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15 Vintage Shopping Mall Photos That'll Make You Nostalgic

With so many shopping centers gone, take a look back at the era of malls with these vintage photos.

At a time when online shopping is eclipsing traditional retail and malls are shuttering for good, we thought we'd take a look back at the days when family mall trips reigned supreme. Malls used to be the best options to find the latest fashion and technology, and to get all of your holiday shopping done in time. For new mothers, they were an inviting place to stroll with their baby carriages and remain social, and mallrat teens practically lived in them on the weekends. Here we take a look back at the décor, events, and stores of the past in these vintage mall photos from the '50s through the turn of the 21st century.

This Santa's Village

Andre Jenny/Alamy

It's always been an exciting time of year when Santa's Village sets up shop in the center of the mall. Nowadays Santa's operations are pretty high tech and reservations are the norm, but back in 2000 at the Lenox Square Mall in Atlanta, Georgia, it was likely still first come, first served, and the wait time to have your picture taken with Santa could have been well over an hour.

This indoor theme park

Jim West/Alamy

With over 500 stores, an aquarium, and 2 theme parks, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, is an experience. In this archival image, we get a glimpse of the Camp Snoopy indoor theme park which eventually became Nickelodeon Universe in 2006.

These escalators

Andre Jenny / Alamy Stock Photo

Formerly the Galleria Shopping Mall, this four story mall in downtown Rochester, Minnesota, first opened to the public in 1989, and is now known as the Shops At University Square.

This mall car

Courtesy of the City of Hampton, VA

Ah yes, the mall car sweepstakes. They still continue to this day, and tend to feature expensive sports cars that it's hard to believe anyone actually wins. This brand new Honda was on display at the Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Virginia, in the mid 1970s.

These Fourth of July decorations

Jeffrey Blackler/Alamy

This unnamed mall, photographed in 1995, appears to have been patriotically decorated for the Fourth of July. Holidays of all kinds have always been important for malls hoping to draw in crowds of shoppers looking to save big with holiday sales.

This forgotten chain

Courtesy of the City of Hampton, VA

The first Fashion Bug opened in New Jersey in 1960. The one in this photograph from the 1970s was located in the Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Virginia. The popular chain of stores lasted until 2013, when the last Fashion Bug closed for good.

This retro décor


Although photographed more recently in 2017, this Bozeman, Montana, Target Food Avenue Express still has its design from the '90s, making it an unexpected time capsule for mall eatery décor.

This food court

Carol M Highsmith/Library of Congress

Famed photographer Carol Highsmith captured this food court in an unnamed mall in 1980. Highsmith set out to photograph malls in different states and created quite a fun historical record for American shoppers.

This mall bench

Blake Patterson/Flickr

You can make out a Waldenbooks in this '70s-era image from the Coliseum Mall in Hampton, Virginia, which also highlights the importance of those middle-of-the-mall benches as a place for shoppers to either rest their feet before continuing on, or to wait for shopaholic loved ones.

This skating rink

Carol M Highsmith/Library of Congress

Larger malls have often boasted activities other than shopping, like amusement parks, movie theaters, and even skating rinks. This 1980 photo was taken at the Galleria Mall in Houston, Texas, by Highsmith.

This celebrity mall tour stop

Barry King/Alamy

Celebrities promoting projects via mall tours was a popular marketing ploy in the '80s and '90s: Fans flocked to their local malls in droves to see their favorite actors and musicians. In this photo, actors Boyd Kestner, Jay R. Ferguson, David Arquette, Rodney Harvey, Harold Pruett, and Robert Rusler draw a large crowd as they promote the Outsiders TV series at the Sherman Oaks Galleria in Sherman Oaks, California in 1990.

This fashion show

Community Archives/Flickr/Public Domain

Another popular event to draw in shoppers in the '80s and '90s was the fashion show, with local kids and teens showcasing the clothing available within the shopping center's stores. Here, two dressed-up little girls walk down a runway at the Quinte Mall in Canada in 1992.

This mall fountain

Carol M Highsmith/Library of Congress

The focal point of Highsmith's image of the Georgetown Park shopping mall in Washington, D.C., in the '80s is the impressive fountain. In the days before cell phones, friends and family splitting up to get their shopping done would pick a location to meet back up. Fountains, which seemed like a feature of just about every mall in the '80s, were always a good, central location to serve as the meeting point.

This outdoor space

Heritage Image Partnership Ltd/Alamy

This image of the outdoor Gulfgate Shopping City in Houston, Texas, was taken in 1956, giving viewers a glimpse into the look and feel of an early shopping center. That same year, the Southdale Center, which is considered the first indoor mall in the United States, opened in Edina, Minnesota.

These '90s stores

Black Star/Alamy

While not technically a mall, this 1999 photograph of shoppers on 57th street in New York City is still a great historical record of the kind of stores shoppers gravitated toward at the end of the 20th century. These days, one would expect to see an Apple store selling Apple Watches, as opposed to a standalone Swatch storefront.

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