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Mall Vacation

America’s largest mall has a variety of unique thrills and entertainment for all ages and courage levels.

A mall might not sound like a unique destination for a family summer vacation. But, if the destination is Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, visitors can expect much more than a typical day of shopping, watching movies and eating out.

The largest mall in the United States, it has over 520 specialty stores spread across five million square feet and seven kilometers of storefront footage. It also offers a theme park with 27 rides, an 18-hole indoor miniature golf course, a chance to see thousands of underwater creatures and much more. There is also a constant stream of year-round special events, including weddings, book signings, fashion shows, product launches, concerts and movie premieres.

Small wonder the Mall of America is a major tourist attraction for family vacationers, with four out of every 10 visitors a tourist.


Retail therapy
As expected, the mall scores big on retail therapy. Here, visitors can find every major American brand, from Apple and Levi’s to Nike and Disney. Best of all, there is no sales tax on clothing items in the state of Minnesota. Around 40 million visitors pass through the mall’s doors every year, and nearly $2 billion of economic activity happens here annually.


Nick’s world
Since its launch in 1979, Nickelodeon has become one of the most influential global family entertainment brands. With its viewership now exceeding 450 million households in 170 countries, it is only fitting that Nickelodeon has an indoor theme park inside Mall of America. Nickelodeon Universe, with over seven acres of family entertainment and 27 rides, offers super-sized fun that will delight the inner child in everyone. And, since 1992, 130 million rides have been ridden by visitors.

Opened in 2008, Nickelodeon Universe is a dream destination for fans who want to meet their favorite Nick characters. Special appearances are scheduled throughout the day for characters like Dora the Explorer and SpongeBob SquarePants. The park’s rides are also named after popular Nick characters, like the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shell Shock and Rugrats Reptarmobiles. From gentle bumper cars to dizzying roller coasters, there are rides for all age groups and courage levels. And, at the park’s closing time, guests are treated to a nine-minute show, Universe of Light, featuring lights, music and smoke effects.

While admission to Nickelodeon Universe is free, one has to purchase an all-day wristband for $34.99 to enjoy the rides and attractions.


Building and diving
Another attraction for both young and old visitors is the LEGO Store on Level One of the mall, where they can choose from 180 different LEGO elements from a giant wall. The store has many activities to spark people’s creativity, along with a massive 34 feet tall LEGO robot.

Next, one can head over to the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium, also on Level One. It has thousands of sea creatures in its 1.3 million gallon aquarium, including freshwater stingrays, sea turtles and sharks. Besides snorkeling and other activities, it offers a Sleep Under the Sea activity where people check in at 7:00 p.m. and check out at 9:00 a.m. the following day. During this period, they can hike through the aquarium, take a behind-the-scenes tour or join a pizza party. Fees range from $55 to $65, depending on the activities selected.


Creative turn
Families with young children will also enjoy visiting the Minnesota Children’s Museum and Crayola Experience at the mall. Both are designed to engage children in a range of hands-on creative activities that cater to their curiosity.

“The variety of attractions, stores and restaurants is impeccable, and I’ve always found the atmosphere inviting,” wrote Jessica Kasten in a review of the mall on its Facebook Page. “There is something for everyone. From small children to adults, everyone can have a great time here. The theme park’s rides are also exciting for a variety of ages. I always look forward to my annual visit to the Mall of America!”


Jason Chiang is a freelance writer based in Silver Lake, Los Angeles.