Nashville Christmas — Mall Survival Guide: Rivergate


I know what you think about Rivergate Mall.

Absolutely nothing.

Most of you have forgotten about it completely or never even knew this tiny patch of past-its-glory retail bliss located in Goodlettsville (a mere 10 minutes from downtown) even existed.

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You might think “bliss” is a strong word to use when talking about a near-abandoned shopping mall with bad lighting and no GAP, but consider the following:

On Thursday, November 13, 2014 there were nine people at Rivergate Mall.

Okay, there might have been more than that, but I only SAW nine, and one of them was Santa Claus.

November, y’all. I’m talking about an empty mall in the heat of the pre-holiday panic. No lines, empty (and clean) restrooms, and parking so close you could spit on the mannequins in the Macy’s window (but you really shouldn’t—with so few suspects, they’d figure you out eventually).

Sure, the sheer vacancy of it all might conjure up an uncomfortable zombie apocalypse night terror (you know, the one where you subsist on nothing but cake-scented Yankee Candles for 3 weeks…), but if you’re an agoraphobic scrooge like myself, Rivergate is a veritable holiday shopping fantasy.

Here’s the low down:


Upon entering, it is immediately obvious that you’re not going to bring your Hermès bag here for repairs, but for somebody like me (who, until two years ago, thought that Hermès was a French STD), the glaring lack of opulence really doesn’t matter. For all that they lack in J.Crew chinos and Louis Vuitton trunks, they make up for in kitsch and kiddie fare. Take this for example:


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Do you think they sell many of these on Rodeo Drive? Admit it—you’ve always wanted one. I know I have. C & C Shirtworks  is located right outside the food court. Instead of suiting Junior up in puffy snowman smocking, give him a break, and let him design his own festive t-shirt.

If delightfully cheesy airbrushed t-shirts aren’t (openly) your thing, head over to ABC Toys located right outside of Dillard’s.

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Let me be clear: I am one of those puree-making, left-leaning, wooden-toy-toting eco-parents. At least I try to be. So when I passed the threshold of this store and found myself up to my eyebrows in beautiful Melissa and Doug goodies, high quality art supplies, and sweet, nibble-y baby toys, it was a little bit like Augustus Gloop laying his chubby German eyes on Wonka’s Chocolate River for the first time. Sure, you can find your little lady the odd non-blinking trinket at Target, but this place has some stuff you won’t find at the big box stores.

Look at these guys:

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The clerk would probably prefer that I didn’t come back, but you should definitely check it out.

If you’re in need of a trusty department store, Rivergate is also home to Macy’s, Dillard’s, JC Penny, and Sears.


It could be said that Wilder has had a complicated relationship with Santa Claus in the past:

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Although a medley of my son’s terrified screams and Silver Bells over the mall speakers never fails to fill my heart with a holly jolly glow, I elected to not put my surly toddler on St. Nick’s knee this go round. I wouldn’t have blamed the man in red and his agents if they’d given me the hard sell on a photo op as we passed by. Heck, if I were an elf, I’d have done it! I was, after all, the only person in sight, and these folks have reindeer to feed! Instead of hurling lumps of coal at me after I politely declined, the woman manning the cash asked me if Wilder would like a free visit and high five with Santa to help him get over his fear. Friends, this is a GREAT Santa experience. The staff is patient with even the wariest tot, the set up is beautiful, and the line was non-existent. The head elf swore things would be busy on the weekend, but I suspect there was a hint of optimism there.

Packages start at $22. Go visit them! Mr. Claus is a sweetheart, and Prancer needs a new pair of shoes. Click here for Santa’s hours


Welp. There are a lot of wonderful things about Rivergate, and then—there’s the food. Your best bet is probably Subway, and we all know their bread is made out of running shoes (delicious, delicious running shoes). They have the obligatory international spectrum of food court favourites luring you in with their samples of identical tasting toothpick skewered chicken cubes (Chinese, Japanese, Mexican, Middle Eastern) but nothing that will blow your mind. Now, I don’t object to getting down with some mall gyro now and then, but if you’re pressed for time, you won’t hate yourself for missing out.



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There’s a fine line between being nostalgic and making me feel old (and it’s a dangerous line—ask my husband), but Rivergate’s assortment of whimsical, mostly cash-only kiddie rides from generations past, hits the mark perfectly.

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We can call this stuff vintage, right?

Wilder loved bouncing about in his little red car and honking the unhonkable horn in the ice cream truck. They also have a “Scrub-A-Dub” themed play area, a somewhat rickety carousel located in the food court, and a sweet train outside of JC Penny. There’s something to be said for plunking down a few quarters instead of swiping the credit card, which more than likely, will get plenty of exercise from now through December 25th.

Speaking of coin plunking nostalgia, bet you haven’t seen one of these in awhile:

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It’s an arcade!

Game Galaxy is a great place to show your older kiddies how we used to party in the Stone Age. It’s also a great place to watch grown, perfectly employable men play “Dance, Dance Revolution” at 10 am without a hint of shame.

***There are also plenty of other entertainment options in the Rivergate Center area, including Incredible Dave’s, a movie theatre, and (if you’re feeling especially brave) a Chuck E. Cheese.

Rivergate is admittedly, a more “rustic” experience than say, a day with your personal stylist on 5th Avenue, but it seems like the whole vagrant chic thing is making a bit of a comeback anyway, so why not embrace it fully? Besides, where else are you going to be able to shop peacefully and privately this holiday season? Rivergate Mall is the closest I’ll ever get to the lost city of Atlantis, and I’m not just saying that because it’s old-ish and also doesn’t have valet parking, but rather because tucked deep within the rubble of retail demise, there are some absolute gems.



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