Trail Of The Unexpected: Super shopper - Adventure Holidays - Activity & Adventure - The Independent

Trail Of The Unexpected: Super shopper

Take a stroll in Minnesota's magnificent mall

Three children swaggered out of the Build-A-Bear Workshop variously hugging a cuddly moose, a pink-skirted teddy bear and a grinning groundhog. They were palpably proud of the creatures they had helped to make. In their wake came their shopping-laden grandparents. Would the kids like to ride the Log Chute rollercoaster? Yes, they chorused. And then, they suggested (while the grandparents wearied visibly), they'd like to visit the aquarium to meet the stingrays. Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, welcome to the Mall of America.

It goes quite beyond the mere retail experience, which runs the gamut from Abercrombie & Fitch to Zales diamond store. There's a 14-screen movie theatre on the mall's top floor, a large Lego outlet (with life-size rhino creations), two games arcades, and set over the basement is the Underwater Adventures aquarium, which is home to more than 4,000 sea creatures. Meanwhile the entire central atrium, four storeys high and covering seven acres, is devoted to a Nickelodeon Universe theme park offering not only a rollercoaster but 29 other rides. Even on the relatively quiet weekday that I was there, it was buzzing with children, the air filled with shrieks of excitement.

Set in Bloomington, a 20-minute drive south of downtown Minneapolis and 25 minutes from downtown St Paul, the Mall of America opened in 1992. It now has more than 520 retail outlets set behind about four miles of shop windows. There are also 20 sit-down restaurants and 30 fast food stores.

All of which presents a dauntingly big picture. Yet this is by no means the world's largest mall. Nor, at the moment, is the Mall of America the biggest such precinct in US. But work is due to start on an expansion to the complex that will integrate a large Ikea at present positioned opposite, and will provide scope for 300 additional stores, making the Mall of America the largest enclosed shopping area in the US.

Size doesn't entirely matter, however, for the Mall of America is certainly the country's most famous retail complex. And its most popular, too, attracting around 40 million visitors annually. Tax, or the lack of it, is one draw: there is no sales tax on clothing in Minnesota. But location is also a key feature. This shopping venue is just a 10-minute taxi ride from a great junction of America, the Minneapolis-St Paul airport.

If there is no scope to visit the mall between flights on the same day, you can opt to break your journey at one of many accommodation options nearby. Minneapolis and St Paul make a good destination for a stopover: take your fill of retail therapy and then enjoy some of the country's most absorbing art galleries and liveliest theatre outside New York.

I had booked into the Hilton Minneapolis Bloomington, which opened in February. Alongside 260 modern rooms, it offers pool, gym, two restaurants and free shuttle to the airport and the Mall of America. Before ushering me off on the 15-minute ride to the mall, the concierge gave me detailed instructions as to how to proceed from there to downtown Minneapolis and the Walker Art Center. ("After about three hours of shopping you'll probably need an antidote," he said.)

But it takes a little more time than that to explore the entirety of this palace of consumerism – known to some less enthusiastic locals as "The Sprawl of America". Staff manning the information booths at the four ground-floor entrances may tell you proudly that Buckingham Palace and its 40-acre gardens would fit inside the mall; and, perhaps more impressively, that in the winter there is no need for heating (the complex is kept warm through the miles of electric lights and the body heat of its guests, even when Minnesota's temperatures drop to –20C and more). In summer, on the other hand, the mall whirs with 12,900 tonnes of air conditioning.

Getting your bearings is relatively easy. At each corner of the vast, rectangular building is a department store: upscale Bloomingdale's and Macy's to the south-east and south-west respectively; Sears, more keenly priced, to the north-east; and Nordstrom to the north-west.

The ground floor is generally where the most stylish outlets are located. Meanwhile, there are swathes of jeans and T-shirt outlets on both the ground and the second floors. But the third floor is where you'll find most of the real bargains and some real regional flavour.

Lake Wobegon USA is the merchandising arm of the works of local author, and local hero, Garrison Keillor. Here there are CDs and DVDs of Keillor's readings, T-shirts, mugs, postcards and, of course, books. I snapped up a copy of Keillor's latest hardback, Pontoon, signed by the author. Among the sprawl of rides and stores here, this personal touch was truly heartwarming.

Mall of America (001 952 883 8800; www.mallofamerica.com) is open Mon-Sat 10am-9.30pm and Sun 11am-7pm. The Hilton Minneapolis Bloomington (001 952 893 9500; www.hilton.com) is at 3900 American Boulevard West. Bloomington, Minnesota. Doubles start at $99 (£52), room only.

State Lines: Minnesota

Population 5 million
Area 11 times the size of Wales
Capital St Paul
Date in Union 11 May 1858
Flower Showy lady's slipper
Motto "The Star of the North"
Nickname North Star State

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

Suggested Topics
News
Paper trail: the wedding photograph found in the rubble after 9/11 – it took Elizabeth Keefe 13 years to find the people in it
newsWho are the people in this photo? It took Elizabeth Stringer Keefe 13 years to find out
Arts and Entertainment
Evil eye: Douglas Adams in 'mad genius' pose
booksNew biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Sport
FootballFull debuts don't come much more stylish than those on show here
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
Kim Kardashian drawn backlash over her sexy swimsuit selfie, called 'disgusting' and 'nasty'
fashionCritics say magazine only pays attention to fashion trends among rich, white women
Arts and Entertainment
TVShows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Arts and Entertainment
Hit the roof: hot-tub cinema east London
architectureFrom pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
Travel
travel
News
The ecological reconstruction of Ikrandraco avatar is shown in this illustration courtesy of Chuang Zhao. Scientists on September 11, 2014 announced the discovery of fossils in China of a type of flying reptile called a pterosaur that lived 120 millions years ago and so closely resembled those creatures from the 2009 film, Avatar that they named it after them.
SCIENCE
Life and Style
tech
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
Matisse: The Cut-Outs exhibition attracted 562,000 visitors to the Tate Modern from April to September
art
Life and Style
Models walk the runway at the Tom Ford show during London Fashion Week Spring Summer 2015
fashionLondon Fashion Week 2014
News
Kenny G
news
News
peopleThe black actress has claimed police mistook her for a prostitute when she kissed her white husband
Life and Style
techIndian model comes with cricket scores baked in
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    USA/Florida Travel Consultants £30-50k OTE Essex

    Basic of £18,000 + commission, realistic OTE of £30-£50k : Ocean Holidays: Le...

    Marketing Executive / Member Services Exec

    £20 - 26k + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Marketing Executive / Member Services Ex...

    Sales Account Manager

    £15,000 - £25,000: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has arisen for ...

    VB.NET and C# developer (VB.NET,C#,ASP.NET)

    £30000 - £45000 per annum + Bonus+Benefits+Package: Harrington Starr: VB.NET a...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week