There are a lot of ways Americans stress themselves out during the holidays. According to an American Psychiatric Association (APA) survey, adults in the U.S. are five times more likely to experience more stress during the holiday season (41% vs. 7%). While navigating the holidays this year, adults are also highly likely to be worried about shopping: nearly half of adults are concerned about affording (46%) or finding (40%) holiday gifts. Those with an annual income of less than $50,000 appear to be particularly worried about affording holiday gifts (51%) and meals (39%).
With all this stress about holiday gifts, we wondered what other aspects of the shopping experience add to our stress burdens. Specifically, we wanted to know if the chaos associated with parking at a shopping mall contributed to people’s elevated stress levels during the holidays. Read on to learn what we found.
According to SecurePark (a digital parking platform), parking anxiety is “the symptoms caused by anticipating a situation where you’ll be unable to properly park your car or find a spot to park at all in a certain place.”
This description doesn’t quite do justice to the reality: the panic when you’re circling a crowded mall parking lot, dodging shopping carts and other vehicles, horns beeping all around you. You might experience irritability, a pounding heart, shaking hands, cold sweats, or a feeling of impending doom, which is less than helpful when trying to find the perfect spot. Anyone who decided to get a jump start on their holiday shopping by taking advantage of Black Friday sales has likely already experienced this scenario.
To determine which U.S. shopping malls were the most (and least) likely to cause parking anxiety this holiday season, we first gathered data from Statista on the largest mall in the 20 most-populated states. Next, we researched the annual footfall (number of visitors) for each mall, then compared that data with data from Parkopedia on the number of available parking spots at each mall. Lastly, we used Google Trends data to determine each mall's busiest days and times for holiday shopping.
From here, we created a ranking system based on the number of shoppers vs. the number of available parking spaces: the greater the imbalance, the more likely that location would induce parking anxiety. The days and times that attract the most shoppers also play a role in holiday parking stress scores.
The largest mall in the country (and the Western Hemisphere), Mall of America, didn’t make our list because Minnesota is not one of the top 20 states for population size. However, the famous mall, which opened in 1992, is a whopping 5.6 million square feet and has 555 different stores.
Instead, we looked at the biggest mall in the top 20 most populated states (sorted here by square footage):
*Unfortunately, Missouri’s largest mall, The Crossings at Northwest, and Ohio’s Eastwood Mall Complex both closed down in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
South Shore Plaza in Braintree, Massachusetts, has a larger gross leasable area (2.17 million square feet) than 14 of the other malls on our top 20 list, even though Massachusetts is just the 16th largest state (on our list) by population. Meanwhile, Pennsylvania is the 5th largest state by population (nearly 13 million) on our list. Still, Pennsylvania’s largest mall — the King of Prussia Mall in King of Prussia, PA — ended up being the 2nd largest mall on our top 20 list (2.67 million square feet).
New Jersey, the 11th most-populated state (9.27 million), has the largest mall (3.3 million square feet); located in East Rutherford, it’s simply called American Dream. Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, Virginia, is the smallest mall on our list (just 1.17 million square feet).
At this point in our analysis, it was still undetermined just how much the square footage of a given mall impacted its overall potential for inducing parking anxiety during the holidays. Just because a mall is big doesn’t mean it’s popular. When we dug a little deeper, we found a correlation between size overall and the likelihood that visitors will experience parking anxiety — but that wasn’t the whole story.
By comparing the available parking spots at each mall to the total number of annual visitors, we ranked our top 20 malls in terms of their potential to induce parking anxiety. Each mall’s ranking is based on the hypothetical number of visitors per year per parking spot. Malls with higher scores here have more competition for parking, either through fewer spots or more annual visitors.
America's most anxiety-inducing malls in terms of parking availability (from most competition to least) are:
(Note: Ohio’s and Missouri’s largest malls were not included on this list given their recent closures.)
Attracting approximately 3,636 visitors per available parking space — and 40 million total visitors per year — is American Dream in East Rutherford, New Jersey. It’s the largest mall (based on square footage) and was also determined to be the most anxiety-inducing mall when it comes to parking availability. The Galleria in Houston, Texas, is number two on our list. They provide the most parking spaces for their visitors overall (13,000) and have the second highest number of total visitors per year (31 million), but came in 9th in terms of square footage (2.01 million).
Castleton Square in Indianapolis, Indiana, was determined to have the lowest number of visitors per parking space per year (182), making it the mall least likely to induce holiday-related parking anxiety. This could be because this relatively average-sized complex (1.38 million square feet) attracts the fewest annual visitors of all the malls on our list (just 1.2 million).
Out of the 20 malls on our list, Lynnhaven Mall in Virginia Beach, Virginia, provides the fewest parking spaces (4,000) for its 6 million annual patrons. It still ended up near the bottom (16th) of our list, however, meaning it’s less likely than other malls to induce parking anxiety.
Number eight on our list, the Mall of Georgia in Buford, Georgia, attracts 17 million visitors per year and has just 6,270 available parking spaces; in comparison, that’s 320 spots less than Castleton Square, which accommodates 15.8 million fewer annual visitors.
Arundel Mills in Hanover, Maryland (number 11 on our list) attracts 14 million visitors each year, despite the fact Maryland comes in second to last in terms of the overall population. Interestingly, two malls with roughly the same footprint — the Mayfair Mall (17th) in Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, and Castleton Square (18th) in Indianapolis — only see 1.2 million and 4 million annual visitors, respectively.
The seriousness and avoidability of parking anxiety may be debatable, but that doesn’t negate the fact that, for many drivers, a shortage of parking causes genuine feelings of stress and agitation. The anxiety that arises when you’re having trouble finding a place to park often feels like external pressure, paranoia, or loss of control.
Uncontrolled expansion and a lack of urban mobility planning in many of America’s major cities have negatively impacted the quality of life in those areas. And as cities grow, overcrowding represents a serious concern in terms of parking availability and subsequent anxiety.
If you live in one of the cities towards the top of our list or are planning to travel to one soon, be mindful of where, how, and when you do your holiday shopping this year — mostly because no one wants to add a parking lot meltdown to their list of holiday activities.
Before Amazon and the indomitable rise of online shopping, the local mall was the best (and, in some cases, the only) option for holiday shopping. Over the years, however, people have grown tired of in-store crowds, long lines, and parking nightmares, and many retailers have started offering the same Black Friday discounts on their websites.
These days, Americans are more likely to go to the mall or a big-box store like Walmart, Target, and Best Buy on Black Friday simply because it feels like “the thing to do” the day after Thanksgiving.
If you still go to the mall in person, we can help you plan around waves of other shoppers to avoid running into an anxiety-inducing parking situation. The chart below depicts the busiest (and slowest) days and times for holiday shopping:
|Malls||Peak Hours||Peak Days||Non-Peak Hours||Non-Peak Days|
|South Coast Plaza Mall||1pm-2pm & 6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-11am||Monday-Wednesday|
|The Galleria||2pm-4pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-11am & 7pm-8pm||Tuesday|
|Aventura Mall||2pm-5pm||Saturday & Sunday||11am and 8pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Destiny USA||2pm-5pm||Saturday & Sunday||11am-12pm||Wednesday & Thursday|
|King of Prussia Mall||3pm-6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-11am & 8pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Woodfield Mall||3pm-6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm & 7pm||Tuesday-Thursday|
|Mall of Georgia||2pm-6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|SouthPark Mall||1pm-3pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-11am & 7pm-8pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Great Lakes Crossing Outlets||2pm-5pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm & 7pm-8pm||Tuesday-Thursday|
|American Dream||6pm-7pm||Saturday & Sunday||11am-1pm||Tuesday, Wednesday & Friday|
|Lynnhaven Mall||1pm-3pm||Saturday & Sunday||11am-12pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Westfield Southcenter||3pm-6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Scottsdale Fashion Square||12pm-2pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm & 7pm-8pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|West Town Mall||1pm-6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm & 7pm-8pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|South Shore Plaza||3pm-6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Castleton Square||2pm-5pm||Saturday & Sunday||11am-12pm & 7pm-8pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Arundel Mills||3pm-6pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
|Mayfair Mall||2pm-5pm||Saturday & Sunday||10am-12pm||Tuesday & Wednesday|
According to our analysis, Saturdays and Sundays are the busiest days at every mall. Sundays have different operating hours than the other days of the week nearly across the board.
On average, the peak hours of operation for all the malls on our list span the late afternoon and evening — which makes sense, given that this is when most people are typically finishing work.
The morning hours during the week and the early-morning hours on weekends appear to be the slowest periods for mall traffic, which is likely due to the standard work and school schedules of most individuals — and the desire shared by many of us to sleep in on weekends.
We found that Tuesday is the slowest shopping day for every mall we looked at except Destiny USA in Syracuse, New York; for this rather large complex (2.4 million square feet and 9,500 parking spaces), Wednesday and Thursday are its slowest days. However, American Dream in East Rutherford, New Jersey, turned out to be the only mall on our list that sees as little traffic on Fridays as it does on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
To help our readers complete their holiday shopping as timely, safely, and sanely as possible this year, we have included a chart below that depicts the holiday operating hours for all the malls on our list. Combine this with your schedule and the best days and times to avoid crowds (above) to stay away from as much parking trouble as possible.
Here are the holiday hours for the largest malls in 18 of the most populated states in the U.S.
Unfortunately, stress and the holidays seem to be forever entwined: travel plans are proposed and thwarted, preparations are made and remade, and busy schedules become even busier. The holidays, however, don’t need to be a time of such great anxiety; celebrating with our loved ones is supposed to be fun, after all.
As the calendar continues its march toward the end of the year, here are a few tips from the APA on how to best preserve your psychological well-being.
To determine which U.S. shopping malls were the most (and least) likely to cause parking anxiety this holiday season, we first gathered data from Statista (a leading provider of global market and consumer data) on the largest mall in the 20 most-populated states. Next, we researched the annual footfall (number of visitors) for each mall, then compared that data with data from Parkopedia on the number of available parking spots at each mall. Lastly, we used Google Trends data to determine the busiest days and times for holiday shopping for each mall. From here, we created a ranking system based on the number of shoppers vs. the number of available parking spaces; the greater the imbalance, the more likely that location would be to induce parking anxiety. The days and times that attract the most shoppers were, too, determined to be the most likely to contribute to holiday parking stress.
Innerbody Research is committed to providing objective, science-based suggestions, and research to help our readers make more informed decisions regarding health and wellness. We invested the time and effort into creating this report to better understand the prevalence of anxiety when it comes to large shopping malls and chaotic parking situations, which are a common occurrence during the busy holiday season. We hope to reach as many people as possible by making this information widely available. As such, please feel free to share our content for educational, editorial, or discussion purposes. We only ask that you link back to this page and credit the author as Innerbody.com.
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