REI, Mall of America & Nickelodeon Universe
Cass Lake, MN
This is the first time we've taken our kids to the Mall of America since the boys were young...the girls don't remember ever even going. Now the boys are 20 & 18, and the girls are 14 & 12. We told them in the car yesterday what we were planning, and they were all very excited...some for the shopping, some for the rides, or both. We decided that going for the all-day unlimited ride wristbands made the most sense, as we didn't know how many rides the kids would want to do, and didn't want to feel like we had to count points, and limit rides, etc. The wristbands are $29.95, but we saved $4 per ticket by ordering them ahead online. In retrospect, the wristbands were definitely worth it for everyone except Jared (20), who wasn't much into the rides, and preferred shopping. The younger ones loved the amusement park, and took in several rides 4 or 5 times, as the lines were so short (even on the 4th of July weekend!).
Before we hit the MoA, we made a quick (1 hour) stop at REI. This was a store we had passed on the interstate the night before and the huge rock-climbing wall behind glass had caught our eye. When Jared saw it was an REI store (everything you can imagine for outdoor sports, including rock-climbing), he insisted that we go! We weren't sure we wanted to give up our MoA time for this, but quickly all found the store to be an absolute adventure in itself. We left with several pairs of shoes and a backpack from their "scratch & dent" area, and some climbing gear for Jared (as well as an REI membership, of course!).
The Mall of America proved to be as overwhelming as everything we'd read. We left without even seeing about 50% of the mall. The other 50% we quickly ran through, hitting the high points like American Girl and Lego. We also made it to some clothing stores so we could save sales tax and get a few necessary items. We finally pulled ourselved away by about 6:50. With one quick supper stop at Culvers, we made it to our final destination, Birch Villa Resort in Cass Lake, at 11:20 p.m. Our total travel time was 18 hours (not including the MoA), including our meal stops with grandparents, car-drop, supper stop, and gas stop. Definitely not our fastest trip to Minnesota, but lots of fun along the way!
When we arrived at Birch Villa, we were happy to see the lodge was still open so we could check in and meet the new owners, Tony and Sabrina. They seemed very friendly and welcoming. Although we are sad that the Nelsons are no longer here at Birch Villa, we are looking forward to getting to know the new owners.