While a lot of people labor under the misapprehension that all malls are the same, nothing could be further from the truth. Sure, most malls share the same stores and floor plans, but each has its own unique personality and character, dependent mostly on where it is and what kind of people shop there. The mall is an American institution. Prepare to be institutionalized!
1101 SuperMall Way, Auburn
The SuperMall doesn't smell like a mall. It smells like a carnival: sweaty children and greasy food, with a faintly septic overtone. The main entrance (one of several) opens to reveal an Astroturf playground crawling with screaming little ankle-biters. A shabby food court lies directly beyond. If the sight of unruly yard apes combined with the brightly lit Hot Dogs and More doesn't immediately send you over the edge, you'll find the SuperMall to be a spare, ramshackle place, about as aesthetically pleasing as a shoe box. The best deals were found at Tools and More, where the Louise Hay "You Can Do It!" calendar is on sale for $6.95 and a convenient pocket massager can be had for only $4.95. The Garden Botanika outlet offered a great special: five eight-ounce bottles of various body scrubs for $5. But I didn't want no scrubs. There is a wondrous As Seen On TV store, as well as the cruelly named The Dress Barn, which plays country/western Muzak on the P.A. Tread with care.
302 Bellevue Way, Bellevue
Over 1.3 million square feet of cell-phone-yakking-yuppie paradise. A disproportionate number of BMWs and SUVs fill the valet-attended parking lot, and all minorities are apparently required to carry Windex. This is the heavy-duty Eddie Bauer/Pottery Barn crowd, and it's rumored that Bill Gates gets his hair done at the Bell Square Supercuts. All the teenagers look like the bastard children of the Spice Girls and the Backstreet Boys, and so do their mothers. Scary!
633 Southcenter Mall Blvd, Tukwila
Southcenter Mall has more square footage than Bell Square (1.6 million), but fewer stores. This is the double-wide trailer home of shopping malls. The rednecks who work and shop here tend to treat any city folk like a two-headed Mexican at a Klan meeting. Wow! I didn't know they still made blue eye-liner!
425 Broadway E, Seattle
This is a mall? Where's the Orange Julius?
600 Pine St, Seattle
Festering like a retail cancer in the heart of downtown is the newest, flashiest, and most pretentious shopping center in metro Seattle -- and quite possibly the world. Imagine Valley of the Dolls meets touch-tone wireless. The feng shui of the place is really out of whack, and it seems the movie theater's floor tilts slightly. Downtown traffic has doubled since Pacific Place opened, and that singular obnoxiousness usually reserved for places like Bell Square is now spreading like a malignancy all over our business district. Please -- somebody do something!
400 Pine St, Seattle
It doesn't host any major department stores, and it's crowded and cramped -- but as malls go, Westlake ain't so bad. The huge third-floor food court is a great place to people-watch, as is the little public square out front. Check out Suncoast Video for a Tae Bo video ($39.95), and Fireside Gallery for expensive tchotchkes. All in all a satisfying, if uneventful, shopping experience.
Northgate Way (just off I-5), Seattle
Despite reports of gang violence in the parking lot and emergency evacuations due to "mysterious odors," Northgate is really just your average run-of-the-mill shopping mall. It may be smaller than other malls, but Northgate features four major department stores and a relaxing earth-tone Santa Fe motif. Its good-sized food court boasts all the requisite favorites, and you'll also find a refreshing lack of screaming kids and sketchy teens. Flirt with the cute boy manning the Hickory Farms kiosk, then look for temporary holiday work at the Adecco job shop (no openings under "sex industry worker" or "glitterati," darn it).