U.S. Flag and Christmas Tree at Mall of America
A local’s guide to the Mall of America: Fun things to do than shop

Embracing Winter Series: Visit Mall of America


If you’re looking for a local’s guide to the Mall of America in Bloomington, MN, I only live 18 miles away (part of the Twin Cities metro). When I visit, it’s usually for an intentional purpose – or acting as Mall of America tour guide for family or friends. So was excited when the Mall of America hosted me (and three of my friends, Angie, Cindy and Tonyea) recently as part of my Embracing Winter Challenge blog series.

It gets a little cold in the winter so the Mall of America is a welcome respite and cure for cabin fever. The Mall of America offers the top things to do in the Twin Cities and is perfect for a getaway or a staycation. And there is so much more to do than just shop.

See the Mall of America, Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America, Sea Life at Mall of America websites for the latest information about social-distancing protocols or holiday hours.


This post contains recommended links to products and services. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may receive compensation if you purchase these products and services from some of my favorite places like Amazon, HotelsCombined, Constant Contact, Bluehost, etc. All images are taken by kmf (except where noted) and available for digital download. Additionally, while the Mall of America hosted my friends and me, all opinions are my own.



Mall of America
The Mall of America in Bloomington, Minn. is a great place to chase away the winter blahs.

Best girls getaway destination: Mall of America is more than just shopping

We discovered some really cool things to do as the Mall of America (MOA) is the perfect girls’ getaway – even for just one night. Four out of 10 visitors at MOA are tourists; which means there are a lot of locals visiting making the Mall of America a perfect Minnesota staycation.

While you may think you’ve seen one mall, you’ve seen them all. But Mall of America is not your typical mall. MOA is the #1 attraction in Minnesota with more than 40 million visitors annually.  

Mall of America

Even with 520+ stores, there’s more to do than just shopping at the Mall of America. It is an experience. If you’re a first-timer, the 5.6 million-square-foot MOA can be daunting and overwhelming. How big is that? Like 347 Statues of Liberty or 9 Yankee Stadiums could fit inside. It’s a 1.5-mile hike around one level x 3.5 levels.

No Minnesota sales tax on clothing.


Mall of America itinerary for the best girls night out / girls day out

Our Saturday shenanigans included Sea Life Aquarium, Fly Over America and Nickelodeon Universe. And we also enjoyed some appetizers and cocktails at a few of the ~50 restaurants at the Mall of America.

I recently created a local’s guide to MOA with the top grown-up things to do at Mall of America. You can also find my niece Ryta’s Mall of America Guide: A Teenager’s Top 11 List in a separate post. Includes some travel tips on how to best navigate the Mall of America.


Mall of America fun fact: Sustainability and HVAC system

The Mall of America does not use a central heating system – even in January when the average high temperature in Minnesota is 22 degrees Fahrenheit. Instead, the comfortable 70 degrees Fahrenheit temperature is maintained by:

  • 1.2 miles of skylights for passive solar energy
  • Residual heat from light fixtures
  • Body heat from more than 40 million annual visitors

Top things to do at MOA: Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America

Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America
Look for Sharky, Sea Life Aquarium’s mascot, roaming the Mall of America.

It has been years since I’ve visited Sea Life Aquarium at the Mall of America (not since my son was in preschool – he just graduated from college last month). I have no excuse as I love aquariums. I find them so peaceful and relaxing.

Here are a few of the top things to do at Sea Life Aquarium. Please note that we visited pre-pandemic, so please check Sea Life at MOA for the latest social-distancing protocols before visiting.

Sea Life at Mall of America

For the best enjoyment, allow at least an hour to 90 minutes to thoroughly enjoy the walk-through Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America. It wasn’t crowded when we visited; but you may need extra time if there are long lines and little ones.

Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America regular exhibits

Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America

Fun facts about Sea Life at Mall of America

  • Brave the Rainforest is a 2.5-story interactive experience.
  • Sturgeon Lake is home to fish commonly found in Minnesota’s 10,000+ lakes; exhibit also features a turtles beach and an alligator gar (type of fish).
  • Wild Amazon features several creatures from one of the world’s largest rivers.
  • Walk through the 300-ft. underwater ocean tunnel to see Shark Cove – home to several different kinds of sharks, rescued loggerhead sea turtles, and more.
  • Rainbow Reef is where you can find Seemore, a rescued green sea turtle, bamboo sharks and more. Check out Seemore’s special story.
  • If you’re looking for Nemo, you may find him and schools of clownfish in the Coral Caves.
  • Seahorse Kingdom is where you can be mesmerized by these magical creatures.
  • Jellyfish Discovery is one of my favorite exhibits.
  • Weedy Sea Dragons’ gross talent is that they can eat live food so fast that when they poop, the consumed creatures are still alive. Gross, but interesting.
  • One of the final stops is the 15,000-gallon Ray Lagoon.
  • For some hands-on interaction, stop by the Pacific Northwest Rockpool where you can actually touch the sea creatures.

Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America
Get a face-to-face view of the Sea Life fish and animals.

Sea Life at Mall of America daily talk times

To learn more about the Sea Life animals and fish, be sure to time your visit around some of the Daily Talk Times.

Shark at Sea Life at Mall of America

More Sea Life at Mall of America fun facts

  • Turtle Talk: 11 a.m. and 4 p.m.: Ocean Tunnel – Sturgeon Lake
  • Shark Talk: 1 and 6 p.m. Ocean Tunnel – Shark Cove
  • Beluga Whale Talk: 12 p.m.: Beluga Bay
  • Seahorse Talk: 3 p.m.: Seahorse Kingdom
  • Ray Talk: 5 p.m.: Ray Lagoon
  • Rainforest Meet and Greets: Check daily posted schedule at Sea Life for creature meet and greet times. Brave the Rainforest – Ranger Camp Stage

Special experiences at Sea Life at Mall of Americas

Sea Life Aquarium at Mall of America

If you’re looking for some very special experiences, Sea Life Mall of America offers the following.

  • Behind-the-scenes tour: 45-minute guided tour, which also includes a peek inside the food prep kitchen and off-exhibit animals.
  • Guests 9+ can even snorkel for an hour with the fish and sharks.
  • Feed the stingrays.
  • Sleep under the stars: What a fun experience this is! An overnighter that includes a night hike, a guided behind-the-scenes tour, pizza party, a light breakfast, and more.
  • Sea Life Mall of America also accommodates private parties such as birthday parties, graduation parties, weddings and corporate events.

Fun fact: 100+ lbs. of food are fed daily to animals at SEA LIFE® Minnesota Aquarium – plus 90 extra pounds on the days the sharks are fed.


Top things to do at MOA: FlyOver America at Mall of America

FlyOver America ride at Mall of America

I absolutely loved FlyOver America at Mall of America. So much fun! It reminds me of the Soarin’ ride at Epcot – and it’s right here in my own backyard.

It’s a virtual bird’s-eye view of several of America’s top travel destinations such as Niagara Falls, Florida Keys, Tetons in Wyoming, Statue of Liberty and so much more. In fact, you’ll travel to 26 inspiring and beautiful locations. You sit in a suspended seat where it feels like you are actually flying – especially when they throw in some of the special effects (wind, mist and scents).

We visited FlyOver America the weekend before Christmas so enjoyed a special themed experience where we flew along with elves and Santa to the North Pole. If you visit during spring break, you may experience FlyOver Hawaii (it alternates with the FlyOver America every 15 minutes).

The entire FlyOver America at Mall of America takes about 30 minutes – 10 minutes in line, 10 minutes in preboarding and a 10-minute ride where you’ll travel more than 10,000 miles. I can definitely see myself as a frequent flyer.

Is FlyOver America at Mall of America open?

Yes, FlyOver America at Mall of America is current open. Please check FlyOver America’s website for the latest safety protocols before visiting.



The top thing to do at MOA: Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America

Then there’s this seven-acre amusement park in the center of the Mall of America – Nickelodeon Universe. The largest indoor theme park in the U.S., Nickelodeon Universe features 27 rides and attractions for all ages.

Is Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America (MOA) open?

Yes, the Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America (MOA) is currently open. Please check their website before visiting Nickelodeon Universe to learn about the latest safety and social-distancing protocols.

Nickelodeon Universe website provides more details about its ride and attractions

  • All rides
  • Attractions: mini golf, an adventure course with the tallest ropes course in the world as well as the longest indoor zip line in North America (405 feet long + 55 feet above the ground)
  • Family: carousel, Ferris wheel, log chute, bumper cars, and more
  • Junior: swings, trucks, trains and more
  • Thrill: roller coasters and rides that flip and fly and twist

Here are a few of the best rides at Nickelodeon Universe that we experienced.

Best adult rides at Nickelodeon Universe: SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge

Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America Rollercoaster

That first drop on this rollercoaster is thrilling. The Rock Bottom Plunge does get a little jerky and goes upside down so make sure you store any loose items in the cubbies. And keep your head back on the headrest.

Fun facts: Since opening in 2008, the rides in Nickelodeon Universe have been ridden more than 174 million times. In June 2016, the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster celebrated its 1 millionth ride.

Best adult rides at Nickelodeon Universe: Pepsi Orange Streak

Orange Streak rollercoaster at Mall of America
Aerial view of several rollercoasters at Nickelodeon Universe

The Pepsi Orange Streak is a tame, but fun rollercoaster that takes you around the entire park. You can also try the Fairly Odd Coaster, but I’m a no because I can’t do circle rides anymore (me, who would go on the Silly Silo about 10x in a row back in the day).

Best adult rides at Nickelodeon Universe: Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock

I didn’t personally ride this one because I needed to film my friends Cindy and Tonyea. Again, I’m limited when it comes to circle rides.

Best adult rides at Nickelodeon Universe: Dora the Explorer el Circular del Cielo

Ferris Wheel at Nickelodeon Universe at Mall of America

Now here’s a circle ride I can do. Great views from the top of this Ferris wheel.

Best adult rides at Nickelodeon Universe: Log chute

Take a ride through Paul Bunyan and Babe country with a 40-ft. drop at the end. We went on the log chute twice – it’s the best ride at Nickelodeon Universe.

Travel tip: Check out all Nickelodeon Universe special offers to save money.


Mall of America interactive maps and directions

Other top things to do at Mall of America: A local’s guide

So that was our fun half-day itinerary for a girls night out at the Mall of America (MOA). And trust me when I say there are literally hundreds of other things to do and experience at the Mall of America.

Before your visit, check the Mall of America website for the latest social-distancing and safety protocols, hours, and other topics such as the following.

  • Where to eat at the Mall of America
  • Where to stay at the Mall of America
  • Is Mall of America safe? (Yes!)
  • Mall of America parking tips
  • Special Mall of America services such as valet, hands-free shopping and more

Savings Tip: Purchase a Mall of America coupon book ahead of time and save at hundreds of Mall of America stores, restaurants and attractions. You can purchase online (shipping and handling extra) or at the Mall of America Guest Services Desk. I’ve got one and there are some really great deals!


Pin it for later: Top things to do at Mall of America




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Are you planning a family visit to Mall of America? If so, check out Endless Family Travel’s recent experience – lots of family-friendly things to do at the Mall of America. There truly is something for everyone at the Mall of America


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Author

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

55 comments

  1. I love Mall of America, haven’t been there for a few years though. My son lives in Bricelyn, but he’s been coming here lately for graduations etc. It’s our turn to go up there soon!

  2. So funny! My husband I were just talking about the Mall of America last night. He has been before but I haven’t. I would love to take my kids. I enjoyed your guide to visiting. Thanks for sharing!

  3. True, I go to MOA if I absolutely have to. It’s way too big for an average shopper. I can’t stand the crowds & traffic just to get a shirt. Or carrying bags of shopping around a field sized mall, lol! Interesting fact about the heat! I still haven’t seen the aquarium yet, so I may do that with our guests and visitors next time.

  4. MOA really does offer something for everyone! Young kids, teenagers, couples, families, and friends! There is so much to choose from under one roof!

  5. I had no idea there was so much to do besides shopping. How fun, you could spend days in there. So fun to be hosted and share your facts.

  6. Thanks for the tip on the coupon book. I did not know that there was no Minnesota sales tax on clothing. The shark looked cool. I am amazed at all the activities.

  7. I remember being there years and years ago when the idea of an amusement part in a mall was just outrageous. Looks like a great night with friends.

    1. It is pretty incredulous to find an amusement park, aquarium and 500+ stores in one mall. The Mall of America offers something for the entire family especially in the winter.

      1. I had no idea that the Mall of America is more than just a giant mall! So cool that there is an aquarium and rides. What a fun place to visit in the winter!

        1. A lot of people are surprised that the Mall of America offers so much more than shopping at its 500+ stores. It’s a great place for entertainment during the Minnesota winters with Nickelodeon Universe amusement park rides and the SeaLife Aquarium especially.

  8. I remember being there years and years ago when the idea of an amusement part in a mall was just outrageous. Looks like a great night with friends.

    1. Yes, many people are surprised to learn about all the cool things to do at the Mall of America. It’s a great travel destination and attraction especially in the winter.

  9. Mall of America sounds like a lot of fun. It must be incredibly large, have to experience this for myself (somewhere in the future). It sounds also as a perfect winter activity.

    1. Thanks…the Mall of America is definitely an experience with lots of fun things to do. It’s a great way to shake off cabin fever in the winter.

  10. I had no idea there was that much to do at the Mall of America! That’s so cool that there is an aquarium and a bunch of rides. Count me in!

    1. The Mall of America is Minnesota’s #1 attraction. So much more to do than just shop – love the Sea Life Aquarium and Nickelodeon Universe theme park especially.

  11. The Mall of America looks like such a crazy place! There is so much to see and do! I can’t believe there is an entire theme park and aquarium there! What a fun place for a day out!

    1. The Mall of America offers such a variety of changing fun things to do and see. It’s constantly evolving so it’s never the same experience.

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