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Awayfinder destinations

West Edmonton Mall a popular draw for Canadian travelers

 (The Spokesman-Review)
(The Spokesman-Review)

Go to a mall on vacation? You mean visit the same stores you have at home?

If your travels take you to western Alberta anytime soon, you’ll realize a trip to the mall can mean much more than the same old retailers found at your neighborhood shopping center, and shopping is just the start of what you can do.

The destination is the West Edmonton Mall, right on the western outskirts of the province’s capital. Fans of culture and history can certainly keep driving into the city of 730,000.

Nicknamed Canada’s Festival City because of the variety of events that take place all year round, Edmonton is the second largest city in the province, right after the slightly more bustling Calgary.

Visitors will find several colleges, including the University of Alberta, Fort Edmonton Park, Canada’s largest living history museum, plus public parks and gardens, the Royal Alberta Museum and the Telus World of Science, that includes an observatory and more.

But for more than three decades, the mall has become a definite draw and even occasionally has been called the 8th wonder of the world. So what makes it so special?

Size, for one thing. The mall property itself spans 48 city blocks. It includes 800 stores and services, 100 restaurants, and nine large attractions, from a water park to an amusement park. Visitors can partake of a modern mulitiplex movie theater with 13 screens including an IMAX screen, a bowling alley and a full-sized pirate ship with daily performances.

Forbes currently ranks West Edmonton Mall as the largest in North America,even eclipsing the Mall of America, in Bloomington, Minn. Until 2004, it held the title of the largest indoor mall in the world, but now holds the ranking of No. 5, behind the Dubai Mall in United Arab Emirates (that includes a year-round indoor ski slope), two in China and one in Malaysia.

In comparison, Spokane’s NorthTown Mall, considered the largest in Eastern Washington, has just under 200 businesses, including restaurants, a kids’ area and a movie theater. The nearby Spokane Valley Mall has just over 100 businesses, and Coeur d’Alene’s Silver Lake Mall has right around 50.

Back in Edmonton, developers knew that not everyone would want to shop and dine all the time. So they created other attractions to occupy guests’ time, such as a ice skating rink, a daily aquatic show and more.

The first phase of the mall was complete in 1981, and was followed by three other phases. Other improvements come on a regular basis, such as the addition of Galaxyland and the World Water Park, both are considered the largest of their kind.

Galaxyland, the amusement park, includes 24 rides and more than a dozen games. The attractions are designed for all ages and interests, from grown-ups who love thrilling, high-speed coasters that go fast and upside down, and little folks whose idea of fun is a soft climbing structure, a slooow small-scale train that chugs through the park, or games like Skee-Ball.

Like Galaxyland, the World Water Park offers 13 slides and attractions, from beginner levels to ‘extreme.’ So kids can play and splash on pint-sized slides or slippery climbing areas, better swimmers can get excited on faster, steeper and deeper slides, and everyone can swim in the wave pool.

Plus the World Water Park offers something even more amusing to either watch or take part in – Center of Gravity, a bungee jump platform more than 100 feet above the wave pool.

If you go:

Admission to the shopping area and restaurants is free. Separate general admission charges apply for most attractions such as Galaxyland or the Ice Palace, there are also fees for certain rides or services within these places. For more information visit

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