No matter how cold it gets in Minnesota, it’s always 72 degrees in the Mall of America. The Bloomington behemoth maintains its internal temperature not with a heating system, but with solar energy flowing through its eight acres of skylights, the light from its more than 520 stores and 50 restaurants, and the body heat radiating from the 40 million people who visit those stores and restaurants every year.
Iron-fisted shopping amid many heated bodies may not be a draw for all families, but seen through a different lens, Mall of America (MOA) may pack appeal as an off-the-beaten-path theme park destination. MOA’s centerpiece, Nickelodeon Universe, is the biggest indoor amusement park in the United States. As a bonus, the mall is only about 10 miles south of the best city you’re not visiting, Minneapolis.
If you’re on board with this idea, consider visiting MOA in September or October, which our Minneapolis Travel Guide aptly describes as the city’s “sweet spot,” when the throngs and inflated hotel rates have dissipated but cooler temps have not yet turned frigid.
Round-trip airfare varies, of course, depending on your dates and departure city – sub-$300 nonstop fares and sub-$200 one-stop fares from NYC-area airports were not hard to find during September and October. But your best value might be your hotel. Given that there are more than 50 hotels in the vicinity of MOA and neighboring Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport (MSP), you shouldn’t have to try too hard to find a competitive room rate that includes a few extras. For instance, a current package from Ramada Mall of America includes two unlimited ride wristbands ($29.95 each) to the Nickelodeon Park and four passes ($32 value) to the mall's 18-hole Moose Mountain mini-golf course.
Another plus is that free shuttles run from most area hotels to both MOA and MSP, and a light rail connects the mall and airport to downtown Minneapolis.
Overall, this getaway scheme is as good a reason as any to shepherd your family to the Midwest and in particular to the Twin Cities (no, we didn’t forget St. Paul). But if you’re not ashamed to admit that you’re a family that loves to shop together, keep in mind that Minnesota charges zero sales tax on clothes.