Malls and kids do not usually mix—unless you are at the grand daddy of all malls, the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. About a six-hour drive from Chicago, this mall can please everyone in your family: From the mom who is amazed to see 500-plus stores under one roof, to the dad who is amazed to see how mom could need more shoes and the kids who are amazed that malls can have roller coasters and log rides.
Despite visiting the mall on perhaps the busiest day of the year, Black Friday, it didn’t feel crowded because it is just so huge—258 Statues of Liberty could lie inside the mall. Along with flagship stores like Bloomingdales, Nordstrom and Macy’s, the mall has smaller stores and kiosks to appeal to everyone regardless of age, budget or love for shopping.
The highlight of the two-day trip for my children, ages 6 and 2, was the huge amusement park smack inside the mall. It had rides for all members of the family from roller coasters including the Timberland Twister and Pepsi Ripsaw for the older children and adults to kiddie rides such as the Frogger Hopper and train and truck ride attractions.
The whole family can also enjoy rides together such as the carousel or the huge Ferris Wheel to get a bird’s eye view of the park. All-day wrist unlimited use bands cost $24.95. If you only have the time for a few rides, you can also buy points instead of the wrist band.
This spring, the park becomes Nickelodeon Universe with additional rides such as a SpongeBob SquarePants Plunge ride and the Splat-O-Sphere which is a 60-degree spring tower that will launch you to the park’s ceiling and then catapult you down at record speeds. For information, check www.theparkatmoa.com.
Underwater Adventures Aquarium
Trust the nation’s largest mall to have the largest indoor aquarium as well. All four of us enjoyed coming nose to nose with more than 4,500 water creatures of all shapes and sizes thanks to the 300-feet-long curved tunnel and a moving walkway. As the aquarium puts it, it is like a scuba adventure without having to get wet.
There was even more to do, including a stimulated Plunge Ride, an activity area for the children, a Shark Quiz show and the Circle of Life where we could touch the sharks and rays. Admission is $16.95 for adults and $9.95 for kids 3-12. For information, check out www.sharky.tv.
Moose Mountain Mini Golf
An 18-hole full wheelchair (and stroller) accessible mini-golf adventure is located on the top floor of the mall. It was more of a test of patience than skill with two little ones in tow, but we enjoyed the different challenges in the golf course even if it meant picking up the ball and placing it in the hole for my 2-year-old. Admission is $8.95 for adults and $6.95 for children 4-12.
Choices, choices, choices
The free LEGO area is another great place to build towers, admire the 90 full-sized models, such as dinosaurs, made out of LEGO bricks as well as buy some new sets to add to your collection.
Other mall activities include the NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway, A.C.E.S Flight Stimulation and an AMC theater.
Look for discount coupons to some of the attractions in your hotel lobby or buy a coupon book at guest services.
The best thing that we liked about the Mall of America was the sheer number of choices in stores, restaurants and entertainment. We could have some family fun and get some shopping done without being a chore. We visited a few stores, then went on a couple of rides and kept alternating so everyone was happy.
We spent nearly two days there and cannot wait to visit again when the new attractions make their debut in the spring. And as I told my husband, because there is no sales tax on clothing, we actually saved money on our trip.
Kiran Ansari is a writer and mother of two living in Roselle.