You've done the beach, you've taken that family trip, and the kids are headed back to school. For some, that means a renewal of wardrobe, for others a renewed interest in nature after spending time, inert, beneath beach umbrellas or inside air-conditioned spaces. Good thing there are day trips to satisfy both urges.
When even the most compulsive shoppers among us feel the need to curb spending, outlet centers are as beguiling as forests at the peak of fall foliage. Off-price centers with names that evoke town greens ("commons") and dusty road intersections ("crossings") are no longer regarded as dumping grounds for last-year's fashions and have become tourist attractions for bargain-hungry visitors from around the globe.
Generally situated outside city limits, mostly in rural areas, they make for perfect dual-purpose destinations. Choose one (or all three) of these outlets, then add a scenery-studded attraction to accessorize one great day trip.
498 Red Apple Ct., Central Valley, N.Y.; 845-928-4000, premiumoutlets.com
The Poppa Bear of outlet malls, Woodbury Common boasts a head-spinning 220 stores, with some of the highest-end designers on our list. Naturally, there's Ralph Lauren Polo and Coach, but also Prada, Armani, Jimmy Choo, and the world's only Tom Ford outlet. Jack Spade, Canali and Breitling will be opening later this year.
Just window-shopping at all of these stores will take the good part of a day, but save time for at least one nearby attraction. Storm King Art Center (845-534-3115, stormking.org, $12 adults, $8 kids), an outdoor sculpture park six miles away in Mountainville, showcases massive steel, wood and stone artworks by Roy Lichtenstein, Alexander Calder, Henry Moore, Isamu Noguchi and others in a bucolic 500-acre setting of undulating fields and forests. It's the consummate leg stretcher after all that confinement in fitting rooms, and so thoroughly interactive that you can climb on and squeeze through some of the most engaging works of art. For optimal viewing, rent a bike ($10 an hour, $40 a day on weekends).
Alternately, visit Museum Village in Monroe (845-782-8248, museumvillage.org, $10 adult, $8 kids), four miles away -- a wonderfully accessible living history museum. Kids never tire of learning how the world worked before computers and cellphones. Help dip candles, watch a blacksmith clang on his anvil, and observe weavers and typesetters in action. Open weekends only in the fall, Museum Village is an often-overlooked treasure.
THE CROSSINGS PREMIUM OUTLETS
1000 Premium Outlets Dr., Tannersville, Pa.; 570-629-4650, premiumoutlets.com
The only outlet center in the Poconos region, The Crossings Premium Outlets charges zero tax on all clothing and footwear. So shop the 100 stores that include Banana Republic, BCBG Max Azria, Calvin Klein, Cole Haan, DKNY, Guess, J. Crew, Michael Kors and the new White House Black Market among dozens of others, confident that your bill will be free of tariffs.
Though the Poconos were once identified with cheesy heart-shaped tubs and champagne-glass Jacuzzis, they always have been known for their arboreal splendor. There's no way to feel more at peace after a frenetic morning of shopping than by immersion in the wonders of the Delaware Water Gap National Recreation Area (nps.gov/dewa/index.htm), where you can drive, hike, bike, fish and paddle through 70,000 acres of protected land. With more than 100 miles of well-marked trails along streams, waterfalls, ridges and mountainsides, and small historic hamlets accessed by 200 miles of roads, folks of every ability can commune with nature here.
Outside of the National Recreation Area on Route 209, Bushkill Falls (visitbushkillfalls.com, $11 adult, $6 kids 4-10), known as "The Niagara of Pennsylvania," is one of the Poconos' best-known scenic attractions. (Though with its highest waterfall a 100-foot drop, not quite as imposing as the 167-foot Niagara). Hike two miles of trails, decks, bridges and boarded walkways to see all eight sparkling waterfalls, some of the wispy "bridal veil" variety and all very doable in a morning or afternoon.
CLINTON CROSSING PREMIUM OUTLETS
20-A Killingworth Tpke., Clinton, Conn.; 860-664-0700, premiumoutlets.com
With 70 stores, Clinton Crossing Premium Outlets is the largest outlet center in Connecticut, but the smallest on this list. Easy to get through in a few hours or less, you'll find the usual suspects (adidas, Nike, Talbots, Nautica, Kate Spade) and, coming this winter, Hanna Andersson, purveyor of comfy baby, child and mommy clothing.
Here on the Connecticut shoreline, the big attractions are water, beach and salt marsh, and part of the fun can be getting here. Want to cut drive time, enjoy the sea air and really feel as if you are on vacation? Book a spot on the Bridgeport/Port Jefferson Ferry (88844ferry.com, $54 car and driver, $15 each extra adult, kids younger than 12 free), and feel the wind in your hair as you cross Long Island Sound in a bit more than an hour. Then, it's just another 45 minutes straight up I-95 to exit 63.
After shopping, get even closer to our favorite estuary; rent a kayak, life vest and laminated map at the Indian River Marina on Commerce Street in Clinton (860-664-3704, indrivmar.com, $16 an hour, $66 a day), then paddle down the winding, willow-lined Indian River into Clinton Harbor and up the grassy Hammonasset River. You'll glide among ospreys, herons, cormorants and a other shore birds.
Need a snack? Head down Commerce Street to one of the last authentic lobster shacks in Connecticut, Lobster Landing (860-669-2005). Open through early winter, discover what aficionados consider the most sublime lobster roll on the planet. Unlike its mayo'd cousin "down East," the Connecticut version is a simple toasted hoagie roll brimming with chunks of fresh-caught-and-steamed lobster drizzled with melted butter ($15).
If the weather isn't picture perfect for a paddle, try the French countryside -- or as close as you can get to it, at Chamard Vineyard (chamard.com, $10 tour and tasting), a winery that yields 6,000 cases of chardonnay, merlot and cabernet sauvignon a year. Visitors can sample these and other vintages in an elegant tasting room within a rustic-yet-refined stone barn or outside on a patio with radiant views of the vineyards.