Best known as the home of the Mall of America, the largest indoor mall in the U.S., Bloomington stretches out along the north bank of the Minnesota River 10 miles south of downtown Minneapolis and immediately adjacent to Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport. Despite a population of just 83,000, Bloomington has more hotels than the Minneapolis and St. Paul downtowns combined. The 30 meeting hotel venues in Bloomington strike a balance between the amenities of big-city properties and the convenience and affordability of the suburbs. The Mall of America's 520 retail stores, 50 restaurants and entertainment venues are a stone's throw away, and there are both free shuttles to the mall and airport and free hotel parking.
Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport borders the northeast side of Bloomington just across the highway from the Mall of America. It's the fifteenth busiest airport in the U.S., with 26 passenger airlines serving more than 130 non-stop destinations (Chicago, Denver, and Atlanta are the top three). Delta's third-largest hub, after Atlanta and Detroit, is here. And Metro Transit's light-rail Hiawatha Line runs roughly north-south between the Mall of America and downtown Minneapolis, passing both airport terminals along the way. A ride from the mall to Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) takes twelve minutes.
Friendliness—to visitors, to families, to businesses—is the order of the day. Meeting venues in Bloomington are considered excellent value, and the region at large has a well-known and well-deserved reputation for generous hospitality, Bloomington features at least three of the most popular kid-friendly destinations in the area: Nickelodeon Universe, SEA LIFE Minnesota Aquarium and the Water Park of America.
Two major convention centers, one in St. Paul and one in Minneapolis, are 10 miles away. The Saint Paul RiverCentre has 162,00 square feet of meeting space and connects to the Xcel Energy Center (which ESPN has named the best sports venue in the U.S.) and the Legendary Roy Wilkins Auditorium, which combine to add another 60,000 square feet of function space. The warm red brick of the modern-looking Minneapolis Convention Center contains 475,000 square feet of column-free event space and 87 meeting rooms (90,000 square feet) in the Loring Park neighborhood of downtown Minneapolis, a block from the Minnesota Orchestra and four blocks from Loring Park.
The Mall of America (MOA) is a community in its own right, a destination not just for residents of Bloomington or of the Twin Cities region but for travelers from all over the country and even the world. Mall is a misnomer, really. MOA is the largest shopping center in the U.S. More than 40 million people visit every year—more visitors than all other attractions in the state combined. They come to shop and eat, surely, but also to gaze at sharks, ride roller coasters, meet SpongeBob SquarePants, pilot flight simulators, and generally take in the spectacle of it all. There is no tax on clothing or shoes at MOA.
On the outside, a vibrant business community complements the draw of the mall. Toro, the Donaldson Company, Ceridian and HealthPartners all have headquarters in Bloomington, and there are more jobs per capita here than in either Minneapolis or St. Paul. And, as the name would imply, Bloomington places a premium on parks and green space—8,000 acres' worth—so workers and visitors alike have plenty of places to stretch their legs at the end of the day.
Bloomington occupies a strategically important section of the Twin Cities region. It's a major business and transportation anchor, being contiguous with Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport and the only southern suburb served by the Hiawatha light-rail line; it's the southernmost municipality in Hennepin County, the largest county in the state and which includes Minneapolis; and it's the gateway to the outer suburbs to the south of the Minnesota River.
The city has considerable highway infrastructure—it marks the crossroads of I-494 and I-35 East. Most of its hotels are along the I-494 corridor. In the far east of Bloomington, 494 separates the Mall of America and its satellites, which are in the city proper, from Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport just to the north. East Bloomington is the city's commercial and industrial sector and was generally developed earlier than areas to the west.
Bloomington takes its name from Bloomington, Illinois, where some of the original settlers came from in the mid-1800s. One hundred years later, the population exploded as part of an overall trend toward suburbanization following World War II. By 1970 the population leveled off, and has remained essentially the same since, despite losing the Minnesota Twins baseball team and Vikings football team to Minneapolis in the early 1980s and the Minnesota North Stars hockey team to Dallas in the early 1990s.
Bloomington remade itself following the Twins' and Vikings' departures, demolishing the old Metropolitan Stadium those teams had played in and replacing it with the Mall of America, which opened in 1992. After the North Stars left town, the city demolished the Met Center, the team's arena, to make way for further mall-related development. An IKEA store occupies some of the old property. The rest is slated for MOA's long-planned Phase II, which could add another million square feet or more of commercial space (not necessarily retail space) and include a Mayo Clinic, Bass Pro Shops and Great Wolf Lodge; as well as a new 500-room hotel to connect by enclosed walkway to the north side of the mall. Those plans will likely unfold in multiple phases as the economy and financing allow.
All average costs based on U.S. Government Per Diem rates as published by the U.S. General Services Administration.
Bloomington has four distinct seasons and mostly mild to cool temperatures in a humid continental climate. Summer highs average in the high 70s to low 80s, while spring and fall bring highs in the high 50s and lows in the mid to high 30s. Winters can be especially chilly, with average highs in the 20s.
Spring through fall are the best times to explore parks and open spaces (one third of the city is reserved for parks), though there are plenty of indoor activities that visitors can enjoy independent of the seasons. Bloomington receives about 30 inches of precipitation a year, with most of that coming from May to September.
Altogether, Bloomington's 30 meeting hotels offer more than 150,000 square feet of flexible meeting space with easy access to the airport by shuttle, taxi, or private car. The area's development and attractiveness to visitors has resulted in lodging choices unparalleled in the region (more rooms than downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul combined), and the hotels compete aggressively with the latest comforts and amenities to maintain an edge in the meetings market.
Bloomington's Civic Plaza and the Mall of America's Executive Center present two other popular local options: The sleek Bloomington Center for the Arts, at the north end of Civic Plaza, rents two theaters, a rehearsal hall, the main lobby, and several arts and crafts studios. The Mall of America's Executive Center has 2,800 square feet in four spaces for meetings and conferences, as well as a 4,000-square-foot private Great Room (for groups up to 550) in Nickelodeon Universe, an indoor terrace for receptions of up to 250, private meeting suites for groups of 30 or less, and a research center with two-way walls, cameras, and observation monitors.
This light-rail line runs from the Mall of America, the southern terminus, through Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport to downtown Minneapolis. Riders boarding at the mall can reach the airport in 10 minutes (Humphrey Terminal) to 12 minutes (Lindbergh Terminal). Rides are $2.25 one way during rush hour (6 to 9 AM, 3 to 6:30 PM) and $1.75 off-peak. Trains run every 10 minutes during rush hour and every 15 minutes at other times. Rides between the two terminals are free.
About 30 of Bloomington's hotels—that is, nearly all—offer free shuttle service to and from the airport. Many also pick up and drop off at the Mall of America. For areas where shuttle service is not offered, consider a paid shuttle service.
Check with your hotel first. Many downtown hotels offer free airport shuttle service for guests.
Metro Transit, the regional transit authority, has several routes connecting to the Mall of America. Bus 54 runs a limited-stop route between the mall and downtown St. Paul and passes through the airport along the way. Metro buses at the airport stop only at Terminal 1 (Lindbergh). The fare for non-express buses is $2.25 during rush hour and $1.75 off-peak.
MSP has on-site rental offices in both terminals for Alamo, Avis, Budget, Dollar, Enterprise, Hertz, and National. In the Lindbergh Terminal (Terminal 1), Alamo, Hertz, and National are open 24 hours. Ace and Thrifty offer shuttles to off-site rental locations.
Taxis at MSP are available in Terminal 1 (Lindbergh) on the Tram Level (Level T) and in Terminal 2 (Humphrey) at the Ground Transport Center. A ride to the mall area in Bloomington runs $14 to $16.
Photo Credit : Bloomington CVB
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