When There’s Money to Burn: West Edmonton Mall
I held out for as long as I could, convinced that there must be several engaging things to do in Alberta’s capital aside from traipsing around the mall. While Edmonton can come across as quite…erm…industrial and rough around the edges, it’s a city with a lovely natural environment and an animated sports, arts and entertainment scene.
Mind you when Edmonton’s rainy and grey, it’s more depressing than sin.
And when rainy and grey un-summery days are strung together to make a rainy and grey week, a place like West Edmonton Mall comes in rather handy. The largest shopping complex in North America, West Edmonton Mall is 490,000 m2 (or 5.3 million square feet) of money burning, gun slinging, pirate evading, Hooter-flashing madness. Mind you, there are plenty of other things mall-goers can entertain themselves with when Mother Nature is having her way and not at all interested in bringing out the sun and/or turning up the heat.
Founded by the Ghermezian brothers in 1959, the mall “is inspired by the traditional urban bazaars of Persia, where shopping and entertainment were plentiful and operated in tandem, fulfilling a variety of consumer needs all in one place.” West Edmonton’s 800 stores include high street brands and bargain basement finds like Target, American Outfitters, Michael Kors, Ricki’s, BCBG, Coach and – of course – Lululemon.
It’s essentially three floors of mayhem that also features two hotels, a food court (if food court nourishment is your thing), 100 odd restaurants and several entertainment/service options that include a movie theatre, sea world type show, a pirate ship, women’s gym, spa facilities, indoor water park, wave pool, indoor skating rink and…wait for it…a firing range.
Yeah, I’m not sure what’s more shocking: the water park or the firing range.
Though it may sound strange, the shopping options and attractions at Canada’s biggest mall make it the place to be given that 30.8 million people stop in every year. It can certainly be the place to make some pretty unique memories as several friends have attested to that fact: two told me about the great dates they had that involved the Wild West firing range, while a third raved about the manicures she gets at one of the spas.
Though I didn’t engage in any target practice during my visit I, admittedly, enjoyed traipsing around the behemoth complex; if only for the sake of getting in a two hour walk on dismal summer day. I popped into a couple of bookstores, bought a piping hot cup of tea and whiled away the time as the rain poured down outside. What struck me the most was how West Edmonton Mall has evolved over the years; it’s contemporary and sleek and easily accommodates all manner and class of visitor.
While it isn’t – let’s get real here – the number one thing to do in Edmonton (I’d say traipsing down Whyte Ave or the area around the Royal Alberta Museum is where it’s at), West Edmonton Mall is worth a visit, at least to say you’ve been there. It’s also a great place to burn some cash and outrun the weather.
And perhaps hit the bullseye while doing so.