Bloomington, Minnesota is famously home to the country’s largest enclosed shopping center, Mall of America. But beyond the countless shopping opportunities and lively theme parks, Bloomington is also a hub of culture, recreation, and abundant natural beauty.
If you’re planning to visit Bloomington soon, there are plenty of things you can add to your bucket list to make the stay unforgettable. In this blog, we’ll guide you through some of the top attractions and destinations in the city.
ALL ABOUT BLOOMINGTON, MN
Bloomington is part of Hennepin County, Minnesota. It has an estimated population of 89,298 and spans about 38.39 square miles. It sits above the confluence of the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers, along the former’s north bank.
About 3.70 square miles of city limits is composed of water, which includes Long Meadow Lake, Marsh Lake, Penn Lake, Nine Mile Creek, and roughly 100 small wetlands and ponds.
How to get to Bloomington, MN
Bloomington is an excellent city to explore if you’re looking for a place that’s both accessible and exciting. From the Twin Cities (Minneapolis–St. Paul), Bloomington is only about an 18-20 minute drive.
If you’re flying in, the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport is only roughly 11-15 minutes away by car. From there, you can get to Bloomington through the I-494 or MN-62 and I-35.
THINGS TO DO AND PLACES TO SEE IN BLOOMINGTON, MN
10400 Morgan Ave South, Bloomington
Moir Central Park is a lovely spot for family-friendly adventures. Every summer there is a Monday Morning Kids Series taking place from June to August, where children can enjoy live entertainment including magic shows, music performances, and storytelling sessions. For kids who want to explore the outdoors, there are various short trails and a free disc golf course.
9740 Grand Avenue, Bloomington
The Works Museum is an interactive museum for children focusing on science, technology, and engineering. Dubbed a “curiosity center” for young minds, the museum allows children ages 4-10 to explore topics such as coding, robotics, and carpentry in an engaging and approachable way. Their Summer Camp, geared towards children ages 5-12, offers half-day, whole-day, and 4-day programs, with prices ranging from $110 to $250.
201 West 90th St, Bloomington
The Bloomington Family Aquatic Center features a zero-entry pool, a water climbing wall, and waterslides. Children ages 6 and below can practice swimming during Tot Time Open Swim hours.
Events and festivals
Normandale Lake Park, 84th Street and Chalet Road, Bloomington, MN
Bloomington Summer Fete is the season’s much-anticipated festival for families and young adults, famous for its culminating fireworks show that is considered one of the grandest in Minnesota.
Part of the Arts in the Parks series, this yearly tradition offers kid-friendly entertainment at the 84th Street Kids Stage. A diverse selection of food enhances the experience – expect festival staples like cotton candy and donuts, as well as philly cheesesteaks, Afro-Italian cuisine, and Tibetan dumplings.
Valley View Playfields, 90th Street and Portland Avenue, Bloomington, MN
At the Kites and Bites Festival (formerly the Annual Kite Day Family Festival), children and parents alike can delight in balmy summer weather and delicious food at the scenic Valley View Playfields.
Kids ages 18 and below will be receiving their own kite free of charge while supplies last. Aside from kite-flying fun, there’s also interactive live music courtesy of local children’s entertainers KidsDance.
Minneapolis Convention Center, 1301 2nd Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN
Minnesota Craft Beer Festival is one of the state’s largest festivals dedicated to craft beer. Committed to providing an authentic taproom experience, the event introduces over 100 breweries and more than 400 different flavors of craft beer.
Participating vendors are required to bring at least one limited-release beer or taproom beer, allowing attendees to experience new and inventive brews prepared through unique methods.
Past participants have included both small-scale and established brewers, which include:
60 East Broadway, Bloomington
Mall of America is the largest enclosed shopping center in the Western Hemisphere and the 11th biggest mall in the world.
Located just across the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, the expansive mall hosts nearly 500 stores. Their wide selection ranges from major retailers to luxury brands and chain restaurants.
It’s also home to the first indoor amusement park in America, the Nickelodeon Universe. The theme park encompasses 8.5 sweeping acres, featuring more than 35 rides and attractions centered around beloved Nickelodeon television shows and characters. Its most unique experiences are the Nickelodeon Slime Stage and the Shellraiser, a roller coaster with a stomach-turning 122-foot drop.
Nearly 40 million people come here each year. It’s accessible to various areas outside of Minnesota, including Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, and Ohio. If you’re planning an extended stay, there is a bevy of hotels right around the corner, including Radisson Blu Mall of America, Hampton Inn & Suites, and Courtyard by Marriott Bloomington.
Other nearby shopping centers in Bloomington include:
- Clover Shopping Center, a strip mall on Lyndale Avenue
- Galleria Shopping Center in Edina, MN
- Twin Cities Premium Outlets in Eagan, MN
If you’re planning a trip that’s focused on the great outdoors, you can’t go wrong with Bloomington. A trove of hiking trails, scenic hills, and lush gardens await adventurous visitors. The city is also home to nearly 500 bodies of water. Here are some of the top places to visit:
3815 American Blvd East, Bloomington
From its picturesque hiking trails to colorful wildlife, the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge is one of the region’s most stunning natural wonders.
Located a mere six miles from the Bloomington city proper, the 14,000-acre refuge extends across multiple communities in Minnesota. It houses a variety of natural habitats, including wetlands, woodlands, and prairies. Its principal goal is to connect nature and community through education, recreation, and conservation.
One of two visitor centers is located in Bloomington and is open Tuesdays to Sundays from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Here’s a glimpse into the exciting outdoor activities available:
- HIKING. The refuge is home to over 45 miles of hiking and biking trails, each varying in difficulty and length. In the summer, visitors can enjoy warm weather and challenging hikes, while snowshoeing and cross-country skiing are the main activities in wintertime.
- Bass Ponds Trail is located in Long Meadow Lake Unit, Bloomington, formerly a fish hatchery. Today, it’s a hub for birdwatchers, with as many as 250 species of birds visiting every year. The natural terrain runs 0.85 miles long. It’s also kid-friendly and dog-friendly.
- Bluff Trail begins at the Old Cedar Avenue Trailhead and is open year-round. The 4.77-mile path is an excellent spot for observing wildlife. It features hills, springs, and wetlands. Snowshoeing is permitted during winter months.
- River Bottoms Trail starts near the Bloomington Ferry and continues for 8.68 miles. The out-and-back trail closely follows the Minnesota River and winds through lush woodlands. Although there is not much wildlife to be spotted here, the trail has amazing views of the local scenery. It’s excellent for biking, cross-country skiing, and snowshoeing.
- Old Cedar Avenue Bridge, Long Meadow Lake, and Bluff Trail are best visited from March to October. The entire trail spans 7 miles and takes approximately 2.5 hours to finish, depending on your pace. The terrain is mostly flat with minor elevation changes, and certain parts pass through hardwood forests.
- FISHING. A favorite among anglers, the Refuge provides opportunities to catch the wide variety of fish within its many ponds, lakes, and streams. Ice fishing is also allowed during the winter, except in Black Dog Lake. Among the public fishing docks and piers in the Refuge are:
- Bass Ponds, Hogback Pond, and Long Meadow Lake. Common catches are sunfish, northern pike, bullhead, catfish, carp, and largemouth bass.
- Old Cedar Avenue. Here, you’ll find lots of sunfish, largemouth and smallmouth bass, northern pike, catfish, crappie, and carp.
Do note that bowfishing, or using any sort of archery equipment to kill and catch fish, is strictly prohibited.
10145 Bush Lake Road, Bloomington
The Hyland Lake Park Reserve is a 1,000-acre natural facility featuring prairies, marshland, and lush oak forests. It’s part of the Three Rivers Park District and includes the Hyland Hills Ski Area and the Richardson Nature Center. An 18-hole and 3-hole disc golf course can also be found here.
Here’s a look at the available facilities:
- Skiers, snowboarders, and riders of all levels are up for a challenge at the Hyland Hills Ski Area, notable for its unique downhill features and some of the finest snowmaking in the region. A full-service chalet is available from April through October, providing scenic views of the rolling hills below. This beautiful venue is a common site for weddings and special events.
- The Richardson Nature Center provides opportunities for guests of all ages to connect with nature and wildlife. Among its exciting programs include Forest Free Play, Meet the Reptiles, Meet the Amphibians, Pond Exploration, Family Canoeing & Wildlife watching, and so much more.
Inside the Nature Center are floor-to-ceiling windows with direct views of the outdoors, clay sculptures and mosaics, and an amphitheater.
Outside lies a designated interpretive area brimming with scenic hiking trails, unique natural habitats, and wild animals such as deer, coyote, turkey, and fox. Children are encouraged to play, explore, and interact with nature with the guidance of an instructor, allowing them to create their own connection with the environment through climbing, digging, or simply observing.
9700 France Avenue South, Normandale Community College, Bloomington
Nestled within the brick buildings of Normandale Community College is the Japanese Garden, a two-acre oasis established nearly 50 years ago by the Bloomington Affiliated Garden Clubs. With chief architect Takao Watanabe at the helm, the garden brings together traditional Japanese features such as zigzag bridges, waterfalls, and a small-scale replica of a Benten-dō shrine. The serene atmosphere, sound of birds, and the colorful year-round blooms allow visitors to step into faraway lands without leaving the heart of Bloomington.
Due to the cold winters in Minnesota, the gardeners and the architect opted for native plants that could withstand extreme temperatures. The Japanese Garden houses over 300 trees and shrubs, including a type of cherry blossom created specifically for the garden. You’ll also find schools of koi passing through the streams, ponds, and lakes.
There are three small islands on the main pond: Benten-dō island, Turtle Island, and Crane Island, each one accessible through a long bridge. Benten-dō Island is where you’ll find the small shrine dedicated to Benten, a Japanese god of luck and patron wisdom, literature, wealth, and femininity.
Other natural attractions near Bloomington, MN:
- Minnehaha Regional Park, Minneapolis (15 minutes by car)
- Cedar Lake Park, Minneapolis (19 minutes)
- Theodore Wirth Regional Park, Minneapolis (16 minutes)
- St. Anthony Falls Park and Nicollet Island, Minneapolis (15 minutes)
- La Michoacana Purepecha is one of the top dining spots in Mall of America. The Mexican restaurant serves a great selection of sweets like agua frescas, paletas mexicanas, and exclusive yogurts, as well as savory bites.
- Cantina Laredo is another gem within the expansive mall, located at West Market on Level 3. Their must-tries include a rich guacamole, flavor-dense tamales, and delicious relleno de camarones. They also have a full bar.
- Margaritaville brings the tropics to the Midwest with traditional Gulf Coast cuisine. It offers a delectable combination of fresh seafood, Caribbean influences, and traditional American fare.
- Naf Naf Grill serves traditional Middle Eastern cuisine with a twist – almost everything here is dairy-free, from baklavas to falafel and shawarma. Plus, you get to make your own bowl or pita. They also have an allergen guide ready for guests who may need it.
- Mandarin Kitchen on Lyndale Avenue is considered one of the best places to eat Chinese food, and the long line during weekends proves this. The bustling eatery offers traditional dim sum brunches, rich cream cheese wontons, and filling egg foo young among other dishes.
- Toppers Pizza serves delicious, affordable, hand-tossed pizza in a variety of toppings and doughs. Their inclusive Plant-Powered Menu offers vegan and vegetarian options, including oven-roasted Beyond Meat chicken tenders and a Vegan Buffalo Chicken-less pizza.
- Dosa South Indian Grill boasts an outstanding menu of South Indian favorites. Their namesake dosa is the most popular choice and is served with spicy tomato chutney and sambar. Equally noteworthy are their tandoori breads, papdi chaat, and masala idli.
- Lucky 13’s Pub serves a robust menu of drinks, including Lucky’s Infamous Bloody Mary. They also offer a wide selection of beers, cocktails, wine, and alcohol-free beverages. This pub is one of the most popular spots in the city, so be sure to make a reservation ahead of time.
- Full Tilt Tavern is a food and sports bar offering delicious bites, unique craft cocktails, and an assortment of wines and spirits. The bar is known for its hospitality and vibrant atmosphere, making it the top choice for live sports viewings and social gatherings.
- Urbana Craeft Kitchen is a Scandinavian-inspired restaurant and bar at the Hyatt Regency Hotel. Its cozy ambiance makes it a favorite for brunch or breakfast, and at night, it’s a magnificent place to unwind. Elevating the experience is an ice bar serving an array of drinks, from craft beers to specialty cocktails and premium wines.
- Parlour Bar is considered one of the best bars in the Twin Cities, located only 19 minutes from Bloomington. Famed for their mouthwatering Parlour Burger, the bar serves everything from classic cocktails to creative drinks that feature house-made syrups and artisanal spirits.
DISCOVER BLOOMINGTON, MN WITH SCOTT HAUBRICH
Living in Bloomington, MN gives you access to incredible natural attractions, family-friendly activities, and an outstanding food scene. If you’re thinking about relocating here, get in touch with Scott Haubrich and the team at BuyRentSell.com. Call us at 612.298.5400 or send an email here.