West Edmonton Mall
Feel like a trip to the beach to do some sunbathing and surfing? Would you like to play a round of golf? How about launching from the world’s only indoor bungee jump? Do you like eating at Parisian cafés? Does watching a National Hockey League team in training seem like a good way to spend the afternoon? Do the kids like sea lion shows? And at the end of the day, would you like to sink into a hot tub, surrounded by a lush tropical forest?
All of these activities are possible under one roof at West Edmonton Mall, the largest shopping and indoor amusement complex in the whole world. Calgary may have the greatest outdoor show on earth, but Edmonton has what can surely be billed as the greatest indoor show on earth, a place that is visited by 22 million people annually.
Much more than an oversized shopping mall, Edmonton’s top tourist attraction is a shop-and-play four-season wonderland, where many visitors check into the 355-room luxury Fantasyland Hotel, stay a weekend, and never set foot outside the mall’s 58 entrances.
Galaxyland Amusement Park (adult $31.95, families $84.95, senior or those under four feet $24.95) is the world’s largest indoor amusement park, with 25 rides, including Mindbender—a 14-story, triple-loop roller coaster (the world’s largest indoor roller coaster)—and Space Shot, a 13-story, heart-pounding free fall. Off to one side, Galaxy Kids Playpark offers the younger generation the same thrills and spills in a colorful, fun-loving atmosphere. Admission to the Playpark is free, but the rides cost money.
In the two-hectare (five-acre) World Waterpark (adult $31.95, families $84.95, senior or those under four feet $24.95) you almost feel as though you’re at the beach: The temperature is a balmy 30°C (85°F), and a long, sandy beach (with special nonslip sand), tropical palms, colorful cabanas, a beach bar, and waves crashing on the shore all simulate the real thing. The computerized wave pool holds 12.3 million liters (2.7 million gallons) of water and is programmed by computer to eject “sets” of waves at regular intervals. Behind the beach are 22 water slides that rise to a height of 26 meters (85 feet). The World Waterpark also has the world’s only indoor bungee jump, Center for Gravity (780/489-4339, $75), three whirlpools, and a volleyball court.
At the same end of the mall as World Waterpark is the world’s largest indoor lake. Here, you can gawk at the area along its entire 122-meter (400-foot) length from either the main or second floor of the mall. The most dominant feature of the lagoon is a full-size replica of Christopher Columbus’s flagship, the Santa Maria. You can jump aboard a bumper boat ($4 for five minutes); descend into the depths of the Sea Life Caverns ($5.95 per person) to view sharks, penguins, and a variety of colorful fish; or take a scuba-diving course.
Other major attractions in the mall include Professor WEM’s Adventure Golf (adult $10, senior and child $7); and, smack in the middle of the mall, the Ice Palace (adult $8, senior or child $6, skate rental $4), an NHL-size skating rink. Three themed streets, Europa Boulevard, Chinatown, and the glitzy New Orleans–style Bourbon Street feature some of the mall’s 100 restaurants and eateries.
Hours and Other Practicalities
Shopping hours vary seasonally but are generally Monday–Saturday 10 a.m.–9 p.m. and Sunday noon–6 p.m. Hours of the various attractions and restaurants vary. Many restaurants stay open later, and the nightclubs stay open to the early hours of the morning.
Mall maps color-code each of four phases to make finding your way around easier (shops and attractions use a phase number as part of their address). The information center is on the main level near the Ice Palace; the tech-savvy can download a Mobile Mall Map to their mobile devices. When your legs tire, scooter rentals are available near the information booth; $6 for the first hour, $4 for each additional hour.
For more information, contact West Edmonton Mall at 780/444-5200, www.westedmontonmall.com. The mall is on 170th Street, between 87th and 90th Avenues. Parking is usually not a problem, but finding your car again can be, so remember which of the 58 entrances you parked near (a parking lot along 90th Ave. at 175th St. is designated for RVs). From downtown, take bus number 100.
© Andrew Hempstead, from Moon Western Canada, 3rd Edition