The Mall of America, with 4.2 million square feet of retail space, is the largest enclosed shopping center in the United States, and second in the world behind the West Edmonton Mall. The Mall of America is located in Bloomington, Minnesota in the Twin Cities region, just south of Minneapolis. It is accessible from Interstate 494 and Minnesota State Highway 77; in fact, there are freeway onramps connecting directly into the massive parking structures, which are over 10 levels high and occupy almost as much land as the mall itself. It is also accessible by a great number of Metro Transit bus lines, and is the planned endpoint of a proposed light rail line which would connect to the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and downtown Minneapolis.

The Mall of America occupies land that once held the Met Stadium, home of the Vikings and the Twins. Following their move to the Metrodome in downtown Minneapolis in 1982, the huge 78-acre plot of land in the inner ring of suburbs and immediately adjacent to the airport was opened for development. In 1986 agreements were made to build the mall, and construction began in 1989, at a cost of some $650 million. The Mall opened for business on August 11, 1992, with 330 stores.

The Mall of America is fucking huge. It now holds 520 stores, with 4.3 miles of storefront, and employs over 12,000 people. Over 100,000 people visit the mall every day, on average. Each of the four sides of the mall is three stories tall and about 500 meters long. In the center of the mall is an amusement park, Camp Snoopy, with two roller coasters and associated other rides. If each president were extracted from Mount Rushmore, they could fit inside the mall. The mall has multiple food courts, a 14-screen cinema, 45 miles of phone lines, and an aquarium.

The Mall of America is not merely a shopping center for the Twin Cities populace; it is a tourist destination. Located right next to the airport and surrounded by 7000 hotel rooms, the mall is the focus of many a traveler's vacation. Japanese Tourists have been known to fly into MSP, spend a couple days at the mall, see nothing else in the Twin Cities, and fly home. 28 million people live within a day's drive of the mall. 2,500 couples have gotten married at the Mall of America.

A large enclosed retail and entertainment complex is well-suited to the harsh winters of Minnesota. Amusingly enough, the mall has no heating system; the heat from over a hundred thousand bodies and numerous lights is enough to keep the building comfortable.

The Mall of America is divided into four themed quarters, North Gardens, West Market, South Boulevard, and East Broadway (the flashiest of the four, with lots of chrome and steel). Additionally, diagonal entrance/exit corridors are found at the corners, and are named Northwest Court, Southwest Market, Southeast Court, and Northeast Court. An address along these "streets" (e.g. 60 East Broadway) comprises the entire street address for mail sent to stores in the mall, and the four streets can be seen on my road map of the Twin Cities region.

My first experience visiting the Mall of America mirrored the progression of culture shock. At first, during the "honeymoon" phase, I was amazed. Sure, it was nothing more than a big ol' shopping center, but it was huge! It has a number of neat stores, a roller coaster... wow. This soon turned into hatred. I was appalled by this enormous apparition of mass consumerism. The echoes of thousands upon thousands of shoppers' voices made me physically sick. And, goddamn, Cereal Adventure is the sort of place that just shouldn't be able to be conceptualized, much less actually exist. Somehow, though, I survived, and eventually I turned to acceptance and bought me some shoes.

The Mall of America is open Monday through Saturday, 10:00-21:30, and Sunday 11:00-19:00. The mall is open every day of the year save Easter, Thanksgiving, and Christmas Day.

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