I never thought I’d go on a vacation to a shopping mall.
I first heard about Mall of America® in Bloomington, Minnesota a couple of years ago when a travel blogging conference was held there. I was confused as to why they’d host it in a mall.
But then I learned, Mall of America (MOA) is much more than just a mall and there are endless things to do at Mall of America.
It’s a gigantic retail space that is also a dining and entertainment space AND full of attractions the family will love.
We love unique travel experiences, that’s the point to our America Unplugged journey, and Mall of America provided us with a travel opportunity we otherwise wouldn’t seek out.
The girls screamed and cartwheeled across the lounge room floor for five minutes when they learned about all the fun attractions at Mall of America.
We spent five days in Bloomington, Minnesota, three of those were full-days in the mall, where we did not step outside to do anything else.
Everything we needed was in the mall, including our accommodation.
We hope it will help you plan an amazing Mall of America vacation.
Things to do at Mall of America
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1. Attractions in Mall of America
It’s not just shopping and restaurants, there are plenty of attractions in Mall of America to keep all members of your family entertained.
Take your pick from theme parks to aquariums, flyovers and high ropes courses.
There are also signature experiences on offer like Behind-the-Scenes at SeaLife, Mediterranean cooking classes at vomFASS, and local culinary dishes at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar.
Let’s learn more about these Mall of America attractions.
1. Nickelodeon Universe®
In the middle of MOA are seven acres of theme park fun.
Nickelodeon Universe, the amusement park at Mall of America, has 27 rides which includes thrilling roller coasters and rides for younger children.
The theme park is surrounded by landscaped gardens and high atrium helping you to feel like you are outside.
I have two favorite memories from our time at Nickelodeon Universe:
1. Fairly Odd Coaster
We all jumped into the cart of the Fairly Odd Coaster thinking it would be a tame ride similar to the wild mouse.
On the first drop, we spun quickly around and all screamed. Cautious Savannah’s face fell and turned white. My screams were mixed with bellows of laughter for the rest of the ride.
On the morning we were leaving she decided to give the Fairly Odd Coaster another go and loved it, requesting to stay in the Mall for longer so she could keep riding it.
2. SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge Roller Coaster
Kalyra and I first went on the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster together.
It has a 90-degree slow steep climb up. Kalyra was scared, so in an effort to take her mind off it, I suggested we sing a song on the way up.
Failing any other song coming into my head, I belted out a rendition of Mary Had a Little Lamb. We laughed so hard that we barely noticed we’d already began the dip of the 90 degrees drop on the other side!
We stayed on and went one more time. This time I found a Pink song from my brain to sing.
All up, Kalyra went on this ride several times by herself.
A few of the other rides the girls loved were the Backyardigans Swingalong, the Pepsi Orange Streak, and the Splat-O–Sphere.
We also loved the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock flying ride.
Cost: There are different packages you can purchase. An all-day wristband costs $35.99 See more here.
2. Dutchman’s Deck Adventure Course
This high rope obstacle course and zip line are located within the Nickelodeon Universe theme park and is one of the most thrilling things to do at Mall of America.
The Ghostly Gangplank Ropes Courses begins with the Barnacle Blast Zip Line across the length of Nickelodeon Universe theme park.
Then you’re let loose to play on the three levels of the ropes course.
We do these a lot and this one was a fun one and pretty high up. It took a while to ease into it and stop shaking. Just breathe deep and try not to look down.
The harness has you!
Our funniest moment was when Savannah schooled us in how to walk the 56 ft high plank.
I was actually going to chicken out, but she strode out in front of us, walked out to the edge of the plank, looked down and out over the theme park and then wiggled her butt.
She then strode back with a confident victory smile. How could you not follow that? I stood at the end of the plank and wiggled my butt too. Craig and Kalyra followed suit.
I hope that you will do the same when you visit.
The obstacle course ends with the Anchor Drop Spiral Slides back to the bottom.
Once you reach the bottom you can walk back up the stairs to do it again – as many times as you like. We had to pull the girls out after about 10.
Cost: $15.99 one-time pass
3. FlyOver America
FlyOver America is a 4D simulation ride.
It uses the latest technology to simulate a hang gliding flight with a bird’s eye view of the most awe-inspiring sights over the US (and Canada, during a limited time engagement).
We loved flying over America and identifying the places we had already visited on our America Unplugged trip, and those we were still excited to visit.
Be prepared for a fully immersive experience with this attraction.
I loved smelling the pine trees as we flew over them and experiencing the mist of Niagara Falls.
Savannah says the FlyOver was her favorite thing to do in Mall of America.
Cost: $18.95 adults $14.95 kids (12 and under)
Signature MOA Experience – Go Behind the Scenes at SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium
Yep, there’s even an aquarium at Mall of America which is home to over 10,000 living sea creatures.
You can explore various underwater worlds through exhibits such as the tunnels of Shark Cove, ray lagoon, rainbow reef, and the mysteries of the rainforest.
Don’t miss the Seahorse Kingdom and Jellyfish Discovery.
Not only are they wildly pretty, but our girls found them the most fascinating and learned a lot about them from our guides – one of the educational things to do at Mall of America.
SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium at Mall of America offers several signature experiences, one being a 45-minute guided Behind-the-Scenes Tour.
The tour takes you above the tunnels and into the laboratory to learn how they maintain and care for the water, tanks and sea creatures, including those who are sick or injured.
Don’t forget to take your underwater selfie at the Rainbow Reef.
Entry Price: $24.49 Adults (13+), $17.49 kids (3-12 years)
5. Crayola Experience and Store
Are you ready for some art lessons?
As I am not gifted and talented in this area, I search for art experiences when we travel to ensure I’m incorporating that into our roadschooling curriculum.
Thank you, Crayola Experience, on the third floor of Mall of America.
You could spend a couple of hours in here drawing, painting, coloring and even designing your own crayon labels.
The Crayola experience is divided into 25 art stations, each exploring unique ways to use crayons to create art.
We especially loved the art drip.
You stick a crayon in a machine that melts it as it spins around so the melted crayon sprays over the page and hardens into a circular design.
It was groovy and gave the girls an insight into different artistic forms and mediums.
The Crayola experience is the only place in the world where the magic of Crayola comes alive.
Admission: $20.99 (3+)
Retail Experiences at MOA
Families who shop together stay together right?
With over 520 retail stores, you’ll be staying together for a long time, and it’s another one of the fun things to do at Mall of America.
Want another great reason to shop at Mall of America? There is no tax in Minnesota on shoes and clothing!
6. Signature Experience – VomFASS Cooking Class
VomFASS understands that the secret to an enjoyable food and wine experiences is directly related to the quality of the foundation ingredients.
They work hand in hand with small artisanal producers to source the finest vinegars, oils, liqueurs and spirits.
Their motto is try before you buy so spend time perusing the rick oaken casks for your perfect oil and vinegar flavors.
You can pop into the section next door to sample wine and liquor as well. I was happy to see a selection of local Minnesotan wine which I sampled and it was light and refreshing.
VomFASS offers a signature Mall of America experience with their Mediterranean style cooking class, the Art of Delicious Dining.
Owner, Tamara Kramer, guides you through cooking a three-course tasting meal whilst giving information on the Mediterranean lifestyle, the health benefits of oils and vinegars and how to use them.
Kalyra took over as head chef and did an extraordinary job of making the Spring Salad and homemade dressing and two of the flavorful Flatbreads (pizza): tomato and basil pesto and Whiskey BBQ steak.
Savannah helped to make the chicken and artichoke pesto pizza.
We paired our pizza with red wine and ended with a delicious dessert combination I never could have imagined – ice cream with lemon olive oil and blueberry balsamic vinaigrette.
The food was light, healthy and delicious.
In keeping with the Mediterranean lifestyle, the servings were exactly what the body requires, not your typical humongous US portions.
The 90-minute cooking class starts at $35 a person.
7. Disney Store Opening
To experience a special Mall of America opening ceremony, head over to the Disney Store at Mall of America.
A spectator is chosen from the crowd – Savannah bravely volunteered – to receive the key to the store and open it. It’s one of the coolest things to do at Mall of America with kids!
8. The LEGO Store
If you’re looking for a place to rest that will occupy the kids for a while, head to the LEGO store at Mall of America, just outside the theme park entrance.
They have a sitting area outside with LEGO work station, which we utilized many times for rest breaks.
You can also step inside the store for some LEGO shopping – there’s a pick-a-brick wall with 180 different LEGO elements to choose from.
Be sure to marvel at the LEGO sculptures on the roof of the LEGO building. The robot one is solid LEGO on the inside except for a metal spine!
9. American Girl® Store and Bistro
It’s my girls’ mission to visit every American Girl® Store in the US. They are intending to send me broke.
Although I hide my wallet when I visit, I do love seeing their reactions when they wander the store checking out their favorite American Girl Dolls, dreaming big and learning a lot about history along the way.
Kalyra can tell me the background story of many of them and I love how she can connect to dolls like Melody from the Civil Rights era as she’s experienced so much of it on our travels.
So at the top of our girls list of things to do at Mall of America was hit up American Girl.
We spent a couple of hours in the American Girl® Store in Mall of America Bloomington, shopping, pampering our AG girls Gabriella and Julie with a hair and nail salon treatment, and lunch at the American Girl® Bistro.
The bistro has magnificent views out over the theme park, delicious meals, including a course for your dolls.
If you don’t have a doll, the Bistro has one you can borrow to sit with you at the table.
Food at Mall of America
From gourmet restaurants to casual cafes, there is plenty of food in Mall of America to satisfy everyone’s tastes and budgets.
We experienced the following restaurants at Mall of America.
10. Signature Experience: FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar
For a signature dining experience at Mall of America, head to FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar inside the Radisson Blu, one of the Mall of America hotels.
FireLake is an upmarket casual restaurant that specializes in regional dishes using locally sourced produce.
It’s a true Minnesota inspired experience and it’s a wonderful addition to the dining scene at Mall of America.
FireLake Grill was our favorite dining experience at Mall of America. We didn’t even feel like we were in the Mall.
I loved getting to taste the locally wild caught walleye with wild rice. Both are sourced from the local Indian tribes who are the only ones with permission to commercially fish.
We also enjoyed our woodland mushrooms with salmon, and a poutine type dish, Minnesotan Dirty Fries.
11. Hard Rock Café
Hard Rock Café is one of the few chain restaurants we enjoy visiting.
We’re rock fans, so it makes sense.
Plus, they have gluten free options for their food, their burgers are delicious and reasonably priced.
You can do a memorabilia tour at the Hard Rock Cafe in Mall of America, Bloomington. Let the server know you’d like to do one and they’ll find someone to take you around and share the significance of various pieces.
Of course, at the Hard Rock Café in Mall of America, Minnesota, you are going to see memorabilia from local pop royalty, Prince.
A glassed cabinet, including his Purple Rain suit is dedicated to him in the hallway leading to the restaurant.
We had lunch at the Hard Rock Café on our first day visiting Mall of America. I suggest sitting out on the patio for relaxing views over the theme park with roller coasters zipping past overhead.
And if you’re looking for bars at Mall of America, parents with older kids could easily sit here and relax with a drink while their kids have fun in the theme park.
We were fortunate to eat dinner at Hard Rock on a Friday evening as they have a local acoustic band, Monkeys in the Zoo, live on stage.
They sang several Prince songs, which was perfect after visiting Paisley Park and experiencing Prince the Tour.
If you love arcade games, another one of the fun things to do at Mall of America is head up to GameWorks, on the 4th floor of Mall of America, for dinner, beers and some car racing fun.
It brought back memories of my time as a youth playing arcade games, especially on vacations with new found friends.
I especially loved the basketball throwing game. I used to play in a shooting position for netball, which is a similar game we play in Australia.
It was fun to slip back into that role and get almost every ball I shot through the net. I’ve still got it!
13. Culinary on North
We dined at the brand new Culinary on North addition on Level 3, Central Parkway, which is essentially a lovely food court at Mall of America.
There is also the South Street Dining area on Level 3. You will find your typical food court chains. We ate at:
- Shake Shack – since visiting New York, we have become fans of Shake Shack. It’s our fast food go to. I particularly love the coffee milkshakes.
- Thai Express for delicious Pad See Ew. It was gluten free which is not typical for this dish, so I was excited.
14. Caribou Coffee
Caribou coffee is the winner for best coffee in Mall of America.
Caribou is a chain, BUT it’s a local chain, and the coffee is good.
They can be found in various locations around Mall of America; we loved that there was one right outside the lobby of The Radisson Blu Mall of America, making it our first stop each day.
Hotels near Mall of America
You have over 40 hotels near Mall of America MN, with two hotels connected to Mall of America (Radisson Blu and JW Marriott).
Most of the hotels in Bloomington MN near Mall of America offer a free shuttle service to and from the mall.
We stayed at two of the Bloomington hotels and have written the following in-depth reviews:
Fun Facts About Mall of America
- Mall of America is the largest retail shopping mall in the US.
- How big is Mall of America? 32 Boeing 747’s could fit inside the Mall and 258 Statues of Liberty could lie inside the Mall.
- Mall of America is committed to green design. For example, no central heating is used in the public areas, only solar energy and body heat. For a state that gets a lot of snow this is super impressive.
- 70°F (21°C) is the constant temperature inside Mall of America year-round, it’s the perfect winter vacation.
- 30,000 live plants and 400 live trees climb as high as 35 feet tall in Nickelodeon Universe.
- Mall of America is one of the most visited tourist destinations in the world, attracting more than 40 million visitors annually, more than twice as many people as the world’s largest amusement park, the Magic Kingdom at Walt Disney World.
- 4 out of 10 visitors to Mall of America are tourists.
- 350+ events are held at the Mall each year – I told you there was plenty of things to do at Mall of America!
Tips for Visiting Mall of America
- Children under the age of 16 must be accompanied by an adult (21+) in the Mall on Fridays and Saturdays from 4 p.m. until close. While most 15-year–olds would hate this rule, I think it’s a fantastic way to keep everyone safe and reduce potential problems.
- Mall of America is easy to get to with a light rail from Minneapolis and St Paul and the International airport (12 minutes away). Ditch the boring airport lounge for long layovers and spend a few hours in the Mall.
- Mall of America has teamed up with Uber to make getting to and from the Mall of America easier with five specific pickup or drop-off zones.
- Download the Mall of America app for maps, stores, and money saving deals. There’s a digital concierge to answer your questions. For those how like more traditional methods, there’s a Mall of America visitor guide and directories all through the Mall to help you get around.
- Stay longer and enjoy the attractions and experiences the greater Bloomington area, and nearby Minneapolis and St Paul have to offer.
- For a list of stores at Mall of America click here!
- The address for Mall of America is: 60 East Broadway, Bloomington, MN 55425
- For current opening hours at Mall of America, and directions to Mall of America. click here!
- Looking for coupons for Mall of America? Head to the customer service desk and get yourself a coupon book. It’s $10 and there’s over $2,000 worth of savings. However, as you are a loyal follower of ours we have snagged a special deal for you, it’s FREE (valid through 12.31.2019).
- Save more money – The Big Ticket™ Adventure Pass is a 3-day bundled attraction pass that gives 30% savings on top attractions in Mall of America and Twin Cities. The Bloomington Attraction pass includes Nickelodeon Universe®, SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium, FlyOver America, Crayola Experience, and the Minnesota Zoo (including IMAX experience). Purchase the pass online. You’ll receive a pass via email or text., which you show to the attractions attendant for admission.
Looking for things to do near Mall of America?
Check out our post on the 7 best things to do in Bloomington MN (and surrounds)