You've heard of the Mall of America. It's that giant shopping mall in Minnesota. This mall's 520 retail stores can keep any shopper happy for days. But do you know how much there is to do at Mall of America besides shop? I have spent a ton of time at this mega entertainment complex over the years. In fact, for a couple of years after college, I spent 60+ hours per week here working as a retail store manager by day and cocktail waitress by night. I was recently invited to check out all there is to see, taste and explore at the Mall of America. Even I was surprised by the number and variety of activities at this megamall. Check out these 30 fun things to do at Mall of America besides shop.
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1. Ride roller coasters, kiddie rides and other amusements.
Mall of America is big enough to fit an entire amusement park in its center. Nickelodeon Universe features 25 rides. Thrill seekers will love SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge, a zippy steel coaster with two inversions. For a more mellow roller coaster experience, choose Pepsi Orange Streak (shown below) for some fabulous views of the park. There's even a Log Chute ride for park goers who don't mind getting a little wet. Kiddie rides abound at Nickelodeon Universe, too. The Big Rigs ride was a favorite of my Minnesota-native niece and nephews during the preschool years. Truly, you could easily spend your entire day in Nickelodeon Universe. This is especially true if you buy All-Day Wristbands, which allow unlimited rides on almost all Nick attractions.
2. View and touch sea creatures at an aquarium.
Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium wows mall visitors with 10 marine life exhibits. Pet anemones, sea stars and sea cucumbers at the Pacific Northwest Rockpool. Next, feed sting rays at the Ray Pool (for an additional fee). A Spectacled Caiman (related to alligators) in the Rainforest exhibit spooked me with its wide-eyed stare. Most impressive is the walk-through shark-filled Ocean Tunnel. Get your Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium tickets now.
3. Watch a concert or attend a live event.
Mall of America hosts 400+ events per year, including live concerts, book signings, charity fundraisers, celebrity interviews and more. During my visit, I was lucky enough to see Boyz II Men perform for throngs of adoring fans. Best of all? Most of these events are free to visitors. Check out the Mall of America Events page to see what's coming up soon.
4. Create your own crayon color.
The Crayola Experience at Mall of America offers 25 hands-on activities. You can name and wrap your own crayon, star in a coloring page, bring your art to life in 4-D and more. If you don't want to pay to play, head next door to the Crayola Store, where shoppers can create their own custom pack of Crayola crayons from a wall of colorful choices.
5. Fly over the USA.
Similar to Disney's Soarin' ride, FlyOver America is a flight simulation ride that takes riders on an uplifting journey. The 10-minute ride soars over some of America's most beautiful sites and landscapes. Buy your FlyOver America tickets now.
6. Play miniature golf.
Play 18 holes at Moose Mountain Adventure Golf on the fourth floor of the Mall of America. Everyone is welcome to hit these mini links and the course is wheelchair accessible. Moose Mountain features an abandoned mine theme and offers views of Nickelodeon Universe from some holes.
7. Get lost in a mirror maze.
The Amazing Mirror Maze is an impressive 2,500 square feet of mirrored fun. Guests must don plastic gloves, which keeps the glass pristine. This Mall of America attraction is sure to incite laughter for maze goers. Be sure to check Groupon for a discount before you go.
8. Go bowling.
Yes, there's an entire bowling alley inside the Mall of America. Head to Sky Deck Sports Grill & Lanes to hit the pins during your visit. All ages are welcome but there is a full bar for mom and dad.
9. Brave a ropes course and zip-lining.
Dutchman's Deck Adventure Course adds more thrills to Mall of America. You can choose to do just the Ghostly Gangplank ropes course, the Barnacle Blast Zipline, or the Anchor Drop Spiral Slides — or get a pass to tackle all three. Various height restrictions apply. My friend and I opted to zip across Nickelodeon Universe. The first step off the platform will make your heart thump, but then you can relax into the ride and enjoy the scenery and sounds of Nickelodeon Universe.
10. Watch live comedy.
Get the giggles at Rick Bronson's House of Comedy. This adults-only venue features stand-up comedy performances by professional comedians. Adding to the fun are a fully stocked bar and casual eats (like Canadian inspired poutine French fries topped with gravy and cheese curds!).
11. Drive go carts.
Do you feel the need for speed? Drive a zippy Sky Kart at SMAAASH. Helmets are required and you must be at least 50 inches tall to take on this multi-level racetrack.
12. Build with LEGO bricks.
The LEGO Store at Mall of America thrills kids with its huge figures made entirely from LEGO bricks. An entire wall is filled with LEGO bricks, separated by color and available for purchase. You can also buy LEGO kits here. The best part? The LEGO brick building stations just outside the store. Here kids can use their creativity to build creations from LEGO bricks while parents rest their feet.
13. Taste sample treats.
America's Dairyland, Wisconsin, is right next door to Minnesota so you shouldn't be all that surprised to find not one, but two stores peddling cheese at Mall of America. Rybicki Cheese and Cheese Brothers both happily give samples to shoppers. Got a sweet tooth? Head to See's Candies, Godiva Chocolatier, Lindt Master Swiss Chocolatier, Peeps & Company (so many Peeps flavors!), Paciugo Gelato and Caffe, and Northwoods Candy Emporium to get a free taste of the sweet life. According to The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America, other places to hit up for samples include Doc Popcorn, Pepper Palace, Ruby Thai Kitchen, David's Tea and Teavana. Vomfass is the guide's favorite, providing tastings of flavored oils, vinegars and maple syrups. Yum!
14. See a movie in style.
Going to see a movie may seem like an ordinary mall activity, but the Mall of America is going to kick it up a notch. The CMX Theater is scheduled to open in fall of 2017 with reclining seats, gourmet dining options and a selection of wines and cocktails. Fourteen theaters will contain 1,100 seats for moviegoers. Each seat will even offer storage space for shopping bags.
15. Dine with dolls.
Not only can you buy dolls, accessories and books at the American Girl Store at Mall of America, but also you can dine at the American Girl Bistro. Children can bring their own dolls to the darling pink cafe, or borrow one to keep your party company during a meal.
16. Pilot a flight simulator.
If you've always wanted to fly an airplane, here's you chance! The flight simulators at A.C.E.S. are the same models designed and built for the world's largest defense contractor. With a wrap-around view, you'll feel like you're actually piloting a real plane. Choose between a modern F/A-18 Hornet jet fighter or legendary WWII fighters.
17. Embark on a scavenger hunt.
Get a different view of Mall of America during a scavenger hunt. Download this free printable Mall of America scavenger hunt list for a fun adventure.
Coming to Mall of America with a group? Make reservations at least two weeks in advance with Dick's Last Resort for a 32-question challenge that uses iPads to track your journey. You must have 20 people in your party to book this adventure.
18. Find your way out of an escape room.
The Escape Game is opening a 3,300-square-foot location at the Mall of America in summer 2017. Soon mall visitors will be able to solve a series of puzzles to earn their freedom and win the game. Themes will include “Mission: Mars”, “Prison Break”, “Gold Rush” and “The Heist”.
19. Get a beauty makeover.
First order of business for this busy Travel Mama upon arriving at Mall of America? Schedule a nail appointment! Between travel, work, and parenting it can be hard to find time for primping. Thankfully, there are three nail salons here: LA Nails, Progressions Salon (which also offers hair and body treatments), and Nail Trix. Hair salon options include Regis Salon and Mastercuts. For makeup, of course there's a Sephora plus cosmetic counters at the big department stores.
20. Learn through play at the Minnesota Children's Museum.
Hands-on play and learning is the name of the game at the Minnesota Children's Museum. This is a smaller version of their downtown St. Paul location.
21. Go for a swim.
There are two swimming options that can be reached without leaving the mall grounds. Both the attached Radisson Blu and JW Marriott offer indoor swimming pool options for hotel guests. Additionally, Great Wolf Lodge recently purchased the nearby Water Park of America and is scheduled to re-open the attraction with new theming in winter 2017. It's a two-mile drive from Mall of America.
22. Visit a rainforest.
After you've been trying on shoes all day, reward kids for good behavior by treating them to a meal at the Rainforest Cafe. Dine among rainforest flora and fauna plus animatronic animals. Little ones may find periodic faux rainstorms a tad scary, but you can always take children for a short walk through the mall as needed. Unless you want to wait in a very, very long line, I suggest making a reservation for this one in advance.
23. Play carnival and video games.
If you like to play games, the Mall of America has got you covered. Nickelodeon Universe provides all sorts of carnival games to play for a chance to win a toy prize. There's also an arcade in the theme park for video game junkies. Up on the fourth floor of the mall, you will find a dazzling array of electronic games to play at Sky Deck Sports Grill & Lanes, as well as pool tables and bowling. SMAAASH (home of the go karts), also offers all sorts of virtual reality experiences that just may blow your mind.
24. Design your own jewelry.
For a one of a kind Mall of America souvenir, make it yourself! Head to Lotus Beads to peruse an array of beads from around the world. Staff is happy to help you create your own piece of jewelry on-site. They even offer jewelry-making classes. See their online calendar for dates and times.
25. Dine around the world.
Oh…the food…THE FOOD at Mall of America! I promise you will not go hungry here. Two massive food courts keep bellies full with everything from burgers and pizza to shawarma and sushi. But there are many sit-down dining options as well.
I've eaten at Tucci Benucch many times over the years and it's always a treat. This Italian restaurant has been delighting diners since 1992, making it one of the longest standing establishments in the Mall of America. As a gluten-sensitive eater, I'm thrilled they have gluten-free pasta and even a delicious gluten-free Alfredo sauce! Tucci Benucch is a popular restaurant, so book your reservation now to be sure to nab a table.
For Asian cuisine with flair, make reservations for teppanyaki at Benihana. You can also belly up to the sushi bar at Masu Sushi & Robata, where the Pachinko games look cool even if they don't work any more.
Get a delectable taste of Minnesota at FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar for menu items like Minnesota Chicken & Wild Rice Soup and Heirloom Corn Crusted Walleye. For dessert, the White Chocolate Banana Cream Pie is what delicious dreams are made of. (For celiac diners, it's not gluten-free but I did not eat the crust.) Read reviews and book a table at FireLake.
With dozens of restaurants at the Mall of America, there's something to meet the tastes and budgets of any travelers, with offerings from around the world.
26. Build a teddy bear or other stuffed toy.
Choosing the perfect plush pal to stuff, name and dress at Build-A-Bear Workshop is oh-so-much fun for kids. What's more, it makes a fun souvenir of a Mall of America visit! Build-A-Bear Workshop often offers discounts on their website to use in their stores or online. Check here for a discount before you go.
27. Meet SpongeBob and other Nickelodeon characters.
Get your photo taken with SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora the Explorer, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Blue from Blues Clues and other beloved Nickelodeon characters in Nickelodeon Universe. There are two spots where you can meet the characters in the theme park, the Blue Spot located across from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock Ride, and the Green Spot across from the Log Chute.
28. Sip your favorite libation.
What's your favorite beverage? From coffee drinks, bubble teas, smoothies and fresh lemonade to crafts beers, wines, and fancy cocktails — you're sure to find something tasty to quench your thirst at Mall of America. Tucci Benucch‘s non-alcoholic Italian sodas, made with real fruit purees and bubbly water, are especially refreshing. Meanwhile the lush FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar gets my vote for the best place to gab over drinkies. Check out the mall's happy hour directory to find drink and food specials.
29. Indulge in a spa day.
If you need to refresh and rejuvenate after exploring all of the things to do at Mall of America, book a spa day. You have a few spa options to choose from: Progressions Salon (highlighting Minnesota-based Aveda products), Relaxing Massage (for a casual, open-concept massage), and Solimar Spa at the Radisson Blu.
I wanted to share a luxe spa experience with my sister so I splurged on massages for both of us at Solimar. (Worth it!) In addition to massages, they offer body wraps, facials and salon services for hair and nails. Even if you're not a hotel guest, you can take a dip in the hotel's pool or get in a workout using their fitness center before or after your treatment.
30. Spend the night at Mall of America.
If your trip to the Twin Cities will focus on the Mall of America, I suggest booking a night at one of the two hotels connected to the mall. It's super easy and affordable to take the light rail train from the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport right to Mall of America. If visiting in winter, you won't even need a coat for the duration of your stay.
I was lucky enough to stay at Radisson Blu Mall of America. The stylish lobby, cool pool, wonderful on-site restaurant, upscale spa, and friendly staff made a stay here incredibly enjoyable. There's also the JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America, which is easily accessible from the mall. Although I did not stay there, I know and love the JW Marriott brand.
Plan your Mall of America visit!
Buy the Big Ticket Adventure Pass for discounted entry to seven local attractions, including Nickelodeon Universe, SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, Crayola Experience, FlyOver America, Science Museum of Minnesota, Minnesota Zoo and IMAX Theatre at the Minnesota Zoo.
If you're planning a trip to the Twin Cities, I highly recommend The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America. It's packed with information to make the most of your time at the mall, including money-saving tips, brief explanations of every store, and reviews of hotels in and near the Mall of America. Read my review/interview with the book's author or buy your guide from Amazon.
Did you know there were so many things to do at Mall of America besides shop? Let us know your thoughts and questions in the comments below!
A Note from The Travel Mama: My recent visit to the Mall of America was hosted by Bloomington, Mall of America, Radisson Blu and various restaurants. All opinions are mine, as always.