I am one of those people: I detest malls. I don’t particularly love shopping most of the time anyway, and the idea of a shopping mall as being a “fun” place just escapes me. Before my recent visit to Minnesota last month, I hadn’t been inside a mall in years.

Then I discovered the Mall of America.

IMG_20160317_180023This is truly a place that defies the notion of a “mall.” Of course, I’ve heard about it for years. And admittedly, my main reason for going there was because I was visiting the Twin Cities area with my four-year-old grandson on vacation – and the Mall of America (MOA) is rife with family activities.

I was surprised to discover, however, that I actually enjoyed MOA quite a bit too. Upon our entrance it felt more like a museum, with a large four-story rotunda and hundreds of pieces of artwork lining the walls. Add to that the dozens of cool attractions here – not to mention the dining and, yes, the hundreds of stores if you are into shopping – and this was one awesome place.

My grandson and I had a blast experiencing the following attractions, and I’m not sure who was the bigger kid during our time there. (But, read on for more attractions of the grown-up variety).

  • Nickelodeon Universe: Right smack in the middle of the mall, our day here let both of us be goofy kids. We rode everything we could ride (there were about 4-5 rides that required a minimum of 48″ height, which Jude was too small for — and mad that he couldn’t ride them!) It’s a really fun amusement park, especially for the kids (and their parents) who love the Nickelodeon characters like Dora the Explorer and Sponge Bob Square Pants.
  • The Water Park of America: We spent 5 hours on our first day there splashing and sliding our way around it, including the tallest indoor water slide in the U.S. What a blast! This largest indoor water park in the state is actually located fully inside the Radisson Hotel Bloomington by Mall of America, which is where we stayed. It’s the perfect family hotel, with rooms offering bunk beds and easy (indoor, year-round) access to the water park. Plus, hotel guests get exclusive use of the water park from 9-11 each morning, so you can avoid the crowds.
  • Lego Imagination Center: This huge Lego store is hands-on, with lots of play stations inside and just behind the store that let kids (and adults) make their own Lego creations.
  • Minnesota Children’s Museum: A small annex of the main museum downtown, I have to admit this was underwhelming to me. It was really just a play area with some activities and a small dinosaur exhibit (which rotates into other exhibits). If you have some time to kill and the kids want to play, it’s fine — but with so many other fun attractions at MOA, I would say skip the museum unless you have extra time.
  • Rainforest Cafe: I used to take my daughter here when she was little, and I thought my grandson would love it every bit as much as his mother used to. I was right – he was completely enchanted and it was such a fun experience for both of us.

Other family attractions at MOA (that we didn’t get to) include the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, Crayola Experience, FlyOver America, the Amazing Mirror Maze, and Moose Mountain Adventure Golf. You could easily spend a week here and not do everything.

As promised, there are plenty of diversions sans kids as well – check out the House of Comedy or catch a flick at the huge movie theater. MOA is home to many upscale, buzz-worth restaurants including Crave, Cedar + Stone Urban Table and the FireLake Grill House + Cocktail Bar. Happy hour specials, salsa dancing lessons and live bands every weekend provide plenty of entertainment. Various events throughout the year such as National Beer Day and live music series also promise adult fun.

Where to Stay:

As noted, we stayed at the Radisson Hotel Bloomington by Mall of America.

If you’re looking for a more urban location, stay at the  Radisson Blu Minneapolis Downtown. This sophisticated, chic hotel makes a great base for exploring Minneapolis and Saint Paul, and is still only a twenty minute drive to Mall of America.

More Area Information:

Minneapolis Tourism Info

The Official Twin Cities Visitor Guide

Explore Minnesota