EDMONTON, Alberta, Canada, October 11, 2014 — If the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Canada is not among the “Seven Wonders of the Shopping World,” it would be amazing to experience the places that can beat it.
West Edmonton Mall is the Disneyland of shopping. Though it was surpassed as the world’s biggest shopping center under one roof in 2004, it remains the largest in North America. But words like “big,” “monstrous,” and even “gigantic” don’t come close to describing what this mall is all about.
West Edmonton is a mall walker’s paradise. For perspective, if a visitor begins at one corner of the mall and walks non-stop to the opposite end at a steady pace, it takes a full half-hour to reach the other side.
In the process, the walker will pass more than 800 stores and 200 restaurants during a junket that covers 48 city blocks — the equivalent of 104 football fields.
The concept evolved in the late 1970s, the brainchild of the four Ghermezian brothers, who fled Iran with their father in 1964 to escape Islamic fundamentalism. Initially the family opened a Persian rug business which resembled traditional bazaars so typical of their native country.
In September of 1981, the idea of combining shopping and entertainment became a reality and the rest is history. The element that makes West Edmonton Mall unique is not so much the shopping, however vast though it is, but the sheer scope of entertainment that transcends the shopping experience.
For travelers, the array of attractions is the lifeblood of the mall that makes it so unique. Consider the full-sized indoor Mindbender roller coaster which is part of the amusement park.
Or, how about the World Waterpark, which covers nearly five acres with six wave pools, including an 83-foot tall slide known as the Twister and Cyclone.
But we’ve “only just begin” as the song goes. The mall contains an indoor salt-water lake that accommodates a sea lion habitat as well as a replica of the Santa Maria, one of Christopher Columbus’ ships when he discovered the New World. The deck of the ship, by the way, can be reserved for private functions.
For those who enjoy Bumper Cars on dry-land, the Deep-Sea Derby is the aqua equivalent complete with squirt guns.
Beneath the main floor, the lagoon is home to the Deep Sea Adventure featuring an aquarium called Sea Life Adventure. Sea Lions Rock is home to Clara, Slide and Splash, three sea lions who entertain visitors throughout the day.
No facility of such magnitude in Canada would be complete without a skating rink to honor the national sport of ice hockey. Meanwhile, the original 18-hole Pebble Beach Mini Golf course has been redesigned as Professor WEM’s Adventure Golf.
Naturally there are movie theaters, a dinner theater and four radio stations with broadcast facilities inside the mall.
Ed’s Recreation Centre is a complex consisting of a bowling alley, pool hall, arcade, restaurant and a stage that is one of Edmonton’s major venues for musical entertainment.
However, if Ed’s doesn’t whet your appetite, there’s always the country music nightclub known as Whiskey Jack’s.
Perhaps even more impressive is the scaled down replica of New Orleans’ famed Bourbon Street featuring music clubs, restaurants and even a comedy club. For special events, Bourbon Street can be closed off from the rest of the mall to allow private openings and closings from normal mall activities.
Or travel even further east to enjoy the pleasures of Chinatown as well.
Try the indoor shooting range known as Wild West Shooting Centre or the 24-hour Gold’s Gym facility.
If all this grandiosity overwhelms you into a world of temptation, you can repent at the inter-denominational chapel.
Travelers and shopaholics with serious reservations that this might not be a destination for a single visit need not fear. Fantasyland Hotel offers 235 classically decorated guest room inside the mall.
Ahh but remember, this is the West Edmonton Mall, a one-of-a-kind experience. Rather than choose a traditional room, why not select one of Fantasyland’s 120 themed rooms instead? Not sure what suits your taste? Here are some suggestions. You can journey to ancient Rome, or sleep in an igloo.
Travel back to the Old West, visit the jungles of Africa, relive the Arabian nights or, if all else fails, nestle down in the back of a pick-up truck.
Edmonton, Canada is truly a land for all seasons where it really is a mall world after all.
About the Author: Bob Taylor is a veteran writer who has traveled throughout the world. Taylor was an award winning television producer/reporter/anchor before focusing on writing about international events, people and cultures around the globe.
He is founder of The Magellan Travel Club (www.MagellanTravelClub.com). His goal is to visit 100 countries or more during his lifetime. Read more of Travels with Peabod and Bob Taylor at Communities Digital News; Follow Bob on Twitter @MrPeabod