There’s no shortage of malls in the DC area, but Tysons Corner in McLean, Virginia (seven miles west of DC) is the biggest and baddest of them all. In fact, it’s the country’s sixth largest mall. It’s therefore a magnet for holiday shoppers and so, if you decide to go anytime from now through the end of January, you need to be physically, mentally and emotionally prepared.
Wear good shoes. I’m not joking. The place is huge with over 300 stores. There’s even three freaking food courts! I suggest taking a look at the map and making a plan of action before you go—the last thing you want is to be criss-crossing all over the place.
Know where to park. At other times of year I recommend parking in the structure near the movie theater on the third floor. During the holiday season, however, I suggest the structure by Lord & Taylor. It’s probably the most inconvenient, but it’s consequently the least full. If you drive into the mall from Leesburg Pike, it will be the first structure you see on your left. Note: There’s currently no Metro stop near Tysons. If you want to take public transportation, you’ll need to exit at West Falls Church (Orange Line) and take the 3T bus.
Go off hours if possible. Saturday afternoon a few weeks before Christmas? I don’t advice it. Stores are open until 9:30, so you have plenty of time to go after rush hour if you work during the week.
Know where to eat. The best food court is on the top floor where the movie theaters are. If you want a more substantial meal, there are plenty of chain restaurants like California Pizza Kitchen and Gordon Biersch scattered across the mall.
Look for escalators. There are surprisingly few escalators from the first floor to the second (and only one to the third floor, which is much smaller) so when you do see one, take note. There are also a few elevators but you’ll have to cram in between strollers to use them.
Don’t go to the movie theater. Again, this just applies to the holiday season. I guess if you’re already in the mall and you’re planning on seeing a movie that isn’t very popular, than it would be okay. No other exceptions though. Go to Ballston Mall if you live in Virginia. That place is always dead.
Watch out for the train. I’m not kidding. There’s a train for kids on the top floor. It drives around and around in circles and it does not stop for pedestrians.
Know the difference between Tysons Corner and Tysons Galleria. Tysons Galleria is a smaller, snootier mall down the street from Tysons Corner. It’s got stores like Cartier, Chanel and Versace. Though the two malls are close, they are in no way within walking distance from one another.
Be patient. Give yourself plenty of time and just accept the fact that you’ll probably have trouble finding parking, get assaulted by someone’s shopping bags and wait in long lines. That way, if it’s not that bad, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. But it probably will be that bad, seriously.
Interesting Tidbit: The Tysons Corner Santa Clause makes $30,000. He works five weeks a year.