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Canada: Even north of the border, they'll celebrate Black Friday

November 19, 2012|By Jay Jones
  • North Pole Place is part of the decoration of West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada. It will celebrate Black Friday on Nov. 23 just like its U.S. counterparts.
North Pole Place is part of the decoration of West Edmonton Mall in Alberta,… (West Edmonton Mall )

Looking for the ultimate Black Friday shopping experience? Consider West Edmonton Mall in Alberta’s capital city.

With 800 stores (Minnesota’s Mall of America boasts 520), West Edmonton Mall (in Alberta, the province east of British Columbia) is said to be the largest shopping center on the continent and the province’s biggest tourist attraction. It’s an ideal place to hunt for holiday gifts, including European fashions not easily found in many American malls.

Because Canadians celebrate their Thanksgiving in October, Nov. 23 has no special significance for them. For the first time, however, the mall is officially recognizing Black Friday with extended hours and sales.

The festivities continue until 6 p.m. on Christmas Eve. There will be holiday concerts and plenty of decorations, and Santa will be in residence at North Pole Place. On certain days, the kids can even interact with live penguins from Sea Life Caverns, one of the mall’s many attractions. Others include a water park and an ice skating rink, both, of course, indoors.

This time of year, though, the emphasis for most visitors will be shopping. Wear comfortable shoes: The center covers more than 5 million square feet.

Americans will recognize some of the store names, but others will be unfamiliar. Simons, a department store with a distinctly French flair, has just opened its first location outside of Quebec. Yanks can also browse at RW & Co., a Canadian-owned clothing store.

When it’s time to take a break, the center offers more than 100 dining choices. When it’s time to say, “Enough – until tomorrow,” there are two hotels on site, the Fantasyland Hotel and the West Edmonton Mall Inn.

When it’s time to head home, U.S. Customs and Border Protection notes that “U.S. residents are normally entitled to a duty-free exemption of $800 on items accompanying them.”

West Edmonton Mall is usually open 10 a.m. to 9 p.m. It will open at 8 a.m. on Black Friday. On Dec. 26, which Canadians observe as Boxing Day, an official holiday, stores will open at 7 a.m. Through Christmas Eve, shoppers will find free gift wrapping and free coat check too.

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