This post was written by Nancy, who is a regular contributor. She also runs a blog Savingforadream
I recently traveled to the Mall of America near Minneapolis with my three kids (see my review of our hotel in Part 1 of my trip report). We had 2 ½ days in town, and I had ambitious plans. I wanted to visit the Nickelodeon Universe amusement park, FlyOver America, the Crayola Experience and the Amazing Mirror Maze. I also had plans to see the movie Finding Dory, let my kids spend their allowance and do some back-to-school clothes shopping. And if we had time, I also wanted to take the train to Minehaha Falls.
Ha! We did not accomplish all of those things on our trip. We did not have time to see the movie, shop for back-to-school clothes or go to Minehaha Falls. But, we did manage to do a lot at MOA.
This was our #1 priority. When I visited MOA years ago on a business trip, I got a glimpse of the amusement park, which at the time was Camp Snoopy. Nickelodeon took over the park in 2008, and it looks fantastic. Every single ride ties back to some Nickelodeon TV show or character.
Our view of the park during our ride on the Ferris wheel:
The park is 7 acres and has over 27 rides. There were rides for younger kids as well as teens and adults. What I loved about Nickelodeon Universe is that it was clean, indoors (so the temperature is always just right), and you don’t have to pay admission to walk around and visit characters. I bought all-day ride wristbands for just one day, but we stopped by to see characters on all three days we were at MOA.
The all-day wristband costs $34.99 ($38.59 with tax) on site, but if you buy it online in advance it’s only $29.99 ($33.08 with tax). However, if you are members of AAA, you can get all-day wristbands for just $22.50 including tax (see this link for info on the AAA discount). Based on the amount of time we spent there and the level of fun, this was a very good value!
The park has five roller coasters. Only my oldest son was brave enough to go on SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge coaster, which has a 90 degree drop!
One of my daughter’s favorite rides was Ghost Blasters, which is like a cross between a haunted house and the Buzz Lightyear ride at Disney World. Each vehicle had laser blasters to shoot ghosts.
A couple of times during the day, the staff hosted this Double Dare gameshow. My oldest son was picked from the audience to compete, and after seeing how devastated his younger brother was, he let him compete in his spot. It was a fun show!
The Hard Rock Café was nearby and the park had its own counter service restaurant, but we ate lunch and dinner in the mall food courts.
My kids’ enthusiasm for the rides continued to grow as the day went on, and since there were virtually no lines (on a Thursday during summer) they could repeat their favorites again and again. The park has a light/laser show at 10 p.m., but my daughter was getting sleepy and we had to head back to our hotel. On Friday nights, the park also has a dance party with a DJ.
Inside Nickelodeon Universe is a ropes course and zip line called Dutchman’s Deck that is not included in the price of Nickelodeon Universe. I purchased tickets for my older two kids with the AAA discount for $11.50 (normal price was $17.63). It has a height requirement of 48 inches, so my daughter could not participate.
My boys had done a similar ropes course at Great Wolf Lodge last year, so I knew they would enjoy this. The big difference here is that the zip line is six stories high and it goes across the entire park (it’s the longest indoor zip line in the world). The zip line also requires you to zip back across the park to get back to the starting place. I couldn’t believe that both of my boys did it!
In total, they spent about an hour on Dutchman’s Deck. My oldest also enjoyed the huge slide that brought him back down. I recommend Dutchman’s Deck for older kids who are not afraid of heights. (Even if my daughter was tall enough, I don’t think she would have gone up there—and neither would I!)
FlyOver America just opened at MOA in April 2016. If you have been on the Soarin’ ride at Epcot or at Disney California Adventure, this is a similar concept. It’s located in the same area as Nickelodeon Universe. The price of admission was a little high, and I could not find any discount codes, but we decided to splurge and ride on it.
Just like Disney’s Soarin’ ride, FlyOver America feels like you are hand-gliding over scenery. The movie goes all over the USA, including New York, San Francisco, Hawaii and Alaska. At times, you can smell scents and feel mist on your face.
I have been on the Soarin’ ride quite a few times (which was recently changed from only scenes from California to now include scenes all over the world), but FlyOver America was so much more real. It was so real that I was scared and had to close my eyes during part of it!
The biggest difference between this ride and Disney’s Soarin’ is that you can’t see the ground at FlyOver America. The movie screen spans below you and above you, and you really can’t tell how high up you are in the theater. You can’t see anyone sitting above or below you. It’s really freaky!
My daughter sat next to me with her mouth wide open. After the ride, she asked me in all seriousness, “Mommy, did we go outside during that?” It sure felt that way. My kids thought it was a really cool experience. The same company runs FlyOver Canada in Vancouver, but to be honest I’m not sure I’m brave enough to go on that one next year before our Alaska cruise. I’m a big chicken now.
We spent 11 ½ hours in one day at Nickelodeon Universe, Dutchman’s Deck and FlyOver America. My kids are still talking about that day, especially the rides at Nickelodeon Universe! While we are huge Disney fans, there was just something so refreshing about this theme park. It was so EASY, simple and fun. (If you want to see more rides, check out our vacation video).
Stay tuned for Part 3 of this trip report, where I will review the new Crayola Experience and more!
Have you visited Nickelodeon Universe, Dutchman’s Deck or FlyOver America? What did you think?
Leana is the founder of Miles For Family. She enjoys beach vacations and visiting her family in Europe. Originally from Belarus, Leana resides in central Florida with her husband and two children.