The Mall-ification Of America’s Airports: 19 Hours in Minnesota

Over the course of my travels I’ve visited a lot of airports.  Over 80 by last count, which still pales in comparison to some people I know.  Included in that number are all of the top 25 US airports by passenger volume.  Well, with the exception of one.

MSP (Minneapolis-St. Paul) ranks 16th in the most recent numbers I could find.  I’ve never had the occasion to end up there, so I was looking forward to my brief trip to get a chance to see the airport and make a quick stop at the Mall of America.

I had no clear expectations on what the airport would be like, and most people don’t really even consider such things.  Getting off the plane I arrived at a fairly nondescript concourse so didn’t expect much.  As I made my way out of the airport that perspective would change.  As you enter the main concourse there’s a fairly well-appointed mall.  As you can see from the pic below, they’ve got a piano for entertainment and a Harley-Davidson store bumping up against a Tumi outlet.  Talk about running the spectrum of retail!

in Minnesota

in Minnesota

I had arrived early (something that doesn’t happen to me very often on UA), so I decided to take a quick walk around the airport.  Even though it’s a sizable airport by passenger volume I was still a bit surprised at how big it actually was.

As I walked around I encountered a pretty cool kid’s play area that I’m sure my kids will love if we come back to visit.

in Minnesota

All of the details I saw as I walked around reinforced the fact that, with the right vision, a great number of airports have become fun places to visit.  My friend Scott McCartney had a great piece in the WSJ a few months ago about Singapore’s Changi airport which includes such amenities as a butterfly garden, swimming pool and a 4-story slide for kids (and fun-loving adults).  Nobody actually flies somewhere just to see an airport (well, I do know a few people  crazy enough to do it), but there can be some pretty cool amenities that influence where you want to connect.  I’m not a Delta flier, but if I were I think I would enjoy the relative calm and amenities in MSP versus the more hectic ORD with fewer fun items, especially when traveling with my kids.

A quick tram ride and I was at Hertz to pick up my rental car.  I had a 90-minute ride to a very small town south of Minneapolis so I asked the counter for something a bit more comfortable than the shoebox Lumina they had assigned me.  A few minutes later I was on the road in my favorite rental car, the Infiniti QX56.  After my work trip and drive back I ended up at the Mall of America about an hour early for a dinner I had with friends which left me some time to explore.

Mall of America is something I’ve always heard about and it lingered on the list of places I’d eventually like to visit.  I knew there was an amusement park inside, but I wasn’t aware of the aquarium there as well.  Additionally, the scope and size of the amusement park was pretty compelling.  It’s themed Nickelodeon, another plus for a trip with the kids.

in Minnesota

in Minnesota

in Minnesota

Plenty of things for kids to do.  Oh, and the world’s biggest Peep!  Talk about a sugar high.

in Minnesota

I was staying nearby at the Hyatt Place Minneapolis Airport.  Nothing spectacular to report about the property.  As far as limited service properties go, I like Hyatt Place better than most for a couple of reasons.  They’re all either new construction or recently renovated because the brand hasn’t been around that long.  I vastly prefer Hyatt Summerfield Suites (which is being transformed into Hyatt House).  But, the Hyatt Place rooms are generally roomy and in a good state of repair.  Unfortunately, only the new builds have a better bathroom.  The renovated ones are kind of dark.

in Minnesota

in Minnesota

in Minnesota

in Minnesota

Albeit a short trip, I enjoyed my time in Minnesota.  I enjoyed dinner with some friends at Napa Valley Grill inside Mall of America.  When I got home and showed the pictures to my daughter, she said, “Ohhh.  I wish I went with you.”

Sounds like a plan to me.

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