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American Dream—The Mall Isn’t Dead, It’s Just Transforming

An indoor ski hill, roller coasters, and a water park are all part of the New Jersey mall that reflects the shift from material consumerism to the consumption of experiences.
January 5, 2020, 7am PST | Camille Fink
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Amanda Hess writes about a surreal trip to American Dream, a new 3-million-square-foot mall complex. "Just off the New Jersey Turnpike, a post-shopping mall is born: More than half of American Dream’s space is allotted not to retail but to entertainment. The psychic center of American social life has shifted from buying things to feeling them."

Hess starts at Big Hill, an indoor ski hill, and continues to Nickelodeon Universe, an amusement park with record-breaking roller coasters. There’s an ice rink and the world’s largest candy store. The DreamWorks water park is still under construction, and it will include the largest wave pool in the world when it is up and running. "The whole place is vulgar, which I happen to appreciate," she says.

American Dream is a project by the same team behind the Mall of America in Minnesota and is based on the premise that millennials want to spend their money on experiences rather than material things. "No, it is not a mall. It’s a performance piece ruminating on the corporate takeover of nature and society. The name — American Dream — is both unnerving and absolutely correct," adds Hess.

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Published on Friday, December 27, 2019 in The New York Times
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