7 Best Things to Do in Bloomington, Minnesota (or nearby)

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7 best things to do in Bloomington, MN

Bloomington, Minnesota is home to the renowned Mall of America®.

It’s also close to the Minneapolis International Airport and the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St Paul, and is situated in Minnesota, 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.

We spent six days exploring the Bloomington region in a paid partnership with Bloomington CVB and Mall of America.

Below are seven fun things to do in Bloomington MN (or close to Bloomington). 

Be sure to click the links for more in-depth guides on several of the different Bloomington attractions mentioned.

Best Things to do in Bloomington MN

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

Fun things to do in Bloomington, Minnesota

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, 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.

Mall of America, Bloomington, Minnesota


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!

Related Post – 14 things to do at Mall of America

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

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.

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.

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. One of the best things to do in Bloomington, Minnesota.
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!

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

On the Prince Paisley Park tour

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.

Inside Paisley Park. Photo taken by Tour Guide on our Prince Tour.
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 a man
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 here for more details

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.

Prince Star at 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

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

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.

5-8 Club is the place to go for a Juicy Lucy Burger

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

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

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:

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)

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

Places 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

Great Wolf Lodge Indoor Water Park

The Great Wolf Lodge 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 water park and MagiQuest 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.

Click here to read our in-depth review of Great Wolf Lodge

Radisson Blu Mall of America

Pods in the lobby at Radisson Blu, Mall of America

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!

Click here to read our in-depth review of Radisson Blu, Mall of America

Plan Your Trip to Bloomington, MN

  • For more hotels in Bloomington MN near Mall of America click here. 
  • For more information on the Great Wolf Lodge Bloomington MN click here. Don’t miss their helpful FAQ page.
  • For more information on Radisson Blu Mall of America click here.

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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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