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15 things we miss about going to the mall

Image: Kinney Shoes / YouTube

Ah, the mall! The indoor shopping mall may still (barely) be around, but the experience will never be the same as it was in the 1970s and '80s. Your local suburban mall was the hangout place, especially for teenagers. You could find everything you needed at the mall, from refrigerators to frankfurters.

Where else could you meet the Easter Bunny and go on your first date? Come to think of it, where do kids go on first dates now?

Here are some of the things we miss most about going to the mall. What do you miss?


Free samples at Hickory Farms.

You just don't find as much cheese these days in the mall. With its red barn facade, Hickory Farms stood out in the row of stores. We headed straight for the sample plates, to scarf some cubes of summer sausage before hitting the other shops. Unless we were on a date. Because nobody likes summer-sausage breath.

Image: Hickory Farms / Pinterest


Fiddling with the rainsticks at Natural Wonders.

Ah, the simple, zen pleasures of a hollow log filled with pebbles. Or beans. Or whatever was in those things. Did anyone ever buy a rainstick?

Image: Hayashida Architects


Playing the demo games at Babbage's.

Sure, you could go drop quarters at the arcade (more on that later…) but there was a free way to get your video game kicks. The software stores always had the latest hot Atari / Nintendo / Sega / PlayStation (take your pick based on your generation) game up on a screen. You could mash the controller buttons for a good 30 minutes before anyone really cared.

Image: Babbage's


Getting a Glamour Shot.

No Instagram filter can compare with the excess of soft light and hairspray delivered by Glamour Shots. Sure, they made everyone look like a Mötley Crüe groupie, but what better memento from the '80s?

Image: Glamour Shots / YouTube


When Orange Julius was a little dangerous.

Orange Julius is still around, but it's now a typical smoothie shop. Back in the brown-and-orange days of the 1970s, it was a little edgier. For starters, the brand had this adorable devil logo — until Arizona State University flexed its legal muscle. Some shops had faux-stone walls and torch lights. You could even get a raw egg blended in your drink, until those pesky health concerns cropped up in the 1980s.

Image: Orange Julius / Jeremy R Scott


Playing with every single gizmo in Sharper Image.

Step on the talking scale. Drive the fancy remote-control car. Play "Chopsticks" on the synthesizer. It was like stepping into a Sky Mall catalog.

Image: Sharper Image


Jamming on instruments at the music store.

There were entire movies scenes built around this practice in the 1980s — Beethoven rocking the keys in Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure, Judge Reinhold hammering the drums in Vice Versa. You're starting to get the sense we missed all the free stuff you could do in the mall. Free entertainment!

Image: Orion Pictures


Going for the high score at the arcade.

The mall wasn't all about free samples. If you did have some change burning a hole in your pocket, Aladdin's Castle was the chain of choice for quarter-eaters. We dumped many piggy banks into Donkey Kong, Gauntlet and Joust cabinets.

Image: allincolorforaquarter


Crawling through the hole in The Children's Place.

Granted, this was only okay to do if you were a toddler, but the memory — the feel of the well-worn indoor carpeting — has stayed with us. Some locations even had a slide inside. 

Image: Pinterest


An entire wall of cassettes.

Just look at all those tapes! Why do we miss cassettes? Despite the inferior sound quality, they were cheap and durable. You could toss a tape around in your car without worrying about a scratch.

Image: Camelot Music / YouTube


Buying T-shirts out of the trunk of a VW Beetle.

It was a clever if strange gimmick for Gadzooks. The clothing chain parked a Volkswagen inside each store, with the trunk (or, well, hood) popped up and stuffed with tees.

Image: Ghost of Retailer's Past


Air conditioning / heating.

Ah, the simple pleasures of controlled air temperature. It was always hovering around 71º in the mall. Some of us grew up in the South, some in the North. No matter the weather outside, the mall was a place to walk around without a coat or umbrella. So many malls today are outdoor malls. Hey, it rains!


Going to movies inside the mall.

Massive multiplexes can be found near malls, or in the parking lots of malls. We miss the more modest three-screen cinemas that opened directly into the mezzanine. You could head straight from the food court into Return of the Jedi.

Image: WKSU


Riding these things.

Okay, now were are going way back. To when we were wee ones. Dropping a coin into this silly, bone-shaking device was like an instant trip to Disneyland. We also liked the rows and racks of bubblegum machines stacked near at the mall exits. You could always talk mom or dad out of that pocket change left over from that Great Steak and Potato meal.


The tranquil sound of Muzak and fountains.

Forget a white noise machine. We want a mall noise machine to lull us to sleep.

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