Mall of America: A Midwestern Adventure

I spent this past week visiting my mother in Michisconsin, a term that I use out of love and not because I can’t tell the difference between the two. Together, we drove to Minnesota and spent 3 days visiting the Mall of America and the downtown Minneapolis area.

Why???

After four years of living in Manhattan, I’ve grown a fond appreciation for road trips. Cramped space, bathroom breaks, traveling for hours without moving an inch. They give meaning to that useless saying that goes:

It’s not about the destination. It’s about the journey.

via GIPHY

Yeah, okay. But in the case of road trips, and post-college wanderings, it’s rather accurate. What you do on the way to where you’re going is far more memorable and meaningful than the actual arrival.

Such was the case during the 5-hour drive with my mom, because I’m only an incidental fan of shopping. The list of incidents include special occasions, and when my mother is paying. On the other hand, I’m a HUGE fan of rollercoasters. So when I heard there was an amusement park inside the mall, it became my top priority.

With a total of 27 attractions housed in a 7-acre room, the Mall’s Nickelodeon Universe offered an impressive range of thrills suitable for a daredevil at any level. My favorite ride was the Avatar Airbender, for sentimental reasons.  I also enjoyed the Spongebob-themed Rock Bottom Plunge, which featured 2 inversions (AKA loops) and a 97-degree drop. My mom’s favorite attraction was the FlyOver America 4D experience, a flight simulation complete with wind, water, and fresh maple and pine scents inside an IMAX theater.

In the afternoon, we visited the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. The Mall of America is home to thousands of sea creatures including seahorses, jellyfish, sting rays, alligators, and sharks that roam in and around a tunnel for visitors to walk among them. While that was all very breathtaking and incredible, below is the only decent photo I got during our aquatic experience. I confess I truly need to step up my Insta-game.

Turtles are neat, right?

Needless to say, there was also shopping involved. Most notably, I introduced my mom to what is now her favorite destination for her cosmetic needs. If you’re not a LUSH fan, I don’t know what your problem is but I’m sure you’d find something at the Mall to pique your interest: there are over 500 stores across its 3 levels, each of which spans more than a mile.

Okay, beyond the Mall. What else is out there?

On the third day, we visited the Walker Art Center and Minneapolis Sculpture Garden. The top floor of the museum housed an interactive exhibit from Tokyo-based art collective teamLab. The exhibit, entitled Graffiti Nature, invited museum guests to color in designs of select animals and flowers, and have them scanned into a projector to become part of the installation. The flowers would bloom around your feet after a few seconds of standing still, while the animals moved around the room freely–until you got too close, at which point they would dissipate into a dramatic splat of familiar colors.

The others galleries featured sculpted works by Katharina Fritsch and Jimmie Durham, and videos of dances bychoreographed Merce Cunningham. Fritsch’s work was also prominently featured in the sculpture garden outside. A bright blue rooster standing at 25-feet tall is one of the more recognizable pieces on display, as well as the Spoonbridge and Cherry fountain designed by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje van Bruggen.

The Irene Whitney Bridge connected the sculpture garden to the nearby Loring Park. Crossing the bridge offered great views of the downtown area. We then stumbled upon the Basilica of Saint Mary, the first basilica established in the country. My mother informed me that the statue pictured below features Mary as a child with her mother, St. Anne:

Neat, right? Eh, not really. But my mom really dug it. She’s one of those religious folks who use their beliefs to connect to the world, not divide it. A rare gem!

All in all, Minnesota was a pleasant and well-populated surprise. In the past year or so, I’ve garnered a lot of insight and reassurance by traveling domestically. Sticking to coastal liberal hubs like New York keeps people in a state of suspended disbelief. In today’s political climate, I’m challenging myself to stay open rather than allowing self-preservative cynicism and fear to govern my actions. Avoiding people with differing mindsets does nothing but limit your own movement and growth.

Heavyyyyyy. That came out of nowhere, didn’t it? Such is life. Anyway, I’m back in New York now.  I’m looking forward to settling back into my routine of writing blog posts and cover letters. Thanks for reading!