Consider that if you only spent 10 minutes in each of the Mall of America’s 500-plus stores, you’d need 86 hours to see them all. By next year, the mall will be even bigger after a $325 million expansion. If you’re a first-timer, pressed for time or want to do more than shop, here are our top 10 favorite Mall of America destinations for interactive entertainment and family fun (some of it’s even free!):
1) Nickelodeon Universe Leave at least an hour or two for the top family attraction and epicenter of the mall. You can go screaming along the Pepsi Orange Streak or dropping off the Rock Bottom Plunge. Or opt for tamer rides like the Ferris wheel with its cool park views or toddler-friendly rides on hot-air balloons and miniature trucks. (952) 883-8800; nickelodeonuniverse.com
2) Sea Life Aquarium Visitors start in a replica of Minnesota’s North Woods, birthplace of the Mississippi River, and follow ramps downward past exhibits of freshwater river fish and Southern swamps, ending with information on the Gulf of Mexico and tropical oceans. Kids will love the touch tanks, aquariums with jellies and sea dragons, and walking through a clear tunnel as sharks, turtles and manta rays glide overhead and eye-to-eye. (952) 883-0202; visitsealife.com/minnesota
3) Lego store Even before The Lego Movie, this store has been a beloved destination for all ages. Chalk it up to the gigantic gawk-worthy Lego creations (a robot, a helicopter and a caveman facing a saber-tooth tiger just to name a few), a wall stocked with more than 180 colors and styles of brick pieces, and tables where visitors can sit and play surrounded by inspiration. (952) 858-8949; stores.lego.com
4) Dutchman’s Deck Barnacle Blast Zip Line, which opened July 18, whirs visitors 70 feet off the ground and across 405 feet of Nickelodeon Universe on the country’s longest indoor zipline. The attraction includes the Ghostly Gangplank high-ropes course on which harnessed guests walk across planks and narrow or wiggly bridges before reaching a spiral slide (the Anchor Drop) for the trip back down. (Admission to this adventure is not included in the all-day park pass.) (952) 883-8800, nickelodeonuniverse.com/dutchmansdeck
5) Traveling exhibits The mall is hosting four traveling exhibits this summer, including Ladies and Gentlemen…The Beatles, packed with memorabilia from their tour of America; Barbie: The Dreamhouse Experience, for young fans of the iconic doll, and Star Trek: The Exhibition for sci-fi followers who want to board the Starship Enterprise (startrektheexhibition.com). mallofamerica.com/attractions
6) Rotunda shows The best place to sight the many celebs drumming up publicity is the Rotunda. Get in line early to snag a seat for musical performances or scout out a spot along upper-floor railings overlooking the Rotunda. It’s also used for book signings, dance performances, choir concerts, cheer competitions, plus gaming and product demonstrations. mallofamerica.com/events
7) American Girl For girls hooked on these dolls, this two-story store and bistro—with special doll seats and light eats— can be a dreamy place to explore. Check the store calendar for free crafts, scavenger hunts, and other activities on weekends and some weekdays. For dolls needing TLC, there’s also a hair salon. (877) 247-5223; americangirl.com
8) House of Comedy Head to the fourth-floor entertainment district to eat and go bowling or verbally spar with intentionally cranky waiters. At Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy, feast on a state-fair-theme appetizer plate (mini donuts, cheese curds and more) while laughing along with touring stand-up comics. (952) 858-8558; houseofcomedy.net
9) Theaters Add to a blockbuster’s 3-D special effects with D-Box seats that move with the action. One theater caters to the 21-and-older crowd with beer and wine service. For families, the theater shows free older movies at 10 a.m. Saturdays; one theater accommodates kids with special needs (with adjustments such as having lights on and being able to move around). The second-best deal: $6 flicks all day on Wednesdays. (952) 883-8901; theatresmoa.com
10) A.C.E.S. Simulator Aspiring pilots and history buffs can strap in and choose a World War II fighter plane to soar above landscapes such as Hawaii or the Grand Canyon, land on aircraft carriers or engage in combat. (952) 920-3519; flyaces.com
For more information, go to mallofamerica.com or call (952) 883-8800. Check the website for any detours or other changes due to construction.
Photos courtesy of Mall of America.
Lisa, who is working on a guidebook to the Mall of America, blogs about Minnesota and the Midwest at 10000Likes.com.
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