I was recently in Bloomington, Minnesota for three weeks on a work trip. My restaurant was opening up a new location in the Mall of America and I was chosen to help the train the serving staff. I stayed at hotel that was a ten-minute walk away from the mall. I was there for twenty-two nights. I practically lived at the Mall of America. And that place is strange. The Mall of America is huge. It has an amusement park, movie theaters, a ropes course and zip line, aquarium, bowling alley and arcade, mini golf, multiple food courts, and more stores than you could ever shop at. It’s almost like a city. All the employees are residents and all the shoppers are tourists. And they get 40 million visitors a year. That’s a lot. A shit ton, I believe.
The Mall Security take their jobs very seriously. Each employee of the mall is required to wear an ID badge, and mall security is quick to jump on you if you’re not wearing yours. I didn’t see any riding around on Segways, but I saw quite a few with bomb/drug sniffing dogs. It’s impossible not to see them strutting around without thinking of Paul Blart. I know what you’re wondering, and yes, there is a Hot Topic, Claire’s, and Orange Julius. It wouldn’t be a mall without those staple stores.
One weird thing about the Mall of America is that it’s dominated by Pepsi. Every single restaurant is required to sell Pepsi products, even McDonald’s which is traditionally Coca-Cola. It’s pretty terrible. Even the roller coasters have giant ads for Pepsi on the backs of the cars. I only found two stores in the entire mall that sold Coke in plastic bottles. Oh yeah, and don’t forget that they don’t call it soda there, it’s pop. It’s very 1950s. Quaint is the word for it.
While we are on the topic of drinks, it’s also important to note that Minnesota is one of those weird states that doesn’t sell alcohol on Sundays. And liquor stores close super early, like 9:00 or 10:00 p.m., so you have to start preparing for football by Saturday night. I went to a few bars in the mall and they are really strict about kicking people out at closing time. As soon as 2:00 a.m. hits you have to put your drink down and get out or feel the wrath of the mall cops. They have a lot of microbreweries in Minnesota, but none of them are amazing. Craft beer is just so much better in Colorado, Oregon, and California. The West Coast really dominates quality craft beers. I’m not being biased; I’m just being honest.
I didn’t just stay around the Mall of America. I also ventured into Minneapolis a few times. I went uptown, I went downtown, I went to Minnehaha Falls, and I even managed to go to a Twins game (spoiler alert: they lost spectacularly). All I can say about the Twins is that they have an awesome stadium and lousy fans. A lot of them were wearing jerseys, but all the jerseys were of Joe Mauer, as if he was the only Twins player worth mentioning. I didn’t see anybody rocking jerseys of any other active players and I also didn’t see any Killebrew or Puckett jerseys. It’s like they don’t know or don’t appreciate the rich history of their team. And they also did the wave. Real fans don’t do the wave. That’s amateur shit right there. Keep that stuff in LA Stadium with all the other fair weather fans.
They are called the Twins because they are from Minneapolis, which is one of the famous Twin Cities along with St. Paul. People from St. Paul make fun of people from Minneapolis and people from Minneapolis make fun of people from St. Paul. They have a friendly rivalry and each consider the other to be a fake city. In reality they are both fake cities because their nightlife is a joke. The streets will be busy and active around 10:30 p.m., you’ll stop in a bar for a drink or two, and the streets will be deserted when you leave an hour later. It turns into a ghost town after 11:00. It’s eerie.
The people in Minnesota are really nice. Almost annoyingly so. There’s a joke that the state is abbreviated as MN because they are Minnesota Nice. It’s corny but it’s true. The people are genuine and real and have a great work ethic. They go out of their way to help you out and they treat tourists as if they were guests in their own home. They all have diabetes for some reason. Some of them have noticeable accents, but they aren’t as embellished as the ones you hear on TV and in the movies.
Weather-wise, it was muggy and humid most of the time. It was usually around seventy-five Fahrenheit during the day and sixty-five or so at night. It rained a lot, but the downpour would only last for a few minutes. I saw a couple of lightening storms, something you don’t see too often back home in San Francisco. This was the peak of August so I got to experience a Minnesota summer. It was quite enjoyable. Winter is a different beast though. I’m not sure I can handle all the snow.
Minnesota was cool. At least the parts that I experienced were cool. But I basically lived in the mall and that became a little too much after three weeks. I don’t ever want to step foot in a mall again. Mall of America is worth checking out if you’re ever in Minnesota, but it doesn’t need to be on your bucket list. One thing I regret was not getting the chance to go to the Minnesota State Fair, which is the biggest event of the year. I heard stories of pigs, cows, all sorts of meat on a stick, buckets of cookies, and butter sculptures of beauty queens. At least that gives me an excuse to go back. I never planned on going to Minnesota nor did I ever want to, but I would definitely go back to visit again. I met some amazing people and did some amazing things (like finally going to White Castle), and there still so many things left to see and experience.
Critically Rated at 14/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young