In no particular order ...
No. 1: Nickelodeon Universe
When Minnesota winters start to get extra long and your patience with the kiddos starts to wear thin with all that pent-up energy, there is a haven smack in the middle of the Mall. Say hi to SpongeBob SquarePants, Dora and all the other Nickelodeon favorites at the nation's largest family indoor theme park -- Nickelodeon Universe. There are more than 25 rides and attractions that shape the seven-acre park -- rides for the little ones like Blue's Skidoo and big thrills for the older ones like Avatar Airbender. The youngsters could also meet some of their favorite Nickelodeon characters and keep an eye out for special events like Blackout, which is a chance to enjoy the park in the dark!
No. 2: Underwater Adventures Aquarium
Venture to the sublevel of the Mall of America where all kinds of aquatic creatures call home at Underwater Adventures Aquarium. This 1.2-million-gallon walk-through aquarium has more than 5,000 sea creatures. Underwater Adventures lets visitors see what it's like to "swim with the fishies" with a glass tunnel through the aquarium -- and hop on the "people mover" to take in the sights without even walking. Don't be alarmed if you see a shark swim over your head or a stingray float by -- it's all part of the action and an opportunity for everyone to get an up-close-and-personal look with all things under the seas. And don't forget to check out the newest exhibit -- Jellyfish Discovery -- which is the world's largest collection of jellyfish.
No. 3: Chapel of Love
"Going to the Mall of America ... and we're ... going to get married ..." That might not be exactly how the song goes but at the Chapel of Love, it's where thousands of couples have decided to tie the knot. Since it opened 15 years ago, more than 5,500 couples from around the world have exchanged their vows in the Chapel of Love wedding chapel. They offer each couple a unique wedding experience, tailored to their tastes with local ministers performing the ceremony of their choice that includes flowers and photography. But if a wedding in the Mall isn't what you're looking for, check out their selection of bridal apparel or accessories for your special day.
No. 4: A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation
Take a seat in the cockpit and fly missions against your friends (or enemies) by hoping into a flight simulator at A.C.E.S., located on the third floor. Wannabe pilots can take full control of sophisticated flight simulators that are duplicates of those used to train military pilots -- like today's F/A Hornet or legendary World War II fighters. When you hop inside you'll see a large, domed projection screen (kind of like an Omni-Theater) that's attached to the front of an authentic aircraft cockpit. If you want to know more about the A.C.E.S. Flight Simulation, you have to check out their website's FAQs ... whoever wrote them has an amazing sense of humor!
No. 5: The Flying Dutchman Ghostly Gangplank Adventures Ropes Course
The name might be long but so is the adventure -- and the height! Strap yourself into the safety harness and see Nickelodeon Universe in a way you've probably never seen it before. The course will challenge everyone as you climb up to 56 feet in the air, making this the tallest Sky Trail ropes course in the world. Make your way across ropes and other obstacles on 38 different sections that cover more than 950 feet.
No. 6: "Hollywood" of the Midwest
Mall of America has become a popular stop for actors, musicians, authors, chefs and athletes to meet their fans and show off their latest movie, song, book, recipe or ... jersey. Last year alone, Mall of America hosted more than 400 events that attracted nearly half a million people who line up to see their favorite stars, free of charge. Some of the recent visitors include Zac Efron, Sarah Palin, Adrian Peterson, the Jonas Brothers, Joan Rivers and Rascal Flats -- an interesting mixture of names that shows the variety of people that Mall of America draws. If Hollywood wants to stay grounded with their Midwest fans, they're hitting up the Mall of America.
No. 7: Metropolitan Stadium Home Plate
A connection to the past can be found in an odd place among the amusement rides inside Nickelodeon Universe. For those who remember what used to sit where the Mall is now standing, it's a place where memories could come flooding back. Mall of America sits on the former site of the Metropolitan Stadium where the Twins and Vikings played from 1961 to 1981. The home plate from the Old Met sits in its original spot, located right outside of the entrance of SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge.
No. 8: Transit Hub
As the nation's largest Mall, the Mall of America is just 1.5 miles from the Minneapolis/St. Paul International Airport and is connected by Light Rail Transit to the airport and downtown Minneapolis. This allows visitors to take the 10-minute light rail ride over to the Mall even if they only have a short layover or the chance to swing by the Mall before they head out of town. Plus, there are more than a dozen bus routes that stop at the Mall.
No. 9: Living Green
The Mall of America has been environmentally friendly since it opened in 1992. With elements like solar heating, an extensive recycling program and more than 30,000 plants that act as natural air purifiers, the Mall lives green every day of the year. So how can the biggest mall stay warm in the bitterly cold Minnesota winters and still be green? The Mall doesn't use a central heating system. Instead, you'll experience a cozy 70 degrees that is maintained by 1.2 miles of skylights for solar energy, heat from the lights and, of course, and body heat from more than 40 million annual visitors.
No. 10: Theatres At Mall of America
Need to relax those tired feet from all the walking and shopping? The Theatres at Mall of America was newly renovated in 2008 and offers a unique blend of major motion pictures and independent films. Looking for the ultimate movie "experience?" The Theatres at Mall of America is the only theatre in the Midwest that features D-BOX Motion seats. The seats offer realistic motion effects in perfect sync with the onscreen action. So, literally, you could be blown out of your seat with this movie experience!
- Karna Bergstrom is a Web Producer at WCCO.COM and is always looking for a good deal at the Mall.
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