There are two itinerary options that just about every tour has in common. Your travelers are going to eat and they’re going to shop.
We could go on for days about the culinary substance of Virginia. However, the sheer number of shopping alternatives is one of the main reasons that tours choose Virginia. From major malls to specialty shops to artist galleries, there are plenty of shopping options available. For now, though, our focus is for the bargain-hunting, discount-seeking, outlet junkies.
Tidewater & Hampton Roads
For over 60 years Williamsburg Pottery has been welcoming groups. In 1938 the pottery was founded by James E. Maloney to make 18th century salt glaze pottery reproductions and sell them at discounted prices. Since then the pottery has grown to more than 200 acres, hosting three million annual visitors and exceeding 70,000 items that represent a worldwide collection of merchandise.
What’s old, though, will soon be new, as Williamsburg Pottery has announced plans for a $20-million makeover. The 146,800-square-foot retail project will include three separate buildings in a traditional European market theme. Construction began in December and an April 2012 grand opening is anticipated to commemorate the 100th birthday of the founder.
Other features of the new Williamsburg Pottery are a courtyard with a stage for live music and performances, plus inside/outside seating at the Café & Bakery and Deli. The pottery will continue to operate throughout the construction, closing only on Christmas Day. (williamsburgpottery.com)
The Williamsburg area may just be the epicenter of outlet shopping. Come for the history, but stay an extra day or two to shop. Williamsburg Outlet Mall boasts savings of 20%-70% off retail with more than 40 stores in an enclosed mall. L’eggs, Hanes Playtex, Totes and Linen Barn, along with two food gardens and plenty of resting benches, make the mall a pleasant stop. Complimentary mall coupons worth over $100 are available for group passengers at Levi’s/Dockers Outlet by Designs. Also at Levi’s are free shopping bags for group tour passengers and meal vouchers or gift certificates for drivers and escorts. A lounge is available for drivers and escorts.
With 135 designer and brand name outlet stores, Williamsburg Premium Outlets is one of Virginia’s larger outlet centers. Nike, Polo Ralph Lauren, Chico’s, Adidas, Tommy Bahama and Kate Spade are just a few stores offering outstanding savings and exceptional selections. Williamsburg Premium Outlets welcomes groups of all sizes and provides special welcome packages for groups and bus tours that pre-register at premiumoutlets.com/english/reservation_form.asp.
Potomac Mills, just 30 minutes south of Washington, D.C. on I-95, is a bargain hunter’s dream. Among 225 retailers promising savings of 30%-70% are Saks Fifth Avenue Off 5th, Ann Taylor, Banana Republic and Nordstrom Rack. At least six area hotels offer group shopping packages.
A reservation two weeks prior to your visit is requested and allows them to prepare for your group and provide special perks. A Potomac Mills coupon book is available upon arrival for groups of 10 or more, plus a souvenir gift for the group leader and/or bus driver. To make a reservation for your group, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call 703-496-9352. (simon.com)
Set in a picturesque outdoor village, Leesburg Corner Premium Outlets features 110 retail stores, from Gap Outlet and Reebok to Nautica and Barneys New York. The mall is located at the intersection of Route 7 and U.S. 15 Bypass in Leesburg, just 15 minutes from Dulles Airport. Groups of 15 or more receive free VIP coupon books upon arrival. Reserve by completing the form at premiumoutlets.com/english/reservation_form.asp.
The Russell Stover Candies store in Ruther Glen features Russell Stover boxed candies and chocolates, including net carb, sugar-free, factory seconds and plenty of bargains. Mouth-watering treats await just 2.5 miles off I-95 at Exit 104, Highway 207.
What would you call an outlet bookstore featuring 500,000 new books that are discounted from 60-90%? US Airways Magazine called it “The Best Bookstore on the East Coast.” Green Valley Book Fair, near I-81 between Harrisonburg and Staunton, offers all categories of books, including history, literature, children’s, cooking, self help and religious. It opens six times a year, usually for two weeks at a time. Visit gobookfair.com for the schedule. Hours are 9 a.m.-7 p.m. seven days a week.
When shopping for clothing name brands by Worthington, St. John’s Bay, Southpole and more, visit the JCPenney Outlet Store at Martinsville’s Liberty Fair Mall. Taking advantage of overstocked and discounted merchandise from the JCPenney network, you’ll find numerous selections at 20%-60% less than store prices.
No trip to Martinsville is complete without doing some home furnishings shopping. Martin Plaza Furniture Outlet is home to the Bassett and Hooker Furniture Outlets with selections from many other major manufacturers. Riverside Furniture specializes in bedroom, living room and dining room furniture and framed artwork. Bargains Galore offers name-brand furniture at discounted prices and has two showrooms in the Martinsville area.
About a mile off I-95 at exit 4, just before you leave Virginia going south, is Good Earth Peanut Company. Virginia grows the largest variety of peanuts in the world, and the family-owned and operated company specializes in gourmet peanuts. In addition to peanuts and other nuts, you’ll find traditional preserves, butters and pickled items, all made in Virginia. The store is closed on Sunday. (800-643-1695, email@example.com, goodearthpeanuts.com)
Since 1980 Plow & Hearth has been a trusted name specializing in enduring home and lifestyle products. Located just off Route 29 at Madison, in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, the outlet offers catalog overstocks, discounted items and one-of-a-kind samples at savings of 30%-70% off regular catalog retail prices. (plowhearth.com/outletstore.html)
Located just outside Bedford, Emerson Creek Pottery has been creating handmade and hand-painted items for almost 30 years. Adjacent to the studio is the retail outlet store in an original 1825 log cabin with its original log walls and fireplace, and three double-barrel chimneys. Visitors connect with the past by experiencing the special quality of handmade pottery, which continues a true American tradition handed down from Colonial times. (866-411-1977, email firstname.lastname@example.org, emersoncreekpottery.com)
Blue Ridge Highlands
In 2004 Gina and Ron Isom purchased what is now Fancy Gap Pottery & Fabric Outlet in, where else, but Fancy Gap, Va. As the name implies, pottery and fabric are featured, but new merchandise arrives almost daily. Included are giftware and home decor, ribbon and floral supplies, silk flowers and a wonderful Christmas shop. Located just off I-77 at exit 8, they’re open seven days a week. (276-728-9524, fancygappottery.com)
Near Wytheville and conveniently located at the intersection of I-77 and I-81, you’ll find the bright red roof of the Ft. Chiswell Outlets. More than 25 stores, headlined by Polo Ralph Lauren, Bon Worth and L’eggs/Hanes/Bali/Playtex, offer savings up to 70% off of department store prices. (276-637-6214, ftchiswelloutlets.com)
From the Blue Ridge Mountains to the Tidewater/Hampton Roads region, from malls to individual manufacturer’s stores, Virginia truly is for lovers of outlet shopping.