15 things we miss about going to the mall

Glamour Shots and Hickory Farms forever!

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?

1. 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

2. 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

3. 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

4. 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

5. 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

6. 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

7. 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

8. 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

9. 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

10. 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

11. 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

12. 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!

13. 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

14. 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.

15. The tranquil sound of Muzak and fountains.


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

SEE MORE: 12 extinct mall stores you will never shop at again


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idkwut2use 36 months ago
I have a rainstick. But I got it at a fair or like, side-of-the-road market type of place. The Sharper Image is fun. My favorite place to see a wall of cassettes (and I’ve kept all of mine) was Bradlees, which was just sheer heaven on earth. One of my strangely close-to-each-other malls has a dine-in theater attached, and i think you might actually be able to enter it from the main area. Love the last two. Most of what I miss about the mall would hail from the 90s and 00s…WB store, Delia*s, Limited Too, KB Toys, Suncoast, Sam Goody, Discovery Channel store, Waldenbooks, etc…
RobChapman 60 months ago
My local mall has a arcade. Or, should I say, they have an arcade...again. It's more like a mini Dave & Buster's though.

Our mall has a modern Century multiplex that actually does open directly into the food court. Of course, you still can't bring mall food into the theater. I imagine people try to hide their Panda Express or Chipotle in their jackets.

And we still have those car rides AND candy/gum machines.
chairdesklamp 61 months ago
The Metrion in San Fransisco had a Sony Store until just a few years ago where you could still play free demos. Sony owned the complex, but has since sold it, and it's a boutique mall now like any other. When I get back up there, I'll know for sure, but as of 2014, the third floor was a movie theatre.

I'm not gonna be in SoCal for much longer, but there's a bowling alley with a few arcade machines, including Pac-Man, in Westminster.

Raw egg never killed us back then. Remember when it was the healthiest thing you could eat? I don't like the texture of raw egg whites, but I still lick the beaters when making cake :)

I really do miss Camelot, but that could just as well be a picture of my private tape collection. Sure, there's wow and flutter, but it's cosy to me. And my favourite thing IS the durability. You import a CD from France for 40$ only to have it not last six plays, but you can SIT ON a tape and it's fine.
RobChapman chairdesklamp 60 months ago
Metreon used to be awesome. The Sony Store, Discovery Channel Store, the "Where the Wild Things Are" and "The Ways Things Work" areas that had animatronics, the Airtight Garage Arcade & Hyperbowl. Now it's just an AMC theater, Target & an overpriced food court.
pumkinheadfan 70 months ago
I miss KB Toys! They were in all the malls. I also remember the short lived WB Store! Not going to miss the MSRP priced Suncoast, but when you're looking for something and the movie stores didn't have it. They all most always did!
Amalthea pumkinheadfan 66 months ago
Unless you get a clueless clerk. I was looking for the movie "American Pop" by Ralph Bakshi. I described the movie in detail to the clerk and he had the nerve to tell me that no such movie existed.
psb1969 Amalthea 60 months ago
Wow! What clueless idiot! He should have just said they don't carry it or he cannot find it. He just assumed it doesn't exist.
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