I went unprepared. I’d heard the bumf: biggest shopping mall in America, has its own amusement park … inside, would take 86 hours to spend just 10 minutes in each store. I didn’t believe it. I thought they were exaggerating. But Mall of America is all that, and more. With its own postal code, MoA is a North American institution. Located in Bloomington, MN, not far from Minneapolis St Paul airport, it attracts more than 40 million visitors each year. That Minnesota has no sales tax on clothes helps drive traffic to the stores.
Andrew Ziegler did a piece on it for BuzzFeed back in 2014 that makes for interesting reading. His top three interesting facts are:
- You could fit seven Yankee Stadiums inside the Mall of America.
- Or you could fit 32 Boeing 747s inside the Mall of America.
- Or you could fit 258 Statues of Liberty inside the Mall of America.
It’s big. Very big. It relies on body heat to warm it and with all those visitors, it does okay.
I’m not a great one for shopping. Don’t laugh. Yes, I could spend hours poking around one-of-a-kind neighbourhood shops selling stuff made in-country rather than imported en masse. I could spend longer in antique shops and thrift stores, but shopping malls don’t do anything except drain my energy and lower my already low levels of crowd tolerance.
That said, I was gobsmacked. It’s massive. And the indoor amusement park… mad! Nickelodeon Universe is America’s largest indoor theme park with seven acres of rides, entertainment, and restaurants. Yep – that’s seven acres. If you’re going to spend the day there, the all-day pass is reasonable enough but I did choke a little at spending nearly €20 on two tickets for a ride that lasted all of a minute. That I spent that minute screaming my head off, much to the amusement of the two 10-year-olds sitting opposite us, is neither here nor there.
The couple of hours we were there took me back to my early days in California when I had far too many store cards and was a great fan of retail therapy. Thankfully, I’ve outgrown that phase… well, except perhaps for kitchenware, and maybe art, and perhaps wine. Otherwise, I’m all shopped out (flea markets don’t count). I popped into an old favourite, Nordstrom’s Rack, and gave up when the first five things I picked up were each made in China, including stuff by American designers. As for the queue … I simply don’t have that sort of time or patience.
But it’s all very well done. The aquariam is quite something – the little bit we saw (the free bit!). The buggy parking lots, the queue systems, the ticketing – they have it down to a fine art. MoA is the biggest mall in the States right now. But later this year, the title will pass to the American Dream MegaMall when it opens in Miami. And it’s going to have an even bigger Nickelodean – eight acres, not seven. Both malls are owned by the same family, the Ghermezians, an Iranian-Canadian family who specialise in big.
Did I mention that I’m not a fan of consumerism? I was all set not to like them… and then I watched this:
I’m dithering. But hey, it’s still a massive mall designed to sell people stuff they don’t need, paid for with money they don’t have, at the expense of small mom-and-pop stores who can’t compete with the behemoths. Or is it? Don G says no! He’s asked his people not to call American Dream a mall… it’s far more:
For some strange reason, I find all this fascinating. Reading the comments on various videos and articles, the Ghermezians have been vilified as financial terrorists, targeted by terrorist terrorists, and variously lauded and condemned for their projects.
I’ve been. I’ve seen. And screaming aside, I’m in no hurry back. That said, I can think of a number of friends who’d love, love, love it. It’s a shoppers’ dream. And for those on layovers, they do a great trade in suitcases:-)
If you have a layover in MSP and have time, get the Light Rail from the airport to the mall. It’s worth seeing. Once.