Wednesday, August 4

I went to American Dream, the behemoth New Jersey mall with 2 theme parks and ski slope, and saw the devastating effects of the pandemic on retail


But with COVID-19 on the ropes, American Dream is once again a reality and its doors are open to shoppers, adventure-seekers, and the host of other visitors to whom the infamous mall caters.

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


I stopped by American Dream, conveniently located off the New Jersey Turnpike right next to MetLife Stadium, on my way to Newark airport. Here’s what I found.

MetLife Stadium from American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


I entered the mail from the retail parking lot on the south side. At first, the three-level structure seemed deserted despite a crowded parking lot on the weekday of my visit.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


But it wasn’t that the mall was empty. American Dream is so massive that it just seemed empty by comparison. There are around 100 stores and retailers at present, around a third of the mall’s capacity.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Besides its size, though, there was nothing special about the mall part of American Dream. There wasn’t much here that I couldn’t find in my local mall, for example, and it lacked a lot of the high-end retailers found in nearby malls like The Mall at Short Hills.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


That may change, however, in September when more than 20 luxury retailers are slated to open.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Source: WWD

Many of the stores that were open — like Primark, Best Buy, and Zara — were cavernous in size. Some were even two levels.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


I was truly impressed with how deep some of them were, including Urban Planet. It’s a testament to the mall’s size.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


The lack of patronage, however, has forced some of the larger stores to scale back. It’Sugar, for example, is scaled down to one floor.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Speaking of the confectionary, this was the first time I’d been in a self-serve candy store since the pandemic. Patrons are required to wear gloves when making their selections.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


It’s a fair COVID compromise that lets customers experience the joy of scooping up their own candy.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Despite the mall’s size, however, it doesn’t have that Mall of America feel. I attribute that closed-in feeling to the lack of natural light in the mall.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


There are not a lot of windows or skylights in the main shopping areas or even the atriums.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


The best parts of the mall, I found, were the spaces with skylights so that natural light could come in.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


This luscious gnome garden, for example, was my favorite part of the mall and a natural attraction.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


This was also the only spot in the mall that had the true communal feeling of a mall. The only problem was that it was flanked by bare walls.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Some of the areas of the malls that hadn’t been filled were walled out from public access completely.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


There were some higher-end food options, like Grisini, but they hadn’t yet opened for business during my visit.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


Being an amateur mall food enthusiast, I had to try the staple of any mall food court: bourbon chicken, from Kelly’s Cajun Grill. And to American Dream’s credit, it was spot on.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


I continued my journey and found the main atrium, another centerpiece where the mall’s size truly shows.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider


For more thrill-seeking kids, Nickelodeon Universe and DreamWorks Water Park are the two main amusement parks in the mall.

Inside American Dream — Visiting American Dream 2021

Inside the American Dream mall in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

Thomas Pallini/Insider




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