12+ Fun Holiday Things to Do at the Mall of America this Year with Kids

*This article on Mall of America at Christmas with kids was done in paid partnership with the Bloomington Convention & Visitors Bureau. All ideas and opinions expressed are those of the writer, Antonia Grant. Find additional disclosure information at the bottom of this article.*

A young girl looks down on a holiday display at the Mall of America.

Families flock to the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota, during the holidays for an enchanting experience that captures the festive spirit. Kids delight in visiting Santa Claus, who spreads cheer in a whimsical setting at the Candy Cane Institute. Plus, the mall transforms into a winter wonderland, adorned with dazzling lights and decorations, providing a magical backdrop for holiday celebrations. With an abundance of stores, it’s a shopper’s paradise, offering a one-stop destination for holiday gifts for the whole family. Beyond the festive atmosphere, they also offer top-notch restaurants and hotels. The joyous ambiance, coupled with the variety of entertainment options – like Nickelodeon Universe, makes the Mall of America an irresistible holiday destination for families seeking joyful moments and a dash of seasonal splendor. Join my family as we enjoy the holidays and show you how to plan a trip to the Mall of America with kids this Christmas!

Holiday Fun at the Mall of America with Kids

The Mall of America at Christmas is a sight to behold during the holiday season! With festive decorations around every corner, fun holiday events throughout the season, and plenty of stores to treat everyone on your nice list, the Mall of America offers everything you need to make the most of your trip with kids. Keep reading to discover everything you need to know about celebrating the holidays at the Mall of America for families!

READ NEXT: 14 Best Hotels In Bloomington, Minnesota, For Families

Enjoy the Decorations

To kick off your holiday visit to the Mall of America with kids, check out the enchanting holiday decorations throughout the mall. Around every corner, you’ll find enormous and well-crafted decorations that create a fun and festive environment for all ages. From charming window displays to the whimsical SpongeBob SquarePants-themed Christmas decor at Nickelodeon Universe, kids and parents alike will simply enjoy walking around spotting the different decorations. During our visit, we particularly enjoyed the huge Christmas ornaments strung from the ceiling, the towering Nut Crackers, and the glistening Christmas trees. Enjoying the holiday decor is undoubtedly one of the best free things to do at Mall of America this holiday season! 

Meet Santa at the Candy Cane Institute 

An elf and a young child interact with a Christmas display at the Candy Cane Institute in the Mall of America.
Photo Courtesy: Mall of America

Are you looking to create magical memories with your kids this Christmas? Look no further than the Candy Cane Institute. As one of the best holiday events at the Mall of America, kids (and kids at heart) will adore testing the elf scientists to see who made the nice list this year. This interactive experience will surely be a hit with kids of all ages. Here, you will get a behind-the-scenes trip to the North Pole’s research department, where you can see busy elves preparing for Christmas day. Not to mention, a special visit with Santa himself! 

Tickets to Candy Cane Institute include a 10–15 minute self-guided interactive tour with elf stops along the way, as well as your visit with Santa. You simply can’t leave the Mall of America with kids this holiday season without stopping by.

Note: Pre-purchased tickets are strongly recommended. While a ticket is needed for each individual, children under two are free. You can purchase them by clicking here.

Stroll through the Festival of Trees

Several highly decorated trees along the Festival of Trees path at the Mall of America.
Photo Courtesy: BCVB

Visiting the Mall of America this Christmas wouldn’t be complete without strolling through the Festival of Trees. While this time of year can be hectic with shopping and preparing big meals, it is also an important time to reflect on the things that truly matter and to give back when you can. The Festival of Trees, which benefits a special cause each year (last year was Special Olympics Minnesota), truly captures the spirit of giving back this holiday season. 

The Festival of Trees takes the fun and festive experience of admiring holiday decorations and pairs it with storytelling and engagement to bring people together to rally around an important cause. Enjoy a display of more than 50 trees, each decorated by a local organization, company, or sports team. Not only will you adore each uniquely decorated tree, but you will also learn about the featured nonprofit from its own storyboards and volunteers. Indeed, this is one of the best things to do with kids this season at the Mall of America.

Do Some Holiday Shopping

Of, course, holiday shopping is a huge draw for families traveling to the Mall of America this time of year! With over 500 stores in the Mall of America to shop from, you’re sure to find something for everyone on your list! Kids on your list will love receiving specially chosen items from stores like Build-A-Bear, The LEGO Store, M&M Store, and Legacy Toys. Then, treat tweens and teens to new styles from Macy’s, Zara, and ​​H&M. Book lovers will be satisfied with new reads from Barnes & Noble, while outdoorsy family members will love new gear from LL Bean, Columbia Sportswear, or Fjällräven. And, new this year, you can’t miss the nostalgia of shopping at the Mall of America’s Toys “R” Us! No matter which traveler you’re shopping for, you’ll find what you need (and more!). Undoubtedly, the Mall of America is your one-stop shop this Christmas!

Enjoy More Holiday Events for All Ages

Photo Courtesy (L-R): @michaeleneaballerina, @beautifulsoul.89

In addition to the Festival of Trees and the Candy Cane Institute, the Mall of America features even more fun events this holiday season. This year, families can shop local at the Holiday Art Fair (November 18 + 19, 2023), featuring artists and makers from across Minnesota. 

Find everything from painting and photography to handcrafted jewelry at the art fair. Then, on November 21, you can celebrate at Santa’s Arrival Ceremony! Avid shoppers looking for the best deals should plan their visit to align with the Black Friday experiences (November 24 + 25, 2023). Plus, music lovers of all tastes and genres will delight in experiencing the Holiday Music Festival, which happens throughout the month of December (December 4 – December 23, 2023). The complete list of holiday-themed musical performances will be available soon.

Finally, keep an eye on the Mall of America events page for the complete list of events and all the details! No matter what you’re interested in seeing at the Mall of America with kids, there are plenty of events to enjoy this time of year!

More Family Fun at the Mall of America

Still wondering what to do at the Mall of America with kids? We’ve got a few more ideas for those searching for the best things to do in Mall of America with kids. From an aquarium and an amusement park to mini golfing, the Mall of America is filled with family-friendly activities for all ages. Keep reading to decide which ones to add to your itinerary this holiday season.

READ NEXT: 45+ Exciting Places To Visit Within 3 Hours Of The Twin Cities With Kids

Nickelodeon Universe 

Nickelodeon fans can’t get enough of Nickelodeon Universe, a thrilling amusement park in the Mall of America filled with all your favorite characters! Exciting rides for all ages, character meet and greets, and more await your family at Nickelodeon Universe. Plus, Christmastime visitors will admire the many SpongeBob SquarePants-themed Christmas trees and huge Christmas blubs! Then, from the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge to the Fairly OddParents Tea Party Cup Spin, there are countless rides for all ages (and two new ones set to open soon!). Older kids and teens will love exhilarating rides like Brain Surge, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Shell Shock, and Pepsi® Orange Streak. Meanwhile, littles will also love the variety of games and attractions, like the Rugrats Reptar Carousel and the Blue’s Clues Safari Adventure

A man and his young daughter walk past holiday decorations at Nickelodeon Universe.

Additionally, they’ll be so happy to meet SpongeBob, Patrick, and all their other favorites! Kid-friendly shows, like the PAW Patrol Live Show, also provide fun for the entire family. When little ones are hungry, don’t forget to check out fun places to eat, like the Bikini Bottom Cake Shop and the Double Dare Snack Bar! Finally, you can purchase tickets upon arrival at one of the many kiosks or reserve tickets ahead of your visit by clicking here. With so many amazing features, no wonder this is a favorite amongst those visiting the Mall of America with kids.

Mini Golfing 

Photo Courtesy: BCVB

Aside from Nickelodeon Universe, Mall of America has two more fun opportunities to play together! Did you know you can go mini golfing at the Mall of America? In fact, there are two exciting options for those seeking fun things to do in Mall of America for families: Moose Mountain Adventure Golf and Rock of Ages Blacklight Mini Golf. Moose Mountain Adventure Golf is an 18-hole miniature golf course for the entire family, featuring an original, whimsical design with a Minnesota/north woods feel (there is even a life-size moose!). 

Then, Rock of Ages Blacklight Mini offers 18 holes in a blacklight experience, complete with fun music starting in the ’50s all the way up to the present time! The colorful course will surely delight kids and music lovers of all ages. Regardless of which option you choose, take a break from shopping at the Mall of America this Christmas with a little friendly competition!

SEA LIFE at Mall of America 

Families are enchanted by the marine creatures at SEA LIFE at Mall of America, creating an unforgettable experience for kids and adults alike. As the Mall of America’s captivating aquarium, SEA LIFE immerses visitors in a mesmerizing underwater world where vibrant fish and other creatures take center stage. Not to mention, the interactive displays make it an excellent learning experience for kids, too! 

Families will love exploring the many underwater tunnel exhibits (like Sturgeon Lake and the Wild Amazon), marveling at marine life like sharks, seahorses, sea turtles, an array of fish, and more. Kids will be fascinated by feeling like they are genuinely underwater exploring these habitats! As one of the best things to do in Mall of America with kids, SEA LIFE proves to be a sea of excitement and discovery for families seeking a unique and educational experience.

Crayola Experience 

Three girls hold out molded trinkets they made at Crayola Experience.
Photo Courtesy: BCVB

If you’re headed to the Mall of America with young kids, you won’t want to miss the colorful fun at Crayola Experience. Here, families find pure creative freedom and joy in a place where imagination knows no bounds. This vibrant wonderland offers an array of hands-on activities. From crafting personalized crayons to painting masterpieces on a digital canvas, there’s an artistic adventure for everyone. 

Parents love the interactive and educational nature of the exhibits, making the Crayola Experience a standout destination when considering what to do at Mall of America with littles. Undoubtedly, the Crayola Experience can transform ordinary days into brightly-hued, unforgettable memories! With live demonstrations, a large indoor playground, and the chance to take home personalized souvenirs, this artistic space ensures families a blend of fun, education, and imaginative exploration.

FlyOver America

A young girl and her dad look at a map featuring the FlyOver America experience.

Looking for unique things to do in the Mall of America for families? Get swept away on a thrilling adventure at FlyOver America. This immersive flight simulation takes visitors on a breathtaking journey, soaring over iconic landscapes, through two different show options: FlyOver America and FlyOver Hawai’i. Plus, this holiday season, they are also offering a special FlyOver Holidays Experience with a visit to Santa at the North Pole! The experience lasts about 30 minutes in total (including pre-boarding information). Once the cinematic experience takes off, you will be captivated by the truly exhilarating perspective of flying overhead – through the use of visual, motion, and “wind” special effects. 

During our recent trip to the Mall of America this Christmas, we embarked on the FlyOver America experience. My daughter loved feeling the wind rush through her hair as we plunged into deep valleys, skirted along lakes, and soared over snow-capped mountains – all scenic areas in the United States! She left the experience in complete awe – ready to travel even more in the New Year! Tickets can be easily purchased at the entrance (inside Nickelodeon Universe) or online by clicking here. Finally, please note that all riders must be at least 40″ tall.

Museum of Illusions

A mom and her young daughter pose inside of an illusion at the Museum of Illusions in the Mall of America.

Do your kids love puzzles and illusions? Then, you have to add the Museum of Illusions to your Mall of America itinerary when visiting this Christmas season! Be prepared to be amazed throughout this interactive experience, which features 60 fantastical exhibits! Families will encounter intriguing visual, sensory, and educational displays throughout the museum that will thrill curious minds using science to trick their eyes, perception, and brain. Become part of a kaleidoscope, attempt to solve brain teasers, and take a seat at the cloning table – just to name a few of the astonishing illusions. 

Plus, guided tours are also available to maximize seeing and understanding each illusion, as well as getting fun pictures along the way! My daughter loved the guided tour option because she could ask tons of questions and try each exhibit in unique ways. Undoubtedly, this is one of the best things to do in Mall of America with kids of all ages.

Take One of the Public Tours

Did you know that you can take a behind-the-scenes tour of the Mall of America? If you’re wondering what genuinely unique experience you can do at the Mall of America, this is it! Take an Official Mall of America Tour to learn more about why this place is more than just a mall

Given by engaging Mall experts (I took a tour with Dan, who was incredible!), this 90-minute tour will take you behind closed doors to see where the real magic happens! In fact, if you can’t visit the Mall of America during Christmas, then this is the closest you can get all year round, since you will get to see where holiday decor is stored (including Paul Bunyan’s Christmas cape!). Throughout the tour, you will also hear fantastic stories and learn a bit about the Mall of America’s history. Finally, you can book your small group tour here (there is a student discount).

Where to Eat at the Mall of America during the Holidays for Families

Don’t feel like you need to shop till you drop without a nourishing break at one of the many eateries around the Mall of America. From full-service restaurants to multiple food courts, you’ll be able to find your favorite flavors in no time when your tummies get hungry. 

For themed dining options kids will love, try the Malibu Barbie Cafe (reservations strongly recommended), Rainforest Cafe, or Sugar Factory Express. Alternatively, with multiple food courts, you can’t go wrong with options like Naf Naf Grill, Piada Italian Street Food, Auntie Anne’s, Bussin Birria Tacos, and Master Noodle. Plus, there are plenty of fast-casual places too, like Ichiddo Ramen or Shake Shack. Finally, end your day with a relaxing meal at one of the full-service restaurants at the Mall of America, like Cedar + Stone Urban Table, FireLake Grill House + Cocktail Bar, and Twin City Grill.

A large meal from Shake Shake, featuring burgers, fries, and a colorful shake.

During our recent visit to the Mall of America this Christmas season, we loved dinner at Cedar + Stone Urban Table (exceptional, and they have a kids’ menu), and lunches at Naf Naf Grill and Shake Shack. And, of course, we had a little ice cream from Häagen-Dazs, too!

RELATED: 19 Amazing Things to Do in Minneapolis Families Will Love

Where to Stay at the Mall of American during the Holidays for Families

Wondering where to stay in Bloomington, Minnesota, with kids? After a day of holiday events at the Mall of America, shopping, and more, there are plenty of outstanding hotels in the area to suit your preferred type of stay and budget. During our recent Christmas-inspired visit to the Mall of America, we loved staying at JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America

The large indoor pool at JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America.
Photo Courtesy: JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America

Not only is it attached to the mall for easy shopping and exploring, as well as resting in the afternoon, but it also has a very warm and inviting staff, a heated indoor pool, and much more. In fact, Cedar + Stone Urban Table is located on the first floor! Then, the Executive Floor/Club Level is perfect for anyone who prefers those extra special touches, including club access and breakfast, and a great view of the surrounding area (including planes taking off from MSP!).

The large indoor water park playground at Great Wolf Lodge Minnesota.
Photo Courtesy: Great Wolf Lodge

Looking for more options during your upcoming visit to the Mall of America with kids, consider Radisson Blu Mall of America if you want something attached to the mall. Then, Great Wolf Lodge Minneapolis/Bloomington features an indoor water park and tons of kid-friendly activities.

For more options with indoor pools, consider Courtyard by Marriott Bloomington by Mall of America, Renaissance Minneapolis Bloomington Hotel, or Marriott Minneapolis Airport. Finally, families also like the Sheraton Bloomington Hotel and AC Hotel by Marriott Bloomington Mall of America. For more Bloomington hotel ideas for families, read about our top picks for the 14 Best Hotels In Bloomington, Minnesota, For Families.

Happy Holiday Travels!

From enchanting holiday decor to fun seasonal events and plenty of shopping opportunities, there is plenty to see and do at the Mall of America this Christmas with kids. After checking off everyone on your nice list, don’t miss out on all the fun things to do in Mall of America with kids, including Nickelodeon Universe, SEA LIFE at Mall of America, and more. Regardless of what puts you in the holiday spirit, you’ll find it all at the Mall of America. Happy holiday travels with your family!

*Unless otherwise noted, all images within this article belong to and are courtesy of Antonia Grant.

*This post may contain affiliate links that may earn us a small commission, at no additional cost to you. Affiliate links in no way inform the hotels, sights, products, or other recommendations included in our articles. All opinions and recommendations expressed here are those of the attributed writer, Antonia Grant.

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Antonia Grant

Antonia Grant Writer Antonia Grant is a life-long learner and avid traveler. She loves equipping families with the tools and confidence they need to travel together. That is a major reason she is part of our fantastic team at Families Love Travel! Antonia is also a strong believer in the beauty of multigenerational travel. Her main travel buddies are her husband and young daughter. They have been traveling as a family since her daughter was 7 months old, and internationally since 13 months old! She’s always seeking new adventures to write about and share.