More people visit Mall of America in Bloomington (just minutes from Minneapolis) each year than Disneyland or the Grand Canyon. Sure, the 520 stores and the fact that you don’t pay sales tax on clothing or shoes are big reasons for that. But it’s all the other stuff there – An amusement park! An aquarium! – that helps bring in over 40 million visitors a year and makes Mall of America a destination in itself.
The Mall turns 25 this year, and it’s a great time to pay a visit. Not a shopper? No worries. Here are ten ways to skip the stores and bring home nothing but memories.
Ride a roller coaster
Nickelodeon Universe — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Yes, there is a gigantic amusement park in the middle of the Mall.
Mall of America is home to Nickelodeon Universe, the nation’s largest indoor family theme park. Whether you’re looking for junior rides for the little ones or thrill rides for the more adventurous, there’s something for everyone. For the best views, try climbing 56 feet up the Ghostly Gangplank, the tallest Sky Trail ropes course in the world, or flying 405 feet across Barnacle Blast, North America’s longest indoor zip line.
Covering a whopping seven acres, there are 30 rides and attractions to choose from. And, if you don’t want to choose, you can buy an all-day wristband for unlimited rides.
Swim with sharks
SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium at Mall of America — Photo courtesy of Mall of America
Yes, there is also a gigantic aquarium in the Mall.
The 1.3 million-gallon SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium features thousands of sea creatures, including sharks, sea turtles, rays, jellyfish and seahorses, and lots of interactive exhibits.
Don’t miss “Shark Discovery,” which Animal Planet calls “the best shark exhibit on the planet” and where you can get an up-close and personal look at these magnificent creatures from the 300-foot glass underground tunnel. You can feed shrimp and fish to the rays, snorkel with bamboo sharks in the Rainbow Reef exhibit and even sleep underneath the ocean!
CRAVE American Kitchen & Sushi Bar — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
With more than 60 restaurants, you could eat at a different place in the Mall every day for two months. And there’s no reason not to try a little bit of everything since each level of the Mall has a walking distance of 1.15 miles, making it easy to meet your step goals.
There are food courts on both the North and South sides of the Mall, and almost every one of your favorite chains somewhere in between. Whether you’re in the mood for a burger or a steak, sushi or salad, trust us, you will not go hungry!
Create your own crayon
Crayola Experience — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Remember the joy you used to feel when you got that new box of 64 Crayola crayons as a kid? You'll feel that same way, no matter how old you are, when you walk into the Crayola Experience + Store.
This mecca for creativity offers 25 hands-on experiences. You can name and wrap your own crayon – maybe Paisley Park Purple in honor of hometown legend Prince? – star in your own coloring pages, bring your art to life in 4-D and so much more. You can even pick up a new box of crayons filled only with your favorite colors.
Spend the night in luxury
Activity table at JW Marriott — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Because there's a good chance you won't want to leave the Mall at all, spend a night or two at JW Marriott or Radisson Blu, both of which feature pools, fitness centers and impeccable service. Located on opposite ends of the Mall, they make a great home base to drop off packages or take a power nap.
At Radisson Blu, take time to pet the canine guests who may be walking around with their Blu bandanas. At JW Marriott, pay a visit to the Concierge Library to read about the local culture and stop by the Activity Table in the lobby, where something is always happening, from cookie making to fresh juice and wine tasting.
Rick Bronson's House of Comedy — Photo courtesy of Mall of America
Book tickets to see some of the country’s top touring comedians at Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy on Level 4 of the Mall.
Come in time for happy hour so you can enjoy delicious fried cheese curds and Canadian-inspired poutine along with familiar faces who have made you cry laughing on shows like Saturday Night Live, Chelsea Lately, The Tonight Show and Jimmy Kimmel Live!
Eat some more
FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar — Photo courtesy of Lois Alter Mark
Get a real taste of Minneapolis at a farm-to-table dinner, where ingredients are locally grown and transformed into culinary masterpieces.
At Cedar + Stone Urban Table at JW Marriott, Chef Everton Clarke and Executive Sous Chef Laura Bartholomew create gorgeous dishes inspired by Minnesota’s natural roots and accompanied by some of the Midwest’s best craft beers and liquors. At FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar at Radisson Blu, Executive Chef Dinesh Jayawardena rotates the menu based on seasonal ingredients, mixing imaginative classic heartland flavors with twists on American favorites.
Fly over America
FlyOver America — Photo courtesy of FlyOver America
FlyOver America utilizes the latest in-flight ride technology to let you do exactly that. Sitting in a suspended chair in front of a gigantic spherical screen, with your feet dangling in the air, you are magically transported from sea to shining sea, getting a bird’s-eye view of America’s most magnificent sights.
This is a must-do experience which makes you truly appreciate the beauty and diversity of the country’s landscape. Special effects like wind, mist and scents give you the sense of soaring over snow-capped mountains, between brightly-lit skyscrapers and across water and land. You'll travel more than 10,000 miles without ever leaving the Mall – and then you’ll want to do it again.
Get a spa treatment
Solimar Spa relaxation area, Radisson Blu — Photo courtesy of Brandon Stengel
After all that walking, treat your feet to a relaxing pedicure at the beautiful Solimar Spa in Radisson Blu. You can opt for the 30-minute Express but, if you have the time, indulge in the Ultimate 90-minute treatment which includes a rejuvenating 20-minute foot massage.
A soothing oasis in the hustle and bustle of the Mall, Solimar offers pampering massages, facials and body wraps. Look for monthly specialty services, many of which feature locally-made products.
Play miniature golf
Moose Mountain Adventure Golf — Photo courtesy of Mall of America
Moose Mountain Adventure Golf may be inside in the middle of a mall but it’s still a full, 18-hole miniature golf course designed for maximum fun.
The course celebrates Minnesota’s Northwoods with whimsical characters including horses and a life-size moose. Take a selfie in the logging truck or one of the other cartoon vehicles.
Because this is a great activity for the whole family (kids 5 and under are free with a regular price admission), there may be a wait between holes, giving you time to look around and marvel at the fact that you're playing miniature golf inside a mall.