When we decided that we were going to Minneapolis for a wedding, the only thing I really knew about the area beforehand was the Mall of America. I remember being astounded by the very concept of an indoor theme park when I first heard about the mall as a kid.
You mean, like, there’s roller coasters and swings and games and stuff, but INSIDE? Inside a MALL? *Swoon*
I could barely conceive of such a thing. Mom wouldn’t even let us ride bikes or scream at the top of our lungs in the mall, but this place has crazy rides and games indoors, and food courts and toy stores and candy stores and lotsa stuff. It must be the BIGGEST AND BESTEST PLACE EVER!
While my limited childhood framework for imagining such a thing as an indoor theme park may have given me a slightly exaggerated impression of the place, the Mall of America is definitely an impressive place all the same. It still boasts the title of largest mall in America, and one of the largest in the world. It’s big enough for multiple roller coasters, and enough rides overall to keep your kids occupied for many, many hours. There are even plenty of rides for babies accompanied by adults, like a train, a rotating bus thing, a carousel, and others.
We were so eager to get there first thing in the morning that we forgot to check the time, and ended up arriving over an hour before it opens. Luckily, nearby Fort Snelling state park provided respite. We popped over there for an hour and checked out the welcome center, and watched a turkey stroll across a parking lot.
The mall is definitely huge, and at least a little confusing to get around if you’re unfamiliar with it, but there’s probably no real way around that. The theme park, Nickelodeon Universe, is right in the middle of the whole thing, which at least makes getting your bearings easier.
If you’re there with kids, you’ll be spending most of your time in the park anyway. There are plenty of automated kiosks around the area to buy points to use with the rides. It’s roughly a dollar a point, unless you buy a lot of points at a time. Then it gets cheaper. The kiosks print out an armband to keep with you. We got 18 points and mostly stuck to three point rides. That was enough for us for two days.
Most of the characters associated with the rides are ones that Shiloh is unfamiliar with (and many are terribly outdated, like the Fairly Oddparents), save for Bubble Guppies. She gravitated towards that ride as soon as she saw it. It was basically just pods you strap into that rotate around a central post that goes up a few dozen feet and back down again. But the real fun of that ride is that you can spin the pods around yourself. Trish has a paralyzing fear of spinning, and she couldn’t even watch as I whipped Shiloh and me around and around at nauseating speeds for the duration of the ride. At least we enjoyed it.
We took our time roaming around and riding rides on occasion. It was Fourth of July weekend and it was certainly busy, but even still, it was manageable. We did not have to do much people dodging, and the lines were quite short. I imagine it’s even nicer at normal times of the year.
There is a new attraction in the mall called FlyOver America, located in the corner of the park area. When we walked past it, they had a couple of games set up to win tickets. One was a wheel you spin and pick a card, and another was a putting green, where they swapped out the putter for a hockey stick, because Minnesota. I stepped right up and won two free tickets on the spot like the gangsta I am.
The ride itself was my favorite part of the mall. You go into a room and sit in a row of seats, with a massive panoramic floor-to-ceiling screen in front of you. The lights dim, and the seats move forward out over the screen until you’re surrounded, and the ride begins. Basically they just filmed a bunch of different landscapes with a helicopter. The seats tilt and move with the movement of the chopper to give you the impression that you’re flying over these places yourself. They even spray you with a puff of mist when you go through a cloud.
It can get a bit dizzying for some people at times, but overall it’s a very mellow ride; not jarring. It’s really fun, and it also confirms something I’ll go on record as saying here and now: the United States is the best country in the world for nature lovers, without a doubt. By far. It’s not even close.
My second favorite thing in the mall was the Lego store. While I was on the ride, trish took the kids to play with all the loose legos they have out front, and I met them there. I wasn’t so concerned with the sets they were selling, though. I was awestruck by the gigantic models they had installed on top of the store. I can’t even imagine what it took to build them. The biggest and best one was this giant Gundam/MechWarrior/Jaeger thing that must be 30 feet tall.
We ended up skipping one of the mall’s biggest attractions though. The Sea Life aquarium looked pretty fun and impressive, and no doubt Shiloh (and her scuba diver parents) would have loved it, but it was just not worth the price. It would have cost us close to $80 for all of us to see it. I get that those sorts of attractions are expensive to maintain, and they gotta make a profit too, but we’ve been to aquariums and zoos before, and this was just way over the top. It was disappointing. They had a small tank out front, and that was all Shiloh and Judah were gonna get.
All in all, the Mall of America is definitely a great place to while away some time in Minneapolis. “For an evening or a week, there’s no place like the mall. For food, fun, and fashion, the mall has it all.” – Homer Simpson.
Well said sir.