Visit the most over-the-top malls in the U.S.Apr 04, 2022 12:45PM ● By Victor Block
Every member of the Taylor family found something of interest and entertainment. Bob hung out at the miniature golf course and later tested his accuracy throwing axes at targets. His wife Evelyn searched for the bald eagles that like to hang out along the nearby lake, then took in a show at the comedy club. Their son Roger preferred to speed around the Go-Kart track and do his best to avoid getting hit on the bumper car ride.
The fact that this family found all of these activities in one place was unusual. What made it even more unique was they found it all at a shopping mall.
THE RISE OF SHOPPING MALLS
For decades, shoppers have been drawn to malls primarily for their variety of stores and restaurants.
The growth of suburbs and rise of automobile culture in the mid-20th century launched an explosion of shopping malls away from inner cities and into residential neighborhoods. In the 1990s, close to 150 malls sprang up each year.
Then came online shopping. Malls that had been go-to shopping destinations suddenly seemed out of date. Hundreds have closed their doors.
In recent years, Mark Cohen, professor and retail business specialist at University of Columbia, predicts that, of the approximately 1,000 malls still operating, half will be gone within five to six years.
Rather than accepting this outlook without a fight, some mall owners have combatted the trend by adding new attractions that can appeal to people of all ages and interests.
Here are some of the country’s most thrilling entertainment sites that are giving new meaning to the words “shopping mall.”
The Mall of America | Twin Cities, MN
The Mall of America in Minnesota’s Twin Cities (www.mallofamerica.com, 952-883-8800) is also known for its efforts to reduce waste and follow sustainable practices. These range from growing 30,000 plants and 400 trees for air purification, having over a mile of skylights for passive solar energy, and recycling tons of food waste for local hog farmers. The mall houses a 27-ride theme park, a 1.3 million-gallon aquarium containing 10,000 sea creatures, and a flight simulation tour of the United States. People entering the Escape Game are challenged with getting out of prison and stealing back a famous painting from the thief who had pilfered it.
Legoland Discovery Center | Philadelphia, PA
LEGO fans love the LEGOLAND Discovery Center (www.legolanddiscoverycenter.com, 267-245-9696), a veritable indoor LEGO playground. Visitors can jump on the Imagination Express for an interactive tour of a world inhabited by larger-than-life LEGO characters, or participate in activities at the Build Challenge Arena.
The Outlet Collection | Seattle, WA
More energetic activities challenge participants in Fitness Fridays at The Outlet Collection (www.outletcollectionseattle.com, 253-833-1790). This grouping of discount stores offers an energetic dance experience, combining fitness with fun. It also hosts occasional blood donation drives, hazardous waste disposal collections and celebrations of events like World Kindness Day and Native American Heritage Month.
Destiny USA | Syracuse, NY
Destiny USA (www.destinyusa.com, 315-466-6000), a massive shopping, entertainment and dining venue in Syracuse, New York, welcomes more than 26 million guests each year. It even has its own zip code and on-site hotel. It contains a bowling alley, laser tag, a science and technology attraction, an escape room, an interactive mystery theater and an antique carousel constructed in 1909.
In an effort to reduce the impact of such an active infrastructure on the environment, Destiny USA follows a number of practices, earning it a Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold Certification. It’s the largest commercial retail building in the world to be so honored.
The Arcade | Cleveland, OH
Some malls are worth visiting for their architecture alone, and that includes The Arcade in Cleveland, Ohio (www.theclevelandarcade.com). Once dubbed the Crystal Palace, it was considered to be an architectural tour de force when it opened in 1890. Recent restoration retained the original magnificent marble, polished brass, decorative lanterns and other elegant design touches.
The Galleria | Houston, TX
Some malls offer pursuits geared for folks seeking a bit of physical activity. That’s true at The Galleria in Houston, Texas (www.simon.com/mall/the-galleria, 713-966-3500). “Polar Ice” is a full-size ice-skating rink, which in 1970, was the first built inside a mall. Nearby are swimming pools and a jogging track that runs around the roof.
Palm Court | Miami, FL
Other centers double as gardens and art galleries. Palm Court is a plaza that incorporates native species of palm trees from Florida and the Caribbean into its landscape. Located in the city’s Design District (www.miamidesigndistrict.net, 305-722-7100), it’s lined with a public art collection. The focus is the iconic geodesic dome, designed by renowned architect Buckminster Fuller.