Restaurants at Car Dealerships? Jungle Gyms and Water Parks at Malls? New Reasons to Go Shopping

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Businesses will go to great, and sometimes unusual, lengths in order to entice customers into going shopping. With the goal of becoming a “destination,” rather than just another place to shop, malls and car dealerships are getting creative. They’re installing new features and additions in order to woo consumers and set themselves apart from the competition.

Here are a few of the latest ideas:

Toddler Play Areas at Malls
It’s a lot easier to get mom to the mall when her kids are just as excited as she is to go there. That’s the premise behind the addition of children’s play areas at many malls—a trend highlighted in a recent Wall Street Journal piece. Playtime, Inc., a company that specializes in the building and design of such areas, installed 65 of them at malls last year. The areas are typically 900 to 1,200 square feet, with structures based on colorful dinosaurs, Sesame Street muppets, and cartoon characters providing spots to climb and play safely.

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These structures are more than just a nice touch—they can be “the little something extra that gets someone to drive past another mall to come to yours,” says Paco Underhill, founder and CEO of retail consultancy firm Envirosell Inc. and author of the influential books What Women Want and Why We Buy.

Restaurants at Car Dealerships
People need to eat a lot more often than they need to go browsing for new cars. Some auto dealerships have figured out a way to get their cars seen by consumers while they’re eating—and we’re not just talking about free coffee and a bag of chips from a vending machine.

Twin Creeks Café opened up inside the Frank Kent Honda dealership in 2010 as a “convenient and healthy option in West Fort Worth, an area over-saturated with processed fast food.” A few months ago, it upgraded the dining area and revamped the menu. Nothing all that fancy, though: The priciest item is the beef tenderloin entrée, for $9.99.

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Starting next week, meanwhile, Vintana, a $2.5 million restaurant and event space, will be open for business at the Centre at Lexus Escondido, a “super dealership” north of San Diego designed to include a golf simulator, 5,000 feet of retail space, a private library with massage chairs, boardrooms that can be rented for meetings—and a children’s play area.

Water Park at an Outlet Mall?
Go to nearly any area in the U.S. favored by tourists, and there’s a better than average chance you’ll be within quick driving distance of both an outlet mall and a water park. Now just imagine the possibilities if someone built a water park at an outlet mall—or, for that matter, if they built an outlet mall at a water park.

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Either way, that’s what’s being proposed with Lakeside Landing, an enormous project that includes a 60,000-square-foot indoor-outdoor year-round water park, a convention center and hotel, and 150,000 square feet of retail space. The mall-water park’s location will be just off of I-90 in Ellensburg, Wash., about two hours southeast of Seattle. While the project has been on-again, off-again for years, that latest has it on again. When completed, it could cost nearly $1 billion—and serve as a magnet for tourist dollars aplenty from people who love shopping, water parks, or both.

Brad Tuttle is a reporter at TIME. Find him on Twitter at @bradrtuttle. You can also continue the discussion on TIME’s Facebook page and on Twitter at @TIME.

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