Everyone says that if you’re going to visit Minneapolis, then you should go to see the Mall of America. Well, I’m about 20-30 minutes from it, so on Saturday, I reviewed the directions and drove thataway. There are millions of other places to shop, on the way, so I had to stop at a 2-story Kohl’s to see if they had anything new and interesting. I especially liked the size of their home furnishings section, which had some fun odds and ends. But with only a bedroom to my name, at present, I only browsed.
You can’t miss the Mall of America, unless you’re trying, because there are lit up signs for it, which probably shine brightly at night. Now that I think on it, I do remember seeing it when I was driving to Shakopee, almost two weeks ago. Considering all the wrong turns I’ve made (either because of signs that weren’t obvious, or I wasn’t paying attention) since I got here, the Mall has lots of really good signs, because they want all shoppers to get there, not stop elsewhere.
I had reviewed the layout of the Mall, on their website, so I headed for the East parking lot, because that was near to Barnes & Noble. Hey, I figured if the place was overwhelming, I’d go cool off in my favorite store. Besides, their B&N might be colossally bigger than any other… who knows? The Mall is situated right next to the airport, so from high up in the parking garage (the parking garages are bigger than some malls!), I could see planes coming in to land, right close by. I felt like I could almost wave at the passengers.
On the way inside, there were some huge sun shades pulled down over the glass walkway, but I crouched down to see out the bottom, and get a look at the parking garage itself. It’s about seven stories, though I suppose the ceilings aren’t as high as in the Mall, because it didn’t LOOK taller than the Mall. Who knows? At first, I thought there was a parking garage for each corner, but it turns out there are only two. Which is more than enough.
My immediate terror was that I might forget where I parked, and never, ever find my car… so I took a picture of the level and row numbers. What better way to check back, than review your photos? But knowing that I was in the Tennessee section, and directly across from the doors, wasn’t hard to remember. So, I paid attention to what restaurants (bars, actually) were right where I came in. Then, I unabashedly stared around at everything, and took pictures of the mall maps.
At first, I was a bit flabbergasted at the size of the stores, not the size of the Mall itself. The entrance decor to some of them was so much bigger than I’d seen in other versions of those stores. As the Mall is roughly in the shape of a square, with department stores on each corner, it was a bit daunting to see how big the department stores were. But as I didn’t really have any money to spend, I didn’t actually go into Nordstrom, Sears, Macy’s, or Bloomingdale’s. So, I can’t give you a complete description of the inside of them.
The power bill on this mall would be astronomical, but they deal with some of it for the main areas by having immense skylights light the whole area. Of course, when it gets dark out, they must have another light source, but I don’t remember what it is. I also read (on Wikipedia) that during the winter, aside from the entrances, the main areas aren’t heated, because the lights and the people create tons of heat. Individual stores have their own heat, but it even suggested that some areas have to run the air, because it can get uncomfortably hot where there are so many people. I’m still working that out in my head, how the people can create enough heat to defeat subzero outdoor temperatures, with no main indoor heating system.
Remembering that I read that every four out of ten guests to the Mall of America are tourists, I didn’t worry too much about taking pictures or peering over railings, to look down to the three floors below (I came in on the fourth floor section, on the East side). The Mall of America is the biggest mall in the United States, when you count the retail stores, but not the area (which is something like 96 acres). I still haven’t figured out which mall is bigger in area, though the company that owns it also owns the biggest mall in North America (that’s in Edmonton, Alberta).
Immediately after coming down the first escalator, I found a good view of the amusement park in the center of the Mall. It was very odd to see a water ride, several roller coasters, a swing ride, and a bunch of other stuff inside this building, lit by a million skylights. And from there, I started to walk through the food court, and discovered how dangerous a place this would be, if I wasn’t eating right. Endless fast food, mondo amounts of dessert places (gelato? chocolate? doughnuts? popcorn?), and then there’s the regular restaurants. Later, I would walk through the restaurant level, and wished I could try the burgers and everything else, at every one I passed.
Speaking of the restaurant row, it occurred to me that the Mall would be a really fun place to go on a date. No, don’t cringe, guys. You can meander along, being ignored by the crowds, pick up a super pretzel at Auntie Anne’s, ride a couple of roller coasters, get a coffee, peruse the books at B&N, and when you’re tired of wandering, sit down in a REALLY nice restaurant for dinner. Some were really high class looking eateries, and others were fun looking burger and wings places. The constant buzz of people gives you that feeling that you’re actually alone (like at an amusement park), because no one’s paying attention to you, amidst the crowd.
The Mall of America constantly exudes the feeling that you only get at Christmastime, in other malls. At those times of year, the world is out to shop til they drop, and you either join ’em, or do all your shopping online. But at this Mall, that feeling is common, minus the Christmas decorations. The crowd of people never lets up in the Disney Store, as the children explore all the fun toys and costumes. I would’ve loved that Merida (from Brave) costume, when I was little. And just approach the LEGO store, and you wonder if you’ll be able to get in. The huge LEGO statues above the store, the wall of LEGOs behind the registers, and the fun displays of Lord of the Rings and Star Wars toys… the fun never ends. But while you’re enjoying yourself, someone else is waiting their turn to see what you’re looking at, so you move on, and make your shopping decision while you walk.
If you get tired of all the “shoppingness”, you can always take the escalator downstairs to see the Aquarium. I only saw the signs for it, I didn’t go close enough to see it. But I’m sure there are plenty of people who only came to see the fish, so streams of people descended into the aquatic area. What other interesting venues does this mall hide? I’m sure there are more, but I didn’t notice them. And, of course, they’re working on Phase II of the Mall project, planning to build an ice skating rink, hotels, and a water park in the big open area outside of the Mall, just past the garages. I saw the open area, awaiting it’s future use, and read about the future of the Mall of America online.
After wandering around, looking inside a store, now and then, I took a break at the Barnes & Noble, which is actually no bigger than any other one I’ve been in. But their cafe definitely had a wider food selection, with quiche and soup, as well as all the coffee and desserts. I sighed inwardly, and got a regular coffee… and then made it more interesting by adding cinnamon and nutmeg. : ) After getting my second wind (ok, I was only at the Mall for 2-3 hours), I headed back out for another look-see.
On my second round, I found myself no longer intimidated by the size of the Mall. In fact, It think my mind had pictured it as being even bigger. But I think part of the problem is that your mind can only take in one “wing” of the building at a time. So, you can’t comprehend the entire Mall into your view, but just one section at a time. And all the escalators and walkways that criss-cross each area, they make the place look smaller, I think. I had somehow pictured the openness of an atrium going straight up, with nothing crossing it, for the length of the Mall. Or at least, something like that was in my head. You know, picture the outside of two hotels, right up next to each other, they don’t have walkways between them, and they look immensely huge. That kind of look.
I don’t remember which part of the Mall it was in, but I saw lots of decorative glass pieces, hanging on long strands, and they would hang down for three stories. I was wondering how strong the wires had to be, and how they put it up there, without it getting tangled. Did they wire them one at a time, or carry it down a walkway, with a crane, and then have to untangle the whole mess?
All in all, I think I did manage to walk around at least two levels, entirely, and not all of it was on purpose. At one point, I thought I was on the fourth floor, and couldn’t figure out where to exit. When I finally realized I was on the third floor, I mentally slapped myself, and cruised on out the door.
So, if anyone comes to visit me, I will enjoy wandering the Mall with you, if you want, but there’s no harm if you aren’t interested. But I’m also not one of those shoppers that has to go into every store. I’d rather wander, just looking, and go into one, once in a blue moon. And just think of all the food there is to try! Ok, I think that’s the best part. You could go there every weekend for years on end, and eat somewhere different every time.
Now, I need to go back to straightening up my room. I trashed my bed in order to get my suitcase into my closet. It needs fixing, now. Oh, and I still have to finish reading Rilla of Ingleside. I’m so close to finishing, but I can’t stay up terribly late, when I get up at 5:45am. Just can’t be done. If you don’t hear from me sooner, have a marvelous Fourth of July!