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Freeport has more than 140 retail shops spaced out between exit 20 of I-295 (at the far lower end of Main St.) and Mallet Road, which connects to exit 22. Some shops have even begun to spread south of exit 20 toward Yarmouth. The bulk of them are "factory" or "outlet" stores. If you don't want to miss a single one, get off at exit 17 and head north on U.S. Route 1.

The bargains can vary from extraordinary to "huh?" Plan on wearing out some shoe leather and taking at least a half-day if you're really intent on finding the best deals. The sometimes-changing rotation of national chains here has recently included Abercrombie & Fitch, Banana Republic, Gap, Calvin Klein, Patagonia, North Face, Nike, Chaudier ("the cookware of choice aboard Air Force One"), Mikasa, Nine West, Timberland, and Maidenform, among many, many others.

Stores in Freeport are typically open daily 9am to 9pm during the busy summer and close much earlier (at 5 or 6pm) in other seasons; between Thanksgiving and Christmas, they remain open late once more.

Need an Outlet? -- In addition to the main store, L.L.Bean now maintains two new satellite shops (tel. 877/552-3268) stocking small, rapidly changing inventories of specialized goods, some of them used; this pair of shops replaced the old factory store just downhill from the flagship campus. The Bike, Boat & Ski Store is near L.L.Kids (behind the flagship store) and holds lots of canoes, kayaks, paddles, cycles, and helmets.

The Hunting & Fishing Store opened in November 2007, just south of town on U.S. 1 (past the gas station) and houses fly-fishing gear, hunting boots, and the like.

Tale of the Tags: Freeport vs. Kittery

While the outlet malls in Kittery, down south near the New Hampshire border, are convenient for a blitz of name-brand shopping, Freeport is a different animal. The outlets here are crunched together along and interspersed around Freeport’s busy Main Street. That makes driving around town a headache, as pedestrians and cars cruising for parking bring things to a constant halt, but it’s more convenient once you’re out of the car.

My advice? Strap on your walking shoes, park anywhere you can find a spot—even in a distant satellite lot—and just resign yourself to a lot of hoofing it. Bring a portable dolly or luggage rack to carry packages if you’re expecting to buy a lot.

Freeport’s outlets generally offer a higher grade of product than Kittery’s do, and the stores have a great deal more architectural (and corporate) personality, too. You will actually find local, small manufacturers here, not just the big guys, and inventive big brands that go beyond the usual. Price tags tend to be higher here than in Kittery, however.

You can troll L.L. Bean’s many stores, but even just sticking to Main Street you’ll come across such finds as Cuddledown of Maine’s comfy pillows and comforters; the Casco Bay Cutlery and Kitchenware’s respected knife shop; Abercrombie & Fitch’s ever-young fashions, housed in a former Carnegie library; excellent bi-level Gap and Banana Republic outlets; the familiar Polo Ralph Lauren and The North Face outlets; and plenty more distinctive factory shops.

If you love shopping and you love quality, it’s a genuinely enjoyable experience to stroll around here for a day, taking a snack of chowder or lobster; pausing to assess your finds; grabbing a soda, grilled hot dog, or ice cream from a vendor; then planning dinner somewhere. Parking and traffic are negatives to consider, however—you may cruise a half-hour before finding an open spot (if you ever do).

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.