Mall of America Radisson Blu Welcomes Families

Mall of America Radisson Blu Welcomes Families pin


Any family looking for unique locations around the United States should stop by the Mall of America in Minneapolis. For those looking for a place to stay while touring this famous Mall, the Radisson Blu Hotel is a great option featuring innovative design. Travelers will find this hotel, boasting 500 rooms, on 2100 Killebrew Drive in Bloomington, Minnesota.

Mall of America Radisson Blu's Welcome to Families lobby


What Makes it Family Worthy?

The hotel was not only a short drive away from the nearby airport, but close to the light rail station. Families will enjoy its proximity to the world-famous Mall of America with all its attractions including the Nickelodeon theme park.

Mall of America Radisson Blu Welcomes Families street

Fellow Travelers

Families and business people make up the largest percentage of those staying here, but there are also plenty of couples that select this hotel as their accommodation of choice.


This particular Radisson Blu had a sleek, modern appearance that we found attractive. We noted various shades of blues, reds, and blacks commonly used as accent colors throughout the hotel. These hues provided a refreshing contrast to the more traditional neutral colors that one would expect to find in a top hotel.

Mall of America Radisson Blu's Welcome to Families


Something our family, particularly our son with autism, loved and wanted to take home were the hanging cocoon-like seats in the lobby. These comfortable wicker style seats “suspended” from the ceiling were very inviting and kids often lined up to get to sit in them.

Mall of America Radisson Blu's Welcome to Families seat

Our Room

We stayed in room 1234, a number we found easy to remember. Our suite had bright orange and red accent pieces as well as framed artwork and a white carpet that was patterned with dark squares. The room’s other furnishings included black metal and lightly colored wood. Meanwhile, our personal bathroom area was decorated primarily in white with silver gleaming fixtures along dark wooden accents.

We noted the two sizable closets located near the entry door, the perfect place to store our various belongings. These spaces contained an ironing board, iron, robes, slippers, and wooden hangers for travelers to use. There were also plenty of pull-out shelving units in the closet, which proved to be quite beneficial in helping us keep everything organized. We likewise saw a full sized mirror included near the entryway that helped us quickly check our outfits before departing the room.

Mall of America Radisson Blu's Welcome to Families bed

Upon entering the main area of the room, there was a small area that contained a safe, coffee percolator and a mini fridge. It made for a good stopping point to sip hot drinks before departing for the day’s events.

Our incredibly comfortable beds faced a 40-inch flat screen TV. There were also four nightlights provided, one for each side of the double occupancy beds. Meanwhile, the desk and sitting areas contained the usual accouterments such as a chair, and a lamp. The room had several outlets so that travelers would have no trouble charging their electronic devices. A comfortable chair and an accompanying small table rounded out the furnishings of the room.

Mall of America Radisson Blu Welcomes Families room

A feature that we would have loved to have copied for our own home was the luggage rack tucked under the TV that guests could pull out when necessary. This rack was yet another example of the intelligent design the hotel designers had thought of!

Our Bathroom

The bathroom contained relatively standard features that included a commode and combination bath/shower with a rain shower head. The standard bath products were provided along with extras such as mouthwash, lotion, and a vanity kit. We also saw two racks, both filled with fluffy towels.

Mall of America Radisson Blu's Welcome to Families kit


Guests seeking fine dining later in the day could head over to Firelake Grill House where they could dine on farm-to-table Midwestern meals created by Chef Jim Kyndberg.  We had a delectable dinner and enjoyed watching the cooks prepare the dinner in the open kitchen area.

Mall of America Radisson Blu Welcomes Families chicken

Executive Lounge

The hotel graciously upgraded us to the Executive Lounge which we found a calming space to relax after a day of touring. The lounge offered a filling breakfast with the typical American fare. This breakfast included eggs, sausages, and pancakes, along with cut up fruit and oatmeal. For the Happy Hour, the lounge offered a choice of local wines and sodas along with a selection of cheeses and dips. Two hot appetizers completed the evening selection.


Guests could only access the floor that their room was on, as they had to swipe their room key in the elevator slot. We saw this as an excellent security feature.
Active travelers would be delighted to know that the hotel featured an Olympic sized indoor pool along with a well-stocked gym open all day every day.

Mall of America Radisson Blu Welcomes Families pool

Complimentary parking was available at this hotel. However, the property also offered a free airport shuttle service for those who needed it.
Of course, all the rooms at the Radisson Blu featured complimentary Wi-Fi, a much-appreciated amenity.
Families with picky eaters could venture via a connecting corridor to the nearby mall and dine in the plethora of restaurants and food venues available.

Mall of America Radisson Blu Welcomes Families dining


Autism Travel Tips:

  • There is a safety handle in the tub area. This handle makes it easy for those with mobility issues to enter and exit the bath.
  • No bath mat was provided in the bathrooms, so travelers will need to bring their own along with them.
  • Kids interested in culinary arts would most likely have a keen interest in watching their dinner being cooked in Firelake Grill House.
  • We thought that the option to order food from the Firelake Grill House via room service for guests that didn’t want to deal with the noises or crowds was an excellent idea.


Disclosure: We were accommodated by the Radisson Blu Mall of America for the purpose of providing this review. However, our views are and always will be our own and cannot be influenced in any way.

Barbie Dream House Experience at Mall of America

bar pinStudies show that those of us who grew up playing make-believe with action figures and miniaturized accessories are at a huge advantage. Apparently, using our imaginations and spending time in a fantasy land does wonders for the developing brain and sets us in good standing for the future. As adults, we simply don’t get the time or occasion, but if an opportunity presents itself, then you should grab it with both hands.

Barbie Dream House Experience at Mall of America shoe

Barbie Dream House

One of the things I love best about the Mall of America is, funny enough, not the shopping, but the activities it offers. The month we visited there were three concurrent exhibits that we were able to tour. One of these exhibits was the Barbie Dream House Experience.

I was somewhat of a Barbie doll collector in my youth, so I jumped at the opportunity to see the exhibit. Originally started in Berlin back in 2011, the Barbie Experience in the barbie2

I admit my disappointment as I assumed visitors would get to see all the 300 collectible dolls and costumes I remembered from my childhood. This exhibit, however, is geared towards the younger generation. It is heavily based on the TV show that became popular in the 90’s and follows storylines I am completely unfamiliar with – like the horse in the living room and dolphin in the toilet.barbie3


The exhibit is compiled of several interactive fun areas and provides visitors with many chances to take selfies incorporating the different props. To start the tour, you arrive in the kitchen after riding in the large elevator. There you are greeted by none other than Barbie herself. You get to bake a virtual cupcake on touchscreen pads. The kitchen is replete with drawers to pull and buttons to press and gifts from Ken. Here, some of Barbie’s old-fashioned 50’s roots show with the idea that to make your wife happy you bought her the latest mixer.barbie4

Inside the House

Following another photo-op after a brief stint in Barbie’s blue freezer (one of two places in the entire house deviating from the standard pink) you enter Barbie’s living room. The living room features a comfy sectional, fireplace, dog-house, cat-house and the horse peeking in the window. Next, you tour the Doll’s bedroom, covered in fun postcards featuring fashion drawings and Barbie’s travels. You then move on to bathroom, fitted with cosmetics, towels and the dolphin peeking out of the toilet. The bathroom is the only other room in the house that isn’t pink.

Outside the House

Next, you step onto the patio with a pink BBQ (one of two ever made in pink by Weber), a chaise lounge and a skyline that changes from daylight to night time every few minutes! Other special effects include seagulls crying and views of a sandcastle on the beach. The screen lights up at night, and you can hear the crickets from the bedroom.barbie5

From here on, the exhibit stops being a regular house tour and becomes more of a fun playground for the younger fans. Here you’ll find a walk through the icon’s closet (you can try on clothes virtually by standing in front of a mirror), a place where you can dress up and have your makeup done, a runway to practice your modeling skills and a karaoke station.

Career Room

In sharp contrast to the homey kitchen, Barbie’s home also has a professional room detailing the different careers she has had over the years. What a busy gal she’s been! You’ll also see the giant “friendship” ring under which some people have chosen to propose. I found it a charming addition but felt it sent a mixed message that you can find happiness in a relationship over a career.barbie6

The exhibit is a heavenly playground for imaginative young kids, with a table for coloring, costumes for playing dress up, and a stage for performing. Overall, the exhibit provides a fun experience for the younger generation, although Barbie’s message of ‘having it all’ is a bit muddied at times.

Entertaining Children with Autism in the Mall of America


Guest post by  Denise Klipsic Ochsendorf

As mentioned in my previous post, a visit to the Great Mall of America can offer your  kids with autism a fun filled day trip when carefully planned.
Here are my tips for shopping, entertainment, dining and quiet areas if your kid gets overwhelmed.

Entertaining your kid with autism in the mall of america HALL

 Shopping in the Mall of America

Now, I don’t know too many children with autism or not that make this their primary reason for the visit to the mall, but I do know plenty of parents who do!
So, if shopping is on your agenda, I recommend one of two options: Planned Map or Spontaneous Circle.

The Planned Map Option is for those visitors who have specific stores they want to visit.
This option will minimize stress and let your kids know where you are going ahead of time.
Print out the current mall map from their website and highlight the stores you want to visit.
Have the map with you during your visits and travel to each store in order of their location.
Be sure to mark the elevators you want to use, so you do not have to spend time looking for ways to get up and down.

The Spontaneous Circle Option is for those visitors who don’t have specific stores they HAVE to visit but are here to shop in general.In this option, shoppers just start out on the main level going in one direction and go up one floor each time you complete the circle. This option is one we use a lot.
It is more casual and allows for deviations if our children become anxious or irritated.

Each shop is uniquely designed and pose different obstacles for families with kids with autism.
We find just maneuvering the stroller around difficult, let alone those hands that like to touch everything.The good news, if you are not shopping alone, the mall has plenty of benches in the main corridors that kids can wait with others while you check out a shop or two.

Our Kids’ Favorite Shops: Discovery Store, Lindor’s Truffle shop (Ask for a free sample), the Disney Store and the Lego Store.
Entertaining your child with Autism in the Mall of America AQUARIUM


Entertainment options for your kid with autism in the Mall

There are plenty of things to entertain your kids at the mall!
There is the American Girl Experience, the movie theater, Sea Life Minnesota Aquarium (formerly Underwater World),  exhibit center, theater mirror maze, mini-golf, Build-a-Bear Workshop, theater, Lego store and the big one: Nickelodeon Universe.
There are also other small events, like Santa’s workshop during holidays.

Tips for Nickelodeon Universe

  • My recommendation for Nickelodeon Universe is to go early if you can, but if you can’t, get comfortable with the park layout and leave the park if your child becomes agitated.
  • There is no fee to enter the park, so this makes it easy to come and go as needed,  as Nickelodeon Universe is full of lights, sounds, smells and people.
  • The park itself is not big and is located in the center of the mall.
    It is lit up by the huge skylights during the day and gets pretty dark at night with blinking ride and carnival lights.
  • There is a central walkway around the park with walkways through the center.The walking paths in the center, however, are confusing around the rides and can often lead you back where you started, so avoid them if you can.
    There are areas with benches in the park for waiting for riders or resting, but there is no quiet area in the park.In fact, the park is the best and worst place for an autism meltdown.

  • The noise level is so high that my daughter’s screams are muffled by those on rides, however, the noise does nothing to calm the situation, so often we leave the ride area for the quiet in comparison mall corridors.
  • You have different options for tickets which include wristbands or a point pass.Unless you children with autism are going to go on all the rides, good with lines and are fearless in their adventures, the point pass is the best option.We like the point pass because it can be used anytime during your visit (multiple days), and it is transferable (if your child goes on one ride and is done or has a meltdown, you can always gift the pass to someone else). Make sure before you buy you know your point values on the rides your child wants to go on.The more points, the better deal the pass, but if you are only going on a few rides, the smaller point passes are better options.
  • Though the rides in Nickelodeon Universe are geared for all ages, those geared for older children take up the bulk of the park.
  • Entertaining your child with Autism in the Mall of America THEMEPARK
    Though the rides in Nickelodeon Universe are geared for all ages, those geared for older children take up the majority of the park.So finding the rides for younger children can be hard.If your kids are younger, be sure to ask for a list of those rides when you purchase your tickets.
    There is no special access for people with disabilities or parent swap for rides.

    If your child is not good at waiting in lines, I recommend having another parent or person with you wait in the bulk of the line and then jump in the line when they get the closer to the front of the line. This will work on some of the smaller rides, but not all of them.
    Scope the line to see if this in option for your family)
  • Nickelodeon Universe does have character meet and greets (Sponge Bob, etc.).Posted times are available at the location daily.Let the workers at the meet and greet know your child has autism before meeting the character.This will give them time to let the character know and possibly give your child more time to them.

Other attractions at the mall are in much smaller venues and much more autism-friendly environments.

  • The Sea Life Aquarium is busy, but is much more relaxed in its attractions and allows for some hands-on experiences. It is a good place to visit to let your children (and you) a little time to unwind and relax.It is located on the bottom floor and is open daily.
  • The Lego Store has an area outside its store where kids can build different Lego Creations at no cost. The Legos are to be played with, in that area only, while sets are available in the store for purchase. It is good place to relax and let the kids play. (Note: If your child like mine likes to taste or put things in his mouth, skip this area. Too many hands on too many Legos makes this a busy one for germs.)
  • The American Girl Experience includes a variety of events from, scavenger hunts, meet and greets to a Doll Hair Salon.
    Let the staff know your child has autism, they can cater your experience if it is not too busy.
  • Build-A- Bear involves your Bear purchase. If you do not intend to buy a bear, I would recommend you skip it.
    Otherwise, it is quite fun. Again, let the staff know your child has autism, they can cater your experience if it is not too busy.
  • The mirror maze & mini-golf are located close to each other on the third level/Northside. They are fun to do together as a family. Although my daughter got frustrated with mirror maze, when we could not get out.

 Our Kids’ Favorite Entertainment Options: Sea Life Aquarium and the Carousel at Nickelodeon Universe.

Entertaining your child with Autism in the Mall of America FOOD

Autism Friendly Dining Options:

There are a lot of dining options at the mall that include Sit-Down and Fast-Food. Packing snacks is the easiest way to curb your child’s cravings, otherwise there are snack and dinner options at every turn.

Fast Food and Food Courts:

There are two food courts in the Mall, both on the third level.
There are a variety of options to choose (Gluten or Dairy Free are few and far between, though.)I recommend if you want to stay on a budget and need to visit the food court to visit the food court on the North side (Stay away from the Southside court).The difference is the layout, noise, lighting, varying floor levels and entrances and exits!
The Northside food court which is all on one level makes it easy for parents with children with autism to maneuver get to and find seating and each other with its skylights and wide-open floor plan.
It does not have as many options as the south side food court, but this makes it often less busy as a result.

Sit-Down Dining:

Sit-down dining can be an experience for the whole family, but you may have to wait.
Rain Forest Café and Bubba Gump are unique restaurant choices.
If you opt for a sit-down restaurant, be sure to get on their reservation list if they have one.If they do not, ask about the best time to dine and explain your unique situation.
We dine at Bubba Gump when we visit the mall, and they usually try to find us a place away from the busy seating areas.)Be sure to check out the décor, as fun as the Rain Forest Café is, it is dark and can be scary.
Ask if you can walk your child through the restaurant to see what and how they cope to see if it is worth the wait.
If you are looking for quiet options, your best options are going to be those familiar restaurants live Famous Dave’s and Ruby Tuesday.These restaurants are not the go dining in the mall, which make them quieter and less busy.

Gluten and Dairy Free Options:

Each Sit-down restaurant in the mall offers different Gluten/Dairy Free options.There is not one restaurant I can recommend over another on your choices.Check out the menu before you sit down and ask the hostess for those unique menu items.

Our Kids’ Favorite Dining Options: Bubba Gump, Famous Dave’ and  Twin City Grill

Denise Klipsic Ochsendorf  is an  autism mom of two active kids  and  happy owner of a Twin Cities Kids Consignment Sale (Just Between Friends) as well as  an avid Autistic Globetrotter who  loves to travel the backroads of America and hopes someday to make it Europe with her family 

Taking Kids with Autism to the Mall of America

 Guest post by  Denise Klipsic Ochsendorf

Shopping and visiting the Mall of America with Children with Autism is a challenge, but with careful thought to visit, it can still exciting, fun and a great day of shopping.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America columns

When to go to the Mall of America

The Mall is a Shopping complex, so its traffic patterns fall in line with any other retail outlet.Exceptions would be for special events and holidays which usually bring in a lot of people.
Recently, the Halloween event at Nickelodeon Universe and then an appearance by the cast of the Hunger Games paralleled the holiday traffic in the mall’s main corridors.
So it is important to check the mall’s event schedule before you go.You may not be able to plan around such events, but you can, at least, plan for them, if needed.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America logo
Regular Mall traffic patterns, I find mirror that of many theme parks.
Weekdays are the least busy.We find Monday and Wednesday are truly the best days to go if you are trying to avoid crowds. Mornings are also nice.
The Mall’s regular hours are 10 am, but they do open early for mall walkers.From 10am-Noon, even on weekends, there are relatively fewer shoppers, pending events.Holiday shopping hours are little more hectic, but the same rules apply: mornings and weekdays are the best, just not on Black Friday.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America escalators

It is important to note that Tuesdays are Toddler Tuesday at the Mall.
This can be either good or bad for families with kids with autism. Toddler Tuesdays are good for free dining options for kids under 6 and discounts at various attractions, but it does bring a lot of young children to the mall (Crying babies, etc.)

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America coppola

Getting to the Mall

If you are staying Minneapolis or coming from the airport- the best bet is to take the light rail to the mall.
The light rail is relatively new, so it is clean and comfortable to ride.The Mall is its last stop, so it does take about ½ hour to make the journey from MPLS, but the time you save on parking is worth it.
Your children will love it too!
The train goes through tunnels and over bridges making it an added experience to your trip to the Mall.The ride will cost each person up to $2.75 a person with reduced fares for people with disabilities. Kids 5 and under are free.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America first floor
If you come by car and are staying closer to the mall, you will want to park in the West Parking lot.
Both Parking Lots can be busy, but the west lot does not fill up as fast and has far less traffic.
One reason I recommend the west lot is also its location to nicer bathrooms, less busy entrances to the mall and elevators and the elimination of up/down steps to get to the skyways. Try to park on the lower level if you can, this just gives you different options to enter the mall and also is the same level as Guest Services if you need to rent a stroller or need other assistance.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America ceiling

Planning the day when your kid has autism

Based on where you come in, you will have different options.
If you come in at the center main Mall entrance, you will want to take the elevator/escalator to the main level if you need Guest Services.The elevators on this side are a little hidden if you come to the main entrance.
If you go towards the center of the mall, you should see the elevator closer to the inner walkway.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America lego

Guest Services:

Check in here to rent your stroller ($6 single, $8 double).Wheelchair rentals are also available.
You can let Guest Services know you are traveling with a child with autism.
Make sure you have a picture and information for your child in case she/he gets lost.
You can leave it with them. (This is not a common practice, so you may need to fill in the details.
You can stop back after you leave to get your paperwork)  *Paperwork can consist of a picture, your child’s name, and a telephone number. For more info:

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America lockers

If you choose to skip Guest Service, my recommendation is to stay away from the elevators in the Mall’s main corridors.
They are SLOW and Fill up fast. The Macy’s Elevator is nestled by the SW entrance door and is easy to use and it located right next to the bathroom. Other Anchor Store Elevators are tucked back a little bit but are a little less busy.
The Mall Corridors on the corners have a few elevators that I would recommend as well.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America stores

If you need Lockers, there are lockers at all main entrances to the mall on level 1. Levels 2 & 3 have them as well, but only on the East and West Side.
They come in all sizes and range from $6-$16 depending on the size. Lockers are great to use for those winter coats, as the mall gets pretty warm as it fills up.

Mapping out Bathrooms before you get started is a good idea.

The Mall has plenty of Bathrooms, but not all of them are suitable for families with children with autism.
I mentioned the Macy’s Bathroom before. This is a favorite of ours not only for its location but it usually pretty clean and it has a separate quiet area which is good for getting your kids away from all the noise and avoiding meltdowns.
Nordstrom’s have similar bathrooms. In the main mall corridors, you do have some options. I recommend the Family Restrooms. These are nice because they give you the space you may need and are private. They are next to the regular bathrooms on the first floor only. (They are quite busy, though, so you may have a wait.)


Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America lego store

One final note before you get started

The Mall is full of sensory overload for many children with autism.
Depending on your child, you may want to have a plan for some way to deal with meltdowns if they occur.

There are quiet areas like those I mentioned in the mall, but you may find other areas that may work for you as start your day.
You will want to note where these areas are, as you can get turned around in the mall quite quickly.
Also, headphones or ear plugs are always a good option for your kids.We have a set of heavy duty sound masking headphones our daughter uses.
We also use blankets in the stroller to at least minimize the visual stimulation for our son, when he lets us.

Taking your kids with Autism to the Mall of America themepark


Denise Klipsic Ochsendorf  is an  autism mom of two active kids  and  happy owner of a Twin Cities Kids Consignment Sale (Just Between Friends) as well as  an avid Autistic Globetrotter who  loves to travel the backroads of America and hopes someday to make it Europe with her family

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