Home Community Friday list: The top 10 places we miss from Valley Fair

Friday list: The top 10 places we miss from Valley Fair


The Friday List is a recurring feature in which we jog memories, spark thoughts and perhaps generate debate in one of the grandest formats devised by man … the almighty list. Are we missing something? Are we dead wrong? Offer your thoughts on the list du jour by heading to the Valley Review’s Twitter or Facebook pages.

Valley Review posted an article on Sunday recalling the opening of the Valley Fair Mall this week 65 years ago. It billed itself the nation’s first shopping mall, had success and eventually made a slow decline due to competition from the bigger and better.Though Valley Fair is gone, it was an important place to many — a place of community just as much as shopping. 

So hey, it’s Friday and we thought we’d take it one step further and explore some of favorite places inside … in list format. Here are our top 10 Valley Fair favorites.

If this seems to be written from the perspective of an 80s kid and 90s teen, you are correct. If you’re older, feel free to share some of your favorites with us through Facebook or Twitter.

The mall interior: The very corridors between shops are worthy, missed and something that’ll never be seen again as part of a shopping experience. It was a carpeted mall, kids, and not only that — it was orange, patterned carpet. There were ashtrays at the garbage receptacles so dudes could crush Marlboros before checking out the latest Tandy home computers at Radio Shack.

Pocket Change: Before the Nintendo Entertainment System, there was only one place to obtain arcade quality entertainment … the arcade! And it remained a great place to drop allowance money one quarter at a time even after good games reached the home television. They had it all, from Pacman to pinball and regularly upgraded to keep their cabinet selection current. 

The T-Shirt Company: There was a time that it wasn’t so easy to score a Metallica T-shirt. And if you were looking for heavy metal back patch for the jean jacket, there was only one place to go. The T-Shirt Company catered beyond metalheads with perhaps one of the finest collections of iron-on designs in the state. And they’d press them onto a T-shirt while you waited.

Godfather’s Pizza: Godfather’s pioneered the pizza buffet in Appleton. It was an excellent pizza at the most excellent of serving sizes — all you can eat. Combined with some video games and a movie, it made for the perfect night out.

Mini Golf: Before Valley Fair, miniature golf was a seasonal sport for the youth of the Fox Valley. That changed when an indoor course opened adjacent to the Kohl’s department store and did a good job of addressing some of that cabin fever during the winter months.

The Right Price: In the interest of feminine perspective, reader Clare suggested the clothing store as one she misses for its price structure in which everything was $10 or less.

Mother’s Ice Cream: Mother’s greeted shoppers just inside the main entrance and at the corner of the corridor leading to the Valley Fair Cinema, Like any good ice cream shop, it created dilemmas through options, though I was partial to blue moon or bubble gum for the opportunity to get two sweet treats in one.

The Golden Griddle: The shopping mall isn’t typically the locale one thinks for a non-chain breakfast/lunch sit-down sort of place. But visits to Valley Fair often included time at the Griddle and if not for breakfast, for loitering over coffee.

The Little Sandwich Theatre in the Mall: Local theater producer Act 2 Ltd. operated a stage inside of Valley Fair in its later years with a regular schedule of theater productions and improv comedy. They’d do dinner theater and did youth theater educational programming in the summer. It was a unique use of the space which created an intimate theater experience. It was a solid contributor to the arts and entertainment scene in the Fox Valley at the time.

Pedro’s: It’s a relatively new phenomenon that the Fox Valley has a dozen or more really great options for Mexican dining. That was not the case in the early 1980s and Pedro’s gave the region a new taste. Chips and salsa before dinner is an expected thing now. Then? Oooooh …

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