If you love to shop and want to visit the largest mall in the USA, or if you're planning a trip to Minnesota, you need to read The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America. This informative book is filled with handy tips for visitors to this mega entertainment complex of stores, restaurants, aquarium, and indoor amusement park.
Once upon a time, I spent 60+ hours every week at the Mall of America. No, I'm not that addicted to shopping. In my 20s, I worked as a retail clothing store assistant manager and a part-time cocktail waitress at this mega mall. I visit Mall of America every year when I return to the Twin Cities to visit relatives. But I am no longer an expert on all there is to buy, eat, drink and do at the MOA (as it's affectionately known to locals). The true expert is my friend and fellow travel writer, Beth Blair. She knows all there is to know about this shopping and entertainment mecca in Bloomington, Minnesota. I asked her some questions about The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America to give you the inside scoop.
What was the inspiration behind The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America?
The Unofficial Guides series added this title to their lineup due to the recent opening of Phase II expansion and its 40 million annual visitors. There has never been a traditional guidebook written about it until now. Being that Mall of America has been my local mall for many years, I was the perfect fit for researching and penning it.
In researching this book, what was your most shocking discovery about the Mall of America?
Several years ago there was a contest for who could ride/stay on Nickelodeon Universe‘s Spongebob Squarepants Rock Bottom Plunge the longest. The final two competitors were men who rode the roller coaster for nine days, which came to 194 hours and 2507 rides! They did have breaks for basic living necessities like eating and the restroom, but no showers. Neither was giving up, so the radio station hosting the giveaway and Mall of America declared both men winners. They won a cruise, cash and a lifetime pass to the theme park.
What are three key points you think shoppers need to know before visiting the Mall of America?
- Don't overdress. Leave your jacket at the hotel, in the car or rent a locker. Also, dress for easy changing if you're planning on trying on clothes.
- Wear comfortable shoes.
- If you're not shopping with a stroller or wheelchair, skip the elevators and opt for escalators. It will save time and prevent long lines at the few elevators.
Why do you think The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America is necessary for visitors to this mall?
Speaking from personal experience, it's easy to miss a lot of stores and attractions. The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America breaks down the experience with planning, transportation, where to stay, and even parking. In addition to traditional tips, the guide includes insider information from where to nurse babies, teen curfews and to pet boarding and doggie day care options. Also included are fun things like birthday party options, educational experiences (including Boy and Girl Scout opportunities) and, my favorite, a scavenger hunt. Additionally, everything is ranked, rated or defined, including the rides in Nickelodeon Universe.
Could you share with us a few of your personal favorite attractions, stores and restaurants in the Mall of America?
My favorite attraction is the new (2016) virtual flight ride, FlyOver America!
I have a lot of favorite stores at Mall of America. VOM FASS is unique because it has a wide variety of spirits, liqueurs and wines plus oils, vinegars and spices. Another store worth a mention is ME3D, where guest can have personal figurines produced of themselves and their families (the new selfie!). Nordstrom is always a lovely experience. Meanwhile Nordstrom Rack is fantastic for deals. Bargain shoppers will appreciate Old Navy's nice-sized clearance room. Barnes & Noble is a nice escape for relaxing in a quiet location with cup of coffee.
One of my favorite fast-food restaurants is Piada Italian Street Food. Their chopped salads are the best! For sit-down restaurants, my grade school daughter votes for the American Girl Bistro. Meanwhile, I love Twin Cities Grill for fresh and flavorful dishes. When you're ready for a snack, Doc Popcorn on the third floor is an affordable and delicious snack. Or choose Paciugo, a gelato shop.
Is there anything else we should know about The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America?
I'm pleased to hear readers are saying, “I didn't know that!” Most people assume Mall of America is simply a giant mall. It is a massive shopping center, but it's so much more. Four out of 10 visitors are tourists. Oftentimes you will see shoppers pulling their luggage because the mall is a stop on the light rail that connects to the airport.
The purpose of this guide is to help shoppers plan their day so they will have time to experience the entire mall and all it has to offer. For example, if your kids love to ride rides more than anything, let them enjoy the day in Nickelodeon Universe, then plan SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium or Crayola Experience for another day. If your husband hates shopping or just wants to watch the game, the books provides hints for him on where to go. There's also information on where to find lockers, currency exchange, ATMs, and phone chargers, as well as stroller and shopping car rentals.
The Travel Mama's Take on The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America
As someone who has spent a ton of time at this mall, I was surprised by how much I learned from this book. It was obvious how much thorough research went into The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America. Beth included lots of quick, useful tips from locals as well as her own take on all things MOA. It makes a fun, quick read that you can highlight and bookmark to optimize your time at Mall of America.
About Beth Blair, author of The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America
Beth Blair is an award-winning freelance writer. As a former flight attendant and mother of three, she focuses on family travel, airlines, aviation, and lifestyle topics. In addition to being the author of The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America, she also authored Break into Travel Writing. Online she is co-owner of TheVacationGals.com. Currently she is based in Minnesota.
A Note from The Travel Mama: I received a complimentary copy of The Unofficial Guide to Mall of America for the purpose of this blog post. This story includes affiliate links. Your purchases help keep TravelMamas.com a free resource for readers like you!