Things to Do & Must-See Attractions in Minnesota
Even before it opened in 1992, Minnesota's Mall of America was making headlines. The mall covers an impossible-to-conceptualize 4.8 million square feet, with more than half of that taken up by shops. And yet even at the time of its grand opening, it wasn't the largest mall in the United States – it's only the second-largest.
The Mall of America is in Bloomington, about 15 minutes from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul (and only three miles from the airport). It welcomes more than 40 million visitors every year. The Minnesota Twins' former baseball stadium once occupied part of the site of the mall, and there is a commemorative plaque on the floor where home plate used to be.
While it may not be the largest mall in the country, it's incredibly impressive. There are more than 520 shops, plus space for an indoor amusement park and an underground aquarium. There's a massive LEGO store with a 34-foot-tall LEGO robot, a flight simulator, a stand-up comedy club, a Star Trek exhibition, movie theaters, and an “adventure golf” course. Don't worry if all this activity makes you peckish – there are more than 50 restaurants inside the mall to choose from.
The enormous Mall of America outside the Twin Cities is big enough to contain many things, including an amusement park and the 1.2-million gallon SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium.
The aquarium has been entertaining visitors since it opened in 1996. The space has undergone several changes and renovations since then, but one of the most popular features remains the 300-foot-long clear tunnel through which people can walk with water (and sea creatures) surrounding them.
There are both saltwater and freshwater habitats at the aquarium, with a variety of sharks, stingrays, sea turtles, lobsters, catfish, octopuses, and more. One tank contains many different kinds of jellyfish, while another has six kinds of seahorses. There is a touch pool, a tank with live coral, and a rainforest exhibit with animals like caiman, piranhas, and poison dart frogs.
The aquarium offers different ticket options, from general admission up through a “VIP Experience” that includes a “behind-the-scenes” tour and a Stingray Adventure feed experience.
Minnesota doesn't exactly have the ideal environment for year-round amusement park fun – unless, that is, you put the whole amusement park indoors. That's just what they've done with Nickelodeon Universe, housed entirely inside the Mall of America.
Nickelodeon Universe is a seven-acre amusement park that's completely indoors. It was originally opened in 1992 as “Camp Snoopy,” and has undergone a few name changes over the years. The current park was completed in 2008, with new rides and a new theme.
It's difficult to overstate the vast size of the indoor park, but even still there are some limitations on the types of rides you'll find there. Most of the rides are relatively flat – there are several small roller coasters, but nothing too tall that would interfere with the glass roof. In addition to the wide variety of amusement park rides, Nickelodeon Universe also features an adventure obstacle course and an “adventure golf” course.
With deliciously locally-crafted brews, Bauhaus Brew Labs seeks to produce the highest in quality craft lagers. With three distinctly flavored, German-inspired lagers and one IPA, the brewhouse additionally makes five seasonal varieties. The Brew Labs take an interesting creative approach to making beer as inspired by the post WWI Bauhaus School of art and design in Germany. They continue the tradition of creativity and experimentation that was founded there, with an emphasis on flavor and love of beer. The company purports that life, work, and play should intersect, with this philosophy embedded into their process of making their beer.
The Brew Labs outdoor patio is dog-friendly and comfortable to relax on. The brewery invites beer enthusiasts to taste their imaginative interpretations of classic brews, and events often accompany tastings. The tasting room is inspired by the communal beer halls of Germany and is consistently regarded as one of the best in Minnesota.
Gain a better appreciation of Russian culture at the Museum of Russian Art, the only museum in North America devoted to preserving and presenting all forms of Russian art and artifacts. Housed in a beautifully restored historic building, the museum features a dynamic rotation of temporary exhibitions and special programs.
An old-school bar serving up new beers, Indeed Brewing Company is one of the best microbreweries in Minnesota. With a wide selection of flagship, seasonal, and specialty beers, as well as one of the area’s longest taproom bars, it is a great place for a pint and local atmosphere. Sample the ales, IPAs, and porters, and enjoy the indoor and outdoor (dog friendly) spaces in the mix of the bar's generally trendy crowd.
Founded in 2011, the brewery now distributes outside Minnesota thanks to its award-winning brews, such as the Mexican Honey Imperial Lager (which one silver at the Great American Beer Festival). Free brewery tours every Saturday provide a behind-the-scenes look at production. There are also often festivals, food truck pairings, happy hours, and taproom exclusive infusions, so be sure to give their schedule a look.
In the midst of the hundreds of shops that comprise the Mall of America, the Hard Rock Cafe brings the restaurant and rock ’n’ roll memorabilia that they’re known for to Minnesota. After a day of shopping, you can refuel on food and drink with their classic American menu, or take a look at their pieces of American music history on display. Items range from instruments and costumes worn by artists such as Alanis Morissette, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, and Britney Spears. There is also an extensive collection of Prince memorabilia including outfits and a signed guitar (he was a Minnesota native.)
A stage on the main level plays iconic music videos, and more often than not, is home to live performances. Visitors won’t want to miss the interactive Rock Wall Solo, a giant interactive touchscreen full of music history. With patio seating and two bars, the menu includes appetizers such as nachos, wings, and potato skins and tasty entrees that range from burgers and sandwiches to barbecue. Vegetarian options are also available.
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