Bloomington, Minnesota is home to the No. 1 tourism attraction in the United States.
The shopping mecca offers plenty of grownup fun even if you don’t (gasp!) like to shop.
By Hope S. Philbrick
When the Mall of America opened in 1992 it had its share of skeptics, including me.
I lived in Bloomington, Minnesota at that time and, like everyone I knew, thought the place was doomed to fail. Why did the Twin Cities metro area need the world’s largest shopping mall when we already had Southdale, the country’s first enclosed mall? Would tourists really brave Minnesota winters to shop?
Yes, it turns out, by the planeload.
Each year more than 40 million guests visit the Mall of America from all around the world.
When the Mall opened, it was an unprecedented mix of retail and entertainment: You could shop at familiar and unique stores as well as see a movie, ride a roller coaster or eat at restaurants not available elsewhere in the state. All without stepping outdoors.
The naysayers, me included, were quickly won over.
Though I’d initially doubted that I’d often go to Mall of America—I already had established shopping routines—it became a big part of my life. In my 20s Mall of America was THE after-work and weekend destination for me and my friends. It offered shopping, sure, but also clubs, a movie theater, an amusement park, restaurants and more. Much more. My husband and I had our first date at Mall of America: We met at a designated spot, strolled around the shops, then headed to dinner at Tucci Benucch (an Italian restaurant that recently closed after operating for 25 years inside the Mall). We returned to the Mall on many future dates, to watch movies, play mini golf, ride the water flume, tour the aquarium, attend special events and more. Given our personal connection to the Mall, we held our wedding reception nearby at The Grand Hotel (which was demolished years later to accommodate a new runway at the nearby airport). I frequented Mall of America until moving to Georgia in 1997.
On a recent trip through Minnesota, I returned to discover it was simultaneously the Mall I remembered plus new and improved in ways that feel seamless and contemporary. It’s clean, impressive, and fun. Whether or not shopping is on your agenda, Mall of America truly offers something for everyone—including many adults-only venues and programs…
Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy lures national acts and has a more lenient food/drink limit than most comedy clubs (you can buy just one item if that’s all you want, though you may want more since tasty options abound). Two shows are staged per night (except Mondays): For early shows, all guests must be at least age 16 and anyone under age 18 must be accompanied by a parent or legal guardian. Late shows are exclusive to guests age 18 and older. Spend more than $25 on food and drink and get a free ticket to a future show.
Snorkel With The Fish at the 1.2 million-gallon Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, which is home to 19 species of sharks, including a 9-foot sand tiger shark. Don’t want to get wet? Try the 45-minute behind-the-scenes tour guided tour to see animals that are currently off-exhibit, explore the Laboratory, and get a peek at what it takes to feed thousands of sea creatures.
Play 18 holes of mini golf. Moose Mountain Adventure Golf has an old-timey feel and whimsical “north woods” design. Rock of Ages Blacklight Mini Golf has a musical rock ‘n roll theme.
Get pampered at Solimar Spa in Radisson Blu. Signature treatments like the Sun Stone Massage, Solimar Facial, and Four-Handed Ayurvedic Massage replace stress with relaxation. A quiet hush lingers throughout the Spa to help you find your ahhhhh.
Mall Stars Walking Club is the official mall-walking club at Mall of America. Join and keep track of your hours, distance and even find camaraderie. The walking distance around each level of the Mall is 0.57 mile, so it’s pretty easy to rack up miles as you explore and browse.
Mall of America enforces a Parental Escort Policy on Fridays and Saturdays (after 4 p.m.) throughout the year and also on Sundays (4 p.m. to close) during Spring Break (March 15-April 15) and the year-end holiday season (Black Friday through the end of December). While children are welcome at the Mall, this policy requires that Mall guests age 15 and younger are accompanied by an adult age 21 and older (who must be prepared to show a government issued photo I.D.—and, yes, security does check). Each adult can escort a maximum of 10 youths. So, grownups, you won’t encounter unruly mobs of undisciplined kiddos at Mall of America!
Valet Parking can save grownups time at Mall of America—plus you won’t have to remember where you parked. Leave your car at one of the three drop-off locations (North Entrance, Radisson Blu or JW Marriott), connect with valet through your mobile device, and send an alert when you’re ready for the car to be brought back to you.
The Mall offers complimentary shuttles to Mystic Lake Casino seven times a day, seven days a week. All passengers must be at least 18-years-old.
FlyOver America is a simulated flight experience that offers a soaring look at America and/or Canada. Over 10,000 miles of treasures are presented on the screen, from skyscrapers to canyons. You’ll sit facing a giant half-circle dome screen with your feet dangling 10 to 40 feet above the ground for what feels like a real 10-minute flight. Special effects like wind and mist help make the clouds feel real. It’s billed as “a-kind attraction” that “takes you on a 4D experience through some of the nation’s most breathtaking landscapes and beautiful cities.”
The Escape Game presents four different brain-teasing challenges: Mission Mars, The Heist, Prison Break, and Gold Rush. Leverage clues and solve puzzles to escape before the clock runs out. You and your team will have only 60 minutes try and escape the room. Break the rooms’ records and you’ll get on The Escape Game’s leaderboard.
GameWorks offers a mix of video and arcade games, bowling lanes, and classic gaming foods.
SMAAASH presents a mix of virtual reality and contemporary video and arcade games. Race sky-karts on the multi-level track, play laser tag and more to get your adrenaline pumping.
The only Zara location in Minnesota is at Mall of America.
Watch a movie at the new 14-screen CMX Cinemas. Expect high-end décor, cutting-edge audio technology, big reclining seats, gourmet dining options, and an assortment of wines and handcrafted cocktails.
Why Shop Minnesota?
- There’s no sales tax on clothing or shoes in Minnesota!
- The temperature inside Mall of America is always 70 degrees, year-round—plus the Mall is connected by light rail to the airport, so you can get there without ever having to go outside! (Train tickets from the airport to the Mall start at $1.25 each for a one-way trip.)
- Mall of America is the #1 tourism attraction in the United States
- Mall of America is the largest retail and entertainment complex in the United States
- Mall of America is 78 acres in size—347 statues of liberty, 43 Boeing 747s or 9 Yankee stadiums could fit inside the Mall!
- 4 out of 10 visitors to Mall of America are tourists
- Mall of America offers nearly 90 travel packages from 38 countries on 5 continents
- 27 rides and attractions are available in the 7-acre Nickelodeon Universe theme park, located in the center of the Mall, including Barnacle Blast, the longest indoor zip-line in North America that soars 55-feet above the ground; a new ride opens each year
- 520+ stores are located in Mall of America
- 50+ dining options are inside Mall of America
- Radisson Blu Mall of America and JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America are the two hotels connected to the Mall; both offer courtesy guest package pick-up anywhere in the Mall
- Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is located next to Mall of America and is linked by convenient Light Rail Train. If you have at least 3 hours of flight connection time, you have time to visit Mall of America to shop, dine or play
- If you were to spend just 10 minutes in each store, it would take 86 hours to complete your Mall visit
- 400+ free events are hosted at Mall of America each year
- 8,700+ weddings have been performed at Mall of America
- 8 acres of skylights allow for 70% natural light in the theme park
- The Mall has 16 public elevators, 46 escalators and more than 12,500 free parking spaces
Mall of America is committed to green design and incorporates passive solar heating, an extensive recycling program that recycles more than 60 percent of its waste (an average of 32,000 tons per year) and houses 30,000 live plants and 400 live trees that act as natural air purifiers. In addition, restaurant fryer fat is converted into bio-diesel to power Mall of America maintenance vehicles and thousands of ladybugs are released inside the building rather than using pesticides on the live plants and trees that climb as high as 35 feet inside Nickelodeon Universe.
Mall of America is investing $5 million in an Enhanced Service Portal (ESP). The new communications hub portal brings together social media + digital media + security + telecom (phone operators) to better serve guests, tenants and perspective visitors. The ESP enables custom engagements and conversations to provide relevant tips, deals, recommendations and personalized service to individual guests.
MOA is currently 5.62 million square feet making it the largest retail and entertainment complex in the Western Hemisphere. The Mall has enough land available to nearly double in size over the next 10 years. Many exciting concepts are planned, including a waterpark hotel, boutique hotel, and a high end fashion retailer.
Where To Stay…
Mall of America is just 15 minutes from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul and only five minutes from MSP International Airport. More than 50 hotels are located within 10 minutes of MOA and offer free shuttle service to/from the Mall and MSP Airport.
The 500-room Radisson Blu is attached to Mall of America, as is JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America, the second 5-star hotel in the Twin Cities metro area. Odds of Encountering Children at these two hotels is possible but lower than average; for the best odds of an adults-oriented experience stay during the week when school is in session.
Country Inn & Suites by Radisson, Bloomington at Mall of America is located just across the street. There’s a walkway from the hotel to the Mall; it’s about a 5-minute walk. The hotel also offers a complimentary shuttle service to and from the Mall at the top of the hour every two hours from 10 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. Two restaurants are attached to the hotel: TGIFriday’s and a 24-hour IHOP. The hotel has two pools and two whirlpools. Odds of Encountering Children at this family-friendly hotel are high.
– Photos courtesy Mall of America
This article was first published on this site June 24, 2014. It has been updated to reflect current adults-oriented offerings at MOA.
Featured products, services and/or travel arrangements may have been complimentary in part or in full; this affords the research opportunity but does not sway opinion.