Midwest Living Review
The Mall of America has 520 stores and 50 restaurants to choose from, and managing that can seem like a monumental task. These tips will help you enjoy your shopping experience.Start at home.Go online first (mallofamerica.com). Most mall websites show store locations, business hours, information desks, parking, restaurants, holiday events and promotions. Mall of America's site sells a coupon book for $12.95 and ships it for free within the 50 states. The more than 200 coupons save shoppers $1,500 if they use them all ($20 off at Sketchers with a $100 purchase, 20 percent off at CJ Banks, $5 off at Hallmark with a $20 purchase, $10 off a $25 purchase at Yankee Candle). Dress smart.The Mall of America is 70 degrees year-round without central heat. (The 8 acres of skylights, store lights and shoppers keep it toasty.) Wear comfortable shoes for all of that walking, and leave your coat in the car. Think about parking.The mall, which has 12,550 parking spaces in two seven-level garages, distinguishes levels with state-icon signs to help people remember where they parked (Georgia peaches, Indiana race cars, Maine lobsters). The lots near Sears tend to fill up first because they are closest to the expressways' exits (true for malls anywhere). You're more likely to find spots near Macy's on the west side. Head to the top of the garage; those spots fill up last. Once you've parked, text yourself the location.Walk in circles.There are two kinds of shoppers: stalkers and walkers. Stalkers beeline for select stores (maps in hand, noting the addresses on the front of each MOA store). Walkers wander around the mall's four floors, looking for inspiration and sometimes getting lost. Keep in mind that stores sharing a target customer often cluster together. Mall of America's four biggies--Bloomingdale's, Macy's, Nordstrom and Sears--anchor "market" areas designed for a particular audience. You'll find value stores on the east side, eclectic shops on the west side. Take the kids.Shops aside, the mall is filled with family-friendly things to do. On a budget? Stick to Legoland, where kids can build whatever they want. Parents of preschoolers can often find free entertainment and special deals on Toddler Tuesdays through the winter months. It's a great time to play your own version of I-Spy at new Butterfly Bay ($2/per person). Families with older kids and not enough time (or a budget) for a full day of amusement park rides, can challenge each other at the Flying Dutchman Ghostly Gangplank ropes course. It's sure to get the adrenaline moving when you're high enough to look down on a roller-coaster.