Mall of America

What wonders abound in this suburban shopping mall large enough to hold 32 Boeing 747s? For starters, you can plunge through the treetops on a roller coaster, take a virtual-reality submarine ride, get a degree, and even get married. Mall of America’s 500-plus stores, it turns out, simply provide the framework for a crazy compendium of attractions at this 4.2-million-square-foot monolith, the largest shopping mall in the U.S. (the West Edmonton Mall in Alberta, Canada, still gets top billing as the largest mall in the world) and Minnesota’s No. 1 attraction. This four-story mega-mall lures more than 42 million visitors each year, a staggering statistic that tops the annual visitation of Disney World, the Grand Canyon, and Graceland combined.

Mall of America opened in 1992 on the site of the old Metropolitan Stadium—where the Minnesota Twins and Vikings played. The Park at MOA (formerly Camp Snoopy) occupies 7 acres in the center of the mall, comprising the world’s first spinning roller coaster, a 74-foot-high Ferris wheel, and enough other adventures to make it the largest indoor theme park in the nation. Below the amusement park, a moving walkway transports visitors through Underwater Adventures Aquarium, its 1.2 million gallons home to sharks, sea turtles, piranhas, even an octopus that can open jars. Elsewhere you’ll find a four-story LEGO Imagination Center, fighter jet flight simulators, a dinosaur museum, the Chapel of Love, bars and nightclubs in an entertainment district called the Upper East Side, more than 50 restaurants from fast food to fancy, the National American University campus, and a U.S. post office with its own zip code.

Oh, and the stores. Ironically, shopping may be the least interesting aspect of the MOA. Its 4.3 miles of storefronts feature many of the same names you’d find in a typical suburban shopping mall, just lots more of them.

Remember to pace yourself—if you spent just 10 minutes in each MOA store, it would take 86 hours to experience them all.