Pleasure trip to Minnesota in the pandemic

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Mall of America. (All photos courtesy of Lina Shah)

Amid the pandemic, we were in the dilemma of going on a vacation.

Since the majority of people are now vaccinated, we were feeling a bit safe and decided to venture 6 hours from Chicago in early August to explore and enjoy what Minnesota has to offer.

Minnesota is one of the most unique destinations, where we discovered the indoor fun of leisure shopping, thrilling rides and variety of food at Mall of America (MOA), in Bloomington, along with exploring the outdoor and downtown fun in Minneapolis. This “Twin City” is the most underrated in the US by Ranker, a polling site.

We spent two days in MOA and 2 days for outdoor fun at the very family-friendly attractions, going home with wonderful experiences and memories.

It seems that in summer or winter or any time of the year, Mall of America would be just fine for a great escape, enjoying the largest shopping and entertainment complex in North America, with more than 520 world-class retail stores and restaurants, the largest indoor theme park, and more.

Sea Life at Minnesota Aquarium, MOA.

MOA is also entertaining with FlyOver America, Adventure Golf, Sea Life at Minnesota Aquarium, Crayola Experience, the Escape Game & B&B 13 theatres.

Located in Bloomington, MN, minutes from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul and adjacent to the MSP International Airport, this mall is attracting about 40 million visitors a year.

Home Plate.

Shopping is attractive as there’s no sales tax on clothing and shoes. We were shown Metropolitan Stadium home plate near Nickelodeon Universe and a red chair commemorating Harmon Killebrew’s 522-foot home run.

Pleasure Seat.

It is wonderful to know that 30,000+ live plants are keeping more than 5 million square feet of the mall in very fresh air.

Unfortunately, this time we were not able to enjoy the longest indoor zipline in the USA in Mall of America.

 

Explore Minnesota at MOA.

I found it very useful to explore the Minnesota Wall on the North entrance, where information is available with geographic destinations.

 

Kalidoscope on north entrance.

MOA’s north entrance is decorated with handmade kaleidoscope – a majestic 30-foot Monarch butterfly surrounded by more than 300 smaller butterflies, created using materials pulled from the waste in streams (like plastic spoons and other items), making it beautiful.

 

Rudy Perpich, a man with big heart.

We also learned about the former Governor of Minnesota, Rudy Perpich, a man with a big heart and big ideas, without whom Mall of America could’ve been just a dream.

Radisson Blu lobby.

With an abundant choice of more than 40 hotels around MOA, we stayed at the famous Radisson Blu, elegant and ultimate in style and very conveniently located on the Mall of America walk across the skyway to the mall.

Radisson Blu has very modern design and nice sized rooms with plenty of amenities and great services. Great value and cool décor. We enjoyed the indoor saline pool and fitness center.

 

Health Safety, MOA.

MOA is very well equipped with sanitizers and safety tips to avoid spreading the COVID virus.

Crayola Experience.

We took a full day Nickelodeon Universe pass and enjoyed all the thrilling and fun rides, the FlyOver America and Hawaii ride, the experience at Crayola and 18-hole Adventure golf.

Mirror Maze at MOA.

In the nighttime, it was very nice to have a movie break at B&B Theatre 13, inside the mall. Also, the Escape Game was open till midnight and we had fun breaking out of the prison.

Nickleodeon Theme Park.

Nickelodeon Universe is the largest indoor theme park, featuring many rides for all ages.

Superbowl 52.

MOA is commemorating Super Bowl 52 with a huge wall display.

Art exposition area, MOA.

It also had an event in the main center area called TCF Rotunda, featuring artists .

Organic Healing Plate.

Some of the amazing areas to check out are luxury and fashion shopping, stage events, a LEGO store, Stingray Adventure, an M&M’s store, along with restaurants – Crave, Moose Mountain, Mystic Lake Casino, Rainforest Café, etc.

Donburi Vegetable Bowl.

We found this place great for a family outing, adventure travel, shopping (either budget or upscale), a long weekend family getaway or spa vacation.

VeggiePower Futomaki Rolls.

Mall of America is very vegan and vegetarian friendly and we tried the Masu Sushi & Robata, Japanese eatery (menu), Hot Indian, Jamba Juice, Qdoba and Naf Naf Grill.

W Foshay Hotel in Downtown Minneapolis.

For the last two nights, we stayed at historic W Minneapolis – The Foshay, a hotel in downtown Minneapolis.

Decorative window at the Foshay.

On the top floor, the small museum was enjoyable and there is an amazing view of downtown from the observatory on the 30th floor of the hotel.

The new suite was very special with tons of space, a uniquely furnished entertaining area with a beautiful two-bedroom suite.

Located in a historic 1920s tower a half a mile from Target Center stadium, this slick hotel has modern rooms and suites, with rainfall showers, soaking tubs, living rooms and fireplaces.

A wonderful morning breakfast was had at the long-running café chain, Keys at the Foshay.

Human on a Stick.

One day, we took an unforgettable, very popular, Human on a Stick Magical History Segway Tour by the Segway Company (tcsegway.com/tours/minneapolis-history-tour/), in downtown, exploring Minneapolis’s past.

Magical History Tour.

This is an amazing way to learn about the history of the Mississippi riverfront from 10,000 BC, with six miles of spectacular scenery, in a fun ride accompanied by a professional Segway tour guide.

Uniquely shaped Pillusbury Building in downtown Minneapolis.

We learned about Pillsbury Mill and its building’s architecture, the St. Anthony Falls, Guthrie Theatre, the Stone Arch Bridge, Upper and Lower Lock and Dam, Mill City Museum, Hennepin Bridge, etc.

It was also nice to see the young Mayor of Minneapolis exercising and running on the street.

We went to see iconic sculpture garden, where we took memorable pictures with Cherry on the Spoon and other iconic sculptures.

Spoonbridge and Cherry is a sculptural fountain designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen. The spoon weighs 5,000 pounds, the cherry weighs 1,200 pounds.

Downtown buildings are uniquely built with the Minneapolis Skyway System, which is an interlinked collection of enclosed pedestrian footbridges that connect various buildings in 80 full city blocks for over 9.5 miles, enabling people to walk in climate-controlled comfort year-round.

Minnehaha Falls.

One afternoon we spent at Minnehaha Falls. It’s one of Minneapolis’ oldest and most popular parks, featuring a majestic 53-foot waterfall, limestone bluffs, and river overlooks, attracting more than 850,000 visitors annually. A beautiful place where we had nice hiking and bicycle rides.

The Chief Little Crow Mask by Ed Archie Noisecat is located near Minnehaha Falls. We were shown the sky through the eyes of Chief Taoyeteduta or Little Crow. He was killed in the year following the 1862 Dakota conflict. The area is considered sacred to Native Americans.

Bicycle rental at Mineehaha Falls.

Great family fun with unique bicycles is available from Wheel Fun Rentals, for group rides of 2-6 people and also for individual riders. We had fun riding 3-wheeler and 4-wheeler bicycles around the Falls area.

Downtown eateries offer African, Asian, European, Vegan, Mediterranean, North American and South American varieties. We had a delicious vegetarian and vegan lunch at French Meadow Café – www.frenchmeadowcafe.com/  I chose an Organic healing plate: marinated grilled organic tempeh with organic brown rice, coconut red beans, sautéed seasonal greens, scallion’s firecracker coleslaw, sweet potato and blood orange vinaigrette.

Besides other outdoor activities for family fun, I also show that you can do a self-kayak excursion from Paddle Share or you can go to the Bde Maka Ska (lake) boat rentals for Wheel Fun Rentals and rent a boat inexpensively there.

Otherwise, I believe the museums, riverfront, parks and lakes are great for spending time in Minneapolis.

The North Loop neighbourhood is another spot if you enjoy browsing boutique shops and fun restaurants.

Minneapolis Queen Riverboat Cruise.

We spent time at the Russian Art Museum and American Swedish Institute. In the evening, we took a relaxing and sightseeing Minneapolis Queen Riverboat Dinner Cruise on the Mississippi River offered by Twin Cities Cruises.

For information on retail, dining and attractions at Mall of America, www.mallofamerica.com and www.bloomingtonmn.org sites are very useful.

For events happening – the Minneapolis calendar is available at: minneapolis.org/calendar/

Lina Shah is a Freelance Writer, Editor, Teacher, Social Worker and Financial Professional. Inspired by her father, she is a multi-talented suburban Chicagoland wife and a mother of two, who also enjoys cooking, social gathering and event planning.

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