Exploring the Abandoned Hawthorne Mall in California

Updated: Apr 3

Welcome to The Abandoned

Hawthorne Plaza

Location: California

If you're an urban explorer then you've probably heard of the abandoned Hawthorne Mall in California. It's a goldmine for urbex photography. If you're an explorer, I'm sorry, but this one is now impossible to get into, so read on if you want to see photos.

Also, I try not to give out locations, but this place is extremely well known, so I'm giving it an acception.

This is entry number 14 of my urban exploration blog. Click here to go read the last ones!

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The Property

The Hawthorne Plaza Shopping Center opened in 1977, on a 40-acre lot, and included an indoor mall, parking garage, and a few free standing stores. The mall did quite well for itself until the 1990s, as a result of mass job cuts within the aerospace sectors and competition from other shopping centers. By 1998 there were only about seventy stores remaining, with Macy's being the only original to stay open. finally in 1999 the mall shut down and has been left to rot.

in 2014 ABC News announced that the plaza would be revitalized into an outlet mall, which never happened. In 2016 it was to be revitalized as a "power center" with a mini-mall, office complex, and walkable outdoor retail shops, which was approved by the city council, but this also never happened. so here we are, in 2019, with the same abandoned mall for us to explore.

I got to explore it with @urbex_offlimits

Getting Past Security

The first time I tried to get into this place my group was stopped by security and asked to leave. This time we planned it a bit better and we were able to get in. It required some stealth, sketchy maneuvering, and some guts.

Too bad it's fully sealed off now and there's no way to get in so good luck if you're reading this hoping for the secret. You have to have a permit to get in.

The Video

Let the Exploration Begin

Upon entry, we ran into another group of teens who were enjoying an afternoon smoke session on one of the bridges that connected either side of the upper floor. Just chilling in the sketchiest place.

There’s a photographer named Seph Lawless that I follow who has been exploring and photographing abandoned malls for the past several years, with many of his photos going viral online. I felt very inspired by him this day.

The Spoils

This photo is inspired by Seph’s photography. He has taken his platform of urban exploration photography to call out companies, like Disney, to clean up their messes. There’s a theme park in New Orleans that I’m dying to explore with Seph.

After seeing this place in videos and seeing it in person, I can truly say that this is a special place. They’ve been debating whether or not to tear it down for years, but they still make a bit of money from letting people film inside the mall, so they’ll probably keep it up a bit longer.

Some of the films that have been created here include Minority Report (2002), The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), Teen Wolf (2001), Rush Hour (2016), and various music videos.

After about an hour inside we suddenly heard the sound of what appeared to be a siren from a bull horn or vehicle, froze to assess the situation, and I suddenly heard footsteps running toward me. I quickly began packing my gear as the group of teenagers we had first met were running toward us, asking if the siren was for us. I told them I didn't know and quickly followed them out of the mall, through the way we had come in, this time, in a hurry, through a sketchy hole, with a bag full of gear. The guy that hooked us up with the entrance had left his phone in the car so we had to wait at my car for him to show up. When he finally did, he asked us why we left, which we explained. He began to laugh and told us that it was him who made the siren sound to get our attention. Well, it sure got our attention. HA

We decided to go back into the mall for another hour so we could finish exploring the bottom floor, and I must say, it was incredible. I'm so glad we were able to explore the entire thing from top to bottom without running into security. I assume they don't typically spend a whole lot of time inside the facility, for their own personal safety.

This was one of the only structures in the entire mall with a railing. I was honestly shocked by it. I didn't realize how truly stripped the mall was (haha strip mall, get it) until we got to this staircase.


One of the main reasons I don't feel the need to go back to this mall is because of the way we had to get in and out of it; it's simply too dangerous and not worth the risk. Plus, once you see an empty shopping mall once, there's not much left to capture, unless you want to pay for a permit and film something massive in the mall. As I always say, money can buy anything, even access to an abandoned building. Or, just let us explore it at our own risk. :p

* - note to explorers: the blood stain upstairs is fake blood from a film.

We also filmed a cover of Eminem's Lucky You in the abandoned mall. It was so much fun!!

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Read my blog on The Abandoned Hospital in LA

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