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Mall in Alberta is the largest in North America

By Bob Taylor
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/27/16/28/JYcoe.Em.138.jpeg|207
    DON WILLIAMSON - Observer file photo
    Charlotte-based Bob Taylor writes the Travel Better column for The Charlotte Observer’s Travel pages.
  • http://media.charlotteobserver.com/smedia/2013/09/27/16/28/FR5I0.Em.138.jpeg|212
    Travel Alberta - Travel Alberta
    Atlantic bottlenose dolphins entertain shoppers at the West Edmonton Mall, in Edmonton, Canada. To the right of the dolphin lagoon is a real submarine offering visitors a 35-minute ride through the world's largest indoor lake. In the background can be seen an exact replica of Christopher Columbus' ship, the Santa Maria.

If West Edmonton Mall in Edmonton, Canada, isn’t among the “Seven Wonders of the Shopping World,” it should be. Though surpassed as the world’s biggest shopping center under one roof in 2004, it remains the largest in North America. But words like “monstrous” and “gigantic” don’t come close to describing it.

West Edmonton ( www.wem.ca) is a mall walker’s paradise: It takes a half-hour to go from one side to the other without making stops while passing more than 800 stores and 200 restaurants that span the equivalent of 104 football fields.

Attractions are what make the mall unique – like a full-sized indoor roller coaster that is part of the mall’s amusement park. World Waterpark spans nearly 5 acres with six wave pools and an 83-foot-tall water slide.

A replica of the one of Columbus’ ships, the Santa Maria, floats on an indoor salt-water lake. For private functions, the deck can be reserved.

Try the Deep-Sea Derby, the aqua equivalent of dry land bumper cars complete with squirt guns. A subterranean aquarium called Sea Life Adventure is home to Sea Lion’s Rock where three sea lions – Clara, Slide and Splash – entertain visitors throughout the day.

No Canadian venue would be complete without a skating rink to honor the national sport of ice hockey.

Ed’s Recreation Centre has a bowling alley, pool hall, arcade, restaurant and a stage that is one of Edmonton’s major entertainment venues. A country music nightclub known as Whiskey Jack’s is a pleasant alternative.

Even more impressive is the scaled-down version of Bourbon Street, which can be closed off for privacy for special events.

Stroll along Europa Boulevard’s typical European streetscape with sidewalk cafes and eclectic shops. Further east, enjoy the pleasures of Chinatown.

Visitors who think a single visit isn’t enough, no worries. Fantasyland Hotel ( www.fantasylandhotel.com) has 235 classically decorated guest rooms. Or select one of 120 themed accommodations and journey to ancient Rome, sleep in an igloo, travel to the Old West, visit the jungles of Africa, relive the Arabian nights or nestle down in the back of a pickup truck.

You see, Edmonton, Canada is, indeed, a mall world after all.

Bob Taylor of Charlotte leads group tours and organized the Magellan Club.
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