How much shopping damage can you do in the Mall of America? Lots. (Photo: IVY PHOTOS / Shutterstock.com)
By Susan B. Barnes
For a girl who doesn’t like to shop (yes, we do exist), a visit to the Mall of America can be quite intimidating, what with its more than 520 shops spread throughout 4.2 million square feet and four floors.
(I think I’m alone, though, in my intimidation — 42 million shoppers descend on the mall annually and make purchases exceeding $1 billion.)
My palms get sweaty just thinking of it! During a recent trip to Minneapolis, though, I was determined to tame the beast. Or, at least, meet it.
I was a bit relieved when I saw that the mall is divided into four “neighborhoods,” each with its target demographic. In other words, stores are grouped together so that shopping can be strategic — teenagers might steer themselves towards Abercombie and Caché in “West Market,” while fashionistas will find their styles at Michael Kors and Henri Bendel and Lululemon on “South Avenue.”
What really took a load off, though, was the Radisson Blu Mall of America, which opened earlier this year and adjoins the mall via a skyway — the hotel is a destination unto itself. Not only is it super hip and cool, it’s also a welcome oasis from the hustle and bustle and crowds of the mall. Perfect for when shopping gets to be too much, which happens quickly in my case.
A Radisson Blu MOA guest room.
The hotel’s 500 guestrooms (guestroom floors are accessible by room key only, eliminating any security concerns) feature teals and blacks, a welcome departure from the beiges and creams that many hotels go with. The energy is electric, yet comforting and relaxing at the same time.
True shoppers will fall for Radisson Blu Mall of America’s shopping program, from a dedicated concierge to bag pick up so they don’t have to lug their purchases all day long. For a tailored shopping experience, take advantage of the hotel’s personal shopper program: pre-arrival, a member of the shopping program team will call to discuss your needs and wants to prepare for your arrival. Once in town, you’ll have access to private sales and special discounts, and even private store hours (at an additional cost). A shopper’s dream come true!
When it’s time to quench thirst or satiate an appetite, look no further than the FireLake Grill House & Cocktail Bar inside the hotel. Hand crafted cocktails await, like the Lingonberry Mosquito featuring the popular Minnesotan fruit — delish! The menu is filled with satisfying Minnesota cuisine, created with a fresh twist by executive chef Paul Lynch.
Fire Lake Grill. (Photo: Susan B. Barnes)
Just a short commuter rail ride from the mall and hotel will take you into downtown Minneapolis and nearby St. Paul, both with incredible food and culture scenes of their own. The Walker Art Center features permanent and traveling contemporary visual and performing arts exhibits and programs, and a serene sculpture garden. Exhibitions currently on display include “Radical Presence: Black Performance in Contemporary Art” (through January 2015), “Art Expanded, 1958 – 1978” (through March 2015) and “Art at the Center: 75 Years of Walker Collections” (through September 2016). After all that shopping, save a bit of cash on Thursdays, when entry into the museum is free from 5 -9 p.m., courtesy of Target. The first Saturday of the month is free, too.
Fans of “Prairie Home Companion,” like myself, will want to get tickets ahead of time to watch the weekly radio show performed live in St. Paul’s historic Fitzgerald Theater. It truly is a show to be seen, especially when Fred Neman works his magic with the sound effects.
Prairie Home Companion. (Photo: Susan B. Barnes)
It may sound strange, and it is a bit, but the seafood scene in Minneapolis is thriving. Make reservations for dinner at UNION Fish Market and sip a cocktail (the Persian Pussy Cat is quite divine), while looking over the extensive menu … I suggest the Point Judith Skate Wing.
Italian in Minneapolis? Yes! Bar La Grassa does it right with its 11 types of bruschetta (the soft eggs and lobster variation is to die for!) and gnocchi with cauliflower and orange. Make the most of your visit and order several dishes to share with the table.
Bar La Grassa. (Photo: Susan B. Barnes)
For something a bit more casual, stop by Smack Shack Lobster for crab cakes and a lobster roll just off the boat from Maine — I chose mine in what they call Connecticut-style: served warm with drizzled melted butter.
The laid back vibe and mouth-watering food will leave you wanting more.
This non-shopper will definitely visit Minneapolis again, and might even befriend the beast.
Smack Shack crab cake. (Photo: Susan B. Barnes)
Fun Facts: Mall of America
• It’d take 86 hours to spend just 10 minutes in each store.
• Seven Yankee Stadiums could can fit within the mall.
• The mall employs 13,000 people.
• Nearly 6,000 weddings have been performed in the mall’s Chapel of Love.
• The temperature inside the mall is 70 degrees every day of the year.
• The mall is heated with solar energy and energy from lighting, as well as body heat; there isn’t a central heating system.
• 100,000 lady bugs are released annually inside the mall, instead of using pesticides on the thousands of live plants.
• The mall recycles more than 50 tons of glass and more than 6,000 tons of paper and cardboard, annually.
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