The Mall of America is the largest shopping and entertainment complex in the U.S. It spans some 4.2 million square feet, and is big enough to house 258 Statues of Liberty, 37 Boeing 747′s, seven baseball stadiums — and a theme park. Forty million shoppers descend on the place annually — enough travelers to fill the more than 50 hotels that ring its perimeter.
You’d think that something this massive has to include anything you can imagine. Right? Well, almost. On a recent visit to the Mall of America, it was indeed comprehensive. Beyond the usual suspects — stores, restaurants and a food court featuring every fried food under the sun — there’s also a flight simulator, mini-golf course and mirror maze. And the mall is home to Herobot 9000, a 34-foot-tall LEGO robot that holds the record for the world’s largest LEGO sculpture.
Bloomington, Minnesota’s mega-mall is more mid-size town than shopping center, with movie theaters, an aquarium, a comedy club, an amusement park and even a police station with its own K-9 unit. You can get married at the mall. You can go to school at the mall. And somewhere in between your high school graduation and the happiest day of your life, you can shop for new kicks at Lady Foot Locker or purchase “pajama jeans” in the As Seen on T.V. store.
More than 5,000 weddings have taken place at the Mall of America’s Chapel of Love, a one-stop shop that sells affordable wedding attire, photography services and flowers.
Minnesota students can earn their high school degrees at the Metropolitan Learning Alliance, a campus neatly tucked next to Dollar Tree. The high school accepts students from several local school districts and offers business-oriented learning programs including, fittingly, retail management. One wonders if M.L.A. students bother to hang out at the mall on weekends like typical Midwestern teenagers.
Basically, all this arena needs is a funeral home and some kind of elementary school program, and a dedicated mall rat could live his entire life within its wide walls.
And get this: Such a scenario isn’t a pipe dream. The mall is expanding to nearly double its current size in approximately 10 years, increasing its area by 5.6 million square feet. In addition to more shops, restaurants and theaters, the extra space will make room for the Mayo Clinic Health Experience, an interactive wellness center that will offer educational classes on fitness (slated to open July 2011).
Nevertheless, I think the mall may be missing a thing or two. Here at IndependentTraveler.com, we’ve debated the pros and cons of features like a clown college and Venetian-style canals (with gondolas a la Las Vegas). Wouldn’t it be nice if you could drop Sir Barksalot off at an in-mall pet obedience school and shop while he’s put through the paces? And we can’t really think of a store it’s missing — aside from Wal-Mart.
You tell us: What would be your must-haves at your ideal mall?
— written by Caroline Costello