Summer Bucket List: Mall of America!


Okay, everyone. This might be the only time you see a Vikings picture on my blog. And you must forgive me, because the Mall of America outing I’m about to describe wasn’t on our original Summer Bucket List. So I feel like I’ve cheated a bit. But once you hear the story, I think you’ll understand WHY I’m including it in the Summer Bucket List series. Because bucket lists are risky sometimes. Bucket lists are fun and adventurous and full of who knows what might happen. So let’s do it. It’s Friday. Let’s chat about ALL the grand adventures at Mall of America!

The story begins two weeks ago at a Vikings football game. My son, Cooper, went to a game with my dad, my brother and my brother’s girlfriend. Apparently, when they were leaving the game, they each received two or three of these Mall of America “Mystery Gift Cards.” Cooper showed the cards to me immediately when he got home. He was bound and determined that we were going to use them! My husband and I spent the next week and a half trying convince Cooper that they were a scam, a sweepstakes, not a guarantee of anything at all, just a ploy, a way to get people in the mall, worth nothing more than a coupon for $5 off dinner at Rainforest Cafe or $20 off a $100 purchase at Nordstroms. I’m not even kidding you. We were really dissing and disregarding those “mystery gift cards.”

On Monday, when Cooper had been begging for a week and a half to go to the Mall of America so we could use these “mystery gift cards,” I finally told him there was a CHANCE I might give in. After all, we had nothing planned for the day. The one problem was that there was only $14 left in the entertainment budget for the week, so funding for the day’s adventures was bare bones.

I also told the kids that if I gave in to a trip to the Mall of America to use these “mystery gift cards,” that they’d have to be aware that they might be ALL COUPONS, that they might end up with that $5 off dinner at Rainforest Cafe and $20 off $100 at Nordstroms. And if that was the case, our fun for the day would be going to those locations and giving people the coupons to use on their purchases. Random acts of kindness was the worst case scenario. Who could say no to that? My kids didn’t. They were willing to take the chance, even if all they won was a bunch of coupons. So off we went to the Mall of America.

We parked at Nordstroms, as we were supposed to redeem these “mystery gift cards” at Nordstroms Court, whatever that was. We found Nordstroms Court quite easily, actually. The kids took their 8 mystery gift cards and headed straight for the redemption center (Cooper had his + my dad’s and brother’s gift cards they’d given him).

A cute young woman with blonde hair took Cooper’s 8 tickets, smiled and told us we “actually have a chance of winning something good” with this many tickets.

One by one, we won.

1 Mall of America coupon book. (told you so)

1 Mall of America coupon book. (told you so)

1 Free Pepsi at Hard Rock Cafe (pretty much told you so)

1 Free Scavenger Hunt at Nickelodeon Universe

1 Free Scavenger Hunt at Nickelodeon Universe

96 Points at Nickelodeon Universe!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (Score! The kids were right on taking this chance! We had several hours of rides ahead of us!)

1 Free Pepsi at Hard Rock Cafe. (pretty much told you so, but it doesn’t matter anymore)

1 Mall of America coupon book. (told you so, but it doesn’t matter anymore)

This was craziness! The kids were elated beyond belief. They were so excited that they won! And I couldn’t believe they actually won anything of substance. Good going, Mall of America! You successfully got and kept us there for a full day!

(Apologies to my son for the pictures…we’d just arrived at the mall and he was carrying his baby sister’s Sophia the First backpack for her. Sweet, right?) 




We made our way to a Guest Services desk to redeem the 3 tickets we had for Mall of America coupon books. We scored 3 coupon books that typically sell for $9.95 each, all valid through December 31, 2015. I was inclined to take just one coupon book, because we only come to the Mall of America once every couple months. But the kids advised me to take all three. So we did. I figured I’d give one to my brother who helped us win all this.

Then we headed down to Nickelodeon Universe to redeem the two Scavenger Hunts and see what that was all about. The kids each got a map, a credit card thingy, a green Mall of America pencil, and directions for where to head first. Okay. So apparently, I was clueless. I kept asking what the goal was, if we were going to get something when we turned in our completed map at the end of the hunt. I quickly discovered that the only point was to hunt. There was no prize other than to solve the “problems” at each station hidden throughout Nickelodeon Universe (the huge open area in the middle of the Mall of America with all the rides) and enjoy the journey.

The Scavenger Hunt was a bit boring and tedious for me. But honestly, the big kids LOVED it, so I sucked up all the adult in me and enjoyed the adventure.



After the kids finished all 12 stations of the scavenger hunt, it was time for lunch! We perused the coupon book we just received, on the hunt for some BOGO deals. (Remember, we only had $14 left from our entertainment budget and since I’m not earning any money for our family right now, I’m trying to honor that budget as closely as possible.) We found BOGO deals at Auntie Annie’s, you know, the pretzel shop? I hadn’t eaten anything there in YEARS, but we made our way anyway and enjoyed 2 for 1 pretzel hot dog combos. Not the most healthy lunch, but it worked and the kids were pleasantly surprised at how much they liked those pretzel hot dogs. Plus, they allowed me to use TWO coupons, so we paid a total of $13 for all four of us to eat!


After lunch, we went back down to Nickelodeon Universe to begin using our 96 points of rides! We priced it out before we began riding. 96 points had an approximate value of $75.00! SCORE! Without that one “mystery gift card,” we would have never gone on ANY rides that day.

I didn’t keep track, but I’d estimate we were able to go on a total of 10-15 rides with those 96 points. Since Maisie, our baby, was too short to ride many of the rides by herself, I often counted as her chaperone and didn’t have to use points. That made the points extend further. Plus, our first ride was free because the guy’s scanner wasn’t working. The kids thought that was extra cool.

My favorites were Swiper’s Sweeper (pure joy for the kids) and The Ghost Blaster Ride (always fun for everyone). Our carousel ride is one of my favorite summer memories.



By the time we used up all 96 points, the kids were ready to be done.

We made our way to Hard Rock Cafe and handed our two Free Pepsi coupons to people dining outside. Those random acts of kindness came true, at least in part!

We had a dollar left from lunch and a couple extra dollars in my wallet, so we pulled a Buy 3, Get 3 Nestle Tollhouse coupon from the coupon book and bought 6 cookies for a snack. After that, we caught a 10-minute kids game show at which the girls had a blast dancing and winning a gummy crabby patty.


I was exhausted that night, but we had a blast.

Were the “mystery gift cards” worth the trip to Mall of America? Definitely.

Was the adventure Summer Bucket List worthy? Definitely.

Thanks, Mall of America! 

Cost: $17.75

Mom Lesson: Be bold. Live free. Take a chance! That thing your kids are asking you to do might just work out for everyone.

Kid Lesson: Keep using those mystery gift cards!




This post is part of a summer-long series titled Summer Bucket List. This is my first summer home full-time with our three children. My hope for this series is that it will challenge me to adventure out of my mothering comfort zone, will provide opportunities to live and write simply, practically, beautifully and meaningfully, and will stimulate some some fun ideas for your summer as well! To check out the entire series, click here and you’ll be directed to the introductory post where all the posts are listed and linked for easy reading. Enjoy, friends! And have a blessed summer.

  1. Carol Femling says:

    Wow!! Sounds like you all had FUN!! The kids were telling me about those MOA mystery coupons when they stayed with us. I figured they’d talk you into a visit there. Glad they it!! Sounds like it was worth it!!

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