West Edmonton Mall

The Biggest Mall in North America

Edmonton, Alberta

August 18th, 2000

From time to time I find myself in a strange position in regards to writing a story. This article is a fine example of that position. In a way of explanation, I will delve into my personality for a moment. I HATE shopping. It is not a casual dislike, it's a bona fide, permanent hatred of the very act of driving to a shopping center, wandering down aisle after aisle of things I have no interest in, to find the one thing I need desperately enough to warrant my presence in such a confusion. Wal-Mart is the exception, I take a book, go to the snack bar inside, get coffee, then sit and read until Laura comes back with whatever I need. Now there has to be an exception to every rule, otherwise rules would be for everyone. Right? I reminded myself of that very thought as I got out of the car and began the quarter mile walk to the nearest door to the mall I was about to visit. This exception which I was about to undergo started way back in Sault St. Marie, Ontario in June when we first crossed the border into Canada. As conversations would drift from subject to subject, around campfires or in recreation halls, the women would compare shopping stories. Invariable the same location would be offered by those Canadians present, as the ultimate in shopping pleasure, if such an emotion exists. The "West Edmonton Mall", in Edmonton, Alberta, a thousand miles away to the west. Every Canadian knew of it and there were few we met that had not made at least one pilgrimage to its famous doors. Hailed as the largest mall under one roof in North America, a title it will soon lose to the "Mall of the America" in Minneapolis Minnesota when a new wing is opened there. There seems to be a competition between the two as to which is larger. However, the West Edmonton Mall will still be the biggest shopping adventure in Canada. So with camera in hand and wife in tow, for support, I trudged through the parking lot and into one of the many numbered doorways, noting that the car was closest to door 31 according to the map, and hoping that the map is correct. Getting lost would be quite easy in this place, one wrong turn and your car/truck is lost forever. Simply put, If you want to buy it, and it's legal, you can get it at the mall. Enough said about that. I was there to see what else there was in the way of attractions. Well, to start with there is a class A hotel, complete with bell hops and valet parking at the outside entrance. Eloquent and spacious, it appeared to offer the finest of amenities, plus theme rooms, for the serious shopper wishing to spend the night. Then there was the Olympic size ice skating ring at the convergence of half a dozen hallways, each leading off to some other activity surrounded by what else? SHOPS. There was Bourbon Street where everything had a New Orleans flavor, mostly bars and restaurants there. We worked our way deeper into the maze of hallways past all that was there for sale until we arrived at a lake. That's right, a lake, 150 feet wide and several hundred feet long, with submarines, and dolphins, and one very large pirate ship, floating at the far end. It was not exactly what I expected to find in a Mall. The lake was in the middle of a double pair of hallways, upper and lower. The water was at least 20 feet deep. Around the outer edge, on the bottom of the lake was a railroad type track on which an underwater vehicle traveled carrying sightseers through a water world of make believe. At the opposite end from the loading platform, a pirate ship lay at anchor. Billed as a party boat, rentable in its entirety for weddings, or any other occasion desired, authentic looking in every detail, from its two masts to its 9 pound cannons, it presented quite a picturesque appearance for that special occasion. Astern of this masterpiece, stretching out to its starboard side was an area occupied by radio-controlled miniatures brigantines, where for a quarter or so, you could guide the little vessels into targets of opportunity setting off signals much like a shooting gallery. Some of the lake was reserved for the resident dolphins which performed on the hour for anyone who was passing by. The last attraction for us to see as we headed toward door 31, was the biggest wave pool I had ever seen, inside or out. Gigantic fails to do it justice. The people in the water on the far side were too far away to recognize. Hundreds of feet of water slide spun overhead delivering screaming children to their water arrival into the middle of the pool. It was something to see. Now it's back to Walmart's snack bar for me, but I will always remember that once I volunteered to go to the mall and what a time I had.

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