Bargain Hunting in Chicagoland: Outlets Worth The Trip

Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Courtesy of Macerich

There are many deals to be had for the serious bargain hunter willing to venture outside the city limits and commit themselves to a designer clothing fiesta at discount store prices. All located directly off major interstates--with one in close proximity to O'Hare Airport--these Chicago outlet malls are an adventure for anyone who has champagne taste on a beer budget, or can't bear to buy anything at full price.

--edited by Chicago Travel Expert Audarshia Townsend

  • 01 of 04
    Chicago Premium Outlets
    Courtesy of Simon Malls

    For bargains on upscale merchandise such as bags by Kate Spade and Coach to fashion by Giorgio Armani to Elie Tahari, the Chicago Premium Outlets collection of more than 140 outlet stores is a must for the fashionista on a budget. Amenities include a skating pond, fireplaces, art installations and a play area. Chicago Premium Outlets is located 45 minutes west of downtown.

    • Address: 1650 Premium Outlets Boulevard, Aurora, Ill.
    • Phone: 630-585-2200
    • By Car From Downtown: I-290 West to I-88 West, exit at Aurora, Farnsworth Avenue North. Those who do not wish to drive may take a shuttle that transports passengers to and from Union Station. It runs every Saturday and Sunday with pickup at 10 a.m. (dropping passengers off at 11 a.m.) and dropping them back off at 4 p.m. (around 5 p.m.).  
    • Hours: 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday
    • A number of well-regarded hotels are close to Chicago Premium Outlets.
  • 02 of 04
    Fashion Outlets of Chicago
    Courtesy of Macerich

    The first fully enclosed designer outlet mall built in the Chicago area for more than two decades, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago offers more than 130 stores and is only minutes from O'Hare International Airport. The 530,000-square-foot destination offers enough space for 130 stores, which includes some of the most sought-after retailers, such as Bloomingdale's The Outlet Store, Neiman Marcus Last Call, Saks Fifth Avenue OFF 5th, Forever 21, Gucci, Tory Burch and Barneys New York.

    The Arts Initiative, founded and curated by Arthur Weiner and Miami-based gallery Primary Projects, serves as an interactive visual arts project that's an ongoing exhibition for the mall. Expect rotating exhibitions of contemporary artwork from local, national and international artists.

    What's especially convenient for those traveling to/from O'Hare International Airport is that the mall is only 15 minutes away and features a first of its kind concierge service, which is operated by a TSA-certified company. Travelers have the options of checking luggage and printing boarding passes at the service.

    • Address: 5220 Fashion Outlets Way, Rosemont, Ill.
    • Phone: 847-928-7500
    • By Car From Downtown: I-90 W/I-94 W/Kennedy Expy W
      Keep left to take I-90 W/Kennedy Expy W via EXIT 43B toward O’Hare-Rockford
      Merge onto I-190 W via EXIT 78 toward I-294 S/Indiana/O’Hare
      Take the River Road exit, EXIT 1
    • Fashion Outlets of Chicago offers transportation to and from O’Hare International Airport and participating downtown hotels through a partnership with GO Airport Express. Visit GO Airport Express to see the complete schedule and shuttle information.

    • Hours: 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Saturday; 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday
    • A number of well-regarded hotels are close to Fashion Outlets of Chicago.
  • 03 of 04
    Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall
    Courtesy of Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall

    Forty-five miles north of Chicago, Gurnee Mills has something for everyone. For the kids, attractions include the Reptile Zoo, Rainforest Café, Disney Store, Rink Side Sports, and cineplex. Of course, more 200 outlet stores for the grownups are available. Gurnee Mills is one of the most popular tourist attractions in Chicago. There are also a number of fast-casual and sit-down restaurants.

    • Address: 6170 W. Grand Avenue, Gurnee, Ill.
    • Phone: 847-263-7500
    • By Car: I-94 West, exit at Grand Avenue (IL 132) West
    • Hours: 11 a.m.-7 p.m. Sunday, 10 a.m.-9 p.m. Monday through Friday, 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Saturday
    • A number of well-regarded hotels are close to Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall.
  • 04 of 04

    The Maxwell

    Photo courtesy of The Maxwell

    Located in the epicenter of the South Loop, The Maxwell draws from more than 15 Chicago neighborhoods. There's a Burlington, Dick's Sporting Goods, Nordstrom Rack and TJ Maxx on premises, so options are fewer than most outlets in Chicagoland. Because The Maxwell is in the city, there are plenty of places to shop in the area such as The Shops at Roosevelt Collection, which also features a cineplex.

    The diverse neighborhood boasts the Chicago Museum Campus, two-starred Michelin Acadia restaurant and the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University. There are also plenty of places for casual dining and drinking. The South Loop was one of the city's first residential districts before the Great Chicago Fire of 1871.

    The majority of the hotels in the area are situated along Michigan Avenue, which is walkable to most destinations and attractions, including the Art Institute, Chicago Symphony Center, Grant Park and a host of restaurants.

    • Address: 1100 S. Canal St.
    • Phone: 877-225-5337
    • Hours: 9 a.m.-9 p.m. daily
    • By Car: The Maxwell offers highway access from the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/I-94).
    • A number of well-regarded hotels are close to The Maxwell.