What attracts you to visit America? Is it the shopping? The weather or the food? Activities, sports or theme parks? The history? Many people have a favourite city to visit. Old favourites like New York, Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas or L.A. Well it’s time to throw another one into the mix. The #NInja headed off to visit the city of Bloomington, and the State of Minnesota, on a 4 night trip and was absolutely amazed at what this great place has to offer. Roughly halfway across America and sitting on the Canadian border Minnesota and its twin cities Minneapolis and St Paul is a serious contender at taking on Americas most popular States as an excellent #NInjatastic tourist destination. And if you are looking for a USA shopping destination then look no further than the city of Bloomington (right beside the airport and connected by light rail) and the HUGELY impressive Mall of America! The NInja had his work cut out getting everything into 4 days!!
In July 2019 Aer Lingus commenced a daily direct flight from Dublin Airport straight to Minneapolis/St Paul (which has been voted the best airport in the States 3 years running). The direct flight has a 9 hour (approx.) duration however given the seat-back entertainment and service onboard the Boeing 757 the time literally “flies” in and you have arrived at your destination before you know it! The lead in fare starts at only 189EURO each way when booked as a return trip – super #NInja value!!
As always with direct flights across the pond you get to do all your pre clearance at Dublin so once you reach your US destination there is no hanging about. In Dublin Airport before you fly you have to check out the Lounge at Terminal 2. Called 51st & Green and located after pre-clearance this is the perfect place to relax, watch the planes take off and enjoy the excellent food and drink on offer – away from the nonstop flurry of a main departure terminal. I had the nicest coffee I’ve ever had in my life here made by the Barista and maybe a couple of Mojitos too! There is high speed Wi-Fi, spaces to work, charging units and even modern shower facilities. At only 35 Euro to pre-book, personally I think it’s a no brainer.
Once in Minneapolis/St Paul Airport if you wish, you can take a train which can take you to straight to the city centre and it only costs a couple of dollars. The #NInja loves the independence of driving around so decided to hire a car instead – I had many things around Minneapolis that I wanted to get to see and only the 4 days to do it in! I used Affordable Car Hire on this trip to search and select a viable cost effective option and ended up using their partner Dollar who were very easy and fast to deal with and I got to pick my car out of a number of vehicles that were available. They were also helpful in answering any queries I had about the local area. My hotel was a quick 5 minute drive away and perfectly located next to one of the main attractions Minneapolis has to offer. But I will get to that later …
As always, location is key. The hotel I stayed in was pretty much perfect – the Hyatt Regency Bloomington. This hotel was fantastic. Ultra-modern and super clean and with quick access to nearby attractions and the interstate. There was a train stop right outside the hotel which I used to get to the Minneapolis city centre and back one night. The hotel has a restaurant which offers meals at an extra cost and also a bar. Starbucks coffee is on offer here! The double room I had was spacious with a modern décor and bathroom and the largest hotel TV screen I have ever seen! Also coffee making equipment with, yeah you guessed it, Starbucks coffee! My room on the 8th floor had views over the airport which allowed me to see the planes take off but never hear them. Location is key. The Hyatt Regency also runs a shuttle to the nearby mall (which, again, I will get on to in a minute).
Food + Drink
The food in Minneapolis is as eclectic as in most major American cities. Whatever your tastes desire they have on offer. If you are in the Mall of America you are spoilt for choice. An extensive range of eateries are found in the food court and multiple chain restaurants can be found on the upper level. In and around the city your options are endless. However if you like a burger, the Minneapolis special is a burger stuffed with cheese called the “Juicy Lucy”. Not cheese on top of the burger, cheese stuffed into the burger. Absolutely mouth watering!!!
Things to do
The main attraction of this #NInja trip was to visit the Mall of America. What a place! “Enormous” as a descriptive word doesn’t do it justice. Walking distance around 1 level of the MOA is 1.15 miles … and there are 3 main levels! There are around 500+ stores located in the mall. 2 connected hotels and around 50 others within 10 mins of the mall. There is enough parking spaces for over 12,000 vehicles. This is not your average American Mall! It is estimated that there are some 40 million visitors that come to the mall each year – especially since there is NO sales tax on clothes and shoes in the mall … or anywhere in Minnesota!! #NInjaBonus
So aside from all these stores and shops what else brings people to the mall? How about its own theme park? Yep Nickelodeon Universe sits right in the middle of the mall. It is 7 acres of entertainment with an amazing 28 rides and attractions. Interested in Nature? How about a visit to the Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium which can also be found in the mall? Over 10,000 sea creatures can be found here. The highlight is the 300 foot long underwater tunnel which is found 14 feet below the water’s surface. Get up close to stingray and eye to eye with sharks! Crayola Experience has 25 hands on attractions in an area larger than a football field. I had a brilliant experience on Flyover America which was a 10 minute long ride over more than 20 American locations viewing a screen that is 40 feet tall and 60 feet wide! Want more?
For all you gamers and arcade fans out there Gameworks was a brilliant spot where you could play retro games along with modern classics while enjoying food and drinks. The mall is more than a day out. You need serval days just to skim the surface. It is not just a place for shopaholics but a place for everyone to enjoy. Although if you do fancy spending a few dollars, the mall do a VIP shopper discount booklet which is well worth the $9.99 cost. The savings are amazing and you get a big MOA bag for all your purchases! Also to save you a fortune on the attractions why not buy a Bloomington Big Ticket Adventure pass. This pass gives you 3 days full admission to the attractions mentioned above and also the Minnesota Zoo saving you 30% over regular ticket prices!
The mall is not all though. I headed into the city of Minneapolis to see what was on offer. The first thing you notice as you come into this great city is the huge home of the Minnesota Vikings the US Bank Stadium. What a place this is! I got on a 90 minute tour around this magnificent stadium. It was amazing. Our guide was excellent and had an extensive knowledge of both the new and old stadium. It was an amazing tour of architecture and sporting history. The highlight was at the end you get onto the field of play for a small taste of what it must be like to play in such a theatre.
In fact if sport and fitness is your thing Minnesota has so much to offer. Basketball, Soccer and College Sports are BIG in the area. And flying high this year are the Minnesota Twins baseball team playing in the excellent Target Field which is a must for all sporting fans. The train stops right outside the stadium and cost me a small $4 return from my hotel. Baseball tickets can be great value and on this occasion the #NInja sat 6 rows behind the home dugout which also had its own lounge to escape to when the rain came down! Well worth it. Baseball is a great family day / evening out with so much going on and a great choice of food and drink options.
Why not take a short trip outside the city to go to the Minnesota Zoo. This was a great place for the family with the best section being the Llama Trek where these magnificent animals roam freely around the public. You have to stay on the gravel path though and don’t be trying to feed them! But don’t be shocked to find one standing right behind you. I was! Whilst this attraction is only operating in the summer season there are LOADS of other animal exhibitions to enjoy – tigers, camels, reindeers, sharks, monkeys, they have them all!! If you are into running or biking, Minneapolis is the place for you. With an extensive biking and running network you wont be stuck looking for places to go to. Minneapolis is widely known as one of the US top biking cities. A nice trip alongside the Mississippi river is a must.
Another brilliant highlight for me was a Segway tour around Minneapolis. Don’t worry! For all you thinking you couldn’t do it, there is plenty of training before you set out on your adventure. You take on several stops along the way and get given an extensive, entertaining history of the local area. Half way round you stop off for some free coffee and cookies! You also get free entry to the Mill City Museum as part of your fee. This was such a fun way to see this amazing city and it is easy to see why Human on a Stick tours have been the number 1 rated attraction in Minneapolis for 10 years.
Tips and Tricks
- Get your holiday off to the right start at Dublin Airport – the lounge at 51st & Green is a must.
- Pick up the VIP shopper discount booklet at the Mall of America. For $9.99 the savings in the book are amazing.
- The Bloomington Big Ticket is a must if you are wanting to see loads of the attractions in the area. At a cost of $89 Adults / $79 Children you get to see the Zoo, Fly Over America, the Aquarium, Gameworks and the Nickelodeon theme park and more, saving you a fortune in the process.
Minneapolis (and the surrounding areas) should definitely be on your wish list of cities to see and explore. There is so much on offer for all the family. I was there for 4 days and didn’t get to see half of what is available in the immediate area. I will certainly be going back!
For information on Mall of America / Bloomington – please visit https://www.bloomingtonmn.org/ – or why not call into your LOCAL travel agency and plan your Twin Cities break ASAP! Get there before everyone else does!!
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