Kittery has become a shopping mecca thanks to the establishment of colonies of little factory outlet shopping malls clustered along both sides of U.S. Route 1, about 4 miles south of York. More than 100 of these outlets flank the highway, in more than a dozen strip malls. On rainy summer days, hordes of disappointed beachgoers head here and swarm the aisles; thus, parking can become tight on bad-weather days.
Tale of the Tags: Kittery vs. Freeport
When visiting the Maine coast, many travelers only find time to shop once. Trouble is, there are two significant outlet centers on the southern coast—Kittery and Freeport. How to choose? Here’s my quick take:
Generally speaking, Kittery, located at the southern edge of Maine, is best for the name-brand shopper who wants to hit a large volume of places in a short time. It’s easier to do Kittery more quickly than Freeport because of the side-by-side arrangement of the various stores and the malls. Price tags tend to be lower in Kittery, too. The trade-off is the blandness of the experience: Each of these side malls offer vast parking lots and boring architecture, and you cannot safely walk from one mall to another—you need wheels.
In Kittery, the malls are clumped along Route 1 just a couple of miles north of the New Hampshire border. Though the area appears at first glance to be a conglomerated, single huge mall, in fact there are five or six distinct areas with separate entrances. Choose carefully before you make your turn. Among the best places to try among the various complexes are a Gap outlet, a Samsonite shop with knowledgeable sales help, a small but elegant Coach store, Reebok (I picked up swim trunks here for a fraction of the retail cost), Polo Ralph Lauren, J. Crew (good prices on sweaters), an Orvis sporting goods outlet, and a useful Crate & Barrel outlet. The pioneer-themed Kittery Trading Post is not all it’s hyped up to be, but at least prices are low.
Information on current outlets is available from the Kittery Outlet Association. Call tel. 888/548-8379 (which spells KITTERY, by the way), or visit the website at www.thekitteryoutlets.com.
There are also a couple of good places here to eat: Bob’s Clam Hut, Ben & Jerry’s for ice cream; or, for a sit-down meal, the Weathervane, a small New England fish-house chain that delivers value at moderate prices and is an excellent choice for families.