With magnets like Rodeo Drive and Union Square, California undoubtedly has the top ranks when it comes to shopping, but the latest fashions and pretty souvenirs for all those who stay at home don’t necessarily have to eat a big hole in their already strained wallets. The best outlet malls in the state, where the superstars among the fashion brands are represented (such as Gucci, Ralph Lauren, Armani, Prada and Kate Spade), offer quality clothing, household goods and accessories with substantial discounts. Some of these “outlet” centres look like ordinary shopping centres, others have their own style – one is sun-drenched in the middle of the desert, the other is housed in an old tire factory in Los Angeles and a third is so lavishly kitsched, as if it came straight from the Arabian Nights.
Outlets in Inland Empire
The only shopping experience that is even more satisfying than buying a perfect outfit or finding great designer shoes is getting them at bargain prices. This makes shopping in the Inland Empire even sweeter, because this region is a collection basin of so-called outlet centres, where high-quality designer and branded goods are sold directly from the factory at prices far below the usual retail prices.
The largest of these shopping malls in California is Ontario Mills, with literally every brand name from A (such as Abercrombie & Fitch) to Z (such as Zumiez) among the more than 200 stores. Browse for bargains in clothing and footwear for men, women and children as well as accessories, electronics, sports goods and household goods. There is also a wide selection at the Lake Elsinore Outlet Center, where you can find good deals in Nike, Gap and Guess shops.
Desert Hills Premium Outlets
Here’s an offer that might entice you away from sunbathing by the pool of your elegant hotel in Palm Springs: The 180-store Desert Hills Premium Outlets complex is a California selection of luxury outlet stores, including brands such as Burberry, Coach, Dolce & Gabbana, Gucci, Kate Spade New York, Roberto Cavalli, Tom Ford and Valentino, with the hottest looks at a fraction of what you’d expect. You’ll also discover popular stores like Coach, Michael Kors, Polo Ralph Lauren, Tommy Hilfiger and many more.
The complex is located directly on Interstate 10, the main connection between Palm Springs and the Southern California coast, so you can easily stop and shop here on your way from or to San Diego, Los Angeles or other western cities.
Insider tip: If you’re looking for more bargains, check out the adjacent Cabazon Outlets, which offer fabulous discounts on Sunglass Hut, Guess and other popular brands.
You’ve probably never seen a shopping mall like the Citadel Outlets near downtown Los Angeles. More than 130 shops and a hotel are surrounded by nearly 160 square meters of facade reminiscent of old Babylon. A tire factory was located here in the 1920s.
It all looks like an old temple, and that’s not so wrong – at least the word temple describes the outlet quite well. Citadel Outlets is a real shopping shrine. The little ones are especially happy about Gymboree and the Disney Outlet. Men like to visit A/X Armani Exchange and Perry Ellis, and women shouldn’t miss Kate Spade New York and other fancy offers.
There are also plenty of food options in the shopping centre – why waste time on food if you could also shop in that time? From Vietnamese to sushi to Mediterranean kebab, everything is available here. Like most outlets, Citadel has ample parking, but the parking spaces are quickly filled during rush hours. A nine-storey car park with 1,000 free parking spaces is located opposite the Outlets (Hoefner Avenue).
Insider tips: If you are visiting Disneyland Resort, which can be reached by car in half an hour (if there is no traffic jam), consider taking a trip to the shopping centre. Citadel offers (paid) shuttles from several hotels in Anaheim. If you are in downtown L.A., you can take shuttle options from multiple locations. Citadel Outlets can also be reached via Metrolink.
Gilroy Premium Outlets
Thanks to its many relevant farms and festivities, Gilroy has earned the reputation of the “garlic capital of the world” – and is proud of it. But this town on the central coast is also a prime shopping destination, with 145 shops with leading brand and designer names in the extensive Gilroy Premium Outlets.
Approximately 135 km south of San Francisco and 65 km northeast of Monterey, these outlets are a good stop if you are on the 101 highway. Let your teens choose cool outfits at Abercrombie & Fitch Outlet and American Apparel! Browse for bargains at classics like Calvin Klein and Brooks Brothers! Buy quality sportswear from Lululemon Athletica and the outfits for your outdoor adventures at The North Face Outlet! And the selection of shoe shops ranges from colourful plastic trekkers at Crocs to stylish leather shoes at Cole Haan.
The Outlets at Orange
Less than ten minutes by car from the Magic Kingdom, there is another, possibly equally enchanting, destination – if you are looking for a reasonable price in an amazingly welcoming environment. The Outlets at Orange shopping centre offers a wide range of entertainment, not to mention top shops, which have nothing to do with bargain hunting. Watch a film at the AMC Orange 30, which also has an IMAX 3D cinema, for example. Get rejuvenated with a treatment at the Burke Williams Day Spa, while your little ones can relax at the Vans SkatePark with indoor and outdoor lanes, ramps and concrete bowls – you can also rent equipment and take lessons at this popular skate park.
But don’t forget that you actually came here to shop. Discover the discounted goods at Neiman Marcus Last Call and the incredible bargains at Nordstrom Rack and DKNY! Dress up at Hurley in the latest surfer look, or more seductive and with frills and lace at Frederick’s of Hollywood!
Vacaville Premium Outlets
If you’re on your way out of the San Francisco Bay Area to Sacramento or Lake Tahoe, stop by the Vacaville Premium Outlets in Vacaville with over 115 stores.
Here you’ll find dozens of shoe stores alone, including Adidas, Aldo, Asics, Bass, Clark’s, Cole Haan, Crocs and Converse (and these are just the initials A to C!), not to mention designer fashion, sportswear, leather goods and more – all in an open-air shopping center right on I-80, the main east-west connection between San Francisco and the Sierra Nevada. Keep your eyes open for special shopping offers from well-known brands such as Coach, Tumi, The North Face, Le Creuset and Banana Republic.
Particularly practical for shopping fans: The Vacaville Premium Outlets also offer a play area for children, nappy-changing rooms and charging stations for e-cars on site. If you need to recharge your own battery, Starbuck’s and Kristin’s Coffee Corner, as well as DJ’s Grill and Deli and Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory treats are available.
There is much to discover in the area around Vacaville. In nearby Suisun Valley, the wine industry is booming: instead of Blue Victorian Vineyards or Wooden Valley Winery, take a guided tour or wine tasting. Or make a stop at Cuvee E, a wine bar specialising in local vintages, right on Town Square in the centre of Vacaville. You can also take advantage of the region’s ideal climate and landscape in a variety of ways. Visit Browns Valley Open Space Preserve for climbing or the dog-friendly 1.9 square kilometre Pena Adobe Park for hiking, picnics or afternoon fishing.