12 Things to Do in Bloomington, Minnesota

Last Updated on March 8, 2024 by Emily Johnson


Bloomington is a city in Hennepin County, Minnesota, located just south of Minneapolis. With a population of over 80,000 people, Bloomington is the fourth largest city in Minnesota. Known as the “hub of hotels” in the Minneapolis area due to its numerous hotels and the popular Mall of America, Bloomington has plenty to see and do for visitors and residents alike.

Activity NumberActivity Description
1Shop at Mall of America
2Visit Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge
3Tour Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store
4Explore Minnesota’s Past at History Center
5Play and Picnic at Hyland Lake Park Reserve
6See Exotic Species at Minnesota Zoo
7Golf on Championship Courses
8Attend events at Mall of America Arena
9Enjoy Nickelodeon Universe
10Explore SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium
11Visit Blueglass National Park
12Sample Sophisticated Eats and Drinks

From shopping and dining at the Mall of America to outdoor adventures at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge, Bloomington offers something for everyone. Here are 12 of the top things to do in Bloomington, Minnesota.

1.Shop Till You Drop at Mall of America

Name and Location: Mall of America is located at 60 East Broadway in Bloomington, Minnesota, just a short drive from downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul.

History and Significance: Mall of America opened in 1992 and quickly became one of the largest shopping and entertainment destinations in the United States. The mall covers over 5.6 million square feet and features more than 500 stores, 50 restaurants, and numerous attractions, making it a significant contributor to Minnesota’s tourism industry and economy.

What to Expect: Visitors to Mall of America can enjoy an unparalleled shopping experience, with a wide variety of stores ranging from high-end fashion boutiques to popular chain retailers. The mall also features numerous dining options, from quick bites to sit-down restaurants, as well as entertainment attractions like the Nickelodeon Universe theme park, SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium, and the Crayola Experience. With so much to see and do, Mall of America is a destination in itself.

Visitor Information: Mall of America is open daily, with extended hours during the holiday season. Parking is available in the mall’s ramps and lots, and the mall is also accessible by public transportation, with a dedicated transit station on-site. Visitors can also take advantage of the mall’s package pickup and delivery services, as well as stroller and wheelchair rentals. The mall hosts regular events and promotions throughout the year, so be sure to check the website or social media for the latest updates.

No visit to Bloomington is complete without a stop at the world-famous Mall of America. This massive shopping complex contains over 520 stores, 50 restaurants, and even has its own aquarium and theme park. Shoppers can browse premium outlets like Gucci and Burberry or explore more affordable stores like Forever 21 and H&M. Even if you don’t feel like spending, it’s still fun to wander around and people watch. The Mall of America is open 365 days a year, giving you plenty of opportunities to check it all out.

Make sure to wear comfortable shoes, because with 4.87 million square feet of retail space, you’ll be doing a lot of walking around this mall. Food options abound, but don’t miss local chains like Minnesota’s very own Potluck for innovative takes on Midwestern cuisine. Catch a movie on the 14-screen cinema, ride the thrill rides at Nickelodeon Universe indoor theme park, or visit Sea Life Aquarium to see sharks, stingrays and more.

2.Relax at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge

Name and Location: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is located in the southern Twin Cities metropolitan area, with visitor centers in Bloomington and Carver, Minnesota.

History and Significance: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge was established in 1976 to protect the Minnesota River Valley’s unique habitats and wildlife. The refuge covers over 14,000 acres and includes wetlands, prairies, and forests that are home to a diverse array of plant and animal species, including bald eagles, trumpeter swans, and rare prairie wildflowers.

What to Expect: Visitors to Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge can enjoy a variety of outdoor activities, including hiking, birdwatching, fishing, and wildlife photography. The refuge features over 40 miles of trails, ranging from easy boardwalks to more challenging terrain, as well as observation decks and blinds for wildlife viewing. The refuge also offers educational programs and events throughout the year, such as guided bird walks and nature photography workshops.

Visitor Information: Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the season. The refuge’s visitor centers in Bloomington and Carver offer exhibits, maps, and information about the refuge’s wildlife and ecosystems. Admission to the refuge is free, but some areas may require a permit for certain activities like hunting or fishing. Visitors should be prepared for outdoor conditions and bring appropriate clothing, footwear, and insect repellent.

After shopping at the Mall of America, refresh yourself surrounded by nature at Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. Just 10 miles from the mall, this 14,000 acre refuge provides crucial habitat for migratory birds, native fish and other wildlife on the flyway of the Minnesota River.

Hiking trails wind through prairie, oak savanna and wooded habitats. Spring and fall offer prime birdwatching for spotting nesting bald eagles, herons, waterfowl and songbirds. In winter, bundle up for cross country skiing and snowshoeing through peaceful natural landscapes.

Canoeing and catch-and-release fishing are also popular during summer months. Schedule a guided nature walk to learn more about the local ecology from expert naturalists. With six visitor entrances around Bloomington and adjacent suburbs, it’s easy to access a piece of wild sanctuary close to the city.

3.Tour Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store at Minnesota Candy Company

Name and Location: Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store is located at 20430 Johnson Memorial Drive in Jordan, Minnesota, about 30 miles southwest of Minneapolis.

History and Significance: Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store, also known as Jim’s Apple Farm, has been a beloved destination for sweet tooths and road trippers since the 1970s. The store started as a small apple orchard and has since grown into a massive, 20,000-square-foot candy emporium featuring thousands of varieties of candy, soda, and other treats from around the world.

What to Expect: Visitors to Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store can expect to be overwhelmed by the sheer variety and quantity of candy on display. The store features row upon row of colorful candy bins, novelty sweets, and hard-to-find treats, as well as a selection of fresh apples and baked goods in the fall. The store is also known for its quirky decor, including a giant gumball machine and a life-sized Elvis statue made entirely of candy.

Visitor Information: Minnesota’s Largest Candy Store is open seasonally from May through November, with extended hours during peak season. Admission to the store is free, but be prepared to spend some time browsing the extensive selection. The store is located just off Highway 169 and has ample parking available. Visitors should note that the store only accepts cash or checks, so be sure to bring some bills for your sweet purchases.

Satisfy your sweet tooth with a behind-the-scenes tour of Minnesota Candy Company, located right in Bloomington. This 80,000 square foot candy factory and store claims the title of Minnesota’s largest candy store.

On the tour, learn about the candy making process and watch staff hard at work cooking up gourmet chocolates, nut brittles, jelly beans and more tasty confections. Then browse the huge retail space crammed with towering shelves of nostalgic candies and novelty treats.

Buy sweets in bulk or go for something more upscale like wine pairings, gift baskets or custom creations. Treat yourself to a hot fudge sundae, ice cream float or coffee drink in the old-fashioned soda fountain. With the smell of fresh candy lingering in the air, this sweet shop makes for a mouthwatering outing.

4.Explore Minnesota’s Past at Minnesota History Center

Name and Location: The Minnesota History Center is located at 345 West Kellogg Boulevard in St. Paul, Minnesota, just a short walk from the State Capitol and downtown area.

History and Significance: The Minnesota History Center opened in 1992 as the flagship museum and headquarters of the Minnesota Historical Society, which was founded in 1849. The center is dedicated to preserving and sharing the state’s rich history and cultural heritage through exhibitions, programs, and research facilities. The building itself is a striking example of modern architecture, with a distinctive angular facade and a soaring atrium.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Minnesota History Center can explore a variety of interactive exhibits that bring the state’s past to life, from the early Native American settlements to the present day. Highlights include the “Then Now Wow” exhibit, which features a full-size pioneer sod house and a replica grain elevator, and the “Weather Permitting” exhibit, which explores Minnesota’s famously extreme climate. The center also hosts traveling exhibits and special events throughout the year, such as lectures, workshops, and family programs.

Visitor Information: The Minnesota History Center is open Tuesday through Sunday, with extended hours on Tuesdays. Admission is $12 for adults, $10 for seniors and veterans, and $6 for children ages 5-17 (free for children under 5 and for Minnesota Historical Society members). The center offers guided tours, audio guides, and wheelchair and stroller rentals for visitor convenience. Parking is available in the adjacent History Center parking lot or on nearby streets. The center also features a café, gift shop, and research library.

Immerse yourself in Minnesota’s rich history with a visit to the Minnesota History Center in Bloomington. This Smithsonian-affiliated museum brings the state’s stories to life through innovative, interactive exhibits across nine galleries.

Journey through time starting with Minnesota’s earliest Native American inhabitants and voyageurs. See a life-size replica of “Snoopy” from the iconic Peanuts comic strip originally set in Minnesota. Then enter more modern eras spotlighting agriculture, industry, sports and art.

One standout exhibit area reconstructs a late 19th century Minnesota street scene with cobblestone roads, storefronts and horse-drawn carriages. Costumed interpreters inhabit the space, fully taking on the manners and personas of Minnesota citizens from that time period.

Special events, lectures and family activities make learning about Minnesota’s past even more engaging. After visiting the History Center exhibits, stretch your legs outdoors exploring the nature trails, gardens and historic buildings at the Oliver H. Kelley Farm next door.

5.Play and Picnic at Hyland Lake Park Reserve

Name and Location: Hyland Lake Park Reserve is located at 10145 Bush Lake Road in Bloomington, Minnesota, just a short drive from the Twin Cities metropolitan area.

History and Significance: Hyland Lake Park Reserve was established in 1957 as part of the Three Rivers Park District, a regional park system that covers over 27,000 acres in the Twin Cities area. The park is named after the Hyland family, who were early settlers in the area and donated some of the land for the park. Today, Hyland Lake Park Reserve is a popular destination for outdoor recreation and nature appreciation.

What to Expect: Visitors to Hyland Lake Park Reserve can enjoy a wide range of activities in all seasons. In the summer, the park offers swimming, fishing, and boating on Hyland Lake, as well as hiking and biking on over 20 miles of trails. The park also features picnic areas, playgrounds, and a disc golf course. In the winter, the park is a popular spot for cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, and ice fishing. The park also has a nature center with exhibits and programs about the local ecology and wildlife.

Visitor Information: Hyland Lake Park Reserve is open year-round, with varying hours and activities depending on the season. Admission to the park is free, but some facilities and programs may require a fee or reservation. The park has several parking lots and is also accessible by public transportation. Visitors should be prepared for outdoor conditions and bring appropriate clothing, footwear, and insect repellent. The park also has restroom facilities and a concession stand open during the summer months.

Hyland Lake Park Reserve offers the perfect place for families to play and make memories together. This Bloomington park spans over 700 acres packed with opportunities for recreation and relaxation.

Kids will love the Adventure Play Area featuring a thrilling waterslide, splash pad, zip line and climbing wall. Meanwhile parents can supervise easily with shaded seating nearby. Three reservable picnic shelters make the park ideal for gatherings and birthday parties. Grills allow you to barbecue on site, while walking trails around Hyland Lake provide serene natural scenery to enjoy your meal.

In addition to picnic grounds, Hyland Lake Park Reserve contains a scenic 18-hole disc golf course winding through the woods. Visitors can also participate in naturalist programs to catch and release native fish or learn about raptors with live birds of prey demonstrations. With so many activity options in one beautiful park, Hyland Lake offers something for all ages.

6.See Exotic Species at Minnesota Zoo

Name and Location: The Minnesota Zoo is located at 13000 Zoo Boulevard in Apple Valley, Minnesota, about 20 miles south of Minneapolis.

History and Significance: The Minnesota Zoo opened in 1978 as a state-owned and operated zoo, with a mission to connect people, animals, and the natural world. The zoo is known for its innovative exhibits and conservation programs, including the “Minnesota Trail” exhibit, which showcases native Minnesota wildlife and habitats. The zoo is also a leader in animal care and research, with a focus on endangered and threatened species.

What to Expect: Visitors to the Minnesota Zoo can see over 4,300 animals from around the world, including tigers, grizzly bears, moose, and penguins. The zoo features several themed areas, such as the Tropics Trail, the Northern Trail, and the Discovery Bay aquarium. The zoo also offers behind-the-scenes tours, animal encounters, and educational programs for all ages. In addition to the animal exhibits, the zoo has several dining options, gift shops, and a monorail that provides a scenic view of the zoo grounds.

Visitor Information: The Minnesota Zoo is open daily, with extended hours during the summer months. Admission is $24 for adults, $20 for seniors, and $18 for children ages 3-12 (free for children under 3). The zoo offers discounted rates for groups and military families, as well as annual memberships. Parking is available in the zoo’s main lot for a fee, and the zoo is also accessible by public transportation. Visitors should plan to spend several hours exploring the zoo and should wear comfortable walking shoes and weather-appropriate clothing.

Visit Minnesota Zoo in Bloomington to see rare and endangered animals from around the globe, right in our own backyards. This award-winning zoo houses close to 5000 individual creatures representing over 530 animal species.

Get eye-level with rhinos and giraffes in the open Africa exhibit. Hand-feed colorful lorikeets in the zoo’s tropical aviary. Watch the adorable antics of red pandas, a fan favorite. Special events like sleepovers and concerts combine entertainment with animal encounters.

With immersive naturalistic habitats, visitors learn about conservation efforts helping protect these threatened species worldwide.

Grab a bite at one of the zoo’s cafes offering locally-sourced sustainable fare. After exploring the park, take the monorail or skyway through the Northern Trail area showcasing native North American wildlife like grey wolves, moose and bald eagles. Fun for all ages and an important mission makes the Minnesota Zoo a must-see attraction.

7.Golf on Championship Courses

Name and Location: Golf on Championship Courses – this section highlights some of the top golf courses in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, including Hazeltine National Golf Club in Chaska, TPC Twin Cities in Blaine, and Rush Creek Golf Club in Maple Grove.

History and Significance: The Minneapolis-St. Paul area has a long and storied golf history, with several courses that have hosted major championships and prestigious events. Hazeltine National Golf Club, for example, has hosted the U.S. Open, the PGA Championship, and the Ryder Cup, while TPC Twin Cities is the host course for the 3M Open on the PGA Tour. These courses are known for their challenging layouts, pristine conditions, and scenic beauty.

What to Expect: Golfers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area can expect a world-class experience at these championship courses. Hazeltine National is known for its long, rolling fairways and strategic bunkering, while TPC Twin Cities features a links-style layout with plenty of water hazards. Rush Creek Golf Club is a more modern course with dramatic elevation changes and stunning views of the surrounding countryside. All of these courses offer top-notch amenities, including practice facilities, pro shops, and dining options.

Visitor Information: Most of the championship golf courses in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area are open to the public, but tee times and rates can vary depending on the season and demand. Visitors should book tee times in advance and be prepared to pay premium prices for the opportunity to play these world-class courses. Some courses may also require a caddie or forecaddie, so be sure to check the policies before booking. Proper golf attire and etiquette are also expected at these courses.

With its abundance of golf courses, Bloomington invites golf enthusiasts to tee off surrounded by beautiful scenery. Many facilities allow online booking for convenient tee times.

Test your skills at Dwan Golf Club, host to high-level regional tournaments like the Minnesota State Open. This 18-hole course features elevated greens for a fun challenge.

Just down the road lies Hyland Greens Golf & Learning Center, named a top practice course by Golf Digest. In addition to the driving range and putting greens, Hyland Greens offers a beginner-friendly 9-hole course perfect for honing fundamentals.

For a peaceful round surrounded by nature, head to the Minnesota Valley Country Club. Water comes into play on over half the holes winding along the Minnesota River wetlands. No matter your skill level, Bloomington delivers fantastic fairways.

8.See Big Names at Mall of America Arena

Name and Location: Mall of America Arena is located within the Mall of America complex at 60 East Broadway in Bloomington, Minnesota.

History and Significance: Mall of America Arena, formerly known as the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome, was a multi-purpose stadium that opened in 1982 and served as the home of the Minnesota Vikings and Minnesota Twins until its closure in 2013. The stadium was known for its unique air-supported roof and its role in hosting major events like the Super Bowl and the World Series. After the Metrodome was demolished, the Mall of America built a new event space on the site, which opened in 2019.

What to Expect: Mall of America Arena is a state-of-the-art event venue that hosts a variety of entertainment and sports events throughout the year. The arena features a flexible seating configuration that can accommodate up to 3,500 people, as well as modern sound and lighting systems and high-definition video screens. Events at the arena range from concerts and comedy shows to esports tournaments and corporate conferences. The arena is also connected to the Mall of America, so visitors can easily combine their event experience with shopping and dining at the mall.

Visitor Information: Mall of America Arena events are ticketed separately from mall admission, and prices vary depending on the event and seating location. Tickets can be purchased online or at the arena box office. The arena has several parking options, including the mall’s ramps and lots, and is also accessible by public transportation. The arena has concession stands and restroom facilities, as well as a VIP lounge area for select events. Visitors should check the arena website or social media for the latest event listings and schedules.

Catch major concerts, sporting events and family shows at Mall of America Arena, located conveniently connected by skyway to the Mall of America. Since opening in 1993, this 20,500-seat arena has hosted the biggest names in entertainment.

Past music guests include Beyonce, Taylor Swift, Elton John and Paul McCartney alongside classics like Fleetwood Mac and the Eagles. Cheer on professional sports teams like hockey’s Minnesota Wild or basketball with the WNBA’s Minnesota Lynx. Disney on Ice, Harlem Globetrotters and circuses add more all-ages fun.

Upcoming country stars often play the venue’s Myth Live concert hall on their way to the top. The adjacent Crown Plaza Minneapolis hotel makes it easy to turn an event into a weekend getaway in Bloomington.

9.Swing into Fun at Nickelodeon Universe

Name and Location: Nickelodeon Universe is located within the Mall of America complex at 60 East Broadway in Bloomington, Minnesota.

History and Significance: Nickelodeon Universe, formerly known as Camp Snoopy and The Park at MOA, is an indoor theme park that opened in 1992 as part of the Mall of America. The park was originally themed around the Peanuts comic strip characters, but was rebranded as Nickelodeon Universe in 2008 through a partnership with the children’s television network. Today, Nickelodeon Universe is the largest indoor theme park in the United States and a major attraction for families visiting the Mall of America.

What to Expect: Visitors to Nickelodeon Universe can enjoy over 25 rides and attractions, including roller coasters, thrill rides, and family-friendly favorites. The park features several themed areas based on popular Nickelodeon shows, such as SpongeBob SquarePants and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, as well as a variety of carnival games and character meet-and-greets. The park also hosts special events throughout the year, such as Halloween and holiday celebrations. In addition to the rides and attractions, Nickelodeon Universe has several dining options and souvenir shops.

Visitor Information: Nickelodeon Universe is open year-round, with varying hours depending on the day and season. Admission to the park is separate from Mall of America admission and can be purchased as a single-day pass or as part of a package with other mall attractions. Prices vary based on height and age, with discounts available for military families and groups. The park can get crowded on weekends and holidays, so visitors should plan to arrive early or purchase a fast pass to skip the lines. The park has stroller and wheelchair rentals available, as well as lockers for storing personal belongings.

The nation’s largest indoor theme park, Nickelodeon Universe promises nonstop family fun inside Mall of America. Based on beloved shows from kids’ TV network Nickelodeon, the park packs excitement around every turn. Most rides spin, launch or drop passengers, with options suitable for all ages and thrill levels.

Preschoolers can ride their favorite characters like Paw Patrol’s Chase on kid-sized attractions. Bigger kids will love hairpin turns on the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster or the heartline roll on Avatar Airbender. Meanwhile Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock sends passengers whipping 360 degrees through the air. Special events like character meet-and-greets add to the joyful atmosphere. With endless neon splashes of color, Nickelodeon Universe keeps visitors smiling all day.

10.See Thousands of Sea Creatures at SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium

Name and Location: SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium is located within the Mall of America complex at 120 East Broadway in Bloomington, Minnesota.

History and Significance: SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium opened in 1996 as Underwater Adventures Aquarium, one of the first attractions to be added to the Mall of America after its initial construction. The aquarium was renamed SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium in 2011 as part of a rebranding effort by its parent company, Merlin Entertainments. Today, the aquarium is home to over 10,000 sea creatures from around the world and is a popular destination for families and school groups.

What to Expect: Visitors to SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium can explore four main exhibit areas: Shipwreck, Atlantis, Seahorse Kingdom, and the 300-ft long Ocean Tunnel. Each area features a variety of marine life, from sharks and stingrays to jellyfish and tropical fish. The aquarium also offers interactive experiences, such as touch pools and feeding demonstrations, as well as educational programs and behind-the-scenes tours. In addition to the animal exhibits, the aquarium has a gift shop and a cafe overlooking the Ocean Tunnel.

Located in Mall of America, SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium holds more than 10,000 fascinating sea creatures in 1.3 million gallons of water. Visitors enter through a shipwreck-themed exhibit where they can view fish native to Minnesota like giant catfish and lake sturgeon. Continue through 14 themed zones modeled after different aquatic habitats from around the world.

Peer into tropical waters to observe clownfish, blue tangs, sea turtles and sharks. Let pint-sized “divers” explore the jungle gym-style climbing structure built right into a massive tank. Unique displays like a sea horse breeding center and a pop-up bubble viewing area make SEA LIFE feel fully immersive. Continually updated exhibits ensure each visit brings newmagic beneath the sea.

11.See Blueglass National Park

Escape from the city into sweeping landscapes at Minnesota’s own “national park.” Using cutting-edge technology, Blueglass National Park provides awe-inspiring virtual tours inspired by America’s most iconic nature parks like Yellowstone and Yosemite. Their Bloomington location right off I-494 makes it super convenient to visit.

Once inside Blueglass, individually guided gyroscopic meditative loungers allow visitors to relax as they drift through hyper-realistic simulations of natural wonders. Vivid imagery, scents and temperature changes enhance the fully immersive experience. Tours range from about 10 minutes for a quick virtual hike to extended journeys with river rafting, cave exploring and more. It feels truly transportive.

While not a replacement for real national parks, Blueglass National Park lets you digitally renew before returning to your real-world responsibilities. Their state-of-the-art simulations inspire visitors to appreciate and conserve the planet’s wild beauty.

12.Sample Sophisticated Eats and Drinks

Bloomington’s dining scene features an array of restaurants to suit any craving or occasion from quick bites to special nights out. Mall of America fills appetites at all price points with 50+ dining options from fast casual to table service excellence. Beyond the mall, discover more destinations for remarkable meals.

For fine dining, try BOLD American Cuisine upholding excellence since 1985 with their contemporary steak and seafood. J. Hilbert’s modern atmosphere matches elevated farm-to-table entrees starring Midwest ingredients. Other special night spots range from Brazilian steakhouse Rodizio Grill’s unlimited meats to PF Chang’s take on Chinese entrees.

Local favorite Pub 819 crafts clever cocktails alongside cozy fireplaces or breezy patios for the perfect spot to unwind. Find more cozy bars at Yard House with over 100 taps pouring regional drafts and Ivan’s on the Lake dishing cabin comfort foods. Bloomington truly offers variety for whatever you crave.

Conclusion


Promising everything from world-class shopping to outdoor adventure, Bloomington entices visitors to shop, play and stay awhile. Travelers flying to Minneapolis for Mall of America often discover that this Midwest town holds much more.

Beyond the mall’s magnificence, opportunities for family bonding, cultural enrichment and natural beauty await exploration. Clearly Bloomington belongs on the itinerary for any trip to the Land of 10,000 Lakes region. With such an abundance of attractions, you’re sure to discover fresh appeal with every visit.

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