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Pedestrian Malls in the United States: Fun Places to Shop and Dine

Updated on February 9, 2014
Shop, shop, and shop some more!
Shop, shop, and shop some more! | Source

Most shopping malls in the United States are indoors. Typically, there are a few "anchor" department stores that are connected by smaller, specialty stores. Somewhere along the way, there is a food court where people gather to take a break from shopping and eat fast food.

Some shopping malls in the United States are outdoors, but set up very much like the indoor ones, with anchor department stores and smaller specialty stores. The only difference would be that they are out in the open air rather than in one gigantic building.

The rarest type of shopping "mall" is the pedestrian mall. In the United States, most of these malls are not set up so that there are some "anchor" department stores and smaller specialty stores. Pedestrian malls are blocks of boutique-y shops and other chain stores that line both sides of the street. The unique feature of pedestrian malls lies in the name: no cars run along the street. The street itself is usually paved with special artistic designs or bricked for a quaint feel. The stores and restaurants can be ones you would find in a regular mall, but local merchants are also sprinkled in along the way.

Pedestrian malls tend to be lined with water fountains and street performers as well, making the shopping experience even more entertaining than usual.

Santa Monica's Third Street Prominade
Santa Monica's Third Street Prominade | Source

Third Street Promenade

Santa Monica, CA

The Third Street Promenade in southern California is only a few blocks from the Santa Monica Pier and the Pacific Ocean. This pedestrian mall is extremely convenient as there are seven parking garages around its perimeter. Vehicles are prohibited along the mall's three block stretch, allowing people to meander back and forth between the stores without any worries of getting run over. The mall runs on Third Street from Santa Monica Place (an indoor mall) and Wilshire Boulevard.

The promenade is known for its interesting water fountains, street performers, eclectic dining options, and trendy stores. Upscale stores like Gap, Banana Republic, the Pottery Barn, and Guess are just a small sampling of the shopping options available along the mall. In addition to these chain stores, locally owned boutique-y like stores can also be found in this three block stretch. It is hard to believe that this part of town used to be dilapidated and housed boarded-up or run-down store fronts.

Hollywood A-Listers and athletic superstars can be seen wandering around as well. Kobe Bryant, Meryl Streep, Jane Fonda, and Jennifer Aniston frequent the restaurants on a regular basis.

Third Street Promenade

A markerThird Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA -
3rd Street Promenade, Santa Monica, CA, USA
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The Pedestrian Mall in Santa Monica, CA

Denver's 16th Street Mall
Denver's 16th Street Mall | Source

16th Street Mall

Denver, CO

Downtown Denver's 16th Street Mall stretches 16 blocks along 16th Street from Union Station to Broadway.  The only vehicles allowed along this mall are police cars and the environmentally friendly shuttles that run the length of the mall and stop at every block along the way.  This convenient service allows shoppers and diners a free way to travel along the mall.  Pedestrians just have to watch out for the shuttles, but otherwise, they are free to roam on the street between stores.  In addition, the mall recently became a wireless hotspot, allowing internet users the ability to get online anywhere along the mall.

Many convenient Denver sights surround the mall, including the Denver Performing Arts Complex, the Denver Convention Center, The Pepsi Center ~ Home of the Nuggets and Avalanche, and Coors Field, where the Rockies play.

Street performers and vendors line this pedestrian mall, providing shoppers and diners with entertainment along the way.  Many of the restaurants have patio seating where diners can enjoy the fresh air during warmer months.  Some of the more popular restaurants include Paradise Bakery, Hard Rock Cafe, Rock Bottom Brewery.  For shoppers, some of the more popular stores include Virgin Records Megastore, Gap, and Nike Town.

16th Street Mall

A marker16th Street Mall, Denver, CO -
16th Street Mall, Denver, CO, USA
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Iowa City's Ped Mall
Iowa City's Ped Mall | Source

Ped Mall

Iowa City, IA

In downtown Iowa City, there is a Pedestrian Plaza that locals refer to as the Ped Mall.  This tree-lined plaza is home to many local specialty stores.  People meander around the plaza to enjoy the dining, shopping, and entertainment options.  Street performers and vendors are sprinkled along the way.  This plaza area lies within the boundaries of Washington & Burlington Streets, and Clinton & Linn Streets.

A variety of people utilize the Ped Mall, ranging from students and locals to transients and homeless.  In the summertime, large crowds gather in the plaza for the Friday Night Concert Series and the Iowa City Jazz and Arts Festivals.

The Iowa City Ped Mall features a variety of restaurants, bars, shops, hotels, and the public library.

Ped Mall

A markerPed Mall, Iowa City, IA -
Iowa City, IA, USA
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Charlottesville's Downtown Mall
Charlottesville's Downtown Mall | Source

The Downtown Mall

Charlottesville, VA

The Downtown Mall in Charlottesville, VA has been dubbed one of "the finest urban parks" in the United States. It is, in fact, one of the most successful pedestrian malls in the country.  This mall, in the heart of Charlottesville, houses over 120 stores and 30 restaurants and runs along Old Main Street. On the east end of the mall, visitors will find the Virginia Discovery Museum. The museum provides children of all ages with a hands-on experience.

People who visit this pedestrian mall can enjoy the many restaurants, boutiques, chain stores, and specialty shops. In addition, there are also places for movie-goers and ice-skaters to hang out as well. There is ample parking around the mall with two-hour validations from most vendors.

The Downtown Mall is also home to many entertainment venues. Visitors can watch plays, go to concerts, or simply walk around these sites. From spring to fall, visitors can enjoy outdoor concerts at the newly opened Charlottesville Pavilion. The Paramount is a historic theater that houses comedy acts and muscial performances. There is also a Live Arts community theater at the mall where full-season productions and educational clinics are held throughout the year.

The Downtown Mall

A markerThe Downtown Mall, Charlottesville, VA -
Regal Cinemas Downtown Mall 6, 200 W Main St, Charlottesville, VA 22902, USA
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In the last forty years, over 200 pedestrian malls were built in the United States.  Today, only about 30 of them remain.  Many of them were built with the intentions of revitalizing failing commercial districts.  In some cases, like the four malls mentioned above, the community has thrived on the changes made.  In other cases, the concept just simply didn't fly.

Pedestrian malls are a great alternative to the closed, self-contained malls, providing visitors with fresh air and entertainment as the dine and shop.

Other Successful Pedestrian Malls

  • Pearl Street Mall ~ Boulder, CO
  • City Center ~ Oakland, CA
  • The River Walk ~ San Antonio, TX
  • State Street Mall ~ Madison, WI
  • St. George Street ~ St. Augustine, FL


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