When plans were announced to build the largest indoor shopping center in the country, complete with an amusement park, I knew that we were going to be in for a wild ride. Almost twenty years after the opening, the Mall of America is still the premier attraction in the Minneapolis area. I was at the legendary mall in its first week of operation and have continued to visit this modern marvel ever since. The following are a few pieces of advice from a local to ensure that your trip to the MOA is all it can be, for as little as possible.
Once you have decided that the MOA will be your destination, you will need to make several more decisions about your trip. The first decision that I recommend making is whether or not you plan to see other parts of the Twin Cities. If you do plan on seeing other parts of the Twin Cities I will assume that you are either renting a car or driving in. If your plan is solely to see the mall, then I would recommend staying at a hotel that offers shuttle service to and from. If your plans are to see other parts of this great city, I would recommend staying at a hotel that does not necessarily offer shuttle service to the MOA. Although this service is marketed as “free transportation”, the truth is that the higher rate that you will pay for your room has the cost of the transportation built into the price. After all, it costs that hotel over $100,000 per year to operate the shuttle. To get the best hotel near the Mall of America without paying the most, I suggest staying in one of the surrounding suburbs such as Eagan or Burnsville. Burnsville hotels are located about 15 minutes from the Mall of America and you can generally get a very similar room for 25-50% less than what you would pay at a hotel that markets themselves as a “Mall of America Hotel”. If you decide on Burnsville, remember that the Burnsville Center is a regionally recognized mall offering you even more shopping opportunities.
To-Do in the Minneapolis Area
Now that you have a place to stay, but know that you have some extra time on your hands, it is time to plan your non-MOA activities. Minnesota is home to some great sports venues. If your timing coincided with the baseball season, I highly recommend catching a game at Target Field. You can even park at the MOA and take the train into Minneapolis, the train will let you off in front of the stadium. Perhaps being in the game is more your style than watching it. If so, I recommend you check out some of the award-winning golf courses located in the Twin Cities or visit one of the incredible parks. My favorite is the Minnehaha Falls. If you have time, and would like to see the most beautiful marathon route in the country, try giving it a drive. This marathon route will take you along a path that makes Minneapolis shine. It is known as “The Most Beautiful Urban Marathon in America”. If you are looking for other fun things that your kids will remember, look into spending a day at Valleyfair, the MN Zoo or the free Como Zoo and conservatory. If you want to see the state capitol, St. Paul, try and arrange a few hours for the Science Museum, or for younger children, the Children’s Museum. For those looking for a bit of night life I suggest down-town Minneapolis. Those looking to try their luck can have a go at near-by Mystic Lake Casino and Canterbury Card Club and Racetrack. Last, but certainly not least, are the chain of lakes in Minneapolis. Here you can check-out the Uptown District and enjoy a walk around Lake Calhoun or Lake Harriett. Both of these lakes also offer the opportunity for non-motorized water sports.
Don’t Miss at the Mall
The Mall of America truly is America’s mall. There is no other enclosed mall in the country that boasts numbers like this. There are over 500 stores, 50 restaurants, roller coasters, mini-golf, movie theaters, a wedding chapel, an aquarium and even the opportunity to dog-fight in an F/A-18 Hornet or P-51 Mustang. If you were to spend just 10 minutes in every store it would take you about 86 hours to get through the entire mall. With so much to do and see, it is imperative that you have a plan. I am not talking about the type of detailed plan one would make when designing a house, but it will pay off if you have a list of places that you will seek out first, before meandering aimlessly through the mile after mile of stores.
Whenever playing tour guide to my friends and family we always knock-out the crowd pleasers before heading to more unique shopping opportunities. If you are traveling with kids, the first stop will inevitably Nickelodeon Universe. This is an experience that you and the kids will not soon forget. This in-door amusement park is truly awe-inspiring with rides suitable for all members of the family. The aquarium, Underwater Adventures, allows you to travel underwater in a 300 foot long glass tunnel where you will come face to face with over 5,000 sea creatures. The next can’t miss opportunity will be at A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation. This is the time for your competitive juices to flow as you can engage in a team air-strike or go head to head in an aerial dog-fight. If you were able to get these three accomplished before lunch, I suggest finding one of the relaxing sit-down restaurants. My favorite is called CRAVE. At this restaurant you can sit in the indoor patio over-looking Nickelodeon Universe. Lunch is a good time to sit down with a map of the mall and plan your afternoon around the shops that you want to see. Be sure to map your route as each floor is almost 1 mile long.
Most of the larger attractions have discounts that you can access. I suggest talking to the front desk of your hotel to inquire about discounts. If you are driving in for the day, you may give my staff at the LivINN Hotel of Burnsville a call (952-890-7999) to inquire about current discounts and promotions. Many hotels, including mine, offer packages relating to the Mall of America and other attractions in town.
Mall of America Hours and Information
Monday-Saturday 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Sunday 11 a.m. – 7 p.m.
Most retail stores are closed Easter, Thanksgiving Day and Christmas Day.
For exact hours, call 952-883-8800 or learn more on the Mall of America website.
Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 9:30 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 10 a.m. – 10 p.m.
Sunday 10:30 a.m. – 7:30 p.m.
Times are subject to change. Check the Nickelodeon Universe® website for early closings and special events, or call 952-883-8600 for more information.
Monday-Thursday 10 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Friday – Saturday 9:30 a.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Sunday 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.
The aquarium is open one hour past posted closing times. Times are subject to change. Check the Underwater Adventures® Aquarium website for early closings and special events.
Visit Theatres at Mall of America or call 952-854-0074 for show times and ticket information.