Anyone seeking a â€œWow!â€ and weatherproof vacation can find it with Nickelodeon Universe, the worldâ€™s biggest indoor amusement park and centerpiece of Minnesotaâ€™s Mall of America. At least 27 Nickelodeon Universe rides keep a family busy throughout the day, with unlimited ride wristbands or as a short diversion for kids who only need one or two rides before a naptime meltdown or as a break from teen power shopping. The seven-acre parkâ€”filled with the familiar characters from the Nickelodeon Channelâ€”nestles in the middle of more than 525 stores, and two hotels attached to the Mall.
Generous skylights, 400 trees as tall as 35 feet and more than 30,000 plants give it an outdoorsy feel outdoorsy while maintaining comfortable temperatures that are especially welcome during winterâ€™s polar plunges and summerâ€™s stickiest days.
Adults and older kids seeking the big dare should head straight to the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge, where the car heads up such a steep climb, it feels like it tips backwards before cresting the curve and dropping down an almost 90-degree track before looping and twisting through the rest of the ride.
For one of the coolest ways to see the entire park, grab a spot on the Pepsi Orange Streak. Itâ€™s mellow enough for families who typically shy away from thrill coasters and it even swoops into the log chute cave.
For a coaster ride thatâ€™s always a different experience, try the four-seat spinning cars that follow the hairpin turns and spirals of the mousetrap-style Fairy Oddparentsâ€™ Fairly Odd Coaster.
For families who yearn to be stirred up, swung around and spun, there are several Nickelodeon Universe rides to test stomachs and tolerance and the need to get dizzy. The newest one, Shredderâ€™s Mutant Masher near the east entrance, starts like a giant mixer and progresses to a pendulum thatâ€™s gone berserk as it whips its riders back and forth.
The Avatar Airbender swings spinning cars of riders back and forth and almost vertical on a U-shaped track that stretches toward the skylights.
Riders can control how much they spin (and whether itâ€™s backwards or forwards) while circling around Jimmy Neutronâ€™s Brain Surge.
There are about a dozen gentler rides for toddlers and preschoolers, who need to be at least 36 or 39 inches tall. They include Backyardigan Swing-Along, a merry-go-round, Big Rigs trucks, a kiddie coaster, bumper cars, Pineapple Poppers jumping pillows (wear socks) and more. Keep a camera handy for a ride on the El Circulo Del Cielo Ferris wheel with great views of the park.
Games and Arcades
For kids who like to rack up points and prizes, head to the Ghost Blasters ride or the arcade with plenty of video games and carnival-style games.
Light Shows, Dance Parties and Characters
The park hosts the Universe of Light, a light and music show with smoke and other special effects, most evenings. Hours vary by season and day of the week, but typically, it runs at 7:30 p.m. and again at 9:30 or 10 p.m. Families who crave a dance party can groove from 7 to 10 p.m. Fridays during Rock and Ride. A disc jockey keeps the music going near the parkâ€™s south entrance near LEGO and the Hard Rock CafÃ©.
Younger kids may also want to meet Nickelodeon characters from Dora and Diego to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles who wander the park. Check the park website for schedules and go to www.mallofamerica.com/events for seasonal events.
Dutchmanâ€™s Deck Adventure Course
Theyâ€™re not included in the unlimited ride wristband for Nickelodeon Universe, but you can pay extra for the Dutchmanâ€™s Deck Adventure Course. It comprises the highest multiple-level Sky Trail ropes course thatâ€™s almost 60 feet above the park. It includes a corkscrew slide from the top of the course and the Barnacle Blast zip-line, the longest indoor zip-line in North America. Zip-liners strap in at 55 feet above the park before whirring across the length of it.
FlyOver America, the Mallâ€™s newest ride will feel familiar to anyone whoâ€™s been on Soarinâ€™ at Disneyâ€™s EPCOT. This 4D virtual experience takes riders across Americaâ€™s forests, parks and landmarks and should be open by spring 2016.
If you have little children and the option to travel mid-week, donâ€™t miss Toddler Tuesdays during the school year. Besides daytime entertainment or crafts, itâ€™s also a quieter, less overwhelming time to visit with additional specials offered by nearby restaurants and shops.
If you really want to amp up the cool factor, sync a visit to Blackout weekends before Halloween when Nickelodeon Universe turns on the black lights in the evening and make everyone wearing white glow in the dark for fun special effects. It all leads up to Halloween when families put on their favorite vampire, Star Wars or action-hero capes to join whatâ€™s considered the worldâ€™s largest indoor trick-or-treat event.
Nickelodeon Universe Coupons
Purchase a Mall of America Entertainment Pass to save up to $12 on your visit to Nickelodeon Universe. The pass also includes admission to SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. Participating Subway locations also offer Nickelodeon Universe discounts (up to $10), and military discounts are available.
Looking for accommodations? Check out Mall of America Hotels.
You can find food stands such as Grub (pizzas, Icees, Dippinâ€™ Dots, near the west entrance), Caribou Coffee (near the south entrance) and Sweet Treats by the east entrance for quick snacks. Thereâ€™s also a Hard Rock CafÃ© at the South Entrance.