We recently returned from this year’s Travel Bloggers Exchange (TBEX) conference held this year in the Twin Cities at the Mall of America.  Earlier this year we posted on spending Spring Break at the Mall of America.  While everything we wrote earlier remains true, there have been some exciting additions to the family friendly attractions at the Mall of America.  We’ve updated our earlier post to reflect those exciting changes and we highly recommend spending some of your summer vacation at the Mall of America.  Your kids will love it!


Planning a summer vacation can be challenging particularly if you have limited time available or limited money to spend. The cost of airfare, hotels, rental car and other expenses can add up quickly. An affordable and fun alternative, especially if you live within driving distance of the Minneapolis/St. Paul area, is to spend a few days of your summer vacation at the Mall of America just outside Minneapolis in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Mall Wide ShotThe Mall of America is the largest mall in the country with over 500 stores and more than 50 restaurants. But it is so much more than just a shopping mall.  The Mall of America contains a full sized amusement park, a huge aquarium, loads of entertainment options and much, much more.

One thing to keep in mind when shopping at the Mall of America is that the state of Minnesota does not charge sales tax on clothing or shoes. Depending on where you live, that can save you up to 8% on your clothing and shoe purchases.

In addition, the surrounding Twin Cities area has a ton of other things to see and do when you and your family want to venture outside of the mall.


What to Do

Nickelodeon Universe

Nickelodeon Universe, located right in the center of the Mall of America, offers more than 30 rides and attractions spread over seven acres. Included are a full-sized roller coaster Nickelodeon Universeand log flume ride along with theme rides featuring Sponge Bob SquarePants and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.  The thing we like about Nickelodeon Universe is that you’ll find rides to please kids of all ages.  To ride the rides in Nickelodeon Universe you’ll need either a wristband or ride pass.  A wristband to ride the rides all day is just $34.99.  There are cheaper alternatives if your kids want to ride just a ride or two.


Sea Life Aquarium

Sea Life AquariumUnderneath the Mall of America sits the SeaLife Minnesota Aquarium featuring a 500,000 gallon tank filled with all sorts of interesting sea life. You can ride through a glass enclosed tunnel 14 feet below the water’s surface and see sharks and sea turtles like you’ve never seen them before.  A new feature at the aquarium is the Stingray Adventure which allows your kids to actually touch and feed the Rays.  Admission to the aquarium is free for kids under 3, $17.25 plus tax for kids 3-12 and $24.95 plus tax for those 13 and older. Discounted tickets can be purchased online.




Lego Mall of AmericaLego has a huge presence at the Mall of America. Part store and part play area your kids will love Lego, located on the first level on the south side of the mall.  We especially like the Pick-A-Brick wall which has the best selection of Lego bricks we’ve ever seen.




Moose Mountain Adventure Golf

IMG_2405Located on the 3rd level on the mall’s north side is Moose Mountain Adventure Golf, a north woods themed miniature golf course.  Your kids will love the golf and the great views of the theme park below.



Minnesota Children’s Museum

The Minnesota Children’s Museum recently opened a satellite location on the third floor of the mall’s north side. Modeled after the museum’s main location in St. Paul, the Mall of America location encourages children to learn through play.  The museum offers a variety of exhibits that are engaging and fun for kids of all ages. The price for admission is $7.95 for all and free for museum members.

A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation

A.C.E.S.If flying a fighter plane has been one of your kid’s dreams that you’ll want to make a stop at A.C.E.S. Inside you’ll find a number of different flight simulators that put you right in the middle of the action. A.C.E.S. recommends that children be age 10 or older but they do leave it to parent’s discretion.



Crayola Experience

Crayola Experience is a fantastic new addition to the Mall of America with more than 60,000 square feet of space and 25 hands-on attractions. In Crayola Experience your kids will find unique experiences you can’t find anywhere else, such as:crayola

– Learning how crayons are made
– Starring in their very own coloring page
– Naming and wrapping their very own Crayola crayon
– Taking part in a 4-D coloring adventure

Crayola Experience is located on Level 3 South at the Mall of America.  Admission is $24.99 per person although discounts may be available online.  Be sure to check the Crayola Experience web site.  Annual passes are also available.

Fly Over America

flyoverAnother new addition to the Mall of America is Fly Over America.  Using virtual flight ride technology and a variety of special effects like wind, scents and moving seats, Fly Over America makes it feel like you’re really flying. You’ll take a simulated flight over some of America’s most recognizable landscapes during the 10 minute flight.

Tickets are $16.95 for adults and $12.95 for children 12 and under.    Tickets can be purchased on a Standby basis or for timed entry.  If you’re on a tight time schedule or if you’re at the mall on the weekend, we recommend the timed entry.  Fly Over America is located on the west side of the mall’s Center Court.



American Girl

Like American Girl stores everywhere, the Mall of America location is two stories of American Girl dolls, clothes, accessories and more. Girls who bring their dolls can drop them offAmerican Girl at the salon and let the on-duty stylists give them a new hairdo. After that they can go to the bistro for a bite to eat. American Girls is located right next to the east entrance to Nickelodeon Universe.



Build A BearAt Build-A-Bear, kids create their very own personalized stuffed animal. With more than 30 animal options to make and hundreds of outfits and accessories to choose from each Build-A-Bear experience is a new one. The Mall of America Build-A-Bear is located on the first level on the east side of the mall.



Creative Kidstuff

Creative Kidstuff is a Minnesota-based chain of toy stores that has a selection unlike any you’ll find in any other toy store. From unique educational toys to great toys from smaller Creative Kidstufftoy companies you’re sure to find something that will appeal to the children in your life.  Creative Kidstuff is located on the first level of the mall on the east side.



Peeps & CompanyPeeps and Company

If your kids like candy be sure to make a special stop at Peeps and Company located on the first floor at the west end of Nickelodeon Universe. Inside you’ll find Peeps of all varieties and a shopping experience unlike any you’ve experienced in any candy store. Peeps and Company is located just inside the west entrance to Nickelodeon Universe.



Where to Eat

Restaurants Inside the Mall of America

Rainforest Café

Rainforest CafeThe Rainforest Café now has locations around the country but the Mall of America location was the very first. You’ll be pleasantly distracted by the animated animals and simulated thunderstorms. The children’s menu has the old standbys macaroni and cheese, burgers and chicken fingers.  The adult menu is very broad with everything from salads to sandwiches to pasta and much, much more.



Hard Rock CaféHard Rock Cafe

Similar to Hard Rock Cafes everywhere, the Mall of America location has a music theme with memorabilia displayed throughout the restaurant. The restaurant is two stories tall and sits inside the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park.  The menus for both kids and adults are varied and sure to please just about any tastes.


Restaurants Near the Mall of America

International House of Pancakes

Like every IHOP everywhere, the restaurant across the street from the Mall of America specializes in breakfast but is open all day for lunch and dinner as well. Special kids’ menus are available. This IHOP is open 24 hours. 2231 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, MN 55425

TGI Fridays

TGI Friday’s positions itself as the original casual dining bar and grill, TGI Fridays offers typical American food and drinks. The restaurant is open from 11:00am until 2:00am daily and offers a special kids’ menu. 2201 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, MN 55425


Chevy’s creates traditional Mexican dishes from scratch, every day. They use fresh ingredients in all of their recipes. We eat at Chevy’s frequently and have always been impressed with the food and the service we receive.  The restaurant is open from 11:00am until Midnight daily and until 1:00 am on Friday and Saturday night.  There is a special kids menu available and kids eat free on Tuesday nights. 2251 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, MN 55425

Where to Stay

There are a wide range of accommodations attached to, and near, the Mall of America. There are two hotels attached directly to the mall, the JW Marriott and the Radisson Blu.  Several other hotels are within walking distance and other nearby hotels have frequent free shuttle service to the mall.

The range of accommodations varies widely. There are high-end luxury hotels, mid-priced chains and even a hotel that has its own attached water park.  You’re sure to find something that suits your budget.

Hotels Attached to the Mall of America

JW MarriottJW Marriott at Mall of America
The JW Marriott is the newest hotel at the Mall of America and is attached to the mall’s north side. The hotel offers 342 guestrooms and suites. The restaurant within the JW Marriott, Cedar + Stone, Urban Table has received rave reviews from the local food press. Their menu offers dishes inspired by Minnesota’s “natural root and local culture.”       2141 Lindau Lane, Bloomington, MN 55425


Radisson Blu
Located on the mall’s south side, the Radisson Blu offers 500 rooms and suites, each with amenities like free high-speed, wireless Internet and 24-hour room service. The hotel also offers a fully equipped fitness room and an indoor swimming pool. The hotel’s restaurant, FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar offers a wide variety of dishes focusing on the flavors of the American heartland. 2100 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, MN 55425

Hotels Within Walking Distance

All hotels listed are located within a block or two of the mall. While you can walk, the hotels also offer complimentary shuttle service to the Mall of America.

Best Western Plus
1901 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, MN  55425

Country Inns and Suites
2221 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, MN 55425

Homewood Suites
2261 Killebrew Drive, Bloomington, MN 55425

Towne Place Suites by Marriott
2500 Lindau Lane, Bloomington, MN 55425

Fairfield Inns and Suites by Marriott
2401 American Blvd E, Bloomington, MN 55425

Ramada Hotel
2300 East American Blvd, Bloomington, MN 55425

Marriott Hotel (Minneapolis Airport Marriott)
2020 American Blvd E, Bloomington, MN 55425

Other Nearby Hotels

These hotels, while not within easy walking distance are within a five minute drive from the Mall of America.

Minneapolis Airport Hilton
3800 American Blvd E, Bloomington, Minnesota, 55425

SpringHill Suites
2870 Metro Drive, Bloomington, MN 55425

Embassy Suites
7901 34th Avenue S, Bloomington, MN 55425

Hyatt Regency – Bloomington
3200 E 81st St, Bloomington, MN 55425

Other Things to Do in the Twin Cities

Water Park of America

The Water Park of America is attached to the nearby Radisson Hotel. Be aware that there are two Radisson Hotels near the Mall of America.  The Radisson Blu is attached to the mall and the Radisson-Bloomington is the one with the water park. The indoor waterpark is one of the largest indoor waterparks in America.  Attractions include a large wave pool, the Flow Rider and a Surf Simulator. 1700 American Blvd. Bloomington, MN 55425

MSP Airport Aircraft Viewing AreaAmerican Airlines plane at MSP

Less than five minutes’ drive from the Mall of America is one of the best places to view planes in the country in our opinion. The Aircraft Viewing Area at the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport sits in the middle of the airport property and best of all, it’s absolutely free!  To get there drive north on Minnesota Highway 77 (Cedar Avenue) to the 66th Street exit.  Turn right at the intersection and take Longfellow Avenue to the south to Cargo Road.  Turn left on Cargo Road and take it all the way to the end just past the FedEx shipping center.  You won’t be disappointed! Click here for a map to the Aircraft Viewing Area.

Minnesota Zoo

Tiget at the Minnesota ZooLocated just ten minutes south of the Mall of America in the suburb of Apple Valley, the Minnesota Zoo boasts great kids activities any time of the year. The zoo rests on 485 acres and has more than 4,700 animals including its latest addition Hawaiian Monk Seals. Be sure to catch the World of Birds show.  Your kids will love it. As a special treat, now through Labor Day your family can see the new Dinosaurs exhibit at the Minnesota Zoo.  Get face-to-face with life-size roaring, moving (and even spitting) dinosaurs like Stegosaurus, Brachiosaurus and even T. Rex. The Dinosaurs exhibit has a $5 admission in addition to the regular Zoo admission. 13000 Zoo Blvd., Apple Valley, MN 55124


Minnesota Children’s Museum

The larger, older sibling to the smaller version of the museum within the mall, the Minnesota Children’s Museum is consistently rated as one of the best children’s museums in the country. The Minnesota Children’s Museum is dedicated to providing children with a fun, hands-on and stimulating environment to explore and discover. 10 W. Seventh St. St. Paul, MN 55102

Science Museum of Minnesota

Science Museum of MinnesotaKids of all ages will enjoy the Science Museum of Minnesota. The museum, located on the Mississippi River, offers guests a unique opportunity to explore all kinds of science learning. Exhibits rotate regularly.  Be sure to check their website for details. 120 W. Kellogg Blvd., Saint Paul, MN 55102



Children’s Theatre Company

If you’re looking for a more cultural activity, the award-winning Children’s Theatre Company may be just the ticket. There’s a reason that Time Magazine named the Children’s Theatre Company the number 1 children’s theatre in the nation. For 50 years, CTC has created extraordinary theatre experiences that educate, challenge, and inspire young people and their communities. It was the first theatre for young people to win the Tony Award® for Outstanding Regional Theatre. 2400 3rd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN 55404

The Big Ticket Adventure Pass

If you’ll be in the Twin Cities area for several days it may be worthwhile to purchase The Big Ticket Adventure Pass which is valid for three days and gives you an Unlimited Ride wristband for Nickelodeon Universe, All-day entry into Sea Life Aquarium, admission to the Minnesota Zoo (including the IMAX theatre), admission to the Science Museum of Minnesota and admittance into the Waterpark of America. You’ll save 30% over purchasing the tickets individually.  The Big Ticket Adventure Pass costs $89 for adults and $79 for children through age 13.  AAA members can save 20% on The Big Ticket Adventure Pass.  To purchase The Big Ticket Adventure Pass, click here.


Nickelodeon Universe2While this post provides a great deal of information it is by no means an exhaustive review of everything there is to see and do at the Mall of America.  We’ve really just scratched the surface.  If you’re looking for more to see and do on your trip to Minnesota we encourage you to visit the Explore Minnesota web site.   Explore Minnesota, part of the state’s efforts to promote tourism, also has a number of brochures about things to see and do in the area available for free.  You can find them near the east entrance of the Mall of America on the first level.

Summer vacation at the Mall of America is sure to be a hit with your entire family. The Mall of America and the surrounding Twin Cities area offer a wealth of fun and experiences for kids of all ages.  You and your family could spend as little a weekend or as long as a week and find more than enough to keep your whole family entertained for the entire time.

Safe travels!








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