Every member of the Taylor family found something of interest and entertainment. Daddy Bob tried his hand at the miniature golf course and checked his accuracy throwing an ax at a target.
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 the Taylors found all of these activities in one place was unusual. What made it even more different was that they were spending time at a shopping mall.
Malls as destinations
For decades, malls have been primarily for shopping and perhaps enjoying a snack at a restaurant. Today, they have become destinations of their own, where customers may spend time having fun as they spend their money.
The growth of suburbs and the rise of the automobile culture in the mid-20th century launched an explosion of shopping malls away from inner cities and into the residential neighborhoods that sprung up around them. In the 1990s, close to 150 malls were being built each year.
Then came online shopping.
Malls that had been go-to places suddenly seemed out of date. Hundreds have closed their doors in recent years and Professor Mark Cohen, a retail business specialist at the University of Columbia, predicts that of the approximately 1,000 malls still operating, half will be gone within 5 to 6 years.
Rather than accepting this outlook without a fight, some mall owners have been combating the trend by adding new attractions that can appeal to people of all ages and many interests. That includes the Taylors.
They were hanging out at Destiny USA, a massive shopping, entertainment and dining venue near Syracuse, New York. It welcomes more than 26 million guests each year and has its own ZIP code and an on-site hotel.
Malls offer more activities that appeal to families.
In addition to the activities that appeal to the Taylors, it offers a bowling alley, laser tag, a science and technology attraction, an escape room, an interactive mystery theater, and an antique carousel that was 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 that have earned it Gold Certification for Leadership and Environmental Design, the largest commercial retail building in the world to be so honored.
The Mall of America in Minnesota also is known for efforts to reduce waste and follow sustainable practices. These range from having 30,000 plants and 400 trees which act as air purifiers and over a mile of skylights for passive solar energy to recycling tons of food waste for local hog farmers.
Entertainment there includes a 27-ride theme park, 1.3 million gallon aquarium in which 10,000 sea creatures reside, and a flight simulation tour of the United States. Among challenges encountered by people who enter the Escape Room are finding a way to get out of prison and to steal back a famous painting from the thief who had pilfered it.
An aquarium also is a feature at American Dream in New Jersey. The “City under the Sea” includes an underwater tunnel that replicates some of New York City’s most famous landmarks
LEGO fans love the Imagination Express, an interactive world inhabited by larger-than-life LEGO characters. Some of them also show up at the Build Challenge Area.
Some malls offer pursuits that are geared to folks seeking a bit of physical activity. That’s true at The Galleria in Houston, Texas. “Polar Ice” is a full-size ice-skating rink which in 1970 was the first to be built inside a mall. Nearby are swimming pools and a jogging track that runs around the roof.
Energetic exercise challenges and much more.
Even more energetic exercise challenges participants in Fitness Fridays at The Outlet Collection mall in Seattle, Washington. They offer an energetic dance experience that combines fitness with fun.
But that’s just for starters at this grouping of discount stores. Among other activities are occasional blood donation drives, hazardous waste disposal collections and celebration of events like World Kindness Day.
Typical of unexpected events was the recent recognition of Native American Heritage Month. It featured displays by the local Muckleshoot tribe. During the millennia that proceeded the arrival of westward-bound settlers, it was among the most prosperous tribes in the region. The Muckleshoot reservation, which was established in 1857, is located southeast of Seattle.
Architecture and gardens add appeal.
Some malls are well worth a visit for their architecture alone and that includes The Arcade in Cleveland. 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.
Other centers double as gardens and art galleries. Palm Court in Miami 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, it’s lined with a collection of public art. The focus is the iconic geodesic dome which was designed by the renowned architect Buckminster Fuller.
This is but one among sites around the United States that continue to give new meaning to the words “shopping mall.”
WHEN YOU GO
After gallivanting throughout the United States and to more than 75 other countries around the world, and writing about what he sees, does and learns, Victor Block retains the travel bug. He firmly believes that travel is the best possible education, and claims he still has a lot to learn. He loves to explore new destinations and cultures, and his stories about them have won a number of writing awards.