Guinness, when not brewing stout, keeps busy by recording great moments in the history of human endeavors – the largest ball of aluminum foil, the most people in the trunk of a 1973 Volkswagen, the highest this, the longest that. The recording of such precious and penultimate moments has over the years given so many their 15 minutes of fame and, at the very least, an asterisk in the annals of time.
And so it was on September 18, 1981, for the city of Edmonton in the province of Alberta in Canada. On that day, the West Edmonton Mall made the Guinness Book of World Records as the largest parking lot in the world with designated spots for 20,000 automobiles. What a step in the shopping experience! What a giant leap for mankind!
Of course a 20,000-car parking garage is nothing without somewhere for all those parking people to go. And the West Edmonton Mall has plenty of places to go: more than 800 stores, 100 restaurants, and 19 movie theaters. It has a full-size ice-skating rink, where the Edmonton Oilers practice; two hotels, a chapel; and several nightclubs.
The mall is arranged in a series of themed wings. There’s a 19th-century European boulevard, a Bourbon Street, and a Chinatown wing arranged around a koi pond. A replica of Christopher Columbus’ Santa Maria shares a lagoon with real submarines and exotic fish. When the mall opened, its developer gushed: “You don’t have to go to New York or Paris or Disneyland or Hawaii. We have it all here for you in one place, in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada!”
The mall has held other records, too: At one time or another it’s been the World’s Largest Shopping Mall (48 city blocks), the World’s Largest Indoor Amusement Park and the World’s Largest Indoor Water Park (which includes the World’s Largest Indoor Lake and the World’s Largest Indoor Wave Pool). And all of this in the World’s Nicest Country (at 35 million nice people).
Naturally every parking lot has its detractors; some parking lot purists argue that the Edmonton Mall shouldn’t hold the record because the lot is half indoors and half outdoors and therefore actually two parking lots. Picky, picky, picky.
The Edmonton Mall parking lot most likely added an unintended world’s record to its trophy case: the most people looking for their lost cars.