West Edmonton Mall
The West Edmonton Mall is the crown jewel of consumerism. They basically have any store imaginable- clothing stores, gaming stores, pharmacies, religious stores, pot stores, British stores, etc. If it’s a type of store, the West Edmonton Mall probably has it.
Rather than shopping til’ I dropped, I spent the entirety of my visit exploring the entertainment options at the mall. In fact, I don’t think I bought a single item. I was there for 20 consecutive hours from 6 am to 2 am and could have easily spent more time. Massive doesn’t begin to describe this mall.
For hotels, I openly admit that I’m a cheapskate. I do have standards (a minimum of a 7 star guest rating on Hotels.com), but I tend to gravitate towards the Econo Lodges and Motel 6’s of the world. Usually my definition of splurging is a Holiday Inn. But I will make an exception if the hotel offers something I cannot get otherwise (ex. Resort guest ERT). The Fantasyland Hotel did that.
The Fantasyland Hotel is located inside the mall. Since I didn’t rent a car, the convenience was a major draw. In addition, I was able to get a discounted combo ticket for the mall’s attractions. Last but not least, each room had a unique theme. I was eying the space room, but the staff told me that room is usually booked a year out! So I selected the Roman themed room as a consolation.
One of the weirdest things about the mall is that it’s seemingly open 24/7. The stores have the usual hours and some of the attractions and restaurants stay open late. But even absolutely nothing is open at 6 am, you’re free to stroll the mall. For me, it was the perfect opportunity to appreciate the architecture. For others, it was the perfect place to go for a jog since Edmonton is a dark freezer.
We’re used to themed areas at amusement parks. I’m not used to themed areas in a mall, but that’s exactly what the West Edmonton Mall has. Their themed areas include France, Chinatown, Bourbon Street, and an aquatic area. Even the non-themed areas were gorgeous and often lined with fountains.
One of the most well-known attractions at the mall is the Sea Life Caverns aquarium. In terms of the animal exhibits, they were top-notch. And by luck, my visit coincided with the feeding hour for the penguins, so it was definitely a treat seeing those awkward birds scarf down fish.
The one thing that shocked me was just how small the aquarium was. I’m not even exaggerating, but I’m pretty sure you could walk from one end to the other in about 30 seconds. That being said, what they have is well worth seeing and the price point seemed fair.
But the main attraction of Sea Life is the sea lion show. It occurs 2-3 times per day. Your aquarium ticket gives you a seat in the arena, but you can also see the show unobstructed from the mall’s second story balcony. I think locals were privy to this as they started lining up a few minutes before the show. It lacked the comedy of Clyde and Seamore, but the sea lion did plenty of tricks.
Almost everything about the mall was perfect, but there was one black mark- Professor WEM’s Adventure Golf. I love mini golf courses with obstacles- windmills, loop-the-loops, statues, etc. So I was really excited when I saw the whimsical theming. However, none of that is on the course itself.
It’s an absolute waste if you ask me to put in all these castles, blimps, and trees around the course, but not include them in any hole. All of the holes were pretty much straightaways. There weren’t even rocks blocking the holes. I was so disappointed that I quit after the 7th or 8th hole. I’ve never done that with a mini golf course.
The mall also had at least 3-4 different arcades. I popped into a few of them. For the most part, the games were identical to what you’d find in the US, but I did find one little nugget for theme park fans. One of the games included a Chance Chaos on the backdrop.
In the evening, I used my included movie ticket to see Into the Spiderverse. The movie was good, albeit overhyped, but I was most impressed with the lobby of the theater. They had giant freaking statues of Yoda and Batman suspended from the ceiling.
Arguably the wildest ride of the weekend was the trip back to the US. I had an early flight back to the US at 5:30 am (hence why I pulled an all-nighter in the mall). My plane wasn’t your usual Boeing 747. Rather it was something called a Bombardier Dash 8. It was a 10 row plane powered by two little propellers on the side and I was seated face to face with 2 other passengers.
And of course it was snowing with 30-40 mph winds. I mean, why wouldn’t it in Canada? I was skeptical the plane would even take off, but by god the pilot did it. Airtran once flew us down to Orlando in the midst of a tropical storm, but at least that was in a full-size aircraft.
This was the most extreme turbulence I have ever experienced. I’d equate most turbulence to a B&M rattle; it’s there but it doesn’t bother me. This was like riding the Great American Scream Machine in a wheel seat. There was airtime (plenty of it!) but it wasn’t the least bit smooth. But eventually we did land to a rousing applause from the entire cabin.
I don’t know the next time I’ll make it out to the West Edmonton Mall, but I do plan to visit the Mall of America and American Dream Mall (assuming it opens) later this year. If they’re even half of the West Edmonton Mall, I know I’ll have a good time. This is what a mall should be.