An Adventure to the Mall of America
Our latest family adventure took us to the Mall of America. For those of you familiar with this mall in Bloomington Minnesota, you know the size of this mall and what all it has in it. For those unfamiliar with this monster of a mall, you can spend an entire weekend here and never do any actual shopping. That’s because this mall has an amusement park, movie theater, underground aquarium, and several other small attractions. Attractions such as a couple of movie rides, mini golf, and a mirror maze. And a few others I’m probably forgetting. These were the things we did on our trip, with a tiny bit of shopping thrown in.
We started our trip on a Thursday. This is a nice time to start because of the lack of heavy weekend traffic. We arrived in the early evening so we didn’t do too much, mostly dinner and exploring. We decided to try Wahlburger’s. This is a restaurant we’ve always wanted to try but haven’t been able to up until now. They have some very original items as well as some great classic burgers. If you want a very original burger try the Thanksgiving Turkey Burger.
One other great thing about this place is they have gluten free buns. With most burger places, the gluten free buns end up overpowering the burger because they are so thick and dry. But the gluten free buns at Wahlburger’s are pretty much the opposite. Not too big and overwhelming, you actually can taste the burger and not just the bun. I got the OFD burger which is basically a bacon cheeseburger with mushrooms. It’s a half pounder but more thick than wide which I liked. The fries are awesome although my only complaint is they do not come with your food. All side items are priced separate. Overall a wonderful dinner and we are looking forward to going again.
One thing we knew we were going to do was spend a day at Nickelodeon Universe. This is the mall’s theme park. The park’s rides are all on a point scale as far as what it costs to ride. They range anywhere from 1 to 6 points for each ride. If you think you might ride a few rides and be done then buying a certain amount of points might be your best option. We, however, knew we were going to be spending one day at the park. We also planned on seeing some of the other attractions. Now, there is a multitude of options and ways to customize tickets and attraction passes. It all just depends on what you want to do or not do.
We purchased a multi pass from bloomingtonmn.org. At $89 for each adult and $79 for each child, we received a number of things. First, unlimited rides at Nickelodeon Universe for one day, admission to the sea life aquarium. Second, 3 hours of unlimited game play at Game Works (think a smaller version of Dave and Busters / Main Event Entertainment), We also got a single day admission to The Crayola Experience, admission to the Minnesota Zoo, and admission for a ride on FlyOver America.
All of the attractions cost at least $14+ per person as well as the added cost of buying points for Nickelodeon Universe rides. So altogether, it’s a great deal if you’re going to be in the area long enough to enjoy everything. And we certainly got our money’s worth out of these passes.
Knowing how many rides there are and the added wait times in line for each ride, we decided to start at Nickelodeon Universe. Being a Friday, the crowds were lighter than a Saturday or Sunday. Although an all day wrist band for unlimited rides costs $36.99, the one price we paid included this in our package. We got there shortly after the park opened at 9:30am. We went on all of the big rides and roller coasters that we could first. Those normally have the longest lines as the day went on. We actually rode almost every ride in the park that day, some rides more than once. Although we did skip some of the little kiddie rides.
My favorite is Pepsi Orange Streak, a mild to moderate roller coaster. It’s an oldie but a goodie that takes you around the entire area and even passes through one of the rides. Braden’s favorite ride was Avatar Airbender, a back and forth rollercoaster ride where the riders also spin in circles. Elizabeth’s favorite was The Fairly Odd Coaster, a moderate rollercoaster where the riders car spins around as you go around the twists and turns.
There are very few rides I wouldn’t recommend. The bumper cars are not a favorite of mine simply because it’s just a mess of cars running into each other. They’re hard to drive, and when drivers get enough speed they can actually hit and hurt you. Just ask Lizzie who hit her head after getting hit head on. There’s also a bounce house which is little more than a big blow up pineapple (Spongebob themed). Not bad if Mom and Dad need a break but overall not the best use of points in my opinion.
As a break from all of the rides in the middle of the day, we decided to go to The Crayola Experience for a few hours. This attraction was included with our passes otherwise it would have cost us $21.99 each to get in. We had been to one before in Texas. So, we had an idea of the kinds of things there are to do inside. You would think with all of the same craft stations that we might have skipped over a lot out of boredom. But, we are a family of artists and anything art related we love.
Braden and Elizabeth still did almost every station. You can melt and reshape a crayon into different shapes. There is also a station where you drop melted crayons on to a spinning piece of paper to create really cool art designs. You can also use melted crayons to draw whatever their minds came up with. Then there is one of Elizabeth’s favorite which is coloring a design onto a coloring book page with a girl in a dress.
After you’ve colored your design, a computer scans it and then shows a model walking a runway wearing the outfit you designed. She loved doing that. I think Braden’s favorite was the spinning Crayola art, he loved trying different color combinations.
With each admission you also get 2 tokens good for making a custom crayon label or for buying a small bag of model magic clay. They each used their tokens for 1 crayon and 1 bag of model magic. Add to all of this a pretty cool little play area and it was a nice way to take a 3 hour break from the park.
One thing to keep in mind is that every night at 9:30pm right as everything closes, there is a very cool music/light show presentation on the first floor of the mall on the south side. Very neat time for the kids to get a chance to dance with all kinds of lights being shone down on them while they are moving and laughing with the music.
If you’re just watching I recommend going one level up to the food court, gives a great view. And if you are down in the middle of it don’t forget to collect a few of the streamers when they get shot off at the end. They make a cool temporary souvenir (they’re paper and don’t travel well).
The next day we started off at the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium. Our pass gave us an all day admission, otherwise adults are $25.99 and children 3-12 are $18.99. Though after going through once we decided that we didn’t need to go back again. Not that it was bad or boring or anything like that, just a series of tight tunnels which crowd very easily and make it hard to see much.
The views were amazing getting to see all of the different aquatic life from giant sea turtles to stingrays and sharks. Plus at the end there was a cool little play area where kids can draw and build with legos.
After the aquarium and lunch at the Rainforest Cafe (go for the atmosphere not the food, it’s mediocre at best but the atmosphere is awesome), we made our way over to Game Works. Our passes gave us 3 hours of continuous game play. You have to stay the full 3 hours, you cannot leave and come back later. If you don’t have continuous play, the cost varies depending on how many credits you want or length of tome you want to play.
Although it was a little smaller than I expected, we still had no problem playing games for all 3 hours without stopping. The main catch with the passes we got was that although you can play any game that would win you tickets, no tickets would actually be awarded. This keeps the people from spending all their time racking up tickets and using them to buy more prizes. That was fine with us. We just wanted to play, we didn’t care about the little throw away prizes they offered.
We had a blast playing racing games together, skeeball, and air hockey. If you want a cool twist on the game try the Pac Man Air Hockey it’s insane. Their simulation rides were pretty cool. We had no trouble playing all the way up until the very end.
Through all of this we still made time to walk all of the 4 floors of the mall and do some exploring. Not much to say here, typical mall just A LOT more of it. There were a couple of stores unique to Minnesota and a few other cool places to check out. The mirror maze looked cool but not for $13 a person, in my opinion anyways. There is an escape room as well, aptly tucked away in one of the corners.
Our final day was a pretty mellow one. We went and rode FlyOver America (if any of you are familiar with Soarin’ at Walt Disney World it’s similar, just a little bit longer). I love simulation rides like that and it was so completely awesome. It’s a completely immersive experience with a wrap around IMAX screen, seats that move with the action, and even mist and smells associated with the part of the country you are in. This made flying over the forests especially cool. Afterwards, we did a little walking then decided to call it a trip and begin our drive home.
The Mall of America is a great place spend some family time. Although there is a lot of walking involved, it’s worth it. There’s something to be said about riding all those cool rides and going from attraction to attraction. And then right after to eating to shopping and everything in between. All of this inside in the air conditioned environment. Which in the middle of the summer is a great thing. The kids were already talking about what rides they want to ride next time and all the places that they want to visit again. A wonderful adventure that we were blessed to have together.
What are you most excited to go try?