For most Americans, it's just not the holidays without a mall visit. Chicago-area Woodfield prepped weeks before the Black Friday shopping blitz, debuting an Ice Palace with a light show and Santa photo-ops.
After all, its parking lots are crowded whatever the season. Woodfield gets 27 million annual visitors -- more than any other Illinois attraction (only 8.69 million make it to Chicago's Navy Pier). A heady mix of shopping, eating and entertainment options has turned malls across the US into similar tourism magnets and coined the phrase "destination malls."
"Shopping centers and malls, especially large enclosed malls, are increasingly attempting to become something more than just a place for the distribution of goods," says Jesse Tron of the International Council of Shopping Centers, a nonprofit that monitors the global mall industry. "This trend has increased industry-wide coming out of the recession."
And developers are thinking even bigger. The 3-million-square-foot American Dream Meadowlands mall is under construction in northern New Jersey with ambitious plans for an indoor ski/snowboard slope, a skydive simulator and full-scale amusement and water parks.
Chances are these five of the most-visited shopping malls will gear up for the competition. -- Joe Yogerst
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Annual Visitors: 26 million Like Del Amo on the left coast, this Florida landmark is one of the anchor properties of the Simon Property Group, the nation's largest mall owner. Sawgrass takes its name from the nearby Everglades, located just across the expressway from the mall on the western outskirts of Fort Lauderdale. See more of America's Most-Visited Shopping Malls Photo: Courtesy Sawgrass Mall
Annual Visitors: 27 million Located just outside of Chicago, Woodfield is the number one tourist destination in the State of Illinois. Its name pays posthumous tribute to two of the greatest retailers of all time: General Robert E. Wood of Sears fame and the legendary Marshall Field. Many of the specialty stores are the largest of their kind in the US, and Woodfield is often used to test new store design and marketing concepts. Its trademark stainless-steel sculptures were fashioned by artist Robert Engman. See more of America's Most-Visited Shopping Malls Photo: Courtesy of Woodfield Mall
Annual Visitors: 27.6 million The prototypical LA mall, Del Amo has appeared in movies like Valley Girl, Bad Santa and Beverly Hills 90210. It attracts a mixed bag of well-heeled Palos Verdes residents, surfer dudes from nearby Redondo Beach and inner-city patrons from Compton and Long Beach. Del Amo's most popular entertainment attractions are an 18-theater Cineplex and a Lucky Strike Lanes bowling alley. See more of America's Most-Visited Shopping Malls Photo: Courtesy Del Amo Fashion Center in Torrance, CA.
Annual Visitors: 28 million The greater Miami area’s largest mall is an integral part of a super-posh coastal enclave that includes the Turnberry Isle resort and championship golf course, Gulfstream Park thoroughbred horse track, and the upscale Golden Beach/Golden Isles residential area. Cashing in on south Florida’s tourism bounty, the mall organizes shopping experiences for visiting conventions and hosts special events like the Chocolate Festival, Great American Bake Sale, Miami’s Most Photogenic Baby contest, and a regular farmers’ market. See more of America's Most-Visited Shopping Malls Photo: Courtesy Aventura Mall
Annual Visitors: 40 million The history of modern mall development is divided into two distinct eras: everything that came before Mall of America and everything after. MOA continues to lead them all with 40 million visitors -- nearly as many as Italy's foreign tourist arrivals last year. See more of America's Most-Visited Shopping Malls Photo: iStock
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