The Mall of America is a destination in its own right and is even sometimes referred to as a “city within a city”. Not only is it the largest shopping mall in the US, there’s a plethora of restaurants, hotels and attractions that will make sure there’s not a dull moment. We could’ve easily spent a week exploring everything this place has to offer, but even with the limited time we had, we did manage to see a whole lot!
The massive mall can seem overwhelming at first but if you spend a moment beforehand with the map, picking your must-sees and getting your bearings, it’s pretty easy to navigate once inside. The website also tells you where to park for closest access for each store. This is especially handy if you’re planning a multi-day visit and driving yourself to the mall, since you can park closest to the stores you plan on visiting that day.
When planning your stay you might wanna start by picking a hotel. There are a few actually inside the mall and a whole lot more in the area, all offering free shuttle service to and from the mall. We stayed at the Radisson Hotel Bloomington which has been closed after our visit but the location will reopen in December 2017 as the Great Wolf Lodge. You can see a lot more options for accommodation here.
There are well over 500 stores in the Mall of America. It would’ve been impossible to visit them all in the time we had, but we concentrated on a few favorites. Here are our best picks!
If you’re a geek like us, it is impossible NOT to spend some money at a Hot Topic store. Seriously, this place is heaven (and hell because ugh we want everything!) when it comes to fandom shopping. The biggest problem was choosing just a couple of things to buy as our funds were limited and our suitcases even more so. We were quite happy with our haul though!
It’s no secret we like bookstores. We can easily spend hours in one. Add to that the fact that a certain cover story on Entertainment Weekly that was sold exclusively at Barnes & Noble came out the week we were in Minnesota. Yeah, we couldn’t just walk past Barnes & Noble.
Yup, one of our favorites was a store that sells boots and other cowboy stuff. Keep in mind that we listened to country music for pretty much the entire trip and had just seen Eric Paslay live – twice. We desperately wanted to buy honest to god actual cowboy boots and Boot Barn was just the right place for that! Sadly we discovered that honest to god actual cowboy boots do not come cheap… So we had to settle for admiring the impressive collection and posing with some Luccheses.
There’s no shortage of restaurants at the mall. We wished we could’ve sampled all of them but were more than happy with the ones we did.
This laid-back grill house was the perfect place for our lunch date with the lovely ladies of Explore Minnesota and Visit Bloomington. At the FireLake Grill House we got another taste of the delicious Minnesota cheese curds and some sumptuous cornbread to start. Luckily we didn’t fill up too much on appetizers, because the main course of mac and cheese with some sausages was absolutely mouthwatering!
Our Mall of America host Leif took us to dinner at Marriott’s Cedar + Stone, a modern restaurant that uses local ingredients to create a fusion of cuisines. To get things started, we enjoyed one of the restaurant’s signature cocktails called the Rejuvenation Cup. Just the thing you need after a long day of touristing and shopping! The menu varies seasonally according to available ingredients but we ended up with more delicious food on the table than we could even finish…
As dedicated #fastfoodies, we just have to mention the food court as well. While it’s always great to go some place nice to eat, fast food has its perks. The speed and ease are essential when we’re on the road and the same goes for the mall if you’re in a hurry to get back to exploring. When we spotted a Panda Express, we knew we’d get deliciousness too. Even though it was pretty busy, the lines moved fast and the seating area is large enough that we didn’t have to wait for a table. The food court has dozens of options to choose from, so you’ll have plenty of variety even if Chinese food is not your thing.
Now we know what you may be thinking: all malls have shops and restaurants so what’s the big deal about this one? Well, not all malls have an aquarium, an indoor zip line and an amusement park! Since we are both actually five years old at heart, we ended up spending most of our time at some of the many attractions the mall has to offer.
As soon as we got to exploring the mall, the first place we headed to was Flyover America. We’ve been to a similar attraction in Vancouver so we kind of knew what awesomeness to expect. Still, we weren’t quite prepared for how emotional we would get at a simulated flight over the country we were just in the process of exploring. There may even have been a few happy tears… Pro-tip: if possible, ask to be seated in the middle section. The feeling of flying is the most authentic when you’re smack in the middle of the screen!
I’m a sucker for all things ocean and marine life so of naturally we had to stop by the Sealife Aquarium. No matter how many aquariums I visit, I never get tired of watching the sharks gracefully floating by in the shark tunnel. We were even lucky enough to catch a feeding in the massive ocean tank! Be sure to check feeding times in advance if you want to see one.
The fun and colorful Crayola Experience is probably most enjoyable for the smaller members of the family. However, we did have fun trying to get the Fangirl Quest logo on to the animated video wall and making some punny crayons of our own (if you don’t get the pun, read more about our favorite country dude here)
While it’s technically a part of the Nickelodeon Universe, the Dutchman’s Deck attraction requires a separate ticket. There’s a ropes course and spiral slide, but we concentrated on our new favorite activity: zip lining! The Barnacle Blast Zip Line is the longest indoor zip line in North America and zooming inside the mall is a really cool experience!
Ever since we saw the video of the Glee cast on the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge (try saying that many times fast!), we’ve wanted to ride the rollercoaster ourselves.
Getting to Minnesota is easy! With daily flights to Minneapolis via Reykjavik from many European cities, Icelandair is a comfortable and convenient connection to this Northern state. You can also add a Stopover in Iceland for a few days to your itinerary at no additional cost to the flight!