Let's face it. Shopping with toddlers is no fun. Then why would my family and I travel over six hours to THE shopping mecca, Mall of America? Well, it turns out that the mall offers much more than just shopping - it offers tons of entertainment for the family! In fact, if you plan it just right, it makes for the PERFECT cold-weather destination and you may not have to leave the complex at all. Here are some suggestions for fun with the family at the Mall of America:
An amusement park? Inside the middle of the mall? You bet! If you have kids, Nickelodeon Universe is the place to be whether you're looking for scream-worthy coasters or tamer kiddie rides. My toddlers had a blast chugging on the Dora train, flying through the air on a hot air balloon ride and meeting Dora and SpongeBob!
Interested in having sharks, sea turtles and stingrays swim above you? At the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, located directly underneath the mall, you can completely immerse yourself underwater without getting wet as you can walk through a 300 foot ocean tunnel. Meet the octopus named K-Love, some really cute seahorses and lay eyes on one of the coolest jelly fish exhibits you'll ever see.
Catch a flick at the Theaters at Mall of America where they have motion seats that move and vibrate according to the action shown on the screen. Stop by on Tuesdays at 11:30 a.m. for "Free Toddler Flicks" featuring free family movies and a special $4 kids concession package including popcorn or a hot dog, fruit snack and juice pouch.
The mall hosts hundreds of events, most of them being family-friendly. One of their most noteworthy caters to the younger set. For the past 15 years, " Toddler Tuesdays" has been entertaining toddlers with fun, interactive and educational programs. Activities include special appearances from popular children's characters, readings from favorite children's book authors and a healthy complimentary breakfast. In fact, Tuesdays are also designated as family day at the Mall of America and include free baby stroller rental, "kids eat free" in many mall restaurants and other perks.
Looking for waterpark action? If you don't mind leaving the mall, drive down (or take a shuttle) to the nearby Waterpark of America. Thrill-seekers will enjoy careening down the ten-story slide or attempting to surf the waves, while youngsters will love the fun water play area where they can climb and slide to their heart's content.
With over 50 restaurants at the Mall of America, there's no way you'll ever go hungry! The tough part will be trying to decide what to eat. Interested in dining at the ORIGINAL Rainforest Cafe? How about something more regional? Look no further than the Twin City Grill with it's delicious wild rice soup and walleye dishes. Sushi-lovers won't be disappointed with the melt-in-your-mouth sushi at the cute Tiger Sushi. If you're looking for something quick or can't decide what to eat, stop by one of their two food courts. Craving dessert? Walk around and you're bound to find options such as gelato, ice cream or cupcakes from a Cupcake Wars Champion!
Families that want to be close to the action will want to stay at the newly opened Radisson Blu which is connected directly to the mall. The rooms are hip, modern and comfortable, and we couldn't get over how convenient it was. I mean how often can you go down a set of elevators, check out an aquarium or go to the amusement park and not worry about strapping wiggly kids in their car seats? It was pure heaven!
Cheryl Eugenio is a wife and mommy to two toddler boys who are officially addicted to traveling and exploring Chicagoland and beyond.
See more of Cheryl's stories here.