Florida's Great Outlet Malls Span the State
By Janet K. Keeler
Shoppers love bargains and that’s why outlet malls and their vast variety of stores are enticing. A fire-engine red Le Creuset soup pot priced below retail? Yes, please. A Michael Kors leather handbag for a song? For sure. A different pair of running shoes for every 5K of the year? Absolutely, especially when they are Adidas, Nike or ASICS.
Florida has as many outlet malls as it does orange trees. Perhaps that’s an exaggeration, but there are a lot of them. From the Florida Panhandle down the East Coast and back up the West Coast, there are enough outlet malls to fill a rented RV with reduced-price finds. The middle of the state is not to be left out, and the Orlando area might just be the state’s outlet mall capital with four complexes to explore.
Orlando International Premium Outlets has unmatched visibility from its perch where super-busy Interstate 4 and the Florida Turnpike meet. You’ll find that Michael Kors handbag here, plus other designer duds from Kate Spade and Donna Karan. This complex boasts a whopping 180 stores, including two that seem more appropriate where the climate is colder. Zumiez and Burton specialize in snowboarding shoes, clothes and other equipment. Zumiez has skateboarding clothes, too.
Another interesting store is Kipling, a popular store for casual bags, purses and totes. Born in Antwerp, Belgium, in 1987, Kipling is the place to snag luggage, too. An extra suitcase might come in handy to stash your new bounty for the trip home.
The Orlando Outlet Marketplace is just a few miles from International Premium Outlets and has a manageable 40 shops to peruse. This is the place to shop for those running shoes because so many models hit the floor at clearance prices at Nike.
Another outlet mall that offers plenty of stores and a break from the thrill rides of area theme parks is the Orlando Vineland Premium Outlets. Close as it is to the Disney World complex, no one will bat an eye if you are shopping in your Mickey ears. In fact, it might just be expected. There are 150 stores in this Mediterranean-inspired shopping village. Eagled-eyed bargain hunters can hit pay dirt by being persistent. Shoppers on social media report finding Coach bags for under $100 and Vera Bradley totes for less than $20.
Even closer to Disney is Lake Buena Vista Factory Stores, a complex of 43 shops that sells anything you might have forgotten at home: sunglasses, comfortable shoes, Florida-ready shorts and tops, plus hats to keep the sun off your head. All of these items are part of the necessary uniform for theme park (and beach) excursions.
Moving north and way west, Destin’s Silver Sands Premium Outlet draws sun-worshippers off the white-sand beaches for a day of shopping. In fact, Silver Sands is a draw for vacationers and locals all along the Panhandle. Shop for sunglasses at Oakley Vault and Solstice and beach apparel at any number of places, including PacSun.
Now we head back east, all the way to the Atlantic Ocean for some browsing, and maybe bingeing, near the nation’s oldest city, St. Augustine. It must be sheer coincidence that St. Augustine Premium Outlets is home to some pretty old stores, too - not the physical storefronts themselves but the retail roots, which go back as far as 1818 when Brooks Brothers got its start in New York City. Other elder statesmen among the 75 stores are Clarks shoes (1825) and Levi’s (1853). Don’t worry, the inventory is all from this century.
Premium Outlet’s 75 stores are on the west side of Interstate 95, the main conduit that brings winter visitors south from along the Eastern seaboard and the Northeast. St. Augustine Outlets, where another 75 stores await shoppers, is just on the other side of I-95. BonWorth is a women’s apparel store that hasn’t set up camp at a lot of Florida outlet malls. Some names you see everywhere, but BonWorth isn’t one of them. Suits and Fashions is another, and it offers on-site alterations.
Like a snowbird seeking warm weather, head south on I-95 to find more outlets malls. It’s not long before you come to Tanger Outlets, near the Daytona International Speedway. Tanger opened in late 2016 and its complex of 75 stores definitely has a sparkly vibe. Besides the designer stores grown-up shoppers expect from outlet malls, there’s something for the little ones: a splash zone. It’s a good idea to pack sunscreen and towels in a tote bag when you bring the kids to Tanger.
Farther south still, is the Palm Beach Outlets, which seems like a town unto itself. The complex and its 140 stores pay homage to the 1960s mall that once stood in its place. A 2014 facelift brought shoppers anew to stores such as DKNY and Ann Taylor. Also included in the complex is Marketplace at the Outlets and another 20 stores, including Whole Foods. Despite the name, Palm Beach Outlets is in West Palm Beach, across the Intracoastal Waterway from its tony neighbor.
Continuing the southerly outlet exploration, you hit Florida Keys Outlet Marketplace, a busy open-air mall of Spanish-style architecture. Despite its name, the mall is on the mainland in Florida City, but Key Largo is just a straight-shot south 40 miles on Highway 1, also called the Dixie Highway. There are 50 stores here, among them designer shops and shoe emporiums such as Rack Room Shoes.
From South Florida, take a turn back north along the state’s Gulf coast - there are more outlet malls to explore!
Sanibel Outlets in Fort Myers and Miromar Outlets in nearby Estero keep Lee County residents and visitors shopping. And eating. Miromar, with its 140 stores, is stocked with yummy places to dine including Ford’s Garage, a burger-rific diner with the vibe of a 1920s service station. Shoppers can also nosh on French pastries, Italian specialties and Norman Love Confections. What’s not to love? Sanibel Outlets' 38 stores offer a smaller-scale shopping experience but the savings can still be big.
Moving north again, you come to the 130 stores at the sprawling, open-air Ellenton Premium Outlets. Just off Interstate 75 east of Bradenton, look for the way-bigger-than-life-size hockey player bursting through the wall at Ellenton Ice and Sports Complex. How cool, literally, that the kids can skate on ice while you shop for clothes, clothes, clothes.
Continue driving north on I-75 and head toward the suburbs of north Tampa. There the brand new Tampa Premium Outlets draws shoppers from all over the Tampa Bay area to its large collection of designer stores, including Armani, Ann Taylor, Calvin Klein, Ralph Lauren and his Polo line, and Tommy Hilfiger. And there are about 100 more stores to browse through.
When it comes to outlet mall shopping, it’s all good in Florida.