MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — Beyond retail and entertainment, one of the Mall of America’s biggest marvels is behind closed doors for the public to appreciate, yet never see. It’s a little-known, 30,000 square foot space that, for 10 months out of the year, feels like Christmas.

The mall spends the better part of November turning the 5.6 million square foot space into a winter wonderland, installing larger than life decorations to make it come alive.

It moves hundreds of trees, a dozen giant nutcrackers, ornaments weighing more than 200 pounds, and other bits of nostalgia out of the on-site warehouses and into plain sight. It mixes with new technology, including snowflakes that are pre-programmed to a lightshow every half hour. It’s an orchestra that, according to Experience Designer Chris Grap, aims to bring people together this time of year.

“To me, old magic is the best magic,” Grap said. “It’s nice when technology doesn’t lead an experience, but can help enhance an experience that’s there. We want people to feel an emotional connection with the space, because that’s what we want, too.”

A relatively new addition is inside the Log Chute, renamed the Yule Log Chute for the holidays. Inside, visitors find a 25-foot tall Paul Bunyan. Tailoring him is designer Christopher Straub, an Edina native from Project Runway Season 6. This year’s theme is Christmas Vacation. Straub has partnered with the mall before, and is one of many people who chime in on the seasonal décor.

“We’re literally thinking about holiday all year long,” Grap said. “Everybody from housekeeping, from construction, to maintenance to marketing. Everybody has a plan on how we want this building to be for the holidays.”

The setup starts early too, as soon as the calendar flips to November. Some shoppers argued it starts too early. To that, Grap says, Santa’s arriving November 7th, ready or not.

“Really we want to put our best foot forward right away,” Grap said. “Santa’s arriving. That’s a big night.”

Visitors can also get a more interactive experience during the holidays, with two orchestra holiday light shows in the south entrance. They’re both free.

Christiane Cordero

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