Tuesday, December 21, 2021

12 Days of Christmas: American Dream Mall

American Dream's "Secret Garden."

There's nothing like an ironic visit to a mall in New Jersey to make you question your values.

When my sister visited recently from the Carolinas, I thought it would be a good sight-seeing excursion to schedule a first-time visit to the American Dream Mall. I figured that even if the visit was a disaster (which I secretly presumed it would be), it would be great fun and a story we could laugh about for years.

New Jersey is often known (and maligned) for its shopping malls. Other states took the basic mall concept to another level, on a larger scale with a focus on entertainment (hello, Mall of America). But now American Dream was promising to move the needle on that amp up to 11.

On the site of the Meadowlands Sports Complex in East Rutherford, the sprawling retail and entertainment center was first proposed in 2003. For a while, it was dubbed "Xanadu."

Four scenes from a mall.
Its first backer went into bankruptcy in 2007. Construction started and stopped over the years. There were other ownership changes, financing issues, construction delays, more bankruptcies, and various legal challenges.

Some theme-park attractions finally opened there in 2019, but COVID delayed further openings until just past fall, with many new stores and restaurants... and an indoor ski-slope and giant Ferris wheel to boot.

The current American Dream website lists a panoply of attractions.

I was unconvinced... until I visited with my sister and, unironically, I had fun. I even have photos to prove it.

The "mall" was clean and spacious. There was lots to see and do. It was tech-savvy and family-friendly, and people all around me were happy.

I didn't see that coming, New Jersey.

This must be how Tony Soprano felt before everything went dark.

Me, having fun.

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