West Edmonton Mall (WEM) – there is no place quite like it. It is part shopping centre, part amusement park and part destination vacation. It is many things to different people. For some, it is a place to work. For others, it is a place to play. Some people come to shop and spend time with friends. Others dread the thought of visiting this colossus with its 800+ stores and many more people. But love it or hate it, it is a hard place to ignore if you live in Alberta’s capital city.
The first time I visited WEM with my daughters, we were living in Saskatoon and this was our winter getaway. Four nights at the mall’s Fantasyland Hotel, each in a different themed room (we each got to pick our favourite for a night). The hotel has 120 different themed rooms and suites, such as the Roman suite, the train room and the Polynesian room. My daughters and I had a blast that long weekend and many times since. There is so much to see and do, and new attractions are being added every year.
WEM’s World Waterpark is home to the world’s largest indoor wave pool, numerous waterslides for every age and thrill level, surfing classes and bungee jumping. You can easily spend a whole day there, and of the mall’s many attractions, this is hands-down my favourite.
Galaxyland is another place to spend a fun-filled at WEM. The world’s largest indoor amusement park, it features the world’s largest indoor triple loop rollercoaster. I have never tried it out and never will – I prefer to keep my head firmly above my feet when on carnival rides. However, my daughters assure me that it is a blast!
At 6 million square feet (or the size of 48 city blocks), WEM houses many more attractions. You can go skating on the NHL-sized rink, where the Oilers sometimes practice. You can visit the Sea Cavern to see adorable little penguins or watch Sea Lions perform in an enclosed area of the world’s largest indoor lake. Also in that lake can be found a life-sized replica of the Santa Maria, one of the boats on which Columbus and his crew sailed back in 1492. There is an 18-hole mini-golf course, another glow-in-dark mini-golf course and a bowling alley. There is also a theatre which was once home to a large mechanical, fire-breathing dragon.
If you get hungry, WEM has two large food courts as well as Bourbon Street, home to many of your favourite restaurants. It used to be marked by a large statue with different harlequin masks just as the western-most food court once held a replica of the ancient Roman statue, Augustus of Prima Porta, as well as water that would shoot up like arches which you could walk under. That food court is now far less interesting, aside from the mannequins clothed in flowers and butterflies. I love butterflies!
And, of course, there are the stores – hundreds of them. The mall has everything from Dollarama to Tiffany’s. The mall is so big, some stores have more than one location. Several stores cannot be found elsewhere in the city or even the country. When Victoria’s Secret opened in the mall a few years ago, it was the first of its kind in Canada. These exclusive stores are a big draw for the mall and having so many stores under one roof as Christmas draws near is a huge convenience – if you can manage to find a parking spot.
WEM has the largest parking lot in the world with 20,000 spots. Throughout most of the year, this is enough. But from Black Friday to New Year’s, it can be a challenge to find a place to park and I have found myself driving around looking for a place to park for a ridiculously long time on more than one occasion. It is a good thing the mall also has a big bus stop.
Once the largest mall in the world, WEM is still the largest mall in North America. It attracts twice as many visitors each year as Disneyland – 30,000,000! If you call the Prairie Provinces home, I definitely recommend visiting West Edmonton Mall at least once – and don’t forget to pack your swimsuit and skates!