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The most ridiculous mall of them all PDF Print E-mail
Written by SEAN-PAUL BOYNTON   
Monday, 12 July 2010 14:52

A day trip to West Edmonton Mall is doable, but is it worth it?

It’s really just another mall when you get down to it.

Sure, it may have over 800 stores, and there are plenty of weird attractions that shouldn’t belong in a mall, but West Edmonton Mall is still just another holding pen for consumers bent on purchasing the latest fashions.

Not to mention that it also looks like the ugliest building imaginable from the outside.

Nevertheless, there is a different kind of atmosphere within “West Ed” than you would find inside another mall. The air is somehow more electric, as if you’re in a real “happening” place.

Plus, with such features as an indoor amusement park and a wave pool, the kids truly go nuts when those magic words are mentioned.

So now that it’s summer and the kids deserve some fun after nine months of school – and face it, you could really use some cool summer threads and some fun yourself – a trip to North America’s largest indoor shopping mall could be just what you and your family need…and it’s feasible to do so within one day.

You’ll have to wake up early though, and leave around 9 a.m. The drive to Edmonton is a full three hours that flies by if you stick to Highway 2, and even if you take a break in Red Deer (highly recommended), you’ll arrive in Edmonton by noon without breaking any speeding laws.

Another half hour of navigating your way to the west side of the city and the mall itself—just follow the yellow alien whose face is on signs pointing you in the right direction—and you’ll arrive at your destination. The time it takes to find a parking spot depends on what day you decide to take your journey. If it’s Saturday, you can expect to wait a while. Good thing summer allows you to make the trek on a weekday.

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If the over 800 stories isn’t enough, visitors to West Edmonton Mall could also make time go for a dip in the World Waterpark (left) or the Ice Palace skating rink, which is sometimes used by the Edmonton Oilers for practice.

Photos: Sean-Paul Boynton/Calgary Journal

Once inside, follow the advice of your kids and your stomach by locating the nearest food court. West Ed, being so gargantuan, has two, on either the west side of the mall or the east side on the first level. Of course, the east food court has one advantage over its neighbour: it’s connected to the Galaxyland Amusement Park.

While everyone knows it’s a bad idea to eat before going on any sort of extreme theme park ride, it’s a perfect introduction to the weird and wacky world of West Ed, so ignore your better instincts, scarf down that burger and fries, and prepare to be dragged by the little ones into the largest indoor amusement park in the world.

It’s certainly gigantic, with the famous Mindbender rollercoaster and several other rides like the Sonic Twister and the Space Shot to enjoy. However, with an individual general admission price of $31.95, it’s certainly not cheap. A family of up to four members is steeper still, at $84.95. Best to go with individual tickets at $1.50 each, considering you won’t have time to ride everything.

Because your stomach will still be full, it would be wise to start slow first, with something like the Galaxyland Express, which takes you for a tour around the entire park, or the Cosmic Spinner, which despite featuring orbiting “space pods” that spin independently of each other, is much less nausea-inducing than the name suggests.

Now that you’re appropriately dizzy, take some time to walk it off by exploring the rest of the mall. Do some window-shopping and marvel at the other attractions. As you walk from the east side of the mall to the west side, you’ll pass by the Ice Palace skating rink, the World Waterpark, and the Deep Sea Adventure area, which contains the Santa Maria ship, Sea Lion Rock, and the Deep Sea Caverns.

Sea lion shows take place at 2 p.m. and 4 p.m., so if you happen to be in that area of the mall, try and get a peek at the action. Admission to the actual viewing gallery – where you may get splashed or be picked as a volunteer – is $5.95 per person, but you still get the same show by either standing behind the glass or watching from the second floor.

Best to spend that price for admission to the Deep Sea Caverns, which offers an underground aquarium complete with penguins, fish, sharks and turtles.

Once upon a time, you could view these creatures and much more while riding in underwater submarines, but that feature has been discontinued.

Nevertheless, the Caverns are a great way to spend some time forgetting you’re in a mall.

The kids may pressure you to visit the waterpark, but be warned: once they get in there, they may not want to leave (granted, you may feel the same) and this could turn your planned day trip into a costly overnighter.  It may be best to simply promise the little ones a future trip to Southland Leisure Centre when you get home, which is much cheaper at $9.90 per person.

Don’t spend too much time visiting the attractions if you want to get some shopping done. After all, you are in a shopping complex, and most of the stores offered here are bigger and have a wider variety of stock than what you could find in, say, Chinook Mall, so take advantage of the opportunity. If you split up, you can get to your favourite shops quicker. Just make sure to plan a meeting place and time: preferably 6 p.m. at the entrance to Bourbon Street.

A host of popular restaurants and pubs will be just what the doctor ordered after flexing your shopping muscles. Some of the eateries – namely Boston Pizza, Moxie’s, and Earls – even feature “outdoor” patios, which are great places from which to view the crazy décor of the avenue. Most of these restaurants feature relatively inexpensive dishes, so don’t worry that you bought that $300 suit!

By the time you’re finished eating, it should be around 7 p.m., and it’ll be as good a time as ever to head back to the highway. Clock another three hours to your travel time, and you should be pulling into your driveway at 10 p.m. The late arrival shouldn’t be a problem: kids being kids, they’ll most likely take the opportunity of the long drive home to sleep after their long day of excitement.

Sure it’s just a mall, and most of the attractions are too expensive to justify splurging on within the confines of the day. But West Ed is one of the reasons why people from all over the world come to Alberta: to see one of the greatest monuments to our consumer culture. For Calgarians, this world attraction is in our relative backyard, and you owe it to yourself to embrace our provincial claim to fame.

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The 570,000-square-metre mall has made room for Sea Lion’s Rock, which includes the giant replica of the Santa Maria galleon (left), the Bourbon Street restaurant complex (centre), and Professor WEM’s miniature golf course.
 
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