When I was 16 years old, I worked at an American Eagle Outfitters—one of the first to make the frigid journey northward to Canada. To some of you sensible people, this may not seem like an entirely significant life event, but I assure you the two shifts a week I spent folding hoodies, unlocking change rooms, and eating food court muffins greatly improved my station in the world. I lived in the outer suburbs; the mall was all people had to do. Everybody who was somebody worked at the mall. To us, it was a veritable piazza—even though you could see a bunch of cows and a broken tractor from the parking lot. Suburban retail changed my life. One week, I was a nerd breeding African Clawed Frogs for extra credit in science class, the next I was at a keg party in a field dressed like Felicity and talking to boys. I quit three months later and never went to a party again, but it was a good run, no?
When I learned that my mall adventures would take me 20 minutes down the interstate to the Cool Springs Galleria, I was thrilled. The suburban mall is my comfort zone. Sure, things are a little different now. I’m old, tired, and saddled down by a toddler with an unquenchable thirst for public displays of fury, but maybe this pilgrimage would bring me back to the olden days—back when I wore platform boots and mega flares…and my boobs were the same size.
The Cool Springs Galleria is really only a handful of miles outside of the city center, but it feels like a whole other world. People were just at the mall to be at the mall. Nobody was in a rush, everybody was nice, and there were just enough high school-ers milling about to satisfy my nostalgic longings without ticking me off. They have a fantastic mix of stores, a killer food court, and super laid back Santa experience for the kiddos (but—let’s be honest—it’s mostly for the parents). Friends, I am happy to report that despite the fact that I’ve evolved, the suburban shopping experience is exactly how I left it.
Everybody can shop here. Everybody. In suburbia, they don’t mess around with the super high-end stores, nor do they stock the roster with the overzealous, criminally discounted ones where they spell Everything! With! Exclamation! Points! on the signage. The Galleria has a giant (bordering on ridiculous) range of mid-priced stores, just a bunch of good, ol’ utilitarian shopping mall fare. You can buy a bra, a tin of peppermint bark, some prescription glasses, and find out your sleep number. In my opinion, this is how a mall should be. It’s mildly intimidating, but you don’t wonder if you’ll make it out alive. My darling son was coming down from a bit of a sugar bender due to some colossal parenting mistakes at Great American Cookies, so our visit was erm…abbreviated, but he was still able to help me come up with a few good kiddie picks (when he wasn’t melting into a pool of sucrose and his own tears).
Here are our favorites:
- So, Build-A-Bear…through the eyes of an adult, the whole thing is just a little Frankenstein-y, am I right? The unstuffed bear guts just sitting there in the machine, the empty plush pelts just hanging around, the jar of plastic eye balls soaking in formaldehyde…(okay, the last one is a blatant lie, but you see where I’m going with this). To a grown up admittedly looking for reasons to not Build-An-Anything, it’s all a little bit unsettling. To a child, however, this is crafting at it’s best. Build-A Bear is a great way to bring a little imagination into the toy purchasing process. I saw plenty of parents and children dreaming up their perfect teddies, and honestly, it was a display of family cuteness that was positively ovary revving. I’m surprised I didn’t pop out another kid right then and there.
- Now this is my kind of toy!
Head over to Toys R Us Express, and get the little hustler in your life started early. (Remember, it doesn’t count as gambling unless there’s money on the line!)
I LOVE this pared down version of the giant, hulking standalone store. Our experiences at BIG Toys R Us often involve a lot of crying and wasting money. Express is a little bit less of a circus for a kiddie brain to absorb.
- Oh, Pottery Barn, you never let me down. Even though I’ve never ever bought any furniture here, I can always find reasonable little trinkets that don’t require batteries for the fam around the holidays. If you’re in the market for some cute stocking stuffers, this is the place to go.
Some sweet little wooden dice for the kiddies to roll around
A hammered steel flask for mommy
- This one is a future pick: if there’s one place that makes me even more nervous than Build-a-Bear, it’s American Girl. Cool Springs will be getting it’s very own retail location in Spring of 2015, and I can tell you right now—things are going to be a little “Beatles coming to America” up in there. My childhood doll had green hair, a lazy eye, and no teeth, so I can’t entirely relate to a tiny plastic play human named Kitt Kittridge (who has a perfectly freckled nose and a winning attitude, of course). Now, if they make a doll named Diane Keaton, who always wears pants and kicks ass, I’ll be on board. Grumblings aside, these dolls are wildly popular—so popular that many of them command a whopping $115 for purchase.
(I’m giving you a moment to process the sticker shock.)
If there’s a little doll lover in your house, and your heart and wallet are both positively over-stuffed this Spring, these beautifully made American Girls are sure to be a massive hit.
Word to the wise: Do NOT go on an antique carousel if you’re suffering from morning sickness. It’s basically a centrifuge with horses.
To those of you who aren’t drowning in their own hormones, I can’t recommend this old school pony parade enough. It is small enough for even the teeniest of toddlers to sit comfortably, and the duration of the ride is much longer than average. I can say things like that now that I have extensive shopping mall carousel experience. Wilder recommends the goat whom (he promises) is much tamer than he looks. ($2.50 per ride.)
If, like mine, your child finds positively no comfort in the plush confines of a stroller, the Galleria has a pretty sweet, very roomy play area to let him/her let off a little steam while you sit down and search desperately for a tiny puff of energy for yourself. They have slides galore and a colossal hot air balloon which captivates even the most frenetic of two-year-old minds.
There was one caveat: big kids.
Pre-nagers, I think it’s safe to say that if you’re old enough to read the Hunger Games trilogy, it’s time to hang up your (size ten) playground shoes.
The collective mother bear snarling from the peanut gallery was audible, but still those pesky big kids continued clothes-lining each other and screaming about zombies, their gangly limbs narrowly missing the little ones who scurried around wide-eyed and oblivious to their own peril.
Word to the wise: It’s probably best to visit early, before the manlings start playing MMA on the baby toys.
They have a Santa Lounge. Seriously. I mean, I’m sure they use it for non-festive lounging in the off season, but sure enough—right outside Santa’s workshop, there are a large cluster of couches and a flat screen television. There are plenty of reasons why one might need to take a lounging break while waiting to take a photograph with St. Nick: maybe your child has spilled apple juice on your cell phone, or maybe you need to eat that bit of granola you found at the bottom of your purse hiding under the tampons. Maybe you just need to sit down, take a breath, and remind yourself that Christmas is almost over. Whatever the reason, it’s nice to take a little break now and then.
Check it out, even Santa’s lounging:
(Do you think he’s talking to babes on snapchat in there? I kid!)
To make the Santa process even easier, the clever folks at the Galleria offer online Fast Pass packages that allow you to skip the line (!!!!!!!)
Less time waiting; more time lounging. Merry Christmas to YOU.
For pricing, hours and more info click here.
Maybe “Mecca” is a little bit strong, but bear in mind—they have Sbarro, a Smoothie King, AND a crepe place (French-pancakes-with-things-inside!!!!!!). If you’ve tagged along on any of my other retail excursions, you’ll know that I love a good food court—the squelch of tiny ketchup packets and clatter of plastic trays on plastic tables are sweet, sweet music to my ears. Cool Springs, your food court is world-stinking-class. I was going to get one of those taco salads from Cocina (you know, the ones that are secretly terrible for you, but since most of the terrible is covered in lettuce, it’s okay?), but my son had other ideas.
This is as close as I got to flavor country. 🙁
Unfortunately, Wilder does not seem to share my affinity for carefully stalking the optimal table like a crazed tiger shark. Nor does he enjoy collecting tiny condiments. So, we left hungry. If your little dude/ette isn’t feeling the crowds of the food court, go to Sliced instead. It’s a super-healthy option located downstairs near Belk that serves salads, sandwiches, and soups. They have got lots of kid friendly “sammiches” and salads that are—tragically—all artery-friendly. Sliced is a great option for a quick bite if the food court is too overwhelming, and you need a little peace and quiet.
There are plenty of dining options in Cool Springs Crossings outside the mall, but I promise—you totally don’t need them.
Well, y’all. My Christmas shopping is officially over! If you’ve still got a bunch to do, and you feel like you might like to take a delightful voyage down I-65, give the Cool Springs Galleria a try. I’ll be the one staring wistfully at the American Eagle Outfitters and reliving my glory days while my child glares impatiently at me and screams for another “fwosty cookie”.