When you think of Minneapolis, does “shop till you drop” at the Mall of America come to mind? Well, there’s much, much more to this town. That said, if you love to shop and/or have kids in tow, the mall is a fantastically fun family venue offering enough shopping and recreation to keep your family busy for days.
Built on land in the nearby suburb of Bloomington, where Metropolitan Stadium (home to the Minnesota Twins and the Minnesota Vikings) previously stood before the teams moved downtown, the mall is less than two miles from the Minneapolis/Saint Paul International Airport. Did you realize that it’s a popular “weekend” tour destination for Japanese and European tourists, who love its myriad shopping opportunities?
If you fly to the region, you won’t even need a car. The mall is one of the favorite stops on the Hiawatha Light Rail Transit which can whisk you directly from airport to mall, or vice versa, as well as downtown, and the mall is also a convenient drive from the cities of Minneapolis or Saint Paul and their surroundings.
Mall of America Shops Galore
In 1992, after 10 years of development and construction, the Mall of America opened for business with 330 stores and 10,000 employees. As the first to offer the unique combination of shopping and entertainment, the complex has reinvented the concept of “the mall,” and has become a destination in itself. It’s hard to imagine how large this place is, but consider that seven Yankee Stadiums or 258 Statues of Liberty could fit inside.
Now there are over 500 stores in operation, ranging from national department chains to unique shops, plus 50 restaurants. The Mall’s other exciting and fun features include Underwater Adventures, a 1.2-million-gallon walk-through aquarium; and the four-story LEGO Imagination Center, where you are encouraged to play (and buy).
There’s also a spa just for kids, offering mani-pedis and hair treatments, specially designed for children ages 4 to 15. Teens will especially appreciate NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway, a virtual 195mph ride, and a 15 screen Movie Theatre. There’s even a Chapel of Love where over 5,500 brides and grooms from around the world have come to say “I Do.”
Soon to be among the mall’s many indoor attractions, the 12,000-square-foot MagiQuest adventure complex is sure to draw in wizards, warlocks and witches from all over the country. Each brave participant will enter the three-dimensional arena equipped with a personalized Magic Wand to fight off dragons, duel with goblins and much more.
MOA’s Indoor Theme & Water Parks
The physical centerpiece of the mall, and perhaps the most exciting element for families, is Nickelodeon Universe, which at seven-acres in area, is the country’s largest indoor family theme park, and Nickelodeon’s first such venture. You can ride more than 20 fun-filled rides ranging from gentle “Kiddie” rides to medium “Family” rides to “Thrill” rides for the bravest among you.
Just to give you an idea, you can choose between the thrill-packed fun rollercoaster – SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge, a Log Chute (prepare to get wet), Jimmy Neutron’s Atomic Collider, a carousel, and more Character “Meet and Greets” are sure to put smiles on kid’s faces, and if you want to take a souvenir home with you, you’ve come to the right place because shopping opportunities at The Park abound.
The Water Park of America, the country’s largest indoor waterpark is located across from the Mall of America at the Radisson Hotel Bloomington. The park is open to hotel guests and day visitors. Bring a towl and experience the 10-story waterslide and wave machine for surfing — all the pools are heated.
But, as I said, there’s much more to see and do in this city and its nearby sibling, Saint Paul, than you will find at the Mall of America. Note that I didn’t refer to them as “Twin Cities,” because they are not identical at all. With distinct flavors, Saint Paul is quieter, more historic and offers Old-World charm, while Minneapolis is livelier, more modern and happening. Historically, athletically and culturally, both of these towns are overflowing with attractions.
A Great Mall of America Family Hotel
Along with everything else, there is no shortage of hotels in these towns. Ranging from the historic landmark Saint Paul Hotel to inexpensive motels, your family will certainly find a place to stay. During my visit, I was extremely comfortable at the Embassy Suites Minneapolis-Downtown Hotel (612/333-3111). Located just a short walk to the Nicollet Mall shops and restaurants (be sure to look for the statue of Mary Tyler Moore tossing her hat in the air in front of Macy’s at the corner of 7th Street), I found the spacious suites to be much larger and even more commodious than are typically found in this family-friendly chain.
Our suite consisted of a big living room with a good-sized food-prep area with wet bar, half fridge, microwave, and coffee maker; a dining table and chairs, a pull-out sofa and two comfy chairs. The bedroom was also large and featured a sink/vanity area in addition to the bathroom, and lots of room for storing clothing. Amenities included two cable TVs and high-speed wireless Internet access. There is an indoor pool with two whirlpools, a sauna, steam room and fitness center.
A complimentary breakfast includes a buffet and an omelet/pancake station where kids were thrilled by the chef’s creation of adding two small pancakes as ears to make Mickey Mouse face pancakes. They had additional fun by decorating them with chocolate chips and fruit slices for his features. This hotel was a perfect headquarters for our family’s visit to enjoy these cities’ various energies and charms.
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