TOP SHOPS

Five Outlet Malls Worth The Schlep

The world is filled with outlet malls. Problem is, most have stores with negligible savings on B-grade merchandise. No thanks! At the finest malls, high-end stores deliver the real goods--last month's calfskin loafers, last year's luxury sheets--at blowout prices. (And really, does it matter what season they're from?) For those just as intent on saving time as money, we've picked the surest bets for scoring big.

Cabazon, California

Desert Hills Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets.com/deserthills, 951/849-6641)

Hit: Chelsea Property Group runs many of the world's best outlet malls (premiumoutlets.com), including this one and three others on this list. Terrific options include Barneys New York, Gucci, and Space (the outlet name for Prada and Miu Miu).

Miss: Both Donna Karan and the Gap make separate lines of clothing to sell at outlets. To get the quality you expect from each brand, avoid the outlets and head for the sale rack at one of the non-outlet stores.

Get there: By car, it's 20 minutes from Palm Springs and two hours from L.A. on I-10. From Orange County, on Wednesday and Saturday, there's a 90-minute shuttle from the Anaheim Visitors Center leaving at 9 a.m. (877/991-4636, $35 roundtrip).

Bonus: If you have a limited amount of time, skip the west wing (Max Studio, Nine West) and focus on the east (Coach, Zegna, TSE cashmere, Christian Dior).

Central Valley, New York

Woodbury Common Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets.com/woodburycommon, 845/928-4000)

Hit: Expect chichi names like Carolina Herrera, La Perla (lingerie), Diane von Furstenberg, Michael Kors, Tumi (luggage), Stuart Weitzman (shoes), and Le Creuset (pots and pans).

Miss: Don't waste time at WestPoint Stevens bed and bath when Frette has gazillion-thread-count sheets for as much as 90 percent off. Plus, Pratesi is opening its own shrine to sheets this month.

Get there: From New York City, it's an hour drive. Or take a bus from Port Authority. Gray Line sends five buses a day (graylinenew york.com, $37 round trip), Shortline sends seven (shortlinebus.com, $28 round trip).

Bonus: Several Hilton-owned hotels in New York City--Embassy Suites, Doubletree Guest Suites--offer a Shop & Stay rate that comes with coupons to use at Woodbury Common, as well as a $5 discount on a Shortline bus ticket (hiltonfamilynewyork.com).

Gotemba, Japan

Gotemba Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets.co.jp/gotemba, 011-81/550-81-3122)

Hit: There are 165 stores, and some fabulous brands--Armani, Bottega Veneta, Loro Piana, Etro, Petit Bateau, Dunhill, Paul Smith, Vivienne Westwood, Salvatore Ferragamo, Bodum (coffeemakers), Gucci, and Tod's. Focus on the view of Mount Fuji later.

Miss: Did you really travel all this distance to go to mid-range American stores like L.L. Bean and Lands' End?

Get there: By car, it's 75 minutes from the western edge of Tokyo. From Shinjuku Station in Tokyo, you can either take the Odakyu Line train ($50.50 round trip) or the Odakyu Hakone Highway Bus ($27 round trip); it's a 100-minute ride either way (011-81/3-5321-7887 for info on both). Once you get to Gotemba Station, there's a free eight-minute shuttle to the outlets that leaves every 30 minutes.

Bonus: Save your receipts. If you spend more than $418 over a year, you're entitled to a coupon book for any Premium Outlet mall in the world. The coupons offer deals like 10 percent off any purchase of $46 or more at French Connection.

Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas Premium Outlets (premiumoutlets.com/lasvegas, 702/474-7500)

Hit: Leave the Strip for a more reliable return on your money at Theory, Calvin Klein, Dolce & Gabbana, and, if you're in the throes of an impromptu elopement, Zales Fine Jewelry Outlet.

Miss: The Las Vegas Outlet Center is closer, only 21D2 miles south of the Strip. But their big draws are Izod, Casual Corner, and Jockey.

Get there: From the Strip, drive 10 minutes north on I-15, to the W. Charleston Blvd. east exit. Or grab the 301 or 302 bus to the Downtown Transportation Center for the Vegas Downtown Shoppers Express bus (702/229-6024, catride.com, $2). Or splurge: a 15-minute cab ride shouldn't cost more than $15.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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