The Upside-Down Beginning Of The Sawgrass Mills Mall

Sawgrass Mills Mall - Sunrise Florida

The eleventh largest mall in the United States and the second-largest mall in Florida, Sawgrass Mills Mall, is located in Sunrise, Florida, near Fort Lauderdale. This is a popular tourist destination because of its many luxury outlet shops, restaurants, and IMAX theater.

In the beginning, the mall was designed in two stages. The first opened in October 1990 with outlet stores and a food court. Five years later, in December 1995, Phase II opened. This phase is also known as the Veranda Main Street. The mall continued to add expansions, and even Wannado City, an indoor amusement park, was open until 2011.

While in operation, Wannado City was designed for children aged 2-14 and inspired kids to think about “What they wannado when they got older.” This amusement park allowed children to choose different professions and be paid "Wongas" for their work. Kids could choose from occupations such as lawyers, models, firefighters, doctors, singers, and actors. They could use their "Wongas" to deposit into the "bank" and then use at the Wonka Factory, Publix, or The Coca Cola Bottling Plant. It was a great learning experience for students to learn about salary, money, and banking.

Another fun feature in the history of Sawgrass Mills was the animatronic display in the Cabana Court that featured singing flamingos and alligators. This area was set up like a swamp, much like the Everglades that is only less than an hour away.

Since its opening, many stores have come and gone. Some of those businesses were Service Merchandise, Books-A-Million, Gameworks, and T J Maxx. In addition, the Hard Rock Café closed in 2004 and was replaced by the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience for a few years.

Today, Sawgrass is considered to be one of the most prominent outlet destinations in the US, with over 350 stores. These stores include high-end merchants like Jimmy Choo, Gucci, and Versace. In addition, however, Old Navy, Levis, and Victoria’s Secret also have outlet stores.

If you’re looking to party the night away, the mall has you covered there too. California Pizza Kitchen, Villagio, Grand Lux Café, Yard House, and Mojitobar Tropical Eats +Latin Beats all keep late-night hours for you to enjoy after a long day of exploring all the mall has to offer.

If you’d like to take your take and make it a two-day experience, Sawgrass also has several hotels available. The Doubletree, the AC, and the Bonaventure are there if you'd like to stay close by after a long day of shopping and mojitos.

Sunrise, Florida, the home of Sawgrass Mall, has a fascinating past as well. In 1960, developer Norman Johnson paid $9 million for 2,650 acres of land in Broward County. As it was known at the time, Sunrise Golf Village started out with less than 350 residents.

Johnson intended to call the new town Sunset, but the retirees he wanted to attract considered the name "too final"… So, he changed the name to Sunset instead.

Johnson and F.E. Dykstra built an "upside-down house" to lure prospective buyers. This home was completely furnished and even had an upside-down car under the carport. People came from all over the country to see this unique home and many stayed and built their own homes, but right side up ones. The Upside-Down home was featured on various news outlets, including Life magazine.

In the 1970s, Sunrise began to thrive as Broward County grew and pushed West. In 1971, the city changed its name from Sunrise Golf Village to the City of Sunrise, which it's still called today. In 2020, the City of Sunrise reported over 97,000 people. That's a considerable growth from its original 350.

Sunrise began to experience some financial difficulties in the late '80s and wanted to increase opportunities for economic growth. As a result, the city began making plans for improvement in 1990. Sawgrass Mills Mall was born at this time and has since grown into one of Florida’s premier travel destinations.

Fun Facts:

  • In 2014, the Sawgrass entertained shoppers from more than 100 countries.
  • The president of Strategic Mindshare considered the Town Center addition to be the "Disney World of Shopping."
  • The Upside-Down House was built for $11,500.
  • In September 2010, Sunrise was "lost" by Google Maps. Any travelers using Maps were redirected to Sarasota, Florida. This happened to the city three times.
  • The first elected mayor was John Lomelo Jr, a former nightclub owner drawn to Sunset by the Upside-Down House.
  • Sunrise hosts various festivals every year, including Earth Day, Cultural, and Harvest Festivals. And a Woodstock Festival for local artists and musicians.

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