In Northeast WI, we’re fortunate to be within driving distance of a multitude of fun family vacations, including Wisconsin Dells, Door County, and Great America. However, there’s one spot you may have dismissed or forgotten about that deserves serious consideration: Mall of America.
If your family is interested in a vacation getaway, but getting on a plane with little ones and spending a fortune on airfare, hotels, and all the excursions sounds beyond stressful, Mall of America (MOA) might be the perfect option for you!
MOA is, of course, known for its shopping, which is why it is often overlooked as a “family destination”. Within its 5.6 million square feet, there are 520 stores, 50 restaurants, an aquarium, two miniature golf courses, an amusement park with roller coasters, and so much more for families to experience.
My 9-year-old son and I recently went to Mall of America during his Spring Break, and we had a blast! And the best part was, we were able to pack in a ton of fun in just a weekend and it only cost a few hundred dollars.
**One tip to consider while planning your trip is to find a hotel that has a free shuttle to and from the mall. We stayed at Tru by Hilton down the street, which was clean, modern, and approximately $80 per night (and the hotel gave us a free MOA coupon book, which included discounts at the aquarium, mini-golf courses, food, and much more).**
In our opinion, here are the top activities families won’t want to miss while visiting the Mall of America:
Sea Life Aquarium
Our favorite part of the trip was the amazing aquarium at MOA. It is an incredible 1.2 million-gallon aquarium with an underground glass tunnel the length of a football field. We experienced sharks and sea turtles swimming right above our heads, fed stingrays, surrounded ourselves with color-changing jellyfish tubes, and felt all different types of sea life in the touch pool. This aquarium is an experience the whole family will love!
Nickelodeon Universe Amusement Park
Because of COVID, the Mall of America is limiting the park to 200 attendees at a time, so after you check in, they will send a text when it is your turn to come to the entrance. This is actually a positive thing because less people inside the park means very minimal lines! The mall has reduced the number of amusement rides running inside the park, as well; however, the three roller coasters are still open, as well as many other rides for children of all ages.
Flyover America & 5D Movie
The Flyover America adventure is a fun virtual experience that everyone in the family will enjoy, especially older children and adults. The park is currently featuring Hawaii as the virtual destination, so attendees will actually feel like they’re soaring above the islands, having the spray of the ocean against their faces, and even smell the scents of the Hawaiian experience.
There are also two different 5D mini-movies a family can experience inside the park: “Shark Attack” and “Mystery Mine”. My son and I went to both of these, and while we considered “Shark Attack” pretty tame and unmemorable, “Mystery Mine” was one of our favorite memories of our MOA trip. Attendees will get the feel of riding in a mine car, having to outrun zombie skeletons, giant spiders, and much more. This adventurous ride is sure to deliver a memorable adrenaline rush that will have you both startled and laughing hysterically!
If you haven’t been to a Rainforest Cafe before, this jungle-themed restaurant is an experience that both kiddos and adults will love. The restaurant is filled with animal structures moving and making noises, talking trees, and sounds of the jungle playing all around your table. Several times an hour, the room darkens and customers get to experience a thunder and lightning storm that will have your kids feeling like they’re right there in the rainforest. If your family is making the trip to Mall of America, this restaurant is definitely a must-see!
No matter your children’s ages or interests, there is something for everyone to love at Mall of America (adults included!). So, if your family is looking for a fun-filled mini-vacation that doesn’t require an airplane ride or thousands of dollars, take the four-hour car ride over to Bloomington, MN, and experience all that Mall of America has to offer.