This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream
I traveled with my three kids to Mall of America near Minneapolis last month (see Part 1 and Part 2 of the trip report). We spent the first day and a half of our visit shopping at toy stores, meeting characters and riding rides at Nickelodeon Universe. I had a few more things in store for our last day at the mall.
As soon as the mall opened, we headed to the Crayola Experience on the third floor. Before we left for our trip, I debated on whether or not to spend the money on this attraction because I wasn’t sure if my kids would enjoy it. It costs $19.99 at the door to enter (or $15.99 online). Because there are only three of these Crayola Experience attractions in the country, I decided to just go for it and buy tickets online prior to our trip. This location only opened up a few weeks before our visit.
When we entered, each of us received two tokens. One token was for the “Wrap it Up” station, where you pick a crayon color and customize the label with words and a symbol. The other token was for the “Modeling Madness” station, where you pick a color of modeling clay to build a creation. There were also token machines available in case you wanted to do more than one of each.
This is my daughter’s crayon creation:
Towards the beginning of the attraction, there were photo booths we used to create custom coloring pages. My kids used these over and over again for different poses and backgrounds.
We hadn’t been there too long when there was an announcement that a show was about to start in the theater. When we entered the theater, there were old Crayola commercials from the ‘70s and ‘80s playing. Soon, an employee entered and explained the process of making crayons. He did a live demonstration, and everyone got to keep a crayon made from the session.
If you are familiar with the Legoland Discovery Center locations in malls across the US, the Crayola Experience reminded me a lot of those. However, I think the Crayola Experience had more to do and incorporated more technology than the Legoland centers. There were over 20 stations or areas with activities, and we did them all during our visit.
In the “You Design” area, kids could pick a car or clothing to color and customize. After we scanned the design, we would wait to see it appear on the big screens.
Another favorite section for my kids was the “Drip Art” area. These machines melted crayons, and you could choose the speed of spinning to create your own art keepsake.
My daughter spent a lot of time in the “Scribble Square” section. You could draw on the floor, objects and the walls with chalk or markers.
There were really too many crafts and stations to mention in this trip report. My kids enjoyed melting crayons into molds (rings and cars), coloring pictures and using a machine to cut them into jigsaw puzzles, watching their paper dinosaurs dance to music with magnets and playing in a virtual rainbow rain. And I can’t forget to mention the two playgrounds—one for toddlers and one for older kids.
In total, we spent between five and six hours at the Crayola Experience. We started in the morning when there were a lot of school groups, but then we left for lunch and to see some other things. We returned in the afternoon when all the school groups were gone. It was much easier to enjoy each station with less crowds.
This was a much slower-paced activity compared to Nickelodeon Universe, but my kids still enjoyed it very much. We took home several “free” souvenirs that the kids made at various stations. I recommend the attraction for kids ages 4-10, as younger kids would have trouble doing some of the crafts and using the technology without a lot of help.
My oldest is 12, and he was a good sport about it, but I think he’s almost out of the target age. There is also a location in Orlando, and since it’s all indoors it would make a great destination for a day off from the parks.
The Amazing Mirror Maze
Participants are asked to wear gloves (which they provide) to keep the mirrors clean and walk with our hands in front of us so we don’t get injured or break the mirrors. It was really hard to tell what was real and what was a reflection. The maze wasn’t super long, but we could re-enter as many times as we wanted during the same visit.
We went through at least four or five times. It was such a fun attraction and a nice change of pace from the Crayola Experience. Definitely check it out if you are at MOA, but look on Groupon for savings.
While we didn’t have a lot of time to do some serious shopping, there are a few stores at MOA worth mentioning. There is a giant Lego store on the bottom level near Nickelodeon Universe. You can’t miss it. Even if you have a Lego store nearby, each store has their own unique Lego creations on display. This store had a Lego play area in front.
Another one that is hard to miss is the Peeps store. Yes, those awful marshmallow bunnies and chicks. Apparently, they are sold year-round. However, this was more like a candy store with novelty gifts. I used an online coupon for 20% off a purchase and also got a ¼ of free bulk candy from this local coupon site.
What we didn’t do at MOA
We didn’t go to the SeaLife Aquarium. We have been to the ones in San Diego and Dallas, and I didn’t think this one would be different enough to warrant the expense and time. If you have never been to one, it’s worth checking out.
We also didn’t go to the Waterpark of America, a huge waterpark connected to the Radisson Hotel. It looks similar to Great Wolf Lodge, except they do have day passes available so you don’t have to stay at the hotel. We didn’t get to it on this trip due to our time constraints and my uneasiness with taking the kids there without my husband.
I like to watch my kids like a hawk around water, and with three of them and one of me I didn’t feel safe at a waterpark. This would be a great attraction in the winter if we return with my husband.
The Mall of America was a fun destination, and there are a lot of opportunities to use hotel points to stay nearby. You don’t even need to rent a car, as most hotels have an airport shuttle and a MOA shuttle. There are plenty of things to do at MOA, and even more things to do in Minneapolis by using the light rail public transportation.
Check for coupons and discounts on attractions and restaurants before you leave, as we used several during our trip. I’m glad we went, and I hope we can experience it again in the future. Next time, we will chose a different hotel and check out the waterpark!
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