No one wants to admit they like shopping, but when Alberta’s West
Edmonton Mall weighs in as the number-one tourist attraction in the
province above majestic Lake Louise that has to mean something. The
latest tally shows that over 22 million people visit annually from
all parts of the planet. After all, shopping is the unofficial
Billed as the world’s largest indoor mall in the Guiness Book of
World’s Records, the Edmonton icon is truly capitalism on steroids.
The 5 million-square-foot, two-level monolith boasts over 800
stores, a waterpark, roller coasters, gambling casino and two
hotels, one of which flows directly into the marbled promenade.
There’s even the Marketplace Chapel for a quickie wedding, and a
bungee-jumping tower to get the honeymoon off to a flying
To accommodate its King Kong-like proportions, WEM offers
special services. There’s a sample five-day mall vacation
itinerary. For navigation, high-tech users can download the map
onto their Palm Pilots or BlackBerrys.
Edmonton restaurant owner
Normand Campbell often parks his car on one side of the
20,000-space mall parking lot and reparks it to go to the other
side when he runs errands. Why not walk?
“It’s faster to repark,” he explained. “Besides, there are too
These diversions may include the daily indoor sea lion shows,
pirate shows or the frolicking baby goats at the petting zoo.
Non-shoppers can appreciate the mall for its architectural
prowess. It’s no cakewalk covering 48 city blocks under a single
domed glass ceiling.
Business tycoons pay homage to the WEM as an entrepreneurial
stroke of genius. In the 1940s, the Jacob Ghermezian family arrived
from Iran and purchased vast land lots. In the mid ’70s, the clan
decided to launch a shopping center. With the notion that consumers
wanted more of a good thing, development went from big to mega-big,
at warp speed.
WEM’s mission statement isn’t about being a successful mall
mecca but to become the “greatest indoor show on earth.” On the
docket are plans to add business offices, a sports arena and living
space, so residents can conveniently eat at the 100-plus eateries
and restaurants every day of their lives. No blueprints yet for a
WEM retirement home or cemetery, but at WEM, the glass ceiling’s
the limit and that’s pretty big.
“I can’t believe this place,” gawked one California visitor when
he saw the Colombus-sized pirate’s galleon.
He then started comparing the mall to a recent film about a man
born inside a domed environment, who believes he is living in
reality with oceans, parks, tract homes and gas stations. “We’re
inside ‘The Truman Show,’” he smirked.