The Mall of America in Minnesota Insider.
How to "DO" the Mall in one day, and survive.
So what do you know about The Mall of America in Minnesota?
Would you believe that the Mega Mall gets the same number of visitors per year as:
- Walt Disney World,
- The Grand Canyon, and
- Mount Rushmore ...
With an estimated 42 million visitors per year, The Mall of America in Minnesota is the Mall of all malls. Dubbed the mega mall by locals when it opened in 1992, mega only begins to describe it.
Consider this. You can go to the movies, drive a NASCAR stock car, fly an F/A-18 fighter, study sharks and dinosaurs, ride a roller coaster, and build 'til you heart's content with LEGO building blocks. All before lunch.
With so much to do and see, where do you even begin? Glad you asked, 'cause we're about to go on a mega mall adventure. I call this the
Chris' Mall of America in one day tour.
Work with me here. I promise to provide an itinerary for those of you who'd like to take on The Mall of America in Minnesota in two or three days as well!
I promise if you follow along, you can hit the highlights of the mega mall, skip over the stuff that's fluff, and keep at least a little bit of your sanity.
First Things First
Unless you just want to wander around The Mall of America in Minnesota like a lost puppy, you need direction. First thing you need is a map. (A compass or GPS receiver, along with some comfortable shoes wouldn't be bad either.) ;-) Store maps are located at various entry points within the mall, while Customer Service will have printed versions as well. I'm working on getting you a downloadable version as well, so hang on tight.
Where to Start?
While there is no perfect place to start your Mall of America Adventure, the closest thing to a beginning is the Mall of America's rotunda. The rotunda is located on the first level, East side, halfway between Sears and Bloomingdales.
How About Parking?
I bet you're wondering about parking, aren't you? Parking is no problem at The Mall of America in Minnesota. Best of all, it's free! There are over 12,500 parking spaces, located on two large ramps and two surface lots. Since I suggested beginning your journey on the East side, let's park there too. At seven levels of parking, it's a bit daunting trying to remember where you are. No worries, each level is easily marked for identification. Now, just make your way to the Mall, walk on in, and take the elevator to the lower level.
Take it from the top, er, bottom maestro!
Whether it's a national recording artist such as Jessica Simpson or her sister Ashley Simpson promoting an album, an open audition for a part in a movie such as Arnold's Park, the filming of Arnold Schwarzenegger's "Jingle All The Way," or a back to school fashion show, the rotunda is where much of the action takes place. It's here where you can get just a small taste of how large this place actually is.
Let's Get Going
From the four story rotunda, you have the option of going left, right, ahead to The Park at MOA, or upstairs to the second, third, or fourth levels. You can see the rides of the former Camp Snoopy from the rotunda, so you might be tempted to go there first. If you have kids with you, you might consider going on the rides at The Park at MOA later in the day. Use this as a reward for good behavior. (Yup, that's good old daddy experience talking).
A little planning, a little patience
Since the Mall of America in Minnesota is so large, taking it all in with small children can be tough. Here's what we do. This is key. Plan your day and choose what you want to visit first. That's it. I hear what you're saying, "Chris, that's too simplistic." Maybe so, but it works. Have you ever tried walking three young boys around and around a mall looking at clothing stores? Nope. Ain't gonna happen. That said, we normally go left, or toward the south side, via lower level East Broadway. Force of habit, I guess.
Choosing What to See
Since there is quite a bit of walking involved, only a store that's interactive is likely to get us to stop. That automatically leaves out most of the clothing stores. Sorry, but unless you are from outside the great state of Minnesota, on a major back-to-school buying spree, or taking in the wonders of Bloomingdales, Macy's, Nordstrom's or Sears, come here for the fun. Even with the enticement of no sales tax on clothes, we leave our clothing purchases for another day.
So what are we left with? How about LEGOS and Apples? Apples, huh? Yes, Apples. The Mall of America in Minnesota has an Apple Computer Store. Located at S132, the Mega Malls' Apple Store is a "must see." "But I'm a PC user, I don't need no stinkin' Apples." Right. Get over it and visit anyways. Why? It's cool, it's free, it's something interactive for the kids, and you just might find yourself walking out the door with a sweet looking iPod Nano. At least as you drive that boring mini van home after your visit, you'll have something cool to show for it. Besides, all the cool dads are doing it.
On the way to The Apple Store, and LEGO Store, we pass a one of my favorite stores in the entire mall, and that's the Minnesota Wild's Hockey Lodge. Located at E160, The Hockey Lodge is an oasis for the fan that can't get enough ice hockey. You'll find your fill of hockey jerseys, pucks, and other cool memorabilia that will help you remember your Mall of America in Minnesota trip for years to come.
Right next door to The Hockey Lodge is another cool store called Minnesot-AH! Minnesot-WHAT? Located at E157, this is a can't miss store for the special gift that is uniquely Minnesotan. Don't worry about buying something this quick into your visit, this store has it all.
Next door to Minnesot-AH! is one of my favorite stores to browse, Field of Dreams (E156). As a former sports card collector, for me this place is like a museum. From autographed sports and celebrity memorabilia to collector cards, this place is fun to visit, even if you have no intention to buy.
Lion's and Monkeys, and LEGOS, Oh My!
Down the hall, next to Bloomingdale's is the coolest restaurant in the entire Mall of America in Minnesota, The Rainforest Cafe (S102). Where else can you eat among the sounds of monkeys and macaws without getting bit or having the creepy-crawly things in your drink? Only here. Depending upon what time it is, you may wish to break for lunch, or better yet, make reservations for dinner and come back later.
Next on the list of "must see" stops, is the LEGO Imagination Center (S164). This is a stop that you'll want to make, whether you have kids or not. At over four stories tall, the LEGO store has more than 90 full-size LEGO models! That includes: dinosaurs, astronauts and the world's largest animated and interactive LEGO clock tower. Children of really cool parents can even have a birthday party there. Where was this place when I was 12?
Come on. Don't Be Shy
Overwhelmed yet? I hope not, because you've only touched on 1/12 of what The Mall of America in Minnesota has to offer. It's easy to spend an hour or so playing with the LEGOS. Kids like this place too. I'll wait up for you, don't worry. Once you're ready, lets head across the hall to the aforementioned Apple Store. Like I said, don't be shy. I promised to show you the coolest things to see at the Mall of America in Minnesota, right? Well, the Apple Store is the coolest of cool. While inside the Apple store, be sure to check out the ultra-cool 30" Hi-def monitors and the areas where you can actually try each and every machine out before you take one home.
Another cool electronics store you might want to check out while on the south side is the Bose store S140. While you're at it, the Discovery Channel Store is right next door to the Apple Store at S128.
Almost There. Halfway around the lower level, that is.
Let's continue on around the rest on the lower level, shall we?
Just before you continue around the corner and head west, you'll come across Local Charm - A Minnesota Jewelry Studio (S150). If you are looking for a unique piece of jewelry that is 180 degrees from the typical mall jeweler, this is the place you need to go.
If jewelry isn't your thing, then how about the Minnesota Vikings Locker Room (W160)? No, they won't have tickets to the next team cruise out on Lake Minnetonka, but you can get everything you need to show your team spirit. Despite the proximity of the Twin Cities to Wisconsin, you will not find any Green Bay Packers merchandise in this store!
If you're hungry, (you are, after all, half-way around the lower level!) you might want to stop across the hall at Tucci Benucch (W114). Step inside and you'll be transported to an Italian country home. Plan to stay and take in this oasis from the outside world. As much as I love Tucci Benucch, I recommend you keep moving. If you choose, we can come back here later.
A little further down the hall you'll see Itz-A-Puzzle (W132). This is a store that devotes itself to puzzles and nothing but puzzles. From 'easy' to 'hard' to 'no !@#$#! way.' If you're a fan of puzzles, this will put you in paradise.
After you've finished browsing Itz-A-Puzzle, continue our trip toward the south of The Mall of America in Minnesota.
Just down a bit from Itz-A-Puzzle is a name that most of you will recognize. World renowned chef Wolfgang Puck has graced our Mega Mall with his mega name. The Wolfgang Puck Express, located at N100, is a way to bring the food of his world-renowned restaurants into a casual setting. Does it work? You be the judge as I have not eaten there yet.
Hungry Yet? Part 2
About half way down on the north side of The Mall of America in Minnesota is another great place to grab a bite to eat. This time it's the Twin City Grill (N130) that beckons your taste buds. With a casual, yet elegant atmosphere, the Twin City Grill takes its inspiration from the 1940's. With mahogany paneling, period fixtures and vintage Twin Cities photographs, the Twin Cities Grill is a great place to dine and relax. It may not be the best place to bring the family after a long day at The Mall. Consider yourself warned.
Rotunda Here We Come!
Let's keep moving, we've almost completed the main level of The Mall of America in Minnesota and gotten back at the rotunda. As we walk the hall we come upon another cool concept store. Friends 2B Made (E172) is a store for kids to create their own personalized doll. This idea comes from the same people who brought us the Build-A-Bear Workshop allowing you to create your own personalized doll. With three boys, we pass on this as it really isn't for them, but you may find it fun.
Whew! Made It!
As you reach the rotunda of The Mall of America in Minnesota, I want to point out a store that you most likely missed on your way in. Back in the corner next to the exits is a place called Minnesota Bound with Ron Schara & Raven (E132). This cool little shop with the north woods theme was opened up by one of the Twin Cities local on-air television personalities. He has a weekly show titled, you guessed it, "Minnesota Bound" that is focused on the adventures found only in Minnesota. While his black lab "Raven" is no longer around, it has been said that she was the most popular part of his show. I tend to argee.
Like that little battery bunny. We keep going...and going...and going
Ready for more? Good. The entrance to Underwater Adventures Aquarium (E120) is right here as well. If you'd like to go learn about sharks and other deep-sea mysteries, now would be a good time. You can also do this first thing in the morning, when the lines are a bit shorter. With over 4,500 sea creatures and a virtual submarine tour, plus a whole lot more, Underwater Adventures at The Mall of America in Minnesota is both the world's largest underground aquarium and the World's Largest Shark Exhibit.
Here Sharky, Sharky, Sharky
For those with a bit more adventure in them, and SCUBA Certification, you can even sign up for a swim with the sharks. As soon as I get my SCUBA certification, this is one thing that's definitely on my to do list.
I've heard both good and bad about Underwater World. I have not taken my boys there yet, so I cannot give a personal recommendation at this time. Check back soon for an update on this exciting part of The Mall of America in Minnesota.
After you've spent your time learning about sharks, saw fish and other undersea creatures, head upstairs to the second level for some more Mall of America fun.
Let's continue our clockwise trek around The Mall of America in Minnesota and see what else we can stir up. The first store on the second level that I want to point out is another place with a Minnesota theme. Destination Minnesota (E260) is another cool place to pick up that perfect gift from your trip to Minnesota.
Electronics and gadget buffs will love The Sharper Image (S206) while fans of Walt Disney and Disney World, can explore the Disney Store (S258). Both of these are located on the south end of the second level.
Let's keep going. There's so much left to see.
Plus the tuition!
A place you have to stop at, even if just to browse, is a little gallery called The Art Major (W286). What makes The Art Major so special? This gallery is solely dedicated to artwork created by art students.
Through class assignments and special projects, students create some of the most exquisite, profound and unusual pieces in the art world. Yet, because they are students, that work is often destined to their own apartments or to a parent's garage. The Art Major gives these students a year-round gallery and place where their best work can be seen and purchased by the public at The Mall of America in Minnesota. How cool is that?
Okay, after you made your purchase of some struggling student's artwork (think ramen noodles), let's head to the right and continue to the north.
Feeling a bit patriotic?
Once we reach the north side of The Mall of America in Minnesota, there are a couple stores you may be interested in. The first is Go! The Game Store (N224), which as you may have guessed, carries toy and games. The second is the US Olympic Store (N254). What's cool about the latter is that The USA Olympic Shops provide an opportunity for fans to show their support for Team USA. Did I mention that every purchase helps support America's elite athletes. Get a cool USA hoodie, send an athlete to the Olympics. Gotta love it.
There are a few other stores that may interest you down the east side. For now let's make our way to the rotunda.
Weren't we just here?
Hey! We're back at the rotunda of The Mall of America in Minnesota. If you're worn-out and tired from our lap around the first two levels, now may be a good time to stop. If you decide to stop and want fast food pizza, head over to Ville Pizza at E216. If you'd rather relax, find yourself another place to eat that's close, such as the Napa Valley Grille (W220), or Ruby Tuesday (N234) while you rejuvenate yourself for the second half of the day. Don't forget about our first floor restaurants either. ;-)
It's like deja vu all over again!
If, on the other hand, you can make it to the third floor (recommended), your dining choices are greatly expanded. There is a ton of the usual mall fast food choices in the food court on the South Third floor. You can also find some great dining choices such as: Bubba Gump Shrimp Company (S396), California Cafe (S368), Famous Dave's BBQ (S321), or Tony Roma's (S346). The majority of them are near the food court. So let's head upstairs to the third floor and head south. See, I told you a compass or GPS would be a good idea. Aren't you glad you didn't wear those flip-flops?
As you make your way to the food court, check out Games by James on the right side. If you want a cool educational game for junior, now would be a good time to stop. While mom is inside getting something "educational", dad can hop across the hall to A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation. Located at E340, A.C.E.S. provides an adrenaline junkie's fix. If it is busy, or you wish to fly a certain type of plane, you'll most likely want to call ahead to reserve your time.
Where everyone is above average
Not everyone in Minnesota likes Garrison Keillor nor 'A Prairie Home Companion.' For those that do there is Lake Wobegon USA (E350). If you fall into the latter group, now is your chance to stop. If you're like me, the smells of lunch are getting stronger. I keep walking.
BTW: As you 'round the bend near Bloomingdales, you might want to take a peek into Chapel of Love Wedding Chapel (E345). Why? If for nothing else than to get a glimpse at marriage done quick. I've heard it said that the way to a man's heart is through his stomach. I guess the way to a women's is the megamall. Nothing says "I love you" more than a marriage at The Mall. Move along now, food is waiting!
Food, marvelous food!
Can you tell what drives the heart's of Minnesotans?
Finally, as you reach the south end of The Mall of America in Minnesota, you'll have an assortment of dining choices. No, not the Foot Locker across the hall. How about Bubba Gump Shrimp Company, (S396), California Cafe (S368), Famous Dave's BBQ (S321), or Tony Roma's (S346)? All are good casual sit down places to kick back for an hour or so. I have not eaten at Kokomo's Island Cafe (S319) but it looks fun. BTW: if your are staying all day until dinner, you might want to try the aforementioned Rainforest Cafe (S102). The Rainforest Cafe is definitely a place where you have to eat at least once.
Again, if you'd rather choose from a selection of fast food, here's your chance.
Ah, now doesn't it feel good to sit down and give those tired dogs a rest? Come back after you've had your fill.
Time to burn off those calories. Shall we race?
Back so soon? There's still plenty to explore, so let's get moving.
Okay, where were we? That's right, heading to the west.
Right across from The California Cafe, and next to Tony Roma's, you find the NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway (S352). Okay, some people think that racing isn't a sport. You know better. You've even had thoughts of getting behind the wheel and trying it yourself. Well, here's your chance. Next to paying $1,500 or more for the Richard Petty Experience, this is stock car racing as real as it gets.
We're finally on the back stretch (definite pun intended) as we head down the hall back to the rotunda.
But I swear this is where I left it!
The Mall of America in Minnesota's fourth floor "Entertainment District" has taken a beating the past few years. What used to be a thriving cluster of bars, pubs, night clubs and restaurants is now a ghost town. Where there use to be a Planet Hollywood, there is only boarded up walls.
There are a few leftovers trying to hang on to the past. Here's where you will find Hooter's and the 14 Screen AMC Theatres at S401. There is also the private meeting facilities, The Mall of America in Minnesota Executive Meeting & Events Center located at E410.
If there is one thing the Mall of America in Minnesota lacks, it's good night-time entertainment. If you have kids (or a wife/girlfriend, etc.), enter Hooter's at your own risk.
Coasters, and flumes, and tumblers, Oh My!
Only one last area to explore at The Mall of America in Minnesota before calling it a day, that is The Park at MOA. Time and money may play a factor into what you plan to see at this point.
Up until early 2006, the seven-acre park was known as Camp Snoopy. ("Peanuts" creator Charles Schulz was a native of nearby St. Paul). That is when the licensing agreement ran out and the The Mall of America in Minnesota and United Media were unable to reach an agreement for renewal of the Peanuts Characters.
How grumpy do we want the kids to be?
Now, depending upon how tired you are at this point, and the stamina of your kids, you may want to come back another day, or push ahead and take in The Park at MOA.
We usually go ahead and let the kids ride at least one ride. There are a variety of rides for different age groups. Feel free to pick and choose your favorites, based on age, height, sense of adventure, and money left over after your long day at the Mall.
Yeah for you! You made it!
That's it! You made it through my Mall of America in Minnesota in one day tour. That wasn't so bad, was it?
Where to now? How about you reward yourself by going back to your hotel and taking that swim and jacuzzi you deserve. If you want to come back tomorrow and do your clothing shopping, we'll be waiting. In the meantime, go get some rest.
Mall of America in Minnesota, Fun Facts.
- The Mall of America in Minnesota cost $650 million to build in 1992
- Economic impact - The Mall of America in Minnesota contributes more than $1.8 billion in economic impact activity annually to the state of Minnesota
- Gross leasable space - 2.5 million square feet
- Gross building area - 4.2 million square feet
- Number of stores - There are more than 520 store to choose from at The Mall of America in Minnesota
- Sit-down restaurants - 20
- Fast food restaurants - 30
- Specialty food stores - 36
- Movie screens - 14
- Employees - 11,000 year-round, 13,000 during summers and holidays
- Parking spaces - 12,550 on-site
- Walking distance around one level - .57 miles
- Total store front footage - 4.3 miles
Did you know?
- The Mall of America is really in Bloomington, Minnesota, and not Minneapolis or St. Paul, Minnesota
- 258 Statues of Liberty could lie inside The Mall of America in Minnesota
- If Mount Rushmore was divided into individual monuments, a president could reside in each of The Mall of America in Minnesota's four courts. Hey, I can't make this kind of stuff up!
- The Mall of America in Minnesota is big enough to hold 32 Boeing 747s
- If a shopper spent 10 minutes browsing at every store, it would take them more than 86 hours to complete their visit to The Mall of America in Minnesota. Now do you understand why we skipped the clothing stores?
Cool 'Ballpark' related facts
- Seven Yankee Stadiums can fit inside The Mall of America in Minnesota
- The Minnesota Twins and Minnesota Vikings former home, Metropolitan Stadium, was located on the site of The Mall of America in Minnesota. Look hard enough and you'll find a plaque in the amusement park noting the spot where Metropolitan Stadium's home plate used to be.
- A former stadium seat marks the precise landing point, elevation and all, of a 520-foot home run hit by the Twins' Harmon Killebrew in 1967.
HINT: If you've found home plate, look high and far to find the seat from Killebrew's home run. Remember, Killebrew was right handed.
More Cool Facts
- The Mall of America in Minnesota is big enough to host the area's annual Susan G. Komen Race for the Cure event
- The Mall of America in Minnesota never needs heating! Even in the dead of a Minnesota winter, Wikipedia reports, the warmth generated by human circulation and the amusement-park skylight is enough to actually require air conditioning.
- According to Wikipedia, other Mall of America nicknames include: Sprawl of America, Hugedale (in reference to the four major "Dale" shopping malls within the Twin Cities: Rosedale, Southdale, Ridgedale and Brookdale) and, simply, The Mall.
- There is no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota
Here's a Mall of America Panorama that is very cool. (Opens in a new window).