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Tackling the Mall of America

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The downtown Minneapolis skyline is seen in a file photo. Shopping in Minneapolis is a rite of passage for Manitoba consumers.

JAMES TURNER / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS Enlarge Image

The downtown Minneapolis skyline is seen in a file photo. Shopping in Minneapolis is a rite of passage for Manitoba consumers. Photo Store Photo Store

Shopping in Minneapolis is a rite of passage for Manitoba consumers.

For years I’ve heard countless friends talk of weekend getaways, yet I couldn’t understand the big attraction. So this fall I finally decided to go down there and find out first-hand what it’s all about.

Departing Winnipeg on a Friday afternoon, my friend Elizabeth and I arrived in Minneapolis that night. Our home base was the DoubleTree by Hilton on Park Place, only minutes from downtown. The best thing about this location is that it’s close enough to everything to make for easy travel, yet far enough away that you get free parking and Wi-Fi. Upon arrival they also gave us warm chocolate chip cookies, making us feel right at home.

The DoubleTree is next to a string of restaurants, movie theatres, and a market district called the Shops at West End. This means you can wine and dine or shop till you drop without having to drive anywhere. It sounded great, but our sights were set on a different destination.

Elizabeth — who I had no idea was such an expert at cross-bordering — suggested since this was my first visit, and since our time was limited, that we don’t mess around. She wanted me to experience the Holy Grail of shopping. The Titanic of retail. The mother of all malls.

Mall of America has been described as a city within a city. There are nearly seven kilometres of storefront footage, and walking distance around each level is almost one kilometre. With 520-plus stores, if you spent 10 minutes inside each one, you’d need 86 hours.

We only had eight. The pressure was on.   

Because of the sheer size, it’s impossible to see it all in one day, no matter how hard you try, or how fast you walk. Comfortable shoes are a must. You’ll also want to dress lightly to allow for easier mobility, so leave your coat in the car, and your hands free.

Another good strategy is to have a list. Decide in advance what you want to purchase, and make sure you stick to your mission. It’s easy to stray off course and wander into stores you don’t need, so stay focused on the list.

Being in the mall all day can be overwhelming and exhausting, so stop and take a break. We chose a nice restaurant away from the hustle and bustle, sat down and enjoyed lunch. Keeping properly fuelled is necessary so you don’t get loopy, while staying hydrated is integral for good shopping energy.

Did I mention there’s no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota? When you’re used to paying 13% on every purchase, tax savings are significant. Now that we Canadians can purchase $800 of duty-free goods, you save $104 on tax alone. Factor this in with so many other amazing deals and savings, and it’s well worth it.

Now I get it.

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