Thursday, February 09, 2006

Freeport, Maine

If you live in Maine you have more than likely already visited Freeport and if you are traveling through, or visiting the State, a stop in this shopping outlet town might be worth it if you like to shop.

While you are not likely to find the greatest deals, the combination of Maine charm, the nearby ocean, an eclectic grouping of shops and the granddaddy of all LL Bean stores, most visitors will find something to enjoy in Freeport.

Where is it?

Freeport is located along the coast of Maine, to the north of Portland, but to the south of the mid-coast region (Rockland and environs). The town is about half an hour north of Portland and a half an hour south of Augusta. That makes it about two and a half hours from Boston and somewhere between 5 and 6 hours from New York City.

The town is easy to get to and is directly off of Interstate 295 (which was, if you have been in Maine in the past, actually 95, but the Maine Turnpike is now 95 and what was 95 is now 295 - confusing huh?). There are several exits for Freeport including exits 17, 20, and 22.

The main part of the town is located right off of the highway along Route 1 and the Main Street portion of Freeport, where the majority of the outlets and shops are is probably about half a mile or so long (probably slightly shorter). This part of town is pedestrian friendly and most visitors focus on this area, easily walking between all of the outlets and the shops.

Where do I park?

Probably the hardest thing to do in Freeport, especially during the busier times (summer weekends and holiday weekends) is to find a parking spot. Free public parking lots are available and mostly surround the two LL Bean stores in the center of town. The LL Bean headquarters store has several different parking lots and the LL Bean outlet store also has a large parking area.

Beyond those, there are several smaller lots scattered throughout town and some of the bigger stores and shops have their own somewhat small parking lots. On the busiest days you will probably find your driving around town at least once looking for a place to park.

What is there?

Freeport's claim to fame is its almost 200 shops and outlets that are in the town. If you can think of a store or chain, there is probably a factory store or outlet for it in Freeport. The Gap, Mikasa, Abercrombie & Fitch, The North Face, Yankee Candle, they are all there, along with individual shops and stores that offer unique shopping opportunities.

Like I said, most of the expected big-name stores are represented here with outlets and factory stores. The deals here are not earth-shattering, but you can usually find some discount stuff and you just might stumble over something that is a really good deal (I guess that is part of the fun, isn't it?). You should know your prices though before you go, sometimes items in the regular stores back home might be cheaper. Just because they are in an outlet does not automatically mean they are a steal.

The individual stores are more interesting in general, from book shops to antique shops and everything in between. Most cater to and focus on Maine arts and crafts and commodities (maple syrup, woodsy type stuff, lobster stuff), but almost all of them offer something unique that makes them interesting to shop. The prices at these stores are higher than the outlets in general, but you get an opportunity to find some pretty nifty things.

Beyond the Main Street area of Freeport, several other outlet and shopping centers are located right off of the highway exits, but beyond the walking distance of downtown. For these shops, you will have to drive along Route 1 and stop in as you go by.

LL Bean?

Freeport is the home to LL Bean. Not only is the mail-order center located in Freeport, but LL Bean has its flagship retail store in Freeport (basically right in the middle of town) and also has a large outlet store in town.

For anyone who likes LL Bean merchandise, a visit to the flagship store can be like a temporary stay in heaven. Four floors of LL Bean goods from fishing gear to home goods and back around to clothes and outdoor gear. If you have seen it in a catalog, you will find it in the store. It is all here and all available for you to look at, try out and buy.

The outlet store is also a great place to shop for cheaper LL Bean merchandise. This is where they sell overstock, returns and merchandise with slight imperfections. If you are open to getting not quite what you want, then you can find some great deals here.

What else is in Freeport?

Beyond the shopping in Freeport, you will find a collection of restaurants that run the spectrum from simple, easy and fast to more elegant and refined. The prices for meals run anywhere from cheap to expensive.

One interesting place is Freeport's McDonalds. I know, I know McDonalds, how exciting can that be? Well, the entire store was built into an old house on Main Street and the dining area is spread throughout the rooms of the house. It is an interesting experience and I have never seen a McDonalds like it anywhere else.

If you are in the mood for seafood (especially lobster) there are plenty of places to choose from and most diners of any persuasion should find something that interests them.

There are also several different places to stay. They go from simple hotels and motels to nicer bed and breakfasts that are scattered throughout town.


Beyond shopping Freeport does offer visitors some different options. You can take an ocean cruise, visit the nearby desert of Maine (really a big sand dune), enjoy the several nearby state parks, or enjoy tours of historic Freeport.

Honestly though, people go to Freeport to shop and that is what 90% of the visitors there are doing.


Oh it can get crowded in Freeport. On the bigger holiday weekends during the summer and during the holiday season the entire town can seem like a giant parking lot and mass of people as everyone tries to get there to go shopping. During the week and during the more off-season it is significantly less crowded.

Expect traffic jams on busier weekends and when it is really busy. Plan in plenty of time to sit in those jams and to find a parking spot. Otherwise you should not have too much of a problem getting into or out of Freeport.

For more information

For more information on Freeport including traffic, parking and shopping, you can check out these sites, which should give you a good idea of what is there and what to expect:

Town of Freeport's official site -
Freeport, Maine site (tourism) -
LL Bean Flagship Store -
The Maine Guide to Freeport -

Final Thoughts

Freeport makes an excellent destination for people traveling through or visiting Maine who like to shop. It is not too far from Boston and even from the New York metro area, a weekend trip is not out of the question for some varied and interested shopping opportunities.

Yeah, it can be very crowded, but if you plan your trip right, or skip the area on the busiest weekends, you should have a pleasant and enjoyable time in Freeport.

I know when I lived in Maine, I always wanted to go to Freeport (perhaps my wallet did not always want to go though) and it was always a fun trip to try to find some deals. It also helped that my state job gave me a discount at LL Bean, so not only did I get to wander around the store, I could convince myself to buy even more because of my discount.

Now that I no longer live in Maine, I still go back to Freeport, if not to get my fill of all the outlet shopping, then to visit LL Bean. It about a 3 hour trip for me and I usually make a weekend of it with my partner. We will usually either go and visit friends after (or before) shopping and then depending on the season spend the other day hiking or skiing up in the mountains to the north.

I would suggest that for anyone who really likes shopping, Freeport, Maine is definitely worth some of their time.

Originally published on

No comments: