass Hut for a pretty standard selection. Top end would be Barneys New York Warehouse. Both men and women can suit up for classic and corporate looks at Brooks Brothers and might get lucky at Coach or Cole Haan. Skip the food court, as the location off Highway 29 at First Street is within two miles of both downtown Napa and the Oxbow Public Market.
Laurie Jo Miller Farr loves walkable cities. A tourism industry professional and transplanted New Yorker by way of half-a-lifetime in London, she’s writing about the best of the bay and beyond for Yahoo, USA Today, eHow, and on Examiner.com.