Bargain Hunting in Chicagoland: Outlets Worth the Trip

Fashion Outlets of Chicago
Courtesy of Macerich

Many deals await serious bargain hunters willing to venture outside Chicago city limits for designer clothing fiestas at discount store prices. Located directly off major interstates—including one in close proximity to O'Hare Airport—these Illinois outlet malls are an adventure for anyone who has champagne taste on a beer budget, or just can't bear to buy anything at full price. There's even one on the southern edge of Downtown for easy access.

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    Chicago Premium Outlets
    Courtesy of Simon Malls

    For bargains on upscale fashion such as bags by Kate Spade and Coach to clothing by Giorgio Armani to Elie Tahari, the Chicago Premium Outlets collection of more than 170 outlet stores is a must for the fashionista on a budget. Beyond couture, stores range from kitchenware like Le Creuset to home goods at Restoration Hardware. Amenities include outdoor fireplaces, art installations, and a children's play area. For a bonus, shoppers can enjoy seasonal live family-friendly entertainment, like rock concerts in the summer and roving carolers during the holidays. Premium Outlets is located 45 minutes west of downtown.

    Chicago Premium Outlets is located at 1650 Premium Outlets Boulevard in Aurora, Ill. Reach it by car from Downtown Chicago by taking I-290 West to I-88 West and exiting in Aurora at Farnsworth Avenue North. By train, takeMetra Rail from Union Station to Aurora Station for taxi service, ride sharing, or Pace bus #533.

    A number of well-regarded hotels are close to Chicago Premium Outlets.

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    Fashion Outlets of Chicago
    Courtesy of Macerich

    The first fully enclosed designer outlet mall built in the Chicago area in more than two decades, the Fashion Outlets of Chicago 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 Outlet, and Barneys New York Warehouse.

    Beyond all the shopping, the two-story complex is filled with a stunning array of contemporary art worthy of a museum. Known as "The Collection: Where Art Meet Fashion," it's an ongoing, multifaceted program that displays works by established artists like Daniel Arsham, Jen Stark, and Carlos Rolon/Dzine throughout the destination's concourses. It also makes for a fantastic venue for emerging artists, including students from the famed Art Institute of Chicago, and enlivens the experience for shoppers.

    What's especially convenient for those traveling through 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 option of checking luggage and printing boarding passes at the service.

    Find the Fashion Outlets of Chicago at 5220 Fashion Outlets Way in Rosemont, Illinois. By car from Downtown, take I-90 W/I-94 W/Kennedy Expressway 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.

    A number of well-regarded hotels are close to Fashion Outlets of Chicago.

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    Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall
    Courtesy of Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall

    Located 45 miles north of Chicago, Gurnee Mills has something for everyone. For the kids, attractions include the Rainforest Café, Disney Store, Gurnee Marcus Cinema, FunFlatables bounce house-style play center, and indoor miniature golf and laser tag at Tilt Studio. Of course, more 200 outlet stores for the grownups from Macy’s to Dick's Sporting Goods are available, too. Gurnee Mills is one of the most popular shopping attractions in the Chicago region, and a number of fast-casual and sit-down restaurants make this a trip worth a full day.

    Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall is located at 6170 W. Grand Avenue in Gurnee, Ill. Reach it by car from Downtown Chicago by taking I-94 West and exiting at Grand Avenue (IL 132) West.

    A number of well-regarded hotels are close to Gurnee Mills Outlet Mall.

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    The Maxwell

    Photo courtesy of The Maxwell

    If you want to hunt for bargains in the heart of Chicagoland, The Maxwell in the epicenter of the South Loop draws visitors from more than 15 nearby neighborhoods. Retailers like Burlington, Pier 1 Imports, Nordstrom Rack, Kay Jewelers, and T.J.Maxx are on premises, but it's relatively small overall, so it offers fewer options than what's available at its larger suburban peers. But, because The Maxwell is in the city, there are plenty of additional nearby places to shop such as The Shops at Roosevelt Collection, which also features the high-tech Showplace Icon cineplex.

    The diverse neighborhood around the Maxwell 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. It's a historical area: 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.

    The Maxwell is located at 1100 S. Canal St. in Downtown Chicago. Reach it by car off of the Dan Ryan Expressway (I-90/I-94).

    -Edited by Chicago Travel Expert Audarshia Townsend