As an advertising professional, I’d be remiss if I didn’t venture to the place many consider the mecca of consumerism in the US. So, during my second weekend here in Minneapolis, I hopped a train down to the land of endless stores and merchandise. Personally, I’ve never been a fan of malls. They’re always filled with people I normally try to avoid. But, this is one of those rare occasions where I felt compelled to actually step foot inside.
My initial reaction was that it seems a lot bigger on television. Don’t get me wrong, it is a gigantic place. But all of those clever camera tricks they use make it seem a lot bigger than it actually is. The building itself is 3 stories tall—with a fourth that houses a few bars and restaurants—and broken into four wings. I managed to cover the entire place in just under an hour and that’s when the disappointment started to set in. For some reason, I assumed all of the stores would offer something special—much like the eye-catching shops in Times Square. Yet, they were just stores. The same ones you find in just about every other mall across the country. Sure, this mall features two Victoria’s Secrets and 5 or 6 Starbucks, but at the end of the day, how much lingerie and coffee does one need? I’d say the most redeeming quality of the entire shopping area has to be the various food courts. They offered just about everything, from a Benihana and Tony Roma’s to a Bubba Gump Shrimp and Chipotle—not your typical mall fare.
Of course, if this was just a giant mall, it wouldn’t be that big of a deal. That’s why the Nickelodeon-themed amusement park that sits in the center of the building is such a selling point for me (and I’m sure many of the families that visit). At first glance, I assumed there wouldn’t be much for me to do, since every ride is named after a cartoon character. But I soon learned that wasn’t true. I ended up riding three of the park’s rollercoasters and boy, for being indoors, they sure are some hair-raisers. In particular, the SpongeBob coaster has a hill that goes straight up at a 90º angle and then drops you back down the same exact way. Oh and then it offers two loops for good measure. Is it for kids? I doubt it, but that’s what I found surprising about the park. It truly offered something for everyone.
In all honesty, the mall does have a lot more to offer than what I was able to take in. There's an aquarium, a movie theatre, a comedy club and several rotating exhibits, which currently include CSI: The Experience, the Barbie Dream House Experience and Star Trek: The Exhibit, among others. The one downside to all of these things though is the added price tag. I'm sure some of them are rather enjoyable, but I just couldn't bring myself to fork over the dough. However, I did want to make mention of them, as they too are a strong selling point for the overall experience.
Would I ever take a destination vacation to The Mall of America? Nah. But after visiting, I really see the appeal to families. It’s an experience unlike any other and given that there’s a hotel connected to one of the wings, it’s easy to pop by for a weekend and indulge in just about anything your heart desires. In the end, I think it does bring something special to the area, especially during the frigid winter months. When there's 8 feet of snow outside, I imagine this place almost seems like a wonderland of sorts. All I know is, if I ever go back, I’m getting a room for the night and hitting up Cinnabon and Auntie Anne’s pretzels for an all night bender of sugar, cinnamon and sweet, sweet icing. You just can’t get more American than that!