It never occurred to me that a shopping mall could be a vacation destination. But then the Mall of America near St. Paul/Minneapolis is no ordinary shopping mall. With more than 520 stores, an indoor amusement park, a 14-screen movie theater, more than 50 restaurants, the SEA LIFE™ Minnesota Aquarium, and more, there’s more than enough to keep visitors entertained for several days to come.

When you first walk in the Mall of America, it appears to be the same as any other mall you have visited before. Stores line both sides of the corridor, and you’ll see many familiar names. However, unlike most shopping malls, the Mall of America encompasses three floors with stores and restaurants throughout. In fact, you may see more than one location of the same store. For instance, there’s more than one Bath & Body Works within the mall, and you’ll find the same for Starbucks.

Mall of AmericaBut the center of the mall is where you’ll find the greatest difference. Here you’ll find the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, featuring 27 roller coasters, water rides and other familiar amusement park rides. Many are named for popular Nickelodeon Junior characters such as Dora the Explorer, the Backyardigans, and The Wonder Pets, while others boast such pop culture tie-ins as the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtle Shell Shock.

There’s also an indoor zip line and ropes course as part of Dutchman’s Deck Adventure Course. The zip line stretches across the amusement park, and it’s a great way to take in an aerial view of all the rides. The ropes course reaches 56 feet high via four climbing levels. One of the fun and unique aspects to the ropes course, if you ascend to the third or fourth levels, you can return to the bottom via a circular slide.

Mall of America For those visitors who take a break from the amusement park and head off to shop, you’ll find a great selection of both national and local stores, where they can pick up a fun souvenir commemorating their visit. I particularly enjoyed shopping in the Peeps store, where I picked up fun T-shirts for my family. You also can get quite a selection of Peeps candy in a variety of flavors, as well as popular treats from Mike and Ike and Hot Tamales.

If you stay at one of the two hotels adjacent to the mall, the Radisson Blu or the JW Marriott, you can take advantage of the hotel concierge service, wherein you drop off your bags with the concierge and they will have those bags delivered to your room. Then you can return to the fun of the amusement park, grab something to eat or head off for more shopping.

Speaking of dining, you’ll find a great selection of eateries, from quick-serve spots in the food court to a variety of restaurants featuring Italian, Mexican and other popular cuisines. For instance, you can grab a meal at Dick’s Last Resort, Masu Sushi & Robata, or Twin City Grill. Many restaurants even offer Happy Hour deals and nightly specials.

And getting to the Mall of America couldn’t be easier. If you’re flying in, upon arrival at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, just head over to the METRO train, hop on the Blue Line, and it will take you straight to the Mall of America. You can simply walk to one of the two attached hotels to check in, or head across the street to several other local hotels. If traveling by car, the Mall of America is just off Interstate 494 as well as Highway 77. And, because you’re inside a mall, you never have to worry about the weather. You can enjoy everything the mall has to offer all year long.