The Quick Report

15 Things We Miss About Going to the Mall

While a handful of malls still exist, the format has largely faded into obscurity due to the rise of online shopping and the erosion of the middle class. Still, we can fondly remember all the weird and cool things that made malls a fun place to hang out in all those years ago!

Free Samples

a white plate topped with meatballs and ketchup
Photo by Ric Matkowski via Unsplash

Who doesn’t love free food, huh? There was nothing quite like sauntering through the food court and trying free samples from every restaurant. How else would you know which variety of orange chicken was going to be to your liking?

Massage Chairs

brown and black leather backpack on white wooden table
Photo by via Unsplash

If your back got tense while you were walking through the mall, you could always dig out a few quarters to feed to a massage chair. These weird, vibrating devices would help loosen up your muscles and make you look silly in public all at once. That’s a steal for a quarter!

Demo Games

Image via Openverse

Whether it was EB Games or Babbage’s or even GameStop, the mall always had some kind of video game store. And that store always had demo games you could stop and play. What was more, the employees would usually let you just play for hours without saying a word.

Photo Booths

woman in black dress standing on brown brick floor
Photo by JOYUMA via Unsplash

Getting your buddies (or your mall date!) into the photo booth for a few silly pictures was the peak of the mall visit. Many people who grew up in the era of malls still have pictures from these booths that are crystallized cherished memories in celluloid form.

Bizarre Food Stands

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If you ever wanted to get an infused orange juice, a weirdly big pretzel, and a cake-sized cookie all at the same time, you had to go to the mall. There was always some kind of weird food stand you could drop by to try out some odd new item.

People Watching

aerial photography of mall interior
Photo by Viktor Bystrov via Unsplash

One of the easiest and cheapest thrills of being at the mall was just people watching. Whether you were on the lookout for potential new friends or eager to crib stylish peoples’ fashion choices, there was plenty of good observation to be made in the public forum of the mall.

Trying New Instruments

person playing guitar
Photo by Jefferson Santos via Unsplash

Most malls had some kind of music store, and these stores all featured full-scale instruments you could play. Banging around on a drum set or plinking away tunelessly at a guitar was a rite of passage for dorky kids in the mall.

Arcade Games

gaming room with arcade machines
Photo by Carl Raw via Unsplash

The arcade was the place to be in the mall if you were a competitive person. Putting their quarter up on the fighting game cabinet was the closest thing most nerds got to really trading blows with villains like their favorite superheroes!

Meeting Friends

people walking on the street during daytime
Photo by Kleomenis Spyroglou via Unsplash

Back in the day, walking around the mall with your buddies was usually the cheapest way to spend an afternoon in an air-conditioned building. That was pivotal when school was out, because otherwise you’d just be outside burning up in the hot summer sun.

Buying Music

person taking photo of assorted vinyl album
Photo by Florencia Viadana via Unsplash

Believe it or not, at one point in time you would buy albums, not subscriptions that give you access to every song ever recorded. Choosing the right album from the right band was important, because you wouldn’t have enough money to listen to everything! The record stores in the mall always had the best music to choose from.

Shopping for Band T-shirts

a man in a black shirt is holding a frisbee
Photo by Chandan Chaurasia via Unsplash

Speaking of the dynamics of choosing what band to listen to, the financial investment in those bands often led fans to deeply ingrain the band’s image into their personalities. That’s where the band T-shirts came in, and the best of these were always available at the mall.

Hot Topic

Image via Openverse

The crown jewel of the mall for a generation of alt-rock fans and goth kids was Hot Topic. From edgy band T-shirts to studded belts and outlandish pants, this was the store to check for your must-have goth apparel.

Movies in the Mall

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This one is going to blow a few youngsters’ minds: there used to be movie theaters inside the mall. No, there weren’t theaters nearby, or in the same parking lot. These were smaller, three-screen multiplexes that were contained in the same building as the food court and department stores!

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Food Court Food

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The food court was once a one-stop shop for any kind of cuisine you were in the mood for. Where else could you go to get Japanese food, cheesesteaks, wraps, giant pretzels, and pizzas all in the same room? The flexibility alone made it worth the somewhat inflated prices.

Read More: These 20 Restaurants Are Closing in 2024 

Enjoying the Ambiance

woman riding escalator
Photo by freestocks via Unsplash

Above all, walking around the mall just had a unique ambiance to it. The fountains, the weird elevator music playing over the loudspeaker, and the clash of the aggressively corporate image with the decidedly alternative crowds all came together to make hanging at the mall a one-of-a-kind experience.

Read More: These 20 Stores Are Closing in 2024