Situated on the banks of the Minnesota River and just outside of Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Bloomington is the fourth largest city in Minnesota. With numerous outdoor and indoor attractions to choose from, it’s easy to find something everyone will enjoy when you travel to Bloomington. Discover the top things to do, best hotels, and useful transportation options so you can plan your trip to Bloomington.

Early Morning: Enjoy Your Breakfast

You know you want to get your day started right, so be sure you make time to fill up on a full and satisfying breakfast. If you woke up with an appetite, head to The Original Pancake House. Here you’ll find a menu full of some of your favorite breakfast dishes. Go for the Dutch baby German pancake and you’ll get an oven-baked pancake served with powdered sugar, whipped butter, hot maple syrup, and lemons. You’ll also find omelets, egg platters, French toast, Belgian waffles, fresh fruits, and cereals.

If you’re in the mood for something lighter, stop by one of the French Meadow Bakery and Cafe locations around the area. Since opening in 1985, this restaurant has been at the forefront of offering healthy and organic meals that are local and natural. These include vegetarian, vegan, and gluten-free options. Start your meal with a cup of organic coffee or organic loose-leaf tea. You can get the classic egg breakfast with two eggs, sourdough toast, hash browns, and bacon, or you can try the blueberry corn pancake, which is a corn pancake topped with fresh blueberries and Wisconsin maple syrup.

Another popular place to stop for breakfast is Urbana Craeft Kitchen and Market. Combining the heartiness of the rural lifestyle with a uniquely urban vibe, this establishment offers a seasonal menu with produce sourced from local and regional farms. When you’re feeling hungry, the cinnamon crunch French toast comes with strawberries, toasted almonds, and Minnesota maple syrup. You can also get the midwestern omelet with pepper, onion, house-smoked loin bacon, and Eichten’s white cheddar.

Fort Snelling
Fort Snelling in Bloomington.

Midmorning: Explore the Great Outdoors

With such easy access to a unique system of rivers and lakes, you know there are plenty of opportunities to explore the great outdoors around Bloomington.

After breakfast, take some time to head to the Minnesota Valley National Wildlife Refuge. This massive refuge stretches 70 miles along the Minnesota River, from Bloomington to Henderson. It’s comprised of over 14,000 acres and offers a great place for hiking, biking, wildlife viewing, fishing, and photography. Stop by the Bloomington Education and Visitor Center to learn more about the multiple habitats in the refuge and get direct access to two of the many hiking trails throughout the area.

If you want to learn a little history about the state while you explore outside, head to Fort Snelling State Park. The most notable feature in the park is the historic Fort Snelling, which was built in 1820. When you tour the fort, you’ll learn about the lives of the people who lived there in the early 1800s. The rest of the state park preserves backwater lakes, rivers, and bottomland forests.

You can hike the entire loop of Snelling Lake, which takes about an hour, or hike to Pike Island and see where the Minnesota and Mississippi Rivers converge. While you’re in the park, you have a chance to spot white-tailed deer, turkey, turtles, the non-venomous western fox snake, and more.

Lebanon Hills Regional Park is a nearly 2,000-acre park that offers numerous outdoor activities in any season. Summer activities include hiking, mountain biking, and horseback riding on one of the five trails, as well as swimming, kayaking, and canoeing at one of the 13 ponds and lakes. Winter activities include snowshoeing, winter mountain biking, hiking, skiing, ice skating, and ice fishing. You can also stop by the Lebanon Hills Visitor Center at the eastern part of the park to find park information, equipment rental, and interactive nature displays.

Noon: Make Time for Lunch

When you’re done exploring the natural scenery around Bloomington, you’ve likely worked up an appetite. In this case, head to Gyropolis for a healthy and satisfying lunch. Voted as the place to get the best gyro in Minnesota by WCCO viewers, Gyropolis lets you build your own gyro to your tastes. First, you decide whether you want pork or chicken. Next, you pick what extras you would like on it. You can get the Athenian, which comes with tomatoes, onions, French fries, mustard, paprika, parsley, and tzatziki sauce, or you can try the Gyropolis with tomatoes, onions, and tzatziki sauce.

Another great place to stop for lunch is Penn Lake Roast Beef. Popular sandwiches include the roast beef, jumbo beef, barbecue beef, and French dip. You’ll also find a smoked turkey sandwich, hamburger, cheeseburger, chicken wings, and fried cod sandwich on the menu. If you have a lot of people to feed, consider getting the barbecue beef, sliced roast turkey, sliced roast beef, or meat loaf by the pound.

Afternoon: Shop Until You Drop

Perhaps the biggest draw to Bloomington is the massive Mall of America. When you’re ready to burn off the calories from your delicious lunch, you can do so at the mall.

Mall of America is the largest mall in the country, and it offers more than just shopping. You can head to Moose Mountain Adventure Golf and test your putting skills on this indoor 18-hole miniature golf course. You can also make your way through the Amazing Mirror Maze. At 2,500 square feet, this mirror maze is one of the largest in the world. With every twist and turn, you’ll find yourself facing crazy reflections and endless hallways.

Of course, if you came to shop, you’ll find an unbeatable selection of stores at Mall of America. It features more than 520 stores spread out over four levels. The anchor stores include Macy’s, Nordstrom, and Sears, and the junior anchor stores include Barnes and Noble, Best Buy, DSW, Forever 21, H&M, LL Bean, Marshalls, Nordstrom Rack, Old Navy, and Zara. Along with these stores, you’ll find plenty of other places to shop for clothing, shoes, electronics, gifts, home decor, and more.

Mall of America
Mall of American in Bloomington.

Late Afternoon: Do Something With the Kids

Whether you’re traveling with kids or the young at heart, stay at Mall of America and check out a few of the other exciting attractions. Nickelodeon Universe is an indoor amusement park themed around shows from this popular television network. You’ll find junior rides like Diego’s Rescue Rider, Rugrats Reptarmobiles, and Wonder Pet’s Flyboat. Thrill rides include options like the Splat-O-Sphere and the Pepsi Orange Streak roller coaster. Family rides include the carousel, crazy cars, log flume, and more. Kids also have the chance to meet their favorite Nickelodeon characters face-to-face.

You can also head to the SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium. Walk through the 300-foot glass underground tunnel to get a unique view of sharks from below or head to the interactive touch pools to meet some amazing creatures from the sea. At the Jellyfish Discovery Station, you’ll see a few of the over 350 species of jellyfish and learn interesting facts about these fascinating creatures. Rainbow Reef is home to yellow tang, royal blue tang, bamboo sharks, coral cat sharks, porcupine pufferfish, green sea turtles, and more.

Dinnertime: Savor a Fine Meal

When you’re done having fun at the mall, it’s time to find a great place for dinner. Check out FireLake Grill House and Cocktail Bar for a modern take on classic Minnesota fare. The restaurant offers a farm-to-table concept that uses local produce wherever possible for a fresh and tasty meal.

To start your dinner, choose the bacon-wrapped quail legs or beer-battered cheese curds. For your main course, consider the flat iron steak frites with Minnesota beef, Northwoods grilling spices, and hand-cut frites. The FireLake rotisserie chicken is also a popular choice. For something sweet to end your meal, you can get the mason jar peanut butter pie, lemon raspberry mirror cake, or white chocolate banana cream pie.

If you’re in the mood for Italian, Ciao Bella is the place to go. Serving fresh, simple Italian cuisine using local ingredients, Ciao Bella offers both a modern dining room and outdoor patio where you can enjoy your meal. You can start your dinner by selecting one of the red or white wines from the extensive wine list. Then go for a small plate of the classic bruschetta or parmesan-crusted shrimp.

For your dinner, you can choose from fresh fish, pizza, or an all-natural entrée, such as the brick roasted chicken or 16-ounce New York strip steak. There’s also a wide-ranging pasta selection that includes classics like spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, and red pepper linguini with scallops.

Late Night: The Fun Doesn’t Stop Just Yet

Before you end your day of fun exploring Bloomington, head out for one more round of enjoyment. Go to the Hard Rock Cafe to see which musical guest is performing live on the stage. Or check out the 750-square foot Rock Shop retail store for a stylish shirt and rock and roll gear. See the legendary music memorabilia displayed around the restaurant. You ca also explore the interactive Rock Wall Solo, which is a 52-inch high-resolution touch-screen wall where you can see all the one-of-a-kind memorabilia at other Hard Rock Cafes around the world.

If you’re in the mood for a good laugh, check out Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy. Featuring some of the nation’s top touring comedians, including Jay Pharoah, TJ Miller, Bobby Lee, and more, you’ll be treated to a great night. Here you can order a cocktail or other alcoholic beverage to enjoy during the show. If all that laughing makes you hungry, there are appetizers, shared plates, desserts, and more available to order. Make sure you don’t miss out on the famous fried cheese curds and Canadian-inspired poutine.

Lebanon Hills
Lebanon Hills in Bloomington.

Where to Stay in Bloomington

With so much to explore and do in Bloomington, it’s easy to see why it’s a popular spot to visit. Whether you’re planning a business trip or leisure getaway, there are plenty of Bloomington hotels to meet your needs. From luxury to budget-friendly, you can find the hotel that offers the amenities you want at the price that fits your travel budget.

Budget-Friendly Hotels in Bloomington

To keep even more money in your travel budget for attractions, consider one of the affordable hotels in Bloomington. Park Plaza Hotel Bloomington gives you contemporary rooms and suites that come with free wireless internet access, flat-screen televisions, pillow-top mattresses, and coffeemakers. The hotel also offers free parking, a complimentary shuttle to the airport and Mall of America, fitness center, and indoor pool. When you get hungry, take advantage of the relaxed Italian on-site restaurant or the cozy lounge with a fireplace.

Hampton Inn Minneapolis Bloomington West also gives you the amenities you need to feel comfortable when you’re away from home. The rooms come with flat-screen televisions, free wireless internet access, and coffeemakers. If you upgrade to a suite, you’ll also get a sitting area with a sofa bed and kitchenette. The complimentary amenities offered at the hotel include parking, an airport and local area shuttle, and hot breakfast. You’ll also find a 24-hour fitness center, indoor pool, coin-operated laundry, and convenience store.

Or stay conveniently close to everything at the Hyatt Place Minneapolis Airport-South. The spacious rooms come with separate sleeping and living areas, as well as pull-out sofas. You’ll also find free wireless internet access, 42-inch flat-screen televisions, coffeemakers, and minifridges. The hotel provides a free hot breakfast, heated indoor pool, fitness center, complimentary local area and airport shuttle, coffee-to-cocktails bar, grab-and-go market, and free parking.

Luxury Hotels in Bloomington

When you’re looking for a place to stay that offers a little something extra, consider the luxury hotels in Bloomington. If you know you’ll be spending plenty of time at Mall of America, consider staying right on-site at JW Marriott Minneapolis Mall of America.

This modern hotel has contemporary rooms that come with seating areas, wireless internet access, flat-screen televisions, minifridges, and coffeemakers. Upgrade to a suite and not only will you enjoy a separate living room with a pull-out sofa, you’ll also get access to a club lounge with a self-service bar, snacks, and a free breakfast. While you’re there, make sure you take advantage of the indoor pool, fitness center, and modern farm-to-table restaurant.

Another great luxury hotel option inside Mall of America is the Radisson Blu Mall of America. The stylish rooms and suites at this hotel feature coffeemakers, minifridges, flat-screen televisions, and free wireless internet access. Upgraded suites give you access to the hospitality lounge and a free breakfast. Amenities at the hotel include an upscale restaurant and cocktail bar, fitness center, indoor pool and spa, and a complimentary airport shuttle.

Japanese Garden Normandale
Japanese Garden Normandale in Bloomington.

Getting to Bloomington

If you’re interested in flying in for your visit, there’s one Bloomington airport to welcome you to the area. Minneapolis – St. Paul International Airport (MSP) is just a 10-minute drive from downtown Bloomington. National airlines that service MSP are Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Boutique Air, Delta Air Lines, Frontier Airlines, Spirit Airlines, and United Airlines. International airlines with service at MSP include Air Canada, Air France, Condor, Icelandair, KLM, and Sun Country Airlines.

MSP also offers a full range of shopping and dining options. Whether you forgot something at home or you’re just looking to pick up some souvenirs, you’ll find stores such as Adventure North, Flirt Boutique, Headphone Hub, Aveda, and Hudson News. When you get hungry, you’ll find everything from quick options like Angel Food Bakery, Caribou Coffee, and Chick-fil-A to full-service restaurants like Rock Bottom Brewery, Black Sheep, and Twins Grill.

When you arrive at MSP and need ground transportation, you’ll find many choices available. Metro Transit offers public transportation with light-rail train and bus service within the Twin Cities and the surrounding areas. The light-rail trains have a stop at both Terminal 1-Lindbergh and Terminal 2-Humphrey, and they run every 10 to 15 minutes. The city bus service has a stop outside the Terminal 1-Lindbergh Transit Center. Additionally, you can find nine on-site car rental companies at both terminals and two off-site car rental companies.

Finally, MSP offers numerous passenger services to help meet your needs while you’re visiting. There are storage lockers available in secure areas of Terminal 1-Lindbergh that are large enough to store carry-on luggage. You’ll also enjoy free wireless internet access in all public areas at both terminals.

Head up to the Mezzanine Level at Terminal 1-Lindbergh to find two quiet seating areas. These comfortable spots are ideal for resting, reading, prayer, or meditation. Finally, if you have some time available and want to stay fit while traveling, MSP has teamed up with the American Heart Association to create an official 1.4-mile Start! Walking path at Terminal 1-Lindbergh.

When you’re ready to see everything Bloomington has to offer, GoDoTrip can help. From finding the top attractions to coordinating transportation to discovering the best places to stay, you can find the information you need to plan the perfect trip.