Tim's Turn - April 2018


Tim O'Brien recently visited the space-age themed Galaxyland in Edmonton, Canada. (Credit: Tim O'Brien)

Spring Awakens from Winter Spent Indoors

It was 26 degrees Fahrenheit below zero. The wind was blowing, making it seem even colder, while the streets and sidewalks were crusted over with ice and snow. I was in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and the only sensible thing to do on a day like this was to stay inside. Old Man Winter provided the perfect weather for an indoor mall day, and in Edmonton, that means the West Edmonton Mall. That’s where my wife Kathleen and I whiled away the most hours I have ever spent in a mall in my life.

We were on our way back to Nashville from Yellowknife in Canada’s Northwest Territories, where we spent a week viewing the Northern Lights and experiencing dog sledding. It was way, way below freezing up there, as well, but we had rented arctic clothing for the week and, in most parts, were comfortable. In the mall, we crammed our (Nashville-tested) winter jackets into an $8-a-day locker and set off to enjoy what North America’s largest indoor shopping mall had in store for us.

In addition to the 800-plus retail stores and eateries, there are several attractions, and with little convincing necessary, we headed over to Galaxyland, what was once the largest indoor theme park in the world with 27 rides. Until American Dream Mall opens in New Jersey, it remains the largest indoor park in North America. For me, this was the Holy Grail of indoor parks. I had visited indoor amusement areas throughout the world, but had never made it up here.

I noticed right away that senior pricing started for those 55 and older. Nice. Secondly, I noticed how big, bright, and expansive the park was, and I loved the whimsical space-age theming throughout. And with limited space, it was interesting to see how engineering had intertwined the big rides together in a most intriguing way, to the point that it was nearly impossible to tell the rides apart. 

The three coasters interact with each other, says Galaxyland GM Adam Sikorski, noting the tightness of all the operating rides adds an energy to the overall experience. A walking bridge spans the loading area of the coasters and goes through the center loop of the “Mindbender,” a Schwarzkopf triple looper. I watched a father standing on the bridge trying to psych up his young son into taking his first ride on the intense coaster. Every time it sped by overhead or under the bridge, the father pointed out something different. It didn’t work. The kid pointed to the rest of the park and off they went. The father gave me a knowing smile as they walked by.

The park opened as Fantasyland in 1983; in 1995, it became Galaxyland with Cosmo as its cartoon, space-age mascot. It’s still a very popular park year-round. Right down the mall is the massive indoor World Waterpark, which surprisingly, according to Sikorski, is busier in the summer months. Of course, the temps are high and the water warm, but I couldn’t imagine going for a dip on such a cold day. 

In addition to the parks, there’s Sea Life Caverns aquarium, Sea Lions’ Rock, and the Deep Sea Adventure, a lake that features an exact replica of Columbus’ ship, the  Santa Maria. There are two different miniature-golf courses, a large ice skating rink, a bowling alley, and a mirror maze. There’s also a hotel. It’s practically a city in here. In fact, it probably has more fun to offer than a lot of cities! 

And for my fellow caffeine and fried dough junkies out there, the mall has both a Tim Hortons and two Starbucks locations! Oh yeah—perfect for recalling a cold winter’s day.

Tim O’Brien is a veteran outdoor entertainment journalist and is a longtime Funworld contributor. He has authored many books chronicling the industry’s attractions and personalities and is the only journalist in the IAAPA Hall of Fame.