Behold, the West Edmonton MallPosted on: 30 September 2016
It’s a big freakin’ mall. And for a while now, it had been the signature piece of a visit to Edmonton. Since opening its doors in 1981, at that time the world’s largest mall, it was an attraction that spanned but a mere 5.3 million square feet and is said to attract between 90,000 and 200,000 shoppers a day! It’s a city in itself and with over 800 stores and services within its fortress walls, even the craziest shopaholic will eventually succumb to its power. It isn’t just the retail component that made this behemoth worth the visit. But it was all the other peripheral aspects that redefined what a super-mall should be. And so, even after being open for 35 years, the West Edmonton Mall continues to draw the crowds, and rightfully so. As the rest of the city continues to grow, and the attractions continue to be built, West Ed still remains one of the top mainstays for tourists and locals alike. And why not? The plethora of stores is one thing. But it’s all the other unique pieces that round out this shopaholic experience and make it full of West Ed magic.
The world’s largest indoor amusement park, featuring 27 rides, attractions and play areas. It’s a slight step up from the ol’ ‘throw a quarter in and ride the gyrating plastic pony’ rides that I grew up with. Making sure there is something for all ages from the little kids to the very very big kids, the rides continue to evolve. But the favourite is still the Mindbender – the world’s largest triple loop roller coaster. Warning: Hit the food court AFTER this one, not before.
Themed as a tropical paradise – which totally makes sense given Edmonton’s climate – the WEM Waterpark is home to the largest indoor wave pool. Or you can slither down one of 17 waterslides, or fly through the sky on the SkyFlyer Zipline. Wanna learn how to surf? Why go to Hawaii to hang ten when you can just go to the mall and learn. The brand-new Tsunami endless wave allows you to surf in a controlled environment. Heck, all you need is a strawberry margherita with one of those mini-umbrellas and you’ll swear Edmonton is the capital city of Mexico.
One of the huge attractions since the beginning, the NHL-size hockey rink draws patrons for the experience alone. Because there simply isn’t enough ice on the roads all-year round, right!? In all seriousness though, there is something always magical about this centrepiece of the Mayfield Toyota Ice Palace as you glide along the ice surface under the glass dome. Perhaps even more enthusiasm is generated by the nostalgia of knowing that the great Edmonton Oilers of the 80’s would hold numerous special practices on the surface that were open to the public. It would draw thousands of fans as Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier and Jari Kurri would fly around – mullets flowing in the wind.
Holy ship! This cool replica of the Santa Maria was installed after it made its debut at Vancouver’s World Expo in 1986. Climb aboard an exact replica of Christopher Columbus’ famous vessel as he sailed across the Atlantic in 1492. Everything right down to the smallest detail was crafted to give it legitimacy. I’m sure if you throw a few extra dollars in, you can get the full, authentic scurvy experience as well. After all, it’s a massive mall – everything is for sale.
Check out more than 100 fish, penguins, sharks, sea turtles, reptiles and a whole host of marine life at Sea Life Caverns. Plus, check out one of the daily shows from the four California Sea Lions that perform to the delight of the audience. If you want to get even closer to the action, then look into becoming one of the Friends with Fins which will allow you to feed the green sea turtles behind the scenes as well as other perks. Hmm…I wonder what would happen if one of the sharks somehow got into the waterpark?
The mall has three specially themed streets that take you away to different worlds. Chinatown resembles an Asian street market with Chinese architecture and specialty shops. Check out T&T, it’s dynamite! Bourbon Street has that New Orleans type of feeling with a bit of upbeat grub and lively music. Check out the Red Piano Bistro and the duelling piano bar for a bit of fun. Europa Boulevard transforms a section into a European promenade with a ‘street café’, Old World architectural facades and luxury shops like Burberry, Prada, and Hugo Boss.
Jubilations Dinner Theatre is also a fun and unique experience. Just remember that your waiter is an actor playing a character and don’t take them too seriously. One time, I forgot and things escalated. Let’s just say I’m now banned from Jubilations.
You can always catch a flick at the Scotiabank Theatre, or if you want the BIG experience – because you’re already in a huge shopping centre – then hit up the IMAX 3D movie screen. Or you can catch some live stand-up comedy at Rick Bronson’s The Comic Strip.
And then there’s the shopping. Too many stores to choose from and way too many names to drop. Everything from your fashion, beauty, designer, electronic, porting goods, department store, etc. etc. etc. brands are here. So if this is what you really want, then check out the massive list of stores here. Just be sure to surf a wave, feed a turtle, do a triple salchow, ride a rollercoaster, and discover America in the process.