Don’t be fooled by the 4.3 miles of indoor storefront: this is way more than a gigantic mall. Yes, walking a full circle around just one level of the mall is over a half-mile in length. And yes, more than 40 million visitors head to the Mall of America each year, which is the equivalent of the combined population of both Dakotas, Iowa, and the country of Canada. But wait, there’s more!
More than 30,000 live plants and 400 living trees, some growing up to 40 feet tall, can be found within its massive dome. Birds fly around high above head, calling the rafters home. Even removing the Rainforest Cafe from the picture, the Mall of America constitutes an entire ecosystem unto itself.
As if that weren’t enough of a draw, planners decided not to risk it. Instead, they capitalized on the idea that shopping should be a complete experience unto itself. Once inside, visitors can find everything but the kitchen sink; roller coasters and nurse sharks and LEGO people, oh my!
Children and adults alike get a kick out of the thrill rides, olde-time photo shoppe, and miniature golf course in the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park. A perennial favorite is also the ride boasting a gigantic rotating axe blade on top. If that doesn’t get enough adrenaline pumping, there’s always the NASCAR Silicon Motor Speedway.
The aforementioned Underwater Adventures aquarium has a moving walkway beneath a shark tank, and an area where the boldest can touch stingrays. In the uppermost level one can peruse the Dinosaur Walk, filled with skeletons and dioramas featuring the massive lizards - excuse me - birds?
LEGOland has tables for grown-ups and little ones to build their dream homes. While toying with the idea of purchasing the Star Wars Death Star LEGO kit, ogling the life-sized palm trees built (and glued together) from the little blocks.
At one point, there had also been an area called “Cereal Land,” in which humongous Cheerios and Fruit Loops with faces greeted children while teaching them good eating habits. This was conveniently located adjacent to the mall’s food court. Is it any wonder that 40% of visitors to the mall are tourists, not shoppers?
For long-time NFL and MLB fans the Mall represents somewhat hallowed ground. From 1961 to 1981 it was the site of Metropolitan Stadium, home to the Vikings of Fran Tarkenton and the Twins of Harmon Killebrew. In 1965 it was host to both baseball’s All Star Game and World Series and in 1969 the Vikings won the NFL Championship there. Both teams moved into the Hubert H Humphrey Metrodome in 1981.