There are really only two Malls in the US.
The National Mall is located in the middle of Washington, DC and is about 2 miles long and 1/3 mile wide. The park was originally designed by Pierre L’Enfant in 1791 and amended in 1901 with the McMillan Commission’s plan. It has evolved over the years but stayed true to the vision George Washington had of creating a place for the nation to celebrate their heritage and observe their First Amendment rights.
The Mall has seen presidential inaugurations, civil rights demonstrations, Fourth of July concerts, and Memorial Day parades. There are 43 fields where local clubs play softball, soccer, rugby, field hockey, volleyball, and polo. More than 25 million people visit every year and there are over 3,000 events scheduled each year. Seventeen museums and nine major memorials can be found on the mall. Along with all the structures are the 2,000 American elms and 3,000 Japanese cherry trees. All these things are free to the public.
One of the most impressive memorials for me is the Vietnam Memorial. It is a simple black stone with all the names of the men who died in the Vietnam War engraved on it. There are maps at either end of the memorial to help people find the name of their relative or friend. Since it opened in 1982, visitors have been leaving objects below the names of their loved ones. They leave letters, flowers, toys and all kinds of mementos. The National Park Service started to collect these and currently the Vietnam Veterans Memorial has over 100,000 objects in storage.
The National Mall can be an emotional place but more importantly it is a place for everybody, no matter who you are, to come together, to learn about each other, and to be entertained.
The Mall of America in Bloomington Minnesota is also a place for people to come together and to be entertained. It opened in 1992 and has 4.3 miles of store front footage with over 500 stores, restaurants, bars, theaters, and entertainment venues. There are 25 rides and attractions in its central amusement park. It boasts 42 million visitors a year, forty percent are tourists. There are over 400 events scheduled each year including the Race for the Cure on Mother’s Day. It generates about $2 billion in economic activity each year for the state of Minnesota.
Even though Minnesota is one of the coldest states in the country, the mall is not heated. It generates enough heat through skylights, light fixtures, and human bodies, that it does not need any additional heat.
Mostly the Mall is a shopping Mecca where one can easily spend too much on things they don’t need but it is possible, with some restraint, to spend time enjoying the sites and free entertainment. On a recent visit I came across a group of young carolers giving a concert to anybody who would listen. There is a memorial to Harmon Killebrew, a Minnesota Twins baseball player commemorating his longest home run, and another one to Tom Burnett, a native Minnesotan who died on 9/11 in the Flight 93 plane crash. It is always fun to wander through Legoland and be amazed by their latest creations.
National Mall and the Mall of America are very different places but they do have some things in common and they are both very American.
Kathleen Gamble was born and raised overseas and has traveled extensively. She has a BA in Spanish and has worked in publishing, printing, desktop publishing, translating, and purchasing. She also designs and creates her own needlepoint. She started journaling at a young age and her memoir, Expat Alien, came out of those early journals. Over the years she has edited and produced an American Women’s Organization cookbook in Moscow, Russia, and several newsletters. Her first book, Expat Alien, was published in 2012 and she recently published a cookbook, 52 Food Fridays, both available on Amazon.com. You can also follow her blog at ExpatAlien.com.