Any Midwestern family can say they loved their time at Mall of America. We are not real ‘shoppers’ and we do not love being in the city all the time. We don’t love crowds or spending all of our time indoors.
BUT… Mall of America really impressed us and showed us that we can have a day or two of fun…inside…in a shopping mall…as a family!
Stores – There are so many stores that are totally kid friendly. Stores about Dinosaurs, Disney, all things boys will love, a store or two nearly all pink, American Girl, Lego, J.B. Cremps, Build-a-Bear Workshop… Really, your kids will be in heaven!
Build-a-Bear has a great in-house experience. The workers are wonderful with kiddos and they talk them through the entire process of making a little forever furry friend. We made a dinosaur and it melted my heart to see my son’s eyes light up as the experience was made ‘real’ for him. This is a very wholesome experience and relatively inexpensive.
The Lego Store left us feeling like we missed something—which we might have! I thought I remembered an area where kiddos could build and play, but we went in on the first floor and it was just a very empty store with some pre-built models on display, tons of Lego kits for purchase, and bins of colored Legos in the walls. Very sterile and no place we could see to play. We were pressed for time, so we did not ask about it, but I found it super disappointing! Hopefully we missed the fun somewhere—and other families can find it!
Attractions – The two really big ones that we really enjoyed were the SeaLife Minnesota Aquarium and Nickelodeon Universe.
SeaLife is very interesting. A wonderful collection of fishes and other sea creatures like jellyfish, turtles, and crazy, bright critters that I do not know names for. We did the “behind the scenes” tour – which is quite popular, so it didn’t seem very VIP – there were about a dozen of us on the tour.
It’s neat and if you have kids that listen attentively or are little learners, then do this. It’s worth it. If you have a wiggly toddler that doesn’t want to sit for ten minutes at a time to listen to scientific talk, you might skip this until later in life. I LOVED it, but I’m a total nerd and scientist by trade, so it was right up my alley! They also do not allow strollers on all stretches of the tour, so keep that in mind, you’ll be leaving it behind.
My wiggly son did love the tunnels with the sharks and seeing the big turtles up close. He’s an oceanographer or something at heart I think, so we always love aquariums. This one is particularly family-friendly and it’s quite large! Definitely a must-see and do on your MOA list!
Formerly Camp Snoopy, Nickelodeon Universe is the indoor amusement park is place where families can spend a lot of time letting the kids get a little crazy! A highlight for our family was that the wristbands for kids didn’t get tapped by adult chaperoned rides. Since our son is under 48” and barely 36,” we had to have one or the other of us ride along and they didn’t “charge” us for it! The attendants of the rides were far friendlier than those in your average county fair or other amusement situation.
Lines were very short during the weekday we went (Thursday I think) and if you go during lunch/nap, it’s even better. Right at about one p.m. the crowds started filtering in. We were happy that we stretched the pre-nap exhaustion and didn’t opt to ride after, since it would have taken a lot longer.
All around the Mall you see American Girl bags. It was adorable to see a toddler draped over her father’s shoulder, sound asleep with a look-alike doll clamped under her arm. We have a little boy, so there was not too much of a draw to the store, but I did find myself hoping for a little girl someday, or maybe it was the little girl inside of me that had to admit the American Girl line is a neat thing for little ladies. (Or boys if they are interested in dolls. Mine seems to love trucks…)
Food – This place has something for everyone. There are a lot of walk-up style vendors in the food court area but there are also several nice restaurants for kids and grown-ups alike to sit down, take a load off and indulge in some great food!
We personally LOVE the Rainforest Café. It’s kitschy and it’s always full of kids, so it may not be for everyone, but surprisingly the food is fantastic! It’s not like a kiddie restaurant – well, the atmosphere keeps kids elated but the menu keeps parents satisfied. This is a great location for birthday parties or special celebrations.
We had steak, ribs, a sampler of appetizers and even the famed Lava Cake dessert—it must honestly be an entire pan of brownies and about a quart of ice cream topped with hot fudge and a sparkler, but it is well worth the calories to indulge in the decadent fun!
The gift shop is enormous, so be ready to reign in the kids and detour if you don’t want to spend an hour and a fortune inside it. The many aquariums and rainforest noises along with kid sounds and thunderstorms and fresh food smells keep the all the senses busy! They also have great kids souvenir cups and menus, crayons, boosters—all the ‘supplies’ you need to get through a meal with wee ones.
*One complaint that is minimal, but needs to be voiced– very wet, messy, small bathrooms. Maybe we hit an off night, or maybe it’s just the plethora of children that frequent the facilities unsupervised, but we found in both men’s and women’s bathrooms lots of water on the floor, along with paper towels and just general messiness. Hopefully it was just an off day and it certainly wouldn’t make us not go back – but, you might want to accompany your kiddos in there to help them and the staff out!
All of your taste buds can be tempted in MOA – and I do think that every member of the family should find a place to keep their bellies full and happy. We did!
Tips: Bring a stroller. The entire complex is very stroller friendly. Rent a locker. If you have coats and things, pay the small fee to rent a locker and then you won’t need to tote it all around all day. Remember where you parked! (There are several lots and nothing ruins a great day like wandering around looking for the minivan!) If you are a leash parent (if you’re not that’s great too, I’m not here to comment either way, it’s just a suggestion), you might think about bringing it – we used a stroller with great success, but I could see having a passel of small kiddos being a little stressful with so many people and crowds and noises. Better safe than sorry!
Final Thoughts – MOA has a lot of fun special events going on year around. From their signature Toddler Tuesdays to events for upcoming entertainment like hosting some of the actors and actresses from the Hunger Games for a meet and greet, the Mall has it ‘goin’ on!’ On Saturdays, they show free family movies in the MOA Theater. There is mini-golf and you can even become a “mall walker.”
Plan on spending an entire LONG day or a few days enjoying MOA. We were surprised by how stress-free and enjoyable a day at a shopping mall could be! Especially the largest one around!