14 Best Things To Do In Bloomington, Minnesota

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For those looking for a getaway in Minnesota, you’ll be pleased to know there are many things to do in Bloomington!

Famously home to the Mall of America, the state’s fifth largest city boasts a wide variety of cultural and entertaining attractions that make it a worthy destination to spend a few days in.

woman standing outside mall of america

Its strategic location close to the Minneapolis International Airport and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, make it an ideal base for exploring the state of 10,000 lakes.

If you’re looking for a dynamic family vacation that involves adventure, nature experiences, fun attractions, signature experiences and family-friendly hotels, then Bloomington, Minnesota is the place for you to visit.

Below are some ideas for what to do in Bloomington and our favorite attractions from our visit.

Disclaimer: We spent six days exploring the Bloomington region in a paid partnership with Bloomington CVB and Mall of America, though all thoughts, ideas and opinions in this guide are our own.

Best Things to Do in Bloomington MN

Below are some of the most fun things to do in Bloomington MN (or close to Bloomington) that we discovered from our trip.

We’re sure you’ll find some attractions to suit every traveler on this list!

1. Shop, Play, Stay and Eat at Mall of America (MOA)

elevators inside mall of america

Mall of America in Bloomington is so much more than a retail space and is well known to be one of the best things to do in Bloomington, MN.

It’s the largest indoor retail and recreation complex in America and includes a theme park, multiple family-friendly attractions, movie theaters, entertainment and dining options to suit any style and budget.

I never imagined a mall could entertain me for three days, but it did, as there are so many things to do at Mall of America.

We didn’t step foot outside, nor need to (inside the mall is 72 degrees all year long) and we stayed at the Radisson Blu Mall of America which is attached to the mall via a skyway! 

With theme park thrill rides, high ropes courses, cooking classes, art experiences, Sea Life aquarium, live music and signature food experiences, we created many memorable moments as a family.

Even our two other daughters, American Girl Dolls, Gabrielle and Julie, had a salon experience and delicious lunch with us.

rides inside Mall of America,
girl taking Cooking class at VomFASS, Mall of America

Don’t forget to dedicate time for shopping in the 520 retail stores. Clothes and shoes are sales tax free in Minnesota!

2. Follow a Love Story at Minnehaha Falls and Regional Park

young girl looking at  Minnehaha Falls, Minneaplois

Follow the love story of the Indian Princess, Minnehaha and Indian warrior Hiawatha at the nearby Minnehaha Regional Park, a large city park on the shores of the Mississippi River.

The love story was told by the poet, Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s popular Song of Hiawatha.

Longfellow never visited the area but pieced together the love story based on the native oral traditions of local Indian tribes.

You can see a statue of Hiawatha carrying Minnehaha on an island in the middle of the creek above the falls bearing Minnehaha’s name.

statue at Minnehaha Falls, Minnesota

Minnehaha Falls thunders 53 ft. over limestone bluffs in the middle of this city park and is one of the top things to do in Minneapolis.

The loving spirit of Minnehaha and Hiawatha emanates out of the river to be shared freely with the people of Minneapolis and all those who visit.

You can view the falls from above and from below by following the trail down into the gorge. 

The trails continue along Minnehaha creek which takes you to the Mississippi River less than 1/2 mile away from the falls.

girl looking at Minnehaha Falls, Minneapolis, Minnesota

There are picnic areas, a café with local craft beer on tap, further walking trails, gardens and playground areas within the park.

You can even see the Longfellow house, a 2/3 scale replica of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s home in Cambridge, MA.

Longfellow house, Minnehaha Falls

Unfortunately, 2018 was the year of late spring for the majority of the United States, and Minneapolis had a rare late April blizzard only a few days before we arrived.

The normal lush, green jungled landscape surrounding Minnehaha Falls and river walk was not present, but it looks like this:

Minnehaha Falls surrounded by lush greenery
Image credit: Bloomington CVB

For us Australians though, the waterfall looked pretty spectacular with frozen icicles on either side of the water gushing over the lip.

We sure don’t get that in Australia!

It’s one of Minnesota’s oldest and most beloved parks and is free to enter, making it one of the best free things to do in Bloomington.

You can see more of Bloomington in our travel video:

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3. Explore Nature at the Richardson Nature Center

people walking on a board walk on a lake

Can you believe only a few weeks before visiting Richardson Nature Center we saw our first frozen lake, ever?

We delighted in seeing a couple more when we visited Richardson Nature Center.

We also loved hiking through the small layer of snow slowly melting into spring.

As mentioned above, it was late coming this year, so we didn’t capture Richardson Nature Center in its blooming, green glory of Spring.

But we did capture the spirit of the time you can have in this area when you visit Bloomington, MN and are looking for some great natural experiences.

The Richardson Nature Center offers peace and beauty in the middle of the hustle and bustle of the city.

people walking through a forest

Inside the center you can meet resident raptors, reptiles, eagles and amphibians up close.

bird standing on a rope

Be sure to pull up a rocking chair to watch the active bee hive and backyard wildlife around the lake.

people sitting on chairs looking out of a window

Outside, you’ll find hiking trails through diverse habitats of oak forests and wetlands. Look out for deer, foxes’ ospreys, and other wildlife.

people walking on a board walk

Kids will love the Nature Exploration Area where they can dig, build and climb in their own forts.

4. Inspire your Creativity at Paisley Park Museum and Tour

woman beside fence with prince memorabilia on it

Paisley Park was the home of Prince and his recording studio.

You can now take a tour of Paisley Park to learn what it was like for Prince to create, produce and perform inside his private sanctuary.

Tours of Paisley Park Museum include iconic concert outfits worn by Prince, awards, musical instruments, artwork, motorcycles, and rare music and video recordings.

The VIP experience gives you access to a longer tour with access to additional rooms and studios, and, if you visit on Thursday, you get a bonus recording opportunity with Prince.

couple posing beside prince wall mural inside paisley park studio
Inside Paisley Park. Photo taken by Tour Guide. No personal cameras allowed.

What a joyful experience it was to stand in Studio B and record the verse to Raspberry Beret with Prince over a pre-recorded track.

I certainly didn’t let fear of what others would think stop me from singing and bopping like it was 1999!

That’s the spirit of Paisley Park.

It invites you to lose your inhibitions, embrace the truth of who you are, and express that creativity and joy.

drawings of prince
Tributes outside Paisley Park

I loved Prince as an artist, and after visiting the museum, and gaining a greater insight into his private life, I have a much deeper respect for him as a person.

If you’re a music fan, this is definitely one of the best things to do in Minnesota.

Tickets for Paisley Park Museum can only be purchased online. See more details here.

5. Learn About the Legend on Prince the Tour

people standing in front of a van

Follow up your visit to Paisley Park with Prince the Tour run by Captain Randy.

This three-hour tour in a black van, sprinter or bus takes you to different places in Chanhassen (where Prince lived) and Minneapolis.

As you drive to each significant place, you’ll be hearing personal stories of Prince’s childhood, his musical career, philanthropic efforts, and the ginormous heart and spirit of this small statured musical icon.

woman in front of Prince Star on outside wall of First Avenue, Minneapolis

Some of the stops include:

  • Prince’s childhood home and neighborhood
  • The theater where he held his first live concert
  • Kid’s home in the movie Purple Rain
  • Prince’s favorite record shop
  • and the gigantic purple mural of Prince
First Avenue, Minneapolis
Prince house from Purple Rain
family in front of Prince mural in Minneapolis

I hope you take the time to give him the Prince mural a kiss. Share the picture with us when you do.

6. Devour a Juicy Lucy Burger

Juicy Lucy Burger and fries on plate

Ready for a delicious new take on an American burger?

One where the cheese oozes out from the middle of the patty?

Head to the 5-8 Club, home of the original Juicy Lucy. The 5-8 Club began as a speakeasy back in 1928, serving beer and liquor illegally along with light food.

Since then it’s grown into one of the legendary places to eat in Minnesota to chow down on some delicious Juicy Lucy burgers and sweet potato fries with marshmallow blue sauce.

It’s a unique combination of marshmallow and blue cheese, which, when paired with the sweetness of the sweet potato, is a taste sensation.

Just like the Juicy Lucy, which is a cheeseburger that has the cheese inside the meat patty rather than on top.

Choose your preferred Juicy Lucy and grab your napkins.

people eating at 5-8 Club

Kalyra went for the Saucy Sally smeared with a Thousand Island dressing; I stuck with a classic filled with pepper jack cheese, and Craig went all out with the juice with the Thanksgiving Juicy, a turkey burger stuffed with cheese and stuffing and topped with beans and gravy!

Juicy Lucy Burger and fries in basket

In 2014, the Travel Channel ranked the 5-8 #1 in America for tastiest place to chow down.

Time Magazine also listed the Juicy Lucy as one of the most influential burgers of all time.

And earlier this year (2018), Jimmy Fallon stopped in for one during the Super Bowl.

It’s certainly one of the best things to do in Bloomington, MN. (OK, it is actually just across the city line in Minneapolis, but it’s close enough to count!)

Thanks 5-8 for changing the way I approach an easy Saturday night dinner at home.

I can guarantee once you leave, you will not be able to speak easy about the Juicy Lucy!

7. Take a Rhythms of the River Road Trip

woman in front of Paisley Park Museum
Paisley Park Museum

Why not take a rich musical journey along the Mississippi River?

Rhythms of the River is a musical road trip that also takes in the beauty of the Mississippi River, its history and the various cultures that sprung up along its banks.

The trail begins in Bloomington/ Minneapolis Minnesota (where the Mississippi begins) and ends in New Orleans, Louisiana (where the Mississippi River spills into the Gulf).

Some of the experiences you can expect to enjoy along the way are:

8. Get lost in nature at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

The Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is an area that covers 14,000 acres along the Minnesota River.

As one of the few urban wildlife refuges in the United States, it provides an unparalleled opportunity to unwind in nature, do a spot of bird watching, hunting, fishing, foraging, or just explore the natural landscapes.

You can partake in a variety of activities, from hiking plenty of trails in the summer, or go cross country skiing in the winter.

You can learn all about the park’s wildlife and diverse ecosystem from one of its two visitor centers.

9. Relax at Hyland Lake Park Reserve & Play Area

Hyland Lake Park Reserve is known for its stunning prairies that wrap around its shimmering lakes and ponds.

In the summer, it’s a great place to go hiking, or take a paddle boat or canoe out on the lakes, or in the winter, try cross-country skiing or visit the aptly named “Ski Hill” for some downhill skiing.

If you have children, they will go wild for the expansive play area, complemented by the Richardson Nature Center and Hyland Hills Ski.

They can climb along rope structures, whizz down slides, or channel your inner monkey on the climbing apparatus. It’s one of the biggest and most entertaining play areas in the area.

10. Take the kids to The Works Museum

The Works Museum is a kids museum designed to enrich young minds and foster their curiosity in the realms of technology and engineering.

With an array of hands-on exhibits tailored for children aged 5 to 12, the museum fosters a stimulating STEAM environment where kids can delve into the marvels of how things work.

From interactive displays to engaging workshops, The Works Museum is more than an educational gem but an opportunity for children to be inspired by the wonders of engineering.

11. Laugh at Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy

If you’re looking for things to do in Bloomington at night, then be sure to check out Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy in the iconic Mall of America.

This is the place to be for uproarious laughter and unforgettable entertainment, and regularly hosts touring comedians as seen on late-night TV and other side-splitting performances.

12. Chill out at Normandale Japanese Garden at Normandale Community College

Normandale Japanese Garden

Located on the campus of Normandale Community College is the Normandale Japanese Garden, which opened in 1964 as a collaboration with the Bloomington Affiliated Garden Clubs.

This 2-acre strolling garden is known for its serene pond filled with graceful koi, as well as a picturesque lagoon with meticulously crafted bridges and structures.

The garden is a peaceful retreat for contemplation and cultural appreciation.

13. Be amazed at SEA LIFE Aquarium Minnesota

Sea Life aquarium at Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota

Also located inside the Mall of America is SEA LIFE Aquarium, a living museum that hosts an underwater adventure for all ages.

As the state’s largest aquarium, you can expect to see a variety of marine life, from turtles to sharks, plus it features a mesmerizing 360-degree ocean tunnel, which is the perfect spot for seeing the marine life up close.

The aquarium’s ray lagoon is full of stingrays and has a captivating walkover deck, allowing you to see them from up close.

Save on Bloomington Attractions with The Big Ticket™ Adventure Pass

Big ticket attractions pass

The Big Ticket is a 3-day bundled attraction pass that gives 30% savings on top attractions in Mall of America (MOA) and Twin cities including:

  • Nickelodeon Universe
  • Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium
  • FlyOver America
  • Crayola Experience
  • Minnesota Zoo (including IMAX experience)

Click here to get the pass online. You’ll receive a pass via email or text, which you show to the attractions attendant for admission.

Where to Stay in Bloomington, MN

There are over 40 hotels near Mall of America, and two hotels in Mall of America.

We stayed at the following hotels in Bloomington MN:

Great Wolf Lodge Minnesota

girls sitting on tube at water park

The Great Wolf Lodge Water Park in Bloomington, Minnesota is one of the hotels near Mall of America. It’s only a short 10-minute walk to the north entrance of the mall, or a free shuttle ride away.

Great Wolf Lodge is a fun resort that adds richness to your family travel memories.

With its famous indoor amusement park and water park and MagiQuest arcade game, it’s an attraction in itself and the perfect complement to the fun you can have in Mall of America and the greater Bloomington area.

It also has a climbing wall and

Radisson Blu Mall of America

hotel lobby with seating pods

For those who love convenience and style, Radisson Blu MOA is the hotel for you!

As one of only two hotels at Mall of America, its location cannot be beat.

I loved the access to my room – and everything I forgot to pack – during my stay playing, shopping and eating inside Mall of America.

There are lots of fun things to appreciate within the hotel, like the Marty the Moose Passport Scavenger Hunt for kids, the relaxing pods in the foyer, and the butt chair – don’t forget the selfie in it!

Final Thoughts

Bloomington, Minnesota has a myriad of attractions and some incredible places of natural beauty that make worth a visit.

We hope this guide helped you plan a few things to do besides visiting the renowned Mall of America, from the city’s lush parks and tranquil gardens to the children’s museums.

Hopefully you found something exciting to add to your to-do list from this list!

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Do you have any tips on things to do in Bloomington MN?? Or any questions for your upcoming trip? Share in the comments.

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