2 November 2001

Monster Mall is ultimate experience, US-style

For a committed shopaholic, the Mall of America, the largest retail complex in the United States, could fit the bill, particularly as there is no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota.

The Mall is at Bloomington, just a few minutes bus ride (buses every half hour) from Minneapolis/St Paul airport, and from the attractions of the twin cities the airport serves. The Mall attracts 46m visitors a year. They come to shop at leading department stores such as Macys, Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Sears and the other 516 retail and speciality stores found here.

This is a great place to get Western gear – just the thing for line-dancing enthusiasts who want an authentic cowboy shirt and some real fancy cowboy boots, belts and hats.

To do such a place justice, shoppers need to pick up the visitors guide and plan their spending campaign, for you can be overwhelmed by the scale of the place – window shoppers alone could walk 4.5 miles to cover every shop front. Go armed with a list of the makes and American sizes of clothes and footwear you would like to buy, particularly if you are looking for trainers or other sports goods. You may think you know which particular Reebok or Nike shoe you are looking for but when you are faced with shop after shop full of them it is easy to lose track, and as any parent knows, buy the wrong sort for a teenager and they many never be worn.

The Americans know how to make everyday shopping an experience so at the Mall expect to find Camp Snoopy which houses 30 remarkable rides and adventures to keep kids of all ages happy. Entrance is free but the rides – such as the 74ft Ferris wheel and Paul Bunyans log chute, which ends in a 40ft plundge over a waterfall – have to be paid for. For something a touch less stomach churning you can watch real sharks and stingrays and thousands of other living sea creatures in the amazing aquarium or even take a virtual submarine ride. For more details see www.mallofamerica.com

Top tips for anyone shopping abroad is to travel out light so that maximum use can be made of the luggage allowance, look for designer labels at favourable prices and always use an exchange rate calculator to make sure that prices are as much of a bargain in sterling as your mental calculations indicate they will be. TG

Northwest Airlines fly daily from London/Gatwick to Minneapolis/St Paul – details on www.nwa.com.

You will need boots made for walking to cover the whole of this shopping complex.