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Bloomington, Minnesota – An Affordable & Fun Family Vacation Destination

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Bloomington's central location between the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul and outlying suburbs makes it a fabulous spot for a Minnesota vacation. With no sales tax on shoes or clothing purchases plus reasonably priced hotels and restaurants, a vacation to Bloomington is an affordable choice. There are a lot of misconceptions about Minnesota, for example, that the state is made up of nothing but farmland and cows. While there certainly are farms in the state, Bloomington is one of the many suburban towns near the cities' center, and believe me, you won't see any cows there. Here are some of the sites and activities that make Bloomington such a fun family vacation destination.

The Mall of America

Bloomington became a mecca for shoppers when the Mall of America was built in 1992. The second largest mall in the U.S. boasts over 500 stores, 50 restaurants, the SEALIFE Minnesota Aquarium, a bowling alley, a comedy club, and a miniature golf course.

A child-friendly ride at the Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe in Bloomington, Minnesota

A child-friendly ride at the Mall of America's Nickelodeon Universe in Bloomington, Minnesota

In the mall's center lies Nickelodeon Universe—an indoor amusement park with 27 rides and attractions from the thrilling Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock to more mellow offerings like a miniature Big Rigs ride for wee ones. You just might run into SpongeBob Squarepants or Dora the Explorer during your visit.

One of Minnesota's more than 10,000 lakes

Nature

Every time I return to my former home state of Minnesota I am struck by how green, green, green everything is. At Bloomington's Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, families can fish, hike and spot wildlife like river otters and wood ducks.

Padelford Riverboat in St. Paul, Minnesota

A riverboat on the Mississippi river with a view of the St. Paul skyline in the background

Water Play

Kids will love Bloomington's Water Park of America, with its plentiful waterslides, the Lake Superior Wave Pool, and the Cascade Falls Flowrider.

And then there are the lakes. Minnesota is known for its 10,000 lakes. (Actually, there are more!) During your Minnesota vacation, be sure to experience at least one of these by fishing, swimming, canoeing, kayaking or taking a stroll at one of the state's official 11,842 lakes.

Science Museum of Minnesota interactive exhibit

Hands-on learning at the Science Museum of Minnesota

St. Paul

Approximately 17 miles from Bloomington, it's easy to reach nearby historic St. Paul, the capital of Minnesota. St. Paul is home to the interactive Children's Museum of Minnesota, as well as my kids' favorite, the Science Museum of Minnesota, with its dinosaur bones and experiments aplenty. Visit the Como Park Zoo & Conservatory (for a minimal suggested donation entrance fee) to wander through flower-filled gardens, take a spin on a carousel, and view animals like the arctic fox, reindeer and wolf. From St. Paul you can board a paddleboat to explore Minnesota via the Mississippi River.

Minneapolis Sculpture Garden Spoonbridge and Cherry

The Minneapolis Sculpture Garden

Minneapolis

You might be surprised to learn that Minneapolis (also 17 miles from Bloomington) has a thriving live theatre, music and comedy culture. Take the family to see a show at the Children's Theatre Company, starring talented kids. Teens might love the satirical humor of The Brave New Workshop (where I used to take improve lessons!).

Also in the city, children can explore the Minneapolis Sculpture Garden, a grassy park filled with blooms galore and unusual, modern sculptures. If you’re interested in learning more about how the flour industry played a key role in the building of Minnesota’s Twin Cities and surrounding areas, plan a trip to the Mill City Museum.

Minnesota Zoo

Splash fountains at the Minnesota Zoo

And Beyond

The Minnesota Zoo is a 17-minute drive from Bloomington. The verdant exhibits give animals like caribou, moose, and brown bears plenty of space to roam. On a rainy (or snowy) day, stick to the indoor shark and dolphin exhibits or wander through the Tropics Trail.

During summer months, take the kids to Valley Fair in Shakopee (just 18 minutes from Bloomington). Thrill rides are sure to please tweens and teens while Planet Snoopy will keep little ones entertained.

Enter to win a weekend in Bloomington, Minnesota

Book Your Bloomington, Minnesota Getaway

Did you enter last month's Bloomington Pick Your Pack Sweepstakes? (If you did, thank you!) Entrants got a chance to win one of six Bloomington vacation packages. Even if you didn't win, you can still get in on the fun!

Book your trip to Minnesota and bed down in Bloomington to take advantage of its central location and affordable hotel pricing. See a list of Bloomington's numerous hotel options. Want to save even more? Book one of Bloomington's Getaway Packages for discounts on attractions and more.

Have you ever visited Bloomington or the Twin Cities? What's your favorite Minnesota attraction? Let us know in the comments below!

A Note from The Travel Mama: The Bloomington Pick Your Package Sweepstakes was brought to you in partnership with the Bloomington Convention and Visitors Bureau, a not-for-profit organization that spreads the word about the city, area attractions, and the surrounding communities to visitors around the world. 

All photos by Colleen Lanin.

About Colleen Lanin

Colleen Lanin is the founder/editor-in-chief of TravelMamas.com. As the author of her book, "The Travel Mamas' Guide," she teaches parents not only how to survive a trip with children, but also how to love exploring the world with their offspring. Her stories have appeared online and in print for such outlets as the "Today" show, NBCNews.com, Parenting Magazine, Orlando Sentinel, Chicago Tribune, Expedia, San Diego Family Magazine, and more. Colleen gives tips on television, radio, and as a public speaker. She has a master’s degree in business administration with a background in marketing. She lives in Arizona with her husband and two kids.

Comments

  1. I had no idea that there was so much to do in the Bloomington area – always thought that it was just the Mall of America! And I thought that the Mall of America was the largest mall in the U.S. – which one is larger?

    • Colleen Lanin, The Travel Mama says:

      Lisa – Well, in terms of square feet, The King of Prussia Mall in Pennsylvania is slightly larger but the Mall of America has more stores.

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