Outlet Shopping in St. Augustine
What are the Outlets?
The outlets are where visitors and locals can go to buy name brand products in an entire store dedicated to sales, discounts, and clearance prices. It’s like a giant “Sale” section for all the places you love to shop. There are two main outlets in St. Augustine and they’re right across from each other, bordering each side of I-95: the St. Augustine Premium Outlets and the St. Augustine Outlets. (Note: They are across the street from each other, but that "street" is 1-95, not any crossable road. While they are right next door as the crow flies, getting from one to the other requires a 6-minute drive covering 1.8 miles with lights, a 4-lane road, and traffic.)
While the Premium Outlets are more like an outdoor shopping strip, the St. Augustine Outlets are a combination, with both indoor and outdoor shopping locations. Both are home to a variety of stores, making each a great place to stop and do some shopping. Unlike a mall, which usually only attracts locals, the outlets are much bigger and attract a bigger demographic. Visitors to the outlets include St. Augustine locals and vacationers, folks passing through on their way to Disney or back, and even people from across the state. I’ve heard of people that drive from as far as Tallahassee just to enjoy the deals at the outlets for a day, while others will regularly make the 45-minute commute from Jacksonville.
The Outlets vs. the Regular Stores
What makes an outlet different from a regular store? Not much. For one, most of the items in outlets are made in the same space that the mainline items for a store are made. The only difference is that some items are made specifically for the outlets. For example, J. Crew Factory is an outlet line for the J. Crew brand. It’s made by the same company, in the same spaces as J. Crew. The only difference is that the prices will be marked down. So if you want to sport a high-end label and save money while doing it, the outlets are the place to accomplish it.
Outlets are also where inline items are sent to die. (Okay, that’s putting it a little harshly, but anything that is left after clearance is usually sent to the outlets). That’s what makes outlet shopping so awesome. It’s the equivalent to a clearance section that takes up an entire store. Sometimes, outlets have their own clearance section, which is usually located where two universes melt into each other.
If it’s at the Outlets, is it an Outlet?
Not necessarily. Some stores are just the inline store, and some are independent businesses that operate from a single location that happens to be at the Outlets. When in doubt, ask a manager or a store associate whether their shop is an outlet or not.
Major Outlet Stores
(as determined by Alex and Alex alone)
In the Premium Outlets, I consider some of the "majors" to be Aeropostale, American Eagle Outfitters, Banana Republic Factory Store, Coach, Polo Ralph Lauren, and White House Black Market.
In the St. Augustine Outlets, some of those making my "majors" list are Cole Haan, Dooney & Bourke, HUGO BOSS Factory Store, Talbots Outlet, Nautica, and St. John Outlet.
Parking at the Outlets
Parking at the outlets can be a little more difficult during the holidays or on weekends. There is parking all along the front of the shopping strip at the Premium outlets and on three sides of the St. Augustine Outlet. What some people may not know is that if you keep driving past the first entrance to the Premium Outlets from I-95, there’s a back entrance that takes you to the end where the Adidas and Nike stores are. It’s a secret path that is unbeknownst (how often do I get to use THAT word) to the average shopper.
If parking looks packed at the front of the St. Augustine Outlets, head to the back. There’s an entrance halfway along the mall that takes visitors straight into the food court.
Dining at the Outlets
Auntie Anne's Salty and Sweet Pretzels
When in doubt, always head to the center or middle of a mall if you’re in search of food. Both the Premium Outlets and the St. Augustine Outlets have food courts at the heart of their operations. Halfway down the strip at the Premium Outlets, there’s an indoor hall with several different food stands to choose from.
At the St. Augustine Outlets, the indoor entry behind Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th leads to the food court. In either of the two food courts, you are sure to find something when you need a break and have to tame your shopper’s rage.
Shopper’s rage (n.): when you see something you like and you think it’s the most amazing thing and you can’t understand why it hasn’t been taken already, but then you go put it on and you hate it. It’s when this happens ten times and it slowly wears you down, but you keep going because the one your heart is longing for is out there somewhere … (I should have just said clothes dating. It’s like dating, but with clothes.)
Back to the food, in the Premium Outlets, there's Auntie Ann's Pretzel and Smoothies, Colossal Dogs and Burgers, and Rufino's Pizza, if you're really hungry. And at the food court in the St. Augustine Outlets, you can grab food and drink at Garden Cafe. But good food isn’t found JUST at the food court. In fact, Rocky Mountain Chocolate Factory is probably the most delicious food and it’s not anywhere near the food court at the St. Augustine Outlets.
Finding the restrooms may be a bit tricky, as they tend to be hidden behind closed doors with little signage. But just as the food courts are always found at the heart of an outlet spread, so are the restrooms. After all, where there is a large Styrofoam cup of Coca-cola, there are people who need to use the restroom very badly.
There are also restrooms on each of the wings of the St. Augustine Outlets, and at the ends of the Premium Outlets.
Biggest Outlet Shopping Days
The Outlets are the ones who invented the idea of opening up at midnight after Thanksgiving Day (not really, but they certainly make it worthwhile for shoppers). Guests to the St. Augustine Outlets have been known to get goodie bags while supplies last. All the stores put forward their best sales and promotions, and some even include a free gift with purchase.
Memorial Day Weekend (Weekend before Last Monday of May)
A day to honor the fallen, this weekend is an American holiday where many escape the stresses and rigors of day-to-day life in order to celebrate our freedom won by those who have fought and died for our prosperity.
Tax-Free Weekend (First Weekend in August)
Practically an official holiday for shoppers in Florida, people can get their best prices on clothes and shoes, minus the sales tax on clothes up to $100. This is to ease back-to-school shopping for Florida families.
Labor Day Weekend (Weekend before First Monday in September)
What better way to take a break from labor than by spending hours on end walking through stores? Okay, so maybe it’s not everybody’s cup of tea, but let’s not pretend that it isn’t a constant struggle to avoid online shopping while we’re at work (we all do it). All day while we’re working, we’re dreaming of spending that moolah, and Labor Day is the day to do it without remorse. We’re worked hard, and it’s good to reward that work once a year.
What’s In Store for the Outlets?
No pun intended, but along with having some solid stores that have been around and continue to be around, there’s always new places coming and going. Some major players will stay, while others will leave, and then more major players will come to replace them.
Places to Stay at the Outlets
The Best Western Plus Hotel.
There are a ton of great hotels near the outlets for visitors to St. Augustine. The hotels tend to be more economic (since they’re not located in downtown St. Augustine), but are still just a 10-minute drive from the attractions. They’re also close to the interstate if you’re looking to travel to some of the nearby areas, like Jacksonville, Daytona Beach, or Orlando.
- Best Western Plus: Business travelers to St. Augustine will appreciate the various meeting rooms and technology services to accommodate them, with the nearby outlets providing plenty of places to shop for business attire: ties, belts, shoes, suits, handbags—the works.
- Comfort Inn & Suites: Guests can get comfortable and soak their feet in the pool after an arduous day of browsing and shopping.
- Fairfield Inn & Suites: Located right next to the St. Augustine Outlets, these accommodations make a quick shopping trip easy.
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