When I was growing up my family made an annual pilgrimage up to the Twin Cities for our summer vacation. It involved Valley Fair, occasionally the Renaissance Festival and every year, without fail, some back-to-school shopping at the Mall of America. I didn’t realize growing up that not everyone lives within a couple hours of the biggest mall in the United States! It was always the highlight of my summer and for good reason. Not only does MOA have over 520 stores, it’s also home to a gigantic indoor theme park, tons of great restaurants, and a host of great entertainment options, which makes it a great place to plan a vacation or a quick weekend getaway!
When I started trying to plan a girls weekend with my mom and two sisters I had a lot of ideas, but something kept bringing me back to The Mall of America. My sisters and I range quite a bit in age (16, 31 and 40) and finding a weekend-long activity that would appeal to the three of us + our mom and is still age-appropriate for the youngest among us isn’t always the easiest task. Mall of America to the rescue! We had a great weekend there and have some tips to share with you as you plan your trip:
- Stay at one of the on-site hotels! There are two hotels connected to the Mall of America, Radisson Blu and JW Marriott (and here’s a list of all nearby hotels). Both are lovely and provide really convenient access to the mall. We stayed at Radisson Blu but enjoyed breakfast over at JW Marriott one morning. I might be wrong on this assessment but in my opinion JW Marriott seemed slightly more family-oriented/friendly, and Blu was a little more relaxed and maybe appealed to a younger, fun-seeking crowd. We really enjoyed our stay — the room was immaculate, the amenities and services were great, and we found it to be really convenient to just go back to our room at the end of a long day of shopping (or to drop off bags, switch shoes, take a quick nap, etc.
- Make a casual game-plan. I don’t like to have a strict schedule or shopping list when I go to the Mall of America (it’s a great place to just go with the flow), but I do like to have a rough idea of anywhere I really want to go, any food or drink that I really want to try, or anything I absolutely *need* to do while I’m there (return something, get something I can’t get anywhere else) etc.
- Eat light meals throughout your day of shopping. There’s nothing worse than eating a big, heavy meal and then walking four miles around a mall! If you’re there to shop, you’ll be getting a lot of steps in! So my advice is to eat light. Find a healthy food option (we enjoyed lunch at Freshens) or consider splitting an appetizer or small plate at one of the many restaurants. It’s also a good idea not to fill up too much on meals, because there are so many great places to get a treat (such as Cupcake or filling up your own bag of assorted truffles at Lindt!)
- Get All Day Wristbands to Nickelodeon Universe. If you like rides, you won’t want to miss Nickelodeon Universe. And it will be hard to miss because this indoor theme park is literally in the center of the mall. It has over 27 rides including virtual reality rides, so you won’t be bored at all! Although you can buy individual ride passes, it’s also a lot of fun to get an All Day Band ($36) if you want to really get in there and experience it!
- Don’t forget the entertainment! Along with endless shopping, a theme park and tons of food + dining options, the mall also has movie theaters, stand up comedy, an aquarium, virtual reality experiences, the LEGO store, an escape room, a mirror maze and more (click here for a full list)! We got tickets to House of Comedy on Saturday night and loved it! The age limit is 16 with an adult, so all 4 of us were able to go and we thought it was a fun way to spend the evening!
- Enjoy some good eats! Don’t assume that you’re destined to consume sub-par chain food just because you’re in a mall. The Mall of America has done a great job of curating a collection of great restaurants, and you’ll find some absolutely incredible options (here’s a full list)! We enjoyed dinner on Saturday evening at Cantina Laredo and definitely recommend it! We loved their house-made margaritas and salsa (Mexican is always our go-to meal when we’re together). It was fun to try nontraditional margarita flavors such as salted watermelon or mango ginger! We also liked that they had a tapas menu, which allowed us to share some smaller plates and try lots of different dishes! On Sunday morning we enjoyed breakfast at Cedar and Stone Urban Table, we shared their breakfast pizza and the Cinnamon Swirl French Toast. Both dishes were excellent but I think we’ll be talking about the French Toast for a while! It was coated in this crunchy quinoa — was So good! I recommend looking some of the restaurants up on Yelp to see how they are being scored, and if you have plans that evening select a restaurant that accepts reservations.
- Use the available technology! Mall of America has an app that is currently in Beta but will be releasing a full-featured version in late September, 2017 (so if you’re reading this after that, check the app store)! The mall also provides a super convenient SMS service that allows you to text in *any* question and their social team will respond instantly! Just send a text to: 952-479-4839. This saves you a lot of time if you get lost or can’t find what you’re looking for!
Do you have additional tips for planning a great getaway at The Mall of America? I’d love to hear them in the comments below!
After we planned our trip, Radisson Blu was kind enough to provide us with lodging and the Mall of America was kind enough to provide us with some gift cards and activity passes. This is not a paid post and all opinions are my own.