10 Facts About the Mall of America

iStock/Wolterk
iStock/Wolterk

The Mall of America is more than just a shopping mall—it's a bona fide tourist attraction. For more than a quarter-century, the gigantic shopping center has brought tens of millions tourists to the city of Bloomington, Minnesota for deals on designers duds and roller coaster rides galore. Here at a few things you might not know about the legendary shopping mall.

1. YES, IT'S THE BIGGEST MALL IN AMERICA.

Up until 2015, the Mall of America and Pennyslvania's King of Prussia Mall were regularly duking it out for the title of "biggest" versus "largest" mall in America. And while the Mall of America has always maintained a larger total square footage, King of Prussia boasted more actual retail space. That officially changed in 2015, when the Mall of America expanded its footprint.

But the Mall of America won't hold that title for much longer; Miami's American Dream Mall is set to steal the title when it opens (but it could be a while, as the shopping center is still in the development phase).

2. The mall has its own zip code.

It's 55425, in case you're dying to know (or just need it).

3. THERE ARE MORE THAN 12,250 PARKING SPACES.

With 5.4 million square feet to cover, more than 500 stores, a theme park, an aquarium, a movie theater, a wedding chapel and lots more, how many parking spaces do you think would be adequate? Well, the mall has 12,287. But there are plenty of options if you find yourself at the mall with 12,287 other people and can't seem to find a spot, including hotel shuttles, parking at IKEA, plus bus and rail services that will take you directly to the mall.

If you want to skip all that driving around looking for a spot, the MyPark app will let you reserve a premium parking spot for your visit.

4. THE MALL HAS ITS OWN APP.

In addition to MyPark, the Mall of America has its own dedicated app that lets you maximize your visit. The app lets you virtually visit all 500-plus of the center's stores, create a digital to-do list so that you don't miss anything, add parking reminders for your cars, and map out the facility so that you know where you're going—and don't get lost.

5. BEFORE IT WAS A MALL, IT WAS A STADIUM (WHERE THE BEATLES ONCE PLAYED).

Before it was the Mall of America, it was the Metropolitan Stadium, where you'd likely find Vikings and Twins before you'd find bargain hunters. The Beatles also played there in 1965.

6. There are a couple of MONUMENTS to the old stadium.

If you want to experience a bit of the mall's past life as a stadium, there are a couple of reminders. The first is a bronze plaque that marks where home plate once stood; it's embedded in the floor in the northwest corner of Nickelodeon Universe. The second is probably quite perplexing if you've ever been on the Log Chute and noticed what appears to be a random chair affixed to the wall that has nothing to do with the ride. It shows the spot where the longest home run at the Old Met was hit by Minnesota Twin Harmon Killebrew, who blasted the ball 520 feet from home plate.

7. THE SPACE RELIES ON BODY HEAT TO KEEP IT WARM.

The only common areas (the areas that aren't actually inside of stores) that are heated at the mall are the entryways. The rest of the mall uses skylights, lighting fixtures, and good old body heat from all of the employees and the customers. In fact, even in Minnesota's sub-zero temps in the winter, an air conditioning system has to be used to keep the mall at a comfy shopping temperature.

8. YOU CAN GET MARRIED THERE.

If you want to get married at the Chapel of Love at the Mall of America, you're not alone: more than 7500 couples have tied the knot at the Mall since the chapel opened its doors nearly 25 years ago. Wedding packages start at $249 for the couple and up to 12 guests and go to more than $4000 for a catered affair. (That doesn't include flowers or photography, by the way.)

9. visitors drop more than $160 apiece.

On average, each tourist spends about $162 during one trip to the mall. That same tourist spends about $1.25 outside the mall and the shopping destination boasts more than 40 million visitors per year.

10. IT'S NOT THE LARGEST MALL IN NORTH AMERICA.

Although the mega-mall might be the largest mall in the U.S., it's not the largest mall in North America. That distinction belongs to West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. The largest mall in the world is the New South China Mall in Dongguan, China, which is home to an 82-foot-high replica of the Arc de Triomphe and a 1.3-mile-long canal with gondolas. While the New South China Mall has long been referred to as the world's largest "ghost mall" because of its lack of occupants, or shoppers, it seems poised for a comeback.

This article originally ran in 2009.

10 Juicy Facts About Leeches

Ian Cook
Ian Cook

Leeches get a bad rap, but they’re actually pretty cool once you get to know them—and we're finding out more about them, even today. Recently, a team led by Anna Phillips, curator of parasitic worms at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History, discovered a new species of medicinal leech (pictured above) in a Maryland swamp. We asked parasite expert and curator at the American Museum of Natural History Mark E. Siddall to share some surprising facts about the worms we love to hate. 

1. Not all leeches suck blood.

Hematophagous, or blood-feeding, species are only one type of leech. “The vast majority of species are [hematophagous],” Siddall tells Mental Floss, “but it depends on the environment. In North America, there are probably more freshwater leeches that don’t feed on blood than there are blood-feeders.” And even among the hematophagous species, there are not too many who are after you. “Very few of them are interested in feeding on human blood,” Siddall says. “Certainly they’ll do it, if they’re given the opportunity, but they’re not what they’re spending most of their time feeding on.” 

2. Leeches are everywhere.

Japanese leech on a log
Pieria, Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

“Every continent on the planet has leeches, with the exception of Antarctica,” Siddall says. “And even then there are marine leeches in Antarctic waters.” Humans have co-existed with leeches for so long, according to Siddall, that just about every language has a word for leech. 

3. Leeches have made a comeback in medicine.

Bloodletting for bloodletting’s sake has fallen out of favor with Western physicians, but that doesn’t mean medicinal leeches are enjoying a cushy retirement. Today, surgeons keep them on hand in the operating room and use them as mini-vacuums to clean up blood. “That is a perfectly sensible use of leeches,” Siddall says. Other uses, though, are less sensible: “The more naturopathic application of leeches in order to get rid of bad blood or to cure, I don’t know, whatever happens to ail you, is complete hooey,” he says. How on Earth would leeches take away bad blood and leave good blood? It’s silly.” 

4. Novelist Amy Tan has her own species of leeches.

Land-based leeches made an appearance in Tan’s 2005 book Saving Fish from Drowning, a fact that instantly put the author in leech researchers’ good graces. “There are not a lot of novels out there with terrestrial leeches in them,” Siddall says. So when he and his colleagues identified a new species of tiny terrestrial leeches, they gave the leech Tan’s name. The author loved it. “I am thrilled to be immortalized as Chtonobdella tanae,” Tan said in a press statement. “I am now planning my trip to Queensland, Australia, where I hope to take leisurely walks through the jungle, accompanied by a dozen or so of my namesake feeding on my ankles.”

5. Leeches can get pretty big.

The giant Amazon leech (Haementeria ghilianii) can grow up to 18 inches and live up to 20 years. And yes, this one’s a blood-feeder. Like all hematophagous species, H. ghilianii sticks its proboscis (which can be up to 6 inches long) into a host, drinks its fill, and falls off. Scientists thought the species was extinct until a zoologist found two specimens in the 1970s, one of whom he named Grandma Moses. We are not making this up.

6. Leeches make good bait.

Many walleye anglers swear by leeches. “A leech on any presentation moves more than other types of live bait," pro fisher Jerry Hein told Fishing League Worldwide. "I grew up fishing them, and I think they're the most effective live bait around no matter where you go." There’s an entire leech industry to provide fishers with their bait. One year, weather conditions kept the leeches from showing up in their typical habitats, which prevented their collection and sale. Speaking to CBS news, one tackle shop owner called the absence of leeches “the worst nightmare in the bait industry.”

7. Leech scientists use themselves as bait.

Siddall and his colleagues collect and study wild leeches. That means hours of trekking through leech territory, looking for specimens. “Whether we’re wandering in water or traipsing through a bamboo forest,” Siddall says, “we are relying on the fact that leeches are attracted to us.” Do the leeches feed on them? “Oh my god, yes. We try to get them before they feed on us … but sometimes, obviously, you can’t help it.”

8. Leech sex is mesmerizing.

Like many worms, leeches are all hermaphroditic. The specifics of mating vary by species, but most twine themselves together and trade sperm packets. (The two leeches in the video above are both named Norbert.)

9. Some leech species make surprisingly caring parents. 

“There’s a whole family of leeches that, when they lay their eggs, will cover them with their own bodies,” Siddall says. “They’ll lay the eggs, cover them with their bodies, and fan the eggs to prevent fungus or bacteria from getting on them, and then when the eggs hatch, they will attach to the parent. They’re not feeding on the parent, just hanging on, and then when the parent leech goes to its next blood meal it’s carrying its offspring to its next blood meal. That’s pretty profound parental care, especially for invertebrates.”

10. You might be the next to discover a new leech species. 

Despite living side-by-side with leeches for thousands of years, we’ve still got a lot to learn about them. Scientists are aware of about 700 different species, but they know there are many more out there. “I’ll tell you what I wish for,” Siddall says. “If you ever get fed on by a leech, rather than tearing off and burning it and throwing it in the trash, maybe observe it and see if you can see any color patterns. Understand that there’s a real possibility that it could be a new species. So watch them, let them finish. They’re not gonna take much blood. And who knows? It could be scientifically useful.”

22 Weird Jobs From 100 Years Ago

Metal Floss via YouTube
Metal Floss via YouTube

Before everyone started working in tech, people actually had their choice of eclectic and strange vocations that put food on their old-timey tables. Discover what lamplighters, lectores, and knocker-uppers did back in the day as Mental Floss editor-in-chief Erin McCarthy runs down 22 Weird Old Jobs from 100 Years Ago.

For more episodes like this one, be sure to subscribe here.

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