Friday, October 10, 2014

Canada’s fabulous and amazing West Edmonton Mall

A world under one roof at West Edmonton Mall, Edmonton, Alberta, Canada  (Wikimedia)
Edmonton, Alberta, Canada,  – If the West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Canada isn’t 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” and “large” and “monstrous” and “gigantic” don’t come close to describing what this mall is all about.

Ice rink at West Edmonton Mall (Wikimedia)
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 the junket that covers 48 city blocks or the equivalent of 104 football fields.

The concept evolved in the late 1970s after the four Ghermezian brothers fled Iran with their father in 1959 to escape Islamic fundamentalism. Initially the family opened a Persian rug business which   resembled traditional bazaars so typical of their native culture.

Sea lion show at WEM  (Wikimedia)
Eventually the idea of combining shopping and entertainment became a reality in September of 1981 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 are 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 5 acres with six wave pools including an 83-foot tall slide known as the Twister and Cyclone.
The Mindbender indoor roller coaster at West Edmonton Mall  (Wikimedia)
Replica of the Santa Maria  (West Edmonton Mall)
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.

Indoor Chinatown  (West Edmonton Mall)
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.
Replica of Bourbon St. in New Orleans  (West Edmonton Mall)
Why not visit Europe or Asia as well. Europa Boulevard has sidewalk cafes and eclectic shops nestled within a typical European street-scape. 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.

Bunk down in a stage coach  (Fantasyland Hotel)
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?
Sleep in a pick-up truck at the Fantasyland Hotel  (Fantasyland Hotel)
Edmonton, Canada is truly a land for all seasons where it really is a mall world after all.