The Mall of America, in the Minneapolis, Minnesota suburb of Bloomington, gets 40 million visitors a year. Forty million! That’s more visitors than Disney World, Graceland, and the Grand Canyon combined. Visitors go there to shop at the 500+ stores, visit the Underwater Adventure Aquarium, LEGO Imagination Center, Dinosaur Walk Museum, A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation Center, see movies in 14 theaters, and party at seven nightclubs.
Before you visit the mall you need to make some plans. Log onto the Mall of America Home Page for maps, directions, a store directory, a list of special attractions, an events calendar, and a restaurant directory. Though this website is packed with information, there are things it doesn’t tell you.
First, you need to understand that the Mall of America is city within a city and employs almost 12,000 people. During the summer months and holidays this number swells to 13,000 employees. On weekends the mall is often so crowded that walking is difficult. Wear comfortable shoes because the Mall of America covers 4.2 million square feet.
Getting to the mall is easy. Driving directions are posted on the Mall of America website. The 35 hotels near the Mall of America provide free shuttle service. If you stay at a downtown Minneapolis hotel you may take Light Rail directly to the mall. Light Rail service is also available from the airport to the mall. Parking at the mall is free. With 12,550 on-site spaces and 22,000 overflow spaces, it’s a good idea to jot down the location of your parking space.
Be sure to get a mall map from the Guest Information Service Desk. Desks are located on the first level at each of the four entrances, North, South, East and West. Instead of going in all directions, choose one area and explore it. Young children should have identification on them. Some parents dress their kids in bright t-shirts or caps so they can spot them quickly. Decide on a meeting place in case a family member gets lost.
When you’re in a crowd you need to be aware of personal safety and this is true at the Mall of America. However, you don’t need to be overly anxious because the mall has its own 100-person security force. Security officers walk the mall constantly and are very visible. One hundred sixty television monitors scan the crowd. In case of trouble, the mall has 130 call boxes, 44 help phones and, something many people don’t know, jail cells on a separate level.
Eating is an adventure at the Mall of America, which has 20 sit down restaurants, 30 fast food restaurants, and additional specialty restaurants. But many sit down restaurants are open to the mall and the crowd noise is so bad you can hardly carry on a conversation. Ask if inside seating is available before you enter a restaurant. Even restaurants with inside seating, such as the Rain Forest, can be noisy places. Nordstrom’s department store has an excellent, quiet cafeteria. You order your food, pay for it, and a server delivers it to your table.
The Mall of America has been hugely successful and Phase II construction will make it more so. Plans are in the works to build hotels connected to the mall, an office center, a conference center, spas, and you guessed it, more stores. IKEA, the Swedish home furnishings store, is step one of this plan and has already been built across from the mall.
You may walk from the mall to IKEA, but you’re crossing a high-traffic street, so cross with the lights and watch for cars. Just like the mall, IKEA is huge and you can spend a day there. Arrive early and enjoy the 99-cent breakfast before you explore the showrooms, displays, and warehouse. Visit IKEA and the Mall of America on a Monday morning for a quiet, leisurely experience. It’s so quiet on a Monday morning you could roll a bowling ball down the walkways.
Going to the Mall of America? If so, I welcome you on behalf of all Minnesotans. We’re “Minnesota nice” and glad to have you here. We hope you’ll visit other attractions while you’re in town. For more information on the Mall of America go to the Home Page and request a Free Information Kit. To get the inside scoop on events and sales sign up for the free electronic newsletter.