Think you’ve been to the mall before? The Mall of America, located in Bloomington, Minnesota, is not your average shopping center: with 8 acres, 28 rides and attractions including a Ferris wheel, multiple roller coasters and an aquarium, we can promise you have never done the mall like this. But with all those acres and shops (there are over 520 stores in the mall alone) you need a survival guide, especially with the kids in tow. Read on for yours.
photo: Amber Guetebier
What to Do
Fun fact: nine Yankee Stadiums could fit inside the mall, also 347 Statues of Liberty. That’s big. Lucky for you, most of what you want to see and do with the kids is located in or near the east wing of the Mall of America, including our recommended accommodations, the rides, and the food court wooot!) so you can focus on the fun. Here’s what not to miss.
photo: Amber Guetebier
Creative and active types alike will find adventure here at this Crayola mecca where kids can paint, color, dance, animate and even become a coloring page character. Melt down crayons to make a souvenir to take home, use your tokens (included with admission) to name a crayon anything you want and watch a short movie and demo about how crayons are made. Admission is $19.99 at the door, but you can get $3 off admission if you purchase online.
photo: NVJ via Flickr
The center of the Mall is Nickelodeon Universe, a seven-acre amusement park (the largest indoor theme park in the US) that includes 28 rides and attractions. There are four roller coasters from wild to mild, a splashy log ride, Ferris wheel, carousel, bumper cars and more. You’ll find plenty of amusements for the younger set alongside thrills for your older crew. We suggest getting an unlimited ride wristband ($35.99, or two-consecutive days for $49.99). They are good for the entire day and any of the rides, which means you can explore other attractions in the Mall, grab some lunch, and do it all again. If you want to include the zipline or Moose Mountain Mini-Golf, the wristband is $40.99.
Tip: Save $5 if you buy a wristband in advance online.
Allow: 1-4 hours (per day) depending on how many times you go back for more!
photo courtesy Mall of America
An aquarium in a mall? Yep, and it’s not small either: there are 10,000 sea creatures here! In addition to touch tanks upon entry (while you wait!) you’ll soon find yourself in for some major aquatic enchantment. Once you’ve been mesmerized by the Ray Tank, you’ll find yourself among a sea of seahorses. There’s also a 300-foot ocean walk-through tunnel that allows you to be one with the sharks and sea turtles. General admission tickets start at $14.99 (you can save by purchasing in advance) but you can upgrade to get behind-the-scenes tours and feed the rays!
Allow: 1 hour
Looking for More? Check out FlyOver America a way-cool flight ride that doesn’t just show you what it’s like to soar like an eagle: it takes you on an aerial tour of the United States. Xscape is a video and interactive gaming center: there are two in the mall, one “central” and one on the east side. There’s also the Amazing Mirror Maze on the north end.
Where to Stay
There’s no better option for families than the Raddison Blu Mall of America. It is chic yet family-friendly (please spend some time lounging in the “pod” chairs in the lobby) and you can take the skyway, right off the second floor mezzanine directly to the Mall. Not only that, but you end up right near the food court and Nickelodeon World (and the American Girl store). There’s a world-class spa and—parents rejoice—a package pickup service. Guests of the hotel can shop until they drop and then simply call the hotel. They send a staff member within minutes to take your bags directly back to your room for you, which frees you up to ride the rollercoaster, without worrying about your purchases. The hotel also keeps bees on their roof. Watch for bee demos and delicious honey-infused treats on the menu of the on-site restaurant FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar (also available through room service—just sayin’). The hotel sports a gorgeous, salt-water, indoor pool stocked with pool noodles, water guns and more. When booking, check out their family packages including: An American Girl package which includes a doll-sized travel bed to keep, a welcome letter and access to American Girl book library; the Nickelodeon Universe package which includes wristbands; the Crayola Experience package which includes tickets to the Crayola attraction, a backpack buddy and a 10” Crayola plush toy; the Family Fun upgrade which includes tickets to the Aquarium or wristbands for the rides and a kid’s tent to keep; and the splurge-worthy American Dream package which hooks you up with tickets to almost everything in Nickelodeon Universe plus shopping coupons and more. Rooms start at $143.65.
Where to Shop
No trip to the Mall of America would be complete without a little shopping. It is, after all, a mall! But with 520 stores, we’re betting you’d like to narrow it down a bit. For kids, there are a few spots you won’t want to miss. And lucky for you, these ones are all fairly close to one another and near the Nickelodeon Universe.
Not only does this store sell LEGO bricks, sets and swag, it is home to some of the most epic LEGO sculptures we’ve seen. There’s a 34-foot tall LEGO robot; a helicopter, knights and a dragon. There’s a cool screen that animates the scene from any scanned box of LEGO sets, bringing the characters and builds to life. Plus, there’s a large area just to sit and build with bricks. Climb up to the second floor of the mall to get an even better view of the LEGO sculptures!
Insider tip: Fans of LEGO will want to check out Brickmania on the Level 3, a small store that sells a huge array of unusual minifigs, weapons and a few hard-to-find and collector sets. Kits are made from genuine LEGO brand parts.
If you’ve got a fan in your house, odds are you won’t be allowed to leave the mall without visiting this store. Check out all the historical and contemporary Girl of the Year dolls, find your own doll to personalize (and animate it online!) and get lost in the swag: books, outfits, accessories and more. Hungry after all that browsing? Grab a bite at the American Girl Bistro!
photo: My Lil’ Rotten via Flickr
JM Cremp’s Adventure Store
This retail space is like a mini-adventure in itself. From pretend-play costumes and gear to tents, fishing, ziplining and more, this kid-focused store will encourage your creative, adventurous kids.
Not only will you find all your favorite characters and movie swag, the store hosts events throughout the year including trivia-thons, arts and crafts and storytimes.
photo: john via flickr
Where to Eat
The Mall of America has it all. We love the food court for its view of the rides and overview of the center court of the mall. There’s everything from fast-food burgers and fries to deep-dish pizza to sushi to falafel wraps. For sit down, you’ll also find your favorites like the Hard Rock Cafe, the Rainforest Cafe and Bubba Gump Shrimp. Local favorite Cowboy Jacks is a hit with the kids, and for something sit-down, and a little less “chain” feeling, try the Twin City Grill for a 1940’s supper club vibe; Radisson Blu’s FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar or Crave—an award-winning American grill and sushi bar.
photo courtesy Mall of America
If you’ve got kids that sometimes still need a stroller or that conk out before their older siblings, rent one atGuest Services (there’s one right by the Nickelodeon Universe) for just $7 for a single or $9 for a double. Mall of America is big, even if you just stick to the areas mentioned above!
Get the app! It will help you plan your itinerary based on interest, offers a detailed map and will text you updates about current events happening in the mall that day!
Going just for the day? Park n the East lot if possible.
If you are staying at the Raddison Blu, you can park for free in any of the lots but you must register your vehicle each time you move it. We recommend doing valet at any of the hotels, as it is not that expensive and comes with in-and-out privileges if you decide to go on any nearby excursions. If you do self-park, make sure you have your vehicle make, license plate number, etc.
Flying in? Take a bus or lightrail from the MSP airport. A taxi there from MSP should be about $15. Note you will be dropped off near North entrance with bus or lightrail.
Mall of America
60 E Broadway
Bloomington, Mn 55425
Have you visited Mall of America with the kids? What was your favorite part?